Wednesday, April 8, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Americans' - Elizabeth Shares More Intimate Family Details with Paige in 'One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov'

FX's The Americans - Episode 3.11 "One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov"

Philip and Elizabeth's home and work lives collide in new and dangerous ways. Nina struggles to figure out her next steps. Arkady assigns Oleg and Tatiana to an operation with uncertain potential.

"One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov" is named after Anton Baklanov - Nina's latest target - because he's the one who perfectly explains the tension currently being felt by almost all the characters on the show. Everyone in some way feels like their identity is be oppressed. Other people are deciding what their lives should be instead of themselves. They feel powerless in their current situations and they don't know how or if they want to escape them. It's a plot thread that extends throughout the show at the moment and perfectly connects all the scattered pieces even though they don't have much to physically connect them at the moment.

So, Philip is feeling like Gabriel and the Centre have been too controlling of his family's lives for too much this season. Paige feels like every single thing her parents told her was a lie. So right now, she has no idea what to actually believe. Elizabeth accepts that she likely won't be able to see her mother again before she dies. And yet, it also makes her feel just as powerless. Martha has no choice but to continue living her false existence but is now willing to use Clark's spy knowledge in order to better herself. All Anton wants in life right now is to let his son know that he's still alive and didn't willfully abandon his family. Nina is able to sympathize with that because right now her life is all about completing this mission in the hopes that it will get her sentenced further reduced.

All of these characters are trapped in one way or another. They all desperately want to have some amount of power or control back. Philip and Elizabeth's relationship with Gabriel has been very different from their previous handlers. They interact as old friends talking about life. And yet, it's because of those friendly bonds that makes the harshness of reality more tragic. Gabriel has subtly been pushing for Paige to know the truth. And now that she does, he and the Centre are happy with Philip and Elizabeth again. And yet, to Philip, it feels like the Centre is taking more out of this relationship than it's actually giving to his family. He cares deeply about the family he has created in the United States. He is still loyal to the cause. But right now, his more passionate fight is for his family. He wants them to be protected and right now it feels like the Centre doesn't care about that personal connection. Philip needs to be heard. He wants Gabriel to listen to his concerns. If he doesn't, then Philip will have to do whatever he sees fit for his family and that could become much more unpredictable and precarious than the situation currently is.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth has always been much more loyal to the cause. That's how she exudes her power. And yet, she too is at a loss when it comes to her new family dynamic. She and Philip have to keep an eye on Paige while also trying to be there for her in an emotionally honest way. Elizabeth is allowed a moment of vulnerability with Paige. For the first time, she is able to have a conversation with her daughter about her lineage. That Paige's grandfather was killed in the war and her grandmother had a spirit that demanded respect. In that moment, it's a relief for Elizabeth to finally tell Paige this. And yet, it doesn't bring either one of them satisfaction in the end. This world is all so new to Paige. She has no idea how to handle it. She has a million questions. But she's still always curious as to whether or not her parents are actually trusting her with the truth now. They obviously are keeping some of the more grim details hidden. Paige can sense that though and has no idea how to trust her parents again. Their bluntness with the truth is still so surprising to Paige. When she asks what they were just talking about, Philip and Elizabeth tell her the truth. That still stuns her and her reaction is still one of uncertainty about all of this.

These interactions don't give Elizabeth any kind of peace. The only way she can feel powerful again is to head back into the field to do the work she has committed to doing. Her seduction of the hotel manager is very desirable and alluring. You can tell that she takes a small amount of pleasure sleeping with him in order to gain his trust. She is the one who knows more information. As Philip explains to Martha later in the episode, that gives Elizabeth all the power in their relationship. The guy feels like he's in charge during the sex scenes. He's telling her what he wants her to do. And yet, the show is always very mindful of who's actually in charge. Elizabeth does enough to lure him in and achieve some satisfaction while also keeping the relationship active. She leaves him wanting more of her. It's a very artful sequence. And yet, it's not as intimate as when she comes home later to have sex with Philip. There's so much trust in that relationship. They are partners both in their profession and for their family. When she is with Philip sexually, there is no ulterior motive. She sleeps with him out of personal love. It's that kind of love that has made this family. Sure, the two have been on differing sides. And yet, now they are in the same boat of being unsure about how to handle Paige and what her future may be now that she knows the truth.

Some more thoughts:
  • "One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov" was written by Stephen Schiff & Tracey Scott Wilson and directed by Andrew Bernstein.
  • Oleg and Tatiana are allowed a brief moment to drop their guards and laugh as they both are curious as to why the transcripts they're reading have so much beeping.
  • Paige doesn't care for Henry's Eddie Murphy impression either.
  • It's incredibly risky for Philip to try to arrange for Elizabeth to visit her mother before she dies. And yet, this whole operation is about taking those risks in order to reap the wealthy rewards.
  • Walter Taffet wants to interview Martha yet again about the bug found in Agent Gaad's office. This time he wants to focus on her personal relationships and, of course, she has to continue lying about her marriage to Clark. And yet, the prime focus of the interview is on her former relationship with Agent Amador and whether or not she knew something about his death that she hadn't previously shared. That seems rather suspicious.
  • Agent Gaad is trying to go over every single piece of information that was said in his office that could have been exposed because of the bug - which doesn't exactly feel like a good use of his time.
  • Maurice is able to see that Elizabeth is not all that she appears to be and wants to become a partner in her little endeavors. It's just a small plot that could become something in the future.
  • At least Paige did remember to knock before coming into her parents' room this time.