Using her feminine wiles and KGB skills, Nina Sergeevna (Annet Mahendru) forges an emotional bond with a scientist forced to develop stealth technology for the Soviets on “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov,” Episode 311 of “The Americans” on FX.
If Nina wins the confidence of Anton (Michael Aronov), who was abducted in Washington and returned to Russia in chains, she could win her freedom after being imprisoned in Moscow on treason and espionage charges.
Embittered Anton initially suspects that Nina is an “inducement,” much like the other women offered as rewards for pursuing his high-level research. But increasingly he regards Nina as trustworthy.
“I have a son,” Anton reveals. “He doesn’t know if I’m alive or dead. That’s the only thing I can’t take.”
This insight spurs Nina to search Anton’s room, where she finds a packet of letters addressed to his son, Jacob. Suddenly Nina has leverage.
“You should keep writing him,” Nina says to surprised Anton. “I haven’t told anyone,” she whispers. “I won’t.”
For Anton to advance his work, he needs photos of super-secret U.S. stealth aircraft. That’s why KGB spy Elizabeth Jennings (Keri Russell) befriended Lisa (Karen Pittman), a financially strapped Northrop employee.
Lisa’s surly husband Maurice (Thaddeus Daniels) wants to meet “Jack,” a so-called consultant who pays for information on military projects. “Jack” is actually Elizabeth’s spy husband Philip (Matthew Rhys), of course.
“If you need to borrow money, I can help you out. But this isn’t a good idea,” Elizabeth says disingenuously. “It’s too risky, Lisa.”
Maurice, however, correctly surmises that Elizabeth is “the real head of this operation.” And he doesn’t seem to care that Lisa could go to prison. He just wants the payoff.
Another mission for Elizabeth involves seducing Neal (Bill Heck), the manager of a hotel where a Mujahideen commander will stay while visiting his CIA advisors. By searching Neal’s computer, Elizabeth pinpoints the commander’s room assignment and quickly makes an imprint of the key.
Undermining the Mujahideen is critical for the Soviets as they suffer heavy casualties in the Afghanistan war. Making matters worse, the CIA is about to arm the rebels with a lightweight weapons system that shoots aircraft out of the sky. Sounds like shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles.
Back at the Jennings household, daughter Paige (Holly Taylor) struggles to process her parents’ startling confession that they’re in the espionage business.
“Is Henry (Keidrich Sellati) really my brother?” Paige asks insistently. “Am I really your daughter?”
“I know you must have a thousand questions,” Elizabeth says to Paige once they’re alone. “But you cannot – cannot – ever speak about this whenever Henry or anyone else is around!”
To partially satisfy Paige’s demand for answers, Elizabeth opens up about her father dying in World War II when she was a young child. And she tells about living with her mother in a single apartment with three other families.
“She had a real spirit, like yours,” Elizabeth says of her mom, who is dying of cancer.
“How can I believe anything you say?” Paige retorts.
Speaking of Elizabeth and her mother, Philip wants them to reunite before it’s too late. But that would entail a dangerous trip to Russia, which KGB handler Gabriel (Frank Langella) politely maintains is not feasible. This refusal sparks a burst of anger in Philip.
“Don’t give me your understanding and tell me everything’s fine,” Philip exclaims. “It is not!”
“Are you falling apart?” Gabriel asks, knowing Philip is under tremendous pressure.
“I’m fine,” Philip testily replies. “But I don’t want to keep hearing ‘no’ from you. One of these times I’m going to need ‘yes.’”