One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov
Last night’s episode involved a lot of tense interrogation, and for once, Walter Taffet isn’t the one asking the toughest questions: It’s Paige.
She’s clearly still reeling from the huge revelation that her parents are, you know, KGB spies and all. She decides the best time to ask them questions like “what are your real names” and “am I really your daughter” is seconds before her brother Henry is about to walk down the stairs. She’s also finally connected the dots on a bunch of their weird behavior over the years, like the time her parents woke her up in the middle of the night and dragged her on a “spontaneous vacation,” or their not-so-coincidental friendship with FBI agent Stan Beeman.
When Philip tells Gabriel that Paige has finally been initiated into their Soviet mysteries, he seems quietly pleased: “Good,” he says. But he’s got a less-pleasant family revelation for Elizabeth as well: He pushes a small brown envelope across the table to her, another audiotape from her dying mother. “I’m sorry,” he says. “They tell me there may not be many more.”
Later, Philip tries to bargain with Gabriel to let Elizabeth to see her mother one last time, and even though he knows it’s against the rules, he loses it a little bit when Gabriel says that it’s impossible. He’s been angry for a long time now, about a lot of things: telling Paige, killing Annalise, the endless itinerary of fucked-up things he does for his government, and how he can’t seem to get anything in return. “I don’t want to keep hearing no from you,” he snarls at an alarmed Gabriel. “One of these times, I’m gonna need to hear yes.”
Nina seems to be rapidly earning the trust of Anton Baklanov, the scientist whom the Soviets believe can help them develop stealth technology. He confides that he originally thought she was just another “inducement,” a woman sent to provide sex and hopefully prompt him to do his science magic even faster. She is an inducement, of course; she’s just a far more sophisticated one. He says that he stopped sleeping with the women they sent him because he was tired of being manipulated by a government that had traded him like a slave. “I understand,” says Nina, and she does.
Later, Nina goes through Anton’s room and finds the secret papers he has stashed in his mattress: letters to his son Jacob, the one in America who doesn’t know if he’s alive or dead. When Nina mentions Jacob’s name the next time they talk, however, Anton’s eyes go wide. “I never even said his name,” he says. Nina promises that she won’t tell anyone she found the letters—a tacit acknowledgment that she’s working for the government. Why not? he asks. “I don’t know,” she answers. Maybe she’s just tired of being manipulated, too.
Elizabeth (a.k.a. “Michelle”) stops by Lisa’s house, where Lisa’s good-for-nothing husband Maurice is paying a visit. He’s got something to say to her, and he gets right to the point: They need a lot of money fast if they want to save their house, and they’re willing to trade the information Michelle can with her security clearance through Michelle’s consultant friend (a.k.a. Philip) for double the money. I’m honestly pretty impressed by the long con of this whole thing, especially how Elizabeth has actually managed to make it feel like their idea. But when Lisa leaves the room, Maurice — who has probably known a con man or two in his day, if not been one — makes it clear that he sees through at least some of the façade. “You’re the real head of the operation, aren’t you?” he tells Elizabeth. It’s not really a question.
Walter Taffet schedules another extensive interview with Martha, sending her into a fit of paranoia. She’s convinced that he’ll see through her, until Philip/”Clark” gives her a little counterintelligence training of his own. “You’re giving them way too much credit,” says Clark. “His job is to make you feel as if he knows. He doesn’t know.” He tells her to look at the tip of Taffet’s nose — it’ll seem like she’s staring confidently in his eyes. “Think about the fact that you’re in control. You know more than he does.”
When the interview rolls around, Taffet grills her very specifically about any romantic relationships that might have compromised her, a question that once might’ve made her fall apart. But thanks to her training, she handles it like a pro. Philip might have developed quite a little asset for himself over here. “Thank you for your time,” says Taffett, as his culprit waltzes out from under his nose.
Also, the bugged mail robot — remember the mail robot? — has been gathering a “staggering” amount of intelligence roving through the halls of the CIA, so Oleg and Tatiana get called in to help Arkady go through the enormous stacks of transcription. They end up making jokes about American football — and making funny noises at each other— a nd I’m charmed enough that I would officially support ‘shipping those two.
Philip meets with Yusef, who still seems troubled by that time he murdered his girlfriend and then they broke all her bones and stuffed her into a suitcase. I can’t imagine why! Philip gives him a pep talk about bygones and making the world a better place, and Yusef quickly gives up the deets: The CIA requested the names of the Mujahideen commanders with the best English, and now three of them are en route to America for a meeting. When Philip seems interested in possibly flipping them, Yusef almost laughs, and tells a story about one of them brutally decapitating a Soviet soldier. “What about the other two?” asks Philip, ever the optimist.
Elizabeth finds Paige sitting alone in the car in the garage, and they finally sit down for a little family history lesson: how her father died in the war when Elizabeth was 2. How poor she and her grandmother were, living with two other families in a single apartment. “She had a real spirit, like yours,” she tells Paige, trying to bridge the gap between her mother and daughter across time and distance, the same lines she can’t cross, either.
Elizabeth also seduces the hotel manager, as expected, and returns later to get what she really came for: a copy of a key to what I assume is one of the Mujahideen’s rooms, which she makes with a plaster imprint in her makeup compact. When she gets home, she wakes Philip up to fool around; he just stares at the ceiling with a surprisingly uncomfortable look on his face.
The next morning, Paige comes into their bedroom and they invite her in, even though they are both clearly naked under the covers, but okay. “What are you talking about?” Paige asks. “Your grandmother in Russia,” they respond. “She’s very sick.” When Elizabeth says she won’t be able to see her — with the unspoken “before she dies” hanging at the air — Paige bolts from the room. Despite how many questions she seems to have, she doesn’t seem quite ready for all the answers.