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'The Americans' fan react: Family first?

Season 3 | Episode 2 | “Baggage” | Aired Feb. 4, 2015

All families have baggage, and no parent is perfect—especially The Americans’ superspies.

Philip, jaded by the violence and death he’s seen—most recently the demise of a dear lady friend—wants a better life for his own daughter. But Elizabeth seems to feel she’ll actually be a better mother if she brings Paige over to the cause. Russia is Elizabeth’s family. Her allegiance is so strong, in fact, Paige thinks her parents look out for each other more so than they do the welfare of their own kids.

Elizabeth’s loyalty to Russia literally runs through her veins; it was passed down by her own mother, a woman who refused to forgive her husband, a soldier who deserted the Russian military; and who, when a teenage Elizabeth was called to duty, sent her away to serve her county without blinking. Country before family.

Putting his career—and his country—ahead of his family is why Stan is alone and calling his son and ex-wife from a payphone, just hoping to say goodnight. He’s a man adrift; sad, alone, and desperate to reconnect with his child.

Family is essential to the very core of these characters, above allegiances to government and nation, and all the relationship drama is likely to crescendo—perhaps even dangerously—as the season progresses.

But for now, let’s review who won this week’s battle of the Cold War superpowers: the U.S. or the USSR?

  • Nina looks miserable and pouty in her Russian prison, a bare, concrete box as stereotypically harsh as you’d expect. +USSR
  • Philip counsels Yousaf on playing it cool now that he’s gone and murdered a Pentagon official’s wife. Elizabeth and Philip make a good team, snapping Annelise’s dead, naked body into grotesque yoga postures so she’ll fit into a suitcase. +USSR
  • Philip offers his condolences about Annelise. He instructs Yousaf to arrange a private meeting with the CIA’s Afghanistan group so Philip can ID them. +USSR
  • FBI agents welcome the Russian defector, Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya, smuggled in a wooden crate with an oxygen mask. At a news conference, she says she defected because she could no longer stand by and be part of the bloodshed in Afghanistan. +USA
  • Zinaida is enjoying the comforts of America—candy bars, coffee, and hotel beds. +USA
  • She’s not thrilled to learn her life is at risk even in America. –USA
  • Is Zinaida surprised to learn she’s in danger? Or is she fishing? Does she seem suspicious? —TBD
  • Nina shuns her new roommate, a hand-wringing Belgian girl who swears she’s innocent. Nina darkly says this isn’t a prison for the innocent. +USSR for being tough on crime
  • Stan faces down death when Oleg confronts him in an alleyway with a gun. He wants revenge for Stan’s role in Nina’s imprisonment, and is furious to hear Stan say he loved her. What’s Stan’s move when staring down the barrel of a gun? “Screw you, Oleg,” he says. “You wanna shoot me? Shoot me in the back,” and walks away. That’s an Old West American showdown right there. +USA
  • Oleg makes friends with the new woman at the embassy. Together they joke about President Reagan paying his respects to Leonid Brezhnev. They are keeping a close eye on the defector, who’s trashing the conflict in Afghanistan to the media. +USA for propaganda; +USSR for surveillance
  • Philip catches Elizabeth listening to her mom’s tape again. He reminds Elizabeth the Soviets are good at getting people across borders and suggests she visit home. (She refuses.) +USSR for human trafficking skills
  • Elizabeth’s still in major pain from the fight with the FBI, but can’t risk seeing a dentist. +USA and Agent Gaad
  • Elizabeth and Philip stake out the hotel for the meet, but a lone CIA agent wants to take Yousaf elsewhere. Elizabeth, in a sassy Molly Ringwald wig, takes off after them, with Philip following closely behind. After losing the list, she won’t miss another chance, so she insists they have a drink in the bar where the team is meeting. He thinks it’s a bad idea, but concedes, secretly snapping photos of license plates and the men inside. It goes off without a hitch. +USSR

WINNER: Like Ivan Drago’s defeat of Apollo Creed (RIP), Russia wins this round. But also like Rocky IV, I predict an upset on the horizon—and trouble ahead for the Jennings.

The Americans airs Wednesdays at 10/9C on FX.

TV Families | EW.com
Mark Harris
February 23, 1990 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Bradys are back, with a passel of 90’s hassles. Do they represent the typical American Family? Did they ever? Who does? Stare and compare!

Kind Of Family
TheBradyBunch 1969-74: Blended
The Bradys 1990-: Enormous
Married…With Children 1987-: Postnuclear
Thirtysomething 1987-: Extended
The Flintstones 1960-66: Modern Stone Age

Family Pet
The Brady Bunch: Tiger
The Bradys: Alice
Married…With Children: Buck
Thirtysomething: Grendel
The Flintstones: Dino

Typical Guest Star
The Brady Bunch: Davey Jones
The Bradys: There’s no room
Married…With Children: Sam Kinison
Thirtysomething: Carly Simon
The Flintstones: Ann Margrock

Expression Of Joy
The Brady Bunch: Groovy!
The Bradys: Ritual hugging
Married…With Children: ”Oh, great.”
Thirtysomething: ”Of course I’m happy for you. Really. But what about me? Why does it always have to be about you?
The Flintstones: ”Yabba-dabba doo

Expression Of Rage

The Brady Bunch: ”Hmmm…”
The Bradys: ”If you back away from something you really want, then you’re a quitter!” (the angriest any Brady has ever been)
Married…With Children: ”Aaagh, God, take me from this miserable life!”
Thirtysomething: ”I’m not angry, OK?”
The Flintstones: ”Willllmaaaa!”

Typical Problem
The Brady Bunch: Marcia and her rival both want to be the prom queen.
The Bradys: Bobby gets paralyzed.
Married…With Children: Al doesn’t buy his family Christmas presents.
Thirtysomething: Nancy gets cancer.
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney are staying out too late.

Typical Solution
The Brady Bunch: The prom committee decides to have two queens.
The Bradys: Bobby gets married.
Married…With Children: They hate him.
Thirtysomething: If only we knew…
The Flintstones: Wilma and Betty decide to follow them.

House Style
The Brady Bunch: Conservative but mod, circa ’69
The Bradys: Conservative but mod, circa ’90
Married…With Children: Roach motel
Thirtysomething: Enviable
The Flintstones: Suburban cave

Clothing Style
The Brady Bunch: Early Osmonds
The Bradys: Made in the USA
Married…With Children: Flammable fabrics
Thirtysomething: Eclectic earth tones; nice ties
The Flintstones: One-piece

Most Annoying Character
The Brady Bunch: Alice’s cousin Emma, the substitute housekeeper (too strict)
The Bradys: Marcia’s husband, Wally (chronically unemployable)
Married…With Children: Steve (supercilious)
Thirtysomething: Ellyn (goes through Hope’s drawers, babbles, changes hairstyle every other week, generally mistreats her friends)
The Flintstones: Mr. Slate (bossy)

Attitude Toward Sex
The Brady Bunch: Never heard of it
The Bradys: Omigod — even Cindy does it!
Married…With Children: Peg: Yes. Al: No.
Thirtysomething: They didn’t get all those kids by accident.
The Flintstones: Prehistoric

How Spouses Fight
The Brady Bunch: They don’t.
The Bradys: Infrequently, but it happens
Married…With Children: Tooth and nail
Thirtysomething: They stop talking
The Flintstones: Fred and Barney go bowling while Wilma and Betty max out their charge cards.

How Kids Get Into Trouble
The Brady Bunch: Greg takes a puff of a cigarette.
The Bradys: Carol’s grandson steals her business cards and sticks them in the spokes of Bobby’s wheelchair.
Married…With Children: By committing felonies
Thirtysomething: Ethan plays with a forbidden toy rocket.
The Flintstones: They don’t.

How They’re Punished

The Brady Bunch: ”It’s not what you did, honey — it’s that you couldn’t come to us.”
The Bradys ”Next time, ask.”
Married…With Children: By the authorities
Thirtysomething: It blows up in his face.
The Flintstones: They’re not.

What Family Does For Fun
The Brady Bunch: Takes special three-part vacations to Hawaii and the Grand Canyon
The Bradys: Has flashbacks
Married…With Children: Exchanges insults
Thirtysomething: Talks
The Flintstones: Attends showings of The Monster at the Bedrock Drive-In

Unsolved Mysteries
The Brady Bunch: How exactly did Carol’s first husband and Mike’s first wife die?
The Bradys: What’s with Marcia’s new face and Bobby’s blonde hair
Married…With Children: What kind of hair spray does Peg use?
Thirtysomething: Why did Nancy take Elliot back? What do Gary and Susanna see in each other?
The Flintstones: How does Barney’s shirt stay on if he has no shoulders? Where do Fred and Wilma plug in their TV?

Worst Behavior
The Brady Bunch: The Brady children once made Alice feel under-appreciated.

The Bradys: Marcia’s son Mickey watches Bobby’s car-crash tape for fun.
Married…With Children: The Bundy’s kill their neighbor’s dog.
Thirtysomething: Elliot has an affair and talks about it.
The Flintstones: Characters don’t wear under-clothes.

Best Reason To Watch
The Brady Bunch: This is what life should be.
The Bradys: They’re all grown-ups now!
Married…With Children: Terry Rakolta hates it.
Thirtysomething (Tie) This is your life. This isn’t your life.
The Flintstones: This is what life might have been.

Best Reason Not To Watch
The Brady Bunch: Blurred vision from rerun overdoses.
The Bradys: You’re all grown-ups now.
Married…With Children: She has a point.
Thirtysomething: After a while, you think it’s real.
The Flintstones: The Simpsons

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