Though The Americans is coming close to wrapping up its season, it doesn’t feel at all like that’s the case. “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” touched on many of the show’s hanging plot threads that, currently, don’t seem to connect, or be in clear sight of wrapping up.
What really resonated in the episode, though (as is always the case with the show) was in regards to the Jennings family, particularly Elizabeth. This has largely been Philip’s season, with his juggling of so many emotionally taxing relationships (Martha, Annelise, Kimberly), as well as his tensions with Gabriel and Elizabeth over the development of Paige.
Throughout all of this, Elizabeth has been a quiet player. She’s done what she felt was her duty regarding Paige, but she also did so under some duress about what it meant for her relationship with Philip. The big change this year between them is that Elizabeth is very clearly and deeply in love with him, maybe more so than ever before. And for the first time, we’ve seen her question some of the things required of her for the cause.
Elizabeth has been tested in major ways this season, with some surprising results. She waffled over the Betty issue, which seemed to rattle her a lot. Earlier in the season, she also agreed with letting the young South African student go, even though Hans later killed him. Now, her affair with the young, handsome hotel manager is not being played out with her typical resolve. She’s unable to get sexually excited for him (at least at first), and later rebuffs his attempts to seduce her a second time, instead going home to Philip and seducing him out of sleep with oral sex.
This has been a slow, quiet change for Elizabeth. Both she and Philip seem to be pulling away from the Centre and their demands in different ways and for different reasons. Is this setting up an eventual full break? We’re a long way from that, surely. But these cracks that are showing in Elizabeth, even more so than in Philip, seem telling.
Even if they aren’t leading to anything that dramatic, it’s also fascinating to see Elizabeth, in particular, react to Paige’s questions for her. After sharing a personal story about her mother and the difficult conditions of where she grew up, Paige replies simply with, “how can I believe anything you say?” It’s a valid, difficult question. Later, when Paige sneaks in and wants to know what her parents are talking about, Philip tells her the truth. After asking Elizabeth if she can go back to see her mother, and hearing “no,” she just turns around and walks out. Is it that she doesn’t believe them? Or that she doesn’t care?
I genuinely thought that Martha would be the wildcard of the season (or Kimberly, even), and it could still be the case. But Martha seems like she’s towing the line for Clarke, even after Taffet’s pointed questions about her personal life. Kimberly has barely been in this last half of the season, so who knows, but it seems more likely now that Paige is the teenager to watch out for, as she questions and processes this unfathomable information her parents have bestowed upon her, and what to do with it.
The rest of “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” briefly alighted on all kinds of subplots, from Oleg and Tatiana’s new assignment to Nina bonding with Anton, to Martha’s meetings with Taffet, Philip meeting with Yusef, and Maurice wanting a piece of the spy pie. It just feels so late in the season for these plots to be where they are, though. There isn’t any suspense to them yet, which — as close as we are to the finale — is surprising. Still,
Episode Rating: ★★★ Good
Musings and Miscellanea:
— I sort of found it hilarious that Philip woke up the next morning after that nighttime seduction with the words, “I think I’ve figured out a way for you to go and see your mom.”
— “I will not let them decide who I am” – Anton. I feel like Nina is “making it real” with Anton by genuinely commiserating with him about the government using them. Also, in finding real empathy over his situation with his son not knowing what happened to him.
— Seems like Liz should have been dealing with Maurice this whole time. He was essentially like, “I don’t give a fuck about the ethics, give me the money.”
— Definitely going to use Philip’s nose trick.
— The U.S.F.L.! That’s a throwback for real.
— Oleg is such a goof.
— Elizabeth being to the point of tears after sleeping with the hotel manager was one of the best scenes of the season, just because of everything that is conveyed in that moment.
— “That kid’s nuts” – Elizabeth re: Henry. I feel like Henry would not care at all that they were spies, except to see if he could be one, too.