Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Americans: One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov Review


I remember when I had to read A Day in the Life of Ivan Desinovich by the brilliant Alexander Solzhenitzyn.   Just like Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep? borrows from literature, so does The Americans' episode One Day in the Life of Anton Baklavov.  As that storyline gets deeper and deeper, we don't ignore some of the others, which are also building to a strong conclusion (at least we hope they do). 

Paige (Holly Taylor) is understandably freaking out over the revelations of her parents, Elizabeth and Philip Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys).  She is unsure what to do or how to take all this information, and she's not the only one unsure as to what to do.  Elizabeth's unwitting dupe Lisa (Karen Pittman) is being pushed by her husband Maurice (Thaddeus Daniels) to get more money for the work Lisa is being asked to do.  Elizabeth seethes at Maurice's interference, but there is not much she can do on the subject.  Martha (Alison Wright) is unsure how to proceed when it comes to her husband "Clark".  She is also wary of the growing investigation as to who put the bug in Agent Gaad's office.  She did, of course, but she also knows that her motives were good, but who really is going to believe her true-but-outlandish story?

Having learned from Yousaf (Rahul Khanna) that a meeting of mujahedeen leaders is being arranged by the CIA, the Jennings start casing the hotel they are being put up in.  To do that, Elizabeth has to use her feminine wiles on the hotel manager, Neil (Bill Heck).  She doesn't go to bed with him the first time, but she is tempting him, flirting and teasing.  Elizabeth, learning that her mother is dying, wants to see her but wouldn't ask for the privilege.  Instead, it is Philip who goes to Gabriel (Frank Langella) asking she be given special permission to do so.  Paige, for her part, is also upset to learn of her grandmother's impending death.  She thinks that it is unfair that Elizabeth cannot see her mother, but at the moment, what can she do.

The main story involves Nina (Annet Mahendru), who is working to get the trust of Anton (Michael Aronov),
the scientist whom the Soviets want to get work out of.  He misses his son terribly, and with some work on her part, by not pushing, she slowly gets him to give her his trust.  Trust is a dangerous thing, for we know not where it will end up. 

What was great about ODITLOAB is that the stories didn't collide with each other or overwhelm one over the other.  They blended well and took just the right amount of time.  The main story of Nina and Anton wasn't short-shrifted or made the dominant one.  Instead, it worked well, and the slow and steady method Nina is taking I hope will reap rich rewards, but it does put one in a quandary.  Part of us doesn't want her to succeed if it means it will cost Anton something dear, but we also don't want her to spend either ten years in prison or worse, executed.  She has a great deal of pressure on her, and how this story will turn out will be fascinating to watch.

We also have great acting, particularly between Russell and Taylor, who is really coming into her own as both Paige and as an actress.  The scene they share in the car where they talk about the dangers of the Jennings' work and about Elizabeth's mother (if memory serves correct) is raw and real and wonderful to watch. 

About the only thing I really didn't care for and still don't quite get is this entire storyline of Martha, who seems if not all too willing to go along with Clark's ideas, but who doesn't seem to wonder about who he really is.  Maybe I am missing something, so I'm not going to belabor the point, but I still find it all a bit confusing. 

Apart from that I think The Americans is simply a fantastic show, and this Day is a wonderful one.


Next Episode: I Am Abassin Zadran

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