The brutality of Cold War espionage is graphically depicted when KGB agents Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) dispose of a young woman’s corpse on the “Baggage” episode of “The Americans” on FX.
Soviet asset Annelise (Gillian Alexy) paid the ultimate price for spying when she was strangled by her lover, Yousaf Rana (Rahul Khanna), a Pakistani intelligence officer working with the CIA.
Now Annelise’s bones must be snapped so her nude body can fit inside a suitcase that Elizabeth wheels away.
“As long as you let me do what I do, it’s going to be OK,” Philip assures Yousaf at the murder scene.
And what does Philip want in exchange? He needs to identify CIA operatives helping mujahideen rebels kill Soviet troops in Afghanistan.
Yousaf complies with the demand by drawing his American counterparts into a bar where Elizabeth covertly snaps photos.
Along with infiltrating the CIA, the KGB is determined to silence Zinaida Preobrazhenskaya (Svetlana Efremova), a high-level Soviet defector speaking out against “this terrible war” in Afghanistan.
“Children and women are dying every day because Soviet leadership believes they can decide for the future of another country,” Zinaida says in broken English at a packed news conference.
Among those watching the televised event from their post at the Soviet Embassy in Washington are KGB officers Oleg Igorevich Burov (Costa Ronin) and Tatiana Ruslanova (Vera Cherny).
“They’re going to parade her around, attacking us on Afghanistan,” Tatiana says of Zinaida and her FBI handlers. “This woman can do tremendous damage to the cause” because propaganda is “more important than anything.”
As for Oleg, his allegiance to the Motherland is wavering. He doesn’t support the Politburo’s decision to remain in Afghanistan. And he’s devastated that his paramour, KGB double-agent Nina Sergeevna (Annet Mahendru), faces a death sentence in Moscow after being unfairly convicted of treason.
In a desperate bid to spare Nina’s life, Oleg taps his powerful family connections by asking Minister of Railways Igor Pavlovich (Boris Krutonog) to intervene.
“He wants me to use my influence to save you,” Igor tells beautiful Nina, adding that “I can see why Oleg fell for you.”
“Tell him I wasn’t pretending with him,” Nina says of her extramarital affair with Oleg.
Consumed with grief and rage, Oleg intends to gun down FBI agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich), who also had an affair with Nina. Stan could have kept her safely in Washington by turning over a top-secret computer program. But ultimately he chose to betray Nina rather than America.
“You didn’t expect this, did you? That you’ll have to pay the price too,” Oleg says as he angrily points a pistol at Stan in a dark alley.
“You want to shoot me? Shoot me in the back,” Stan stoically replies. Fortunately for Stan, Oleg holds his fire.
Shaken by this near-fatal encounter, Stan turns to his estranged wife, Sandra (Susan Misner).
“I’m glad you’re OK,” Sandra says, “but I’m not the one you should be coming to.”
“The truth is,” Stan tearfully responds, “you are the only person I want to tell.”
Finally, Philip and Elizabeth continue arguing over the fate of their 14-year-old daughter, Paige (Holly Taylor), who’s being targeted by the KGB as a second-generation spy.
Elizabeth, who was also recruited as a teenager, points out that her mother didn’t blink when she “told me to go and serve my country.” Philip, however, wants Paige to enjoy a long and easy life as a normal American.
“I don’t want her putting people into a suitcase,” Philip insists. “And I don’t want her ending up in a suitcase!”