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The Americans 2.04 “A Little Night Music” Review: “You’re Afraid. Too Afraid”

20 Mar

Since the season 2 premiere of The Americans Elizabeth’s abilities to compartmentalize has shifted and she doesn’t have the ability she once had to switch everything off. The deaths of Emmett and Leanne have further impacted her ability and while she’s claiming everything is fine, it’s clear that it’s not. The timing is problematic as they have orders from the Center and a separate off books mission to find out who killed Emmett and Leanne. Plus Philip’s long running Martha situation, their cover job and day to day parenting. There are many plates spinning and it looks like they’re all going to come crashing down if they’re not careful; the episode ends with a series of mishaps.

The Americans 2.04 goateeMission 1 – forcefully repatriating Anton, a Jewish scientist who is very glad to be living in the US away from a country that turned him into a non-person because of his religion. Philips first disguise of the week is a simple goatee as he watches him talk in a synagogue and he tells Elizabeth that he is non-recruitable. This doesn’t matter to the Center and Oleg is showing just how much of a pain he’s going to be as he goes above Arkady’s head to get the security clearance he needs. This is one of the many us and them chats in “A Little Night Music” as Arkady points out what a Western move it is to use family connections to get ahead. We’ve already seen Oleg discuss Rod Stewart and scalping tickets; he’s acclimatizing himself to this world but he’s also questioning authority to get what he wants. There’s also the question of Nina and he seems far too interested in her and what she is doing with her undercover work.

The Americans 2.04 Elizabeth recordMission 2 – seduction of Brad to get files on Emmett and Leanne’s potential killer; a gay naval officer they were blackmailing. Claudia is back (!) and despite frosty feelings she wants what is best for Elizabeth and Philip, this means protecting them by finding out who assassinated Emmett and Leanne. Not an easy task, especially when there is so much going on in their lives. I really love the framing of this shot of Elizabeth in the record shop booth as she watches Brad, there’s something quite church like about the window pane in the reflection. More on religion and how Elizabeth feels about it later.

The Americans 2.04 beanieMission 1 involves beanie hats and reading newspapers and this is what costume designer Jenny Gering refers to as “light disguise.” In the final moments of the episode Philip and Elizabeth are rocking dark clothes, baseball caps and beanies as it’s a quick snatch and grab. That is until they get jumped by another couple and their simple plan turns into a giant clusterfuck. Elizabeth takes it too far (something Claudia can attest to) and uses the trunk as a weapon long after she has subdued her attacker. This gives the female accomplice the distraction she needs to steal the car with the unconscious Anton inside. Who is this mystery protection detail?

The Americans 2.04 collegeBonus Philip disguise as he follows Anton to the college he works at to get some more information on him – it turns out he has a mistress – and Philip’s rocking tweed and a blonde wig to blend in. It works and no one spots the one guy who is interested in everything on every notice board. Or maybe they did and that’s why there is another pair watching Anton.

The Americans 2.04 booth seductionElizabeth’s initial scene is the most Felicity I have seen this character be so far. This statement might sound a little ridiculous as Keri Russell does play both characters and I have been watching a lot of Felicity recently, but the way she delivers herself as they talk about music gave me instant Felicity feelings. This is Elizabeth playing the innocence card to get close to her target and it works. The problem here isn’t the cover, it’s Elizabeth and she’s hesitating at getting intimate. This has never been a problem in the past and at first I was unsure whether the rape story was always part of her plan to get Brad to deliver the files she needs. It’s clear this isn’t the case and it shows how Elizabeth is quick to adapt to her own shortcomings; later she physically recoils as she is given Brad a handjob to help with his tension issues. The story she tells Brad is fake, but we know she was raped when she was at the academy so it’s not entirely fabricated; she’s using her experience rather than compartmentalizing it.

The Americans 2.04 ElizabethElizabeth wears a top that mirrors Brad’s naval uniform with a bib like front and everything she wears with Brad is feminine but safe. There’s very little makeup and the wig isn’t fussy or over styled. From all accounts Brad is a good guy and I feel bad that he’s being duped in this manner, he hasn’t managed to deliver the files yet and his hesitation could be problematic.

The Americans 2.04Claudia has concerns and they center on Elizabeth; she thinks she came back too soon and her fear levels are too high. There doesn’t appear to be an ulterior motive and Claudia simply states that she doesn’t want to lose anyone else. The green of Claudia’s coat with Elizabeth’s maroon complement each other; they have more in common than Elizabeth would care to admit.

The Americans 2.04 concernThere’s a lot of laundry getting done in the Jennings house this week and Philip doesn’t buy Elizabeth’s declaration that Brad is a “piece of cake,” Philip’s giving a lot of concerned face in the direction of his wife this week. Last season their marriage was a fractured mess, this year they are stronger and this is causing problems for Elizabeth out in the field. It’s why she’s hesitating with Brad and I also think it’s making it hard for Philip to play his Clark role as well as he did previously. Elizabeth practically scoffs at the idea of Philip’s “lazy morning” with Martha; she’s not masking her unhappiness with this situation very well.

Philip manufactures a fight with Martha as a way to get out her apartment quickly – why would you wash your hair in the kitchen sink?! – as he has a meeting with the plumber (for the travel agency) and because it’s a betrayal against his real relationship. Well his real relationship that is built on a foundation of fakery – remember Philip and Elizabeth aren’t actually married.

The Americans 2.04 marthaPhilip needs to be paying more attention as Martha could be their greatest undoing. Martha is playing with a recording device in bed and she’s applying for a job that asks what her marriage status is. When Martha leaves Clark the voicemail telling him about the application she is wearing the most amazing lilac silk snakeskin print blouse. Pastels are a prominent part of the female wardrobe this week with Paige and Elizabeth also wearing this color scheme; mother, daughter, wife, mistress.

The Americans 2.04 bar confessionsAffairs are a theme of this week from the sanctioned ones that Elizabeth and Philip are committing, to the more regular kind like Anton and Stan. Stan confides in Philip about Nina, well he leaves out the whole Russian element, simply saying that she is someone from work who is also married. Stan refers to their relationship as doomed and also lays out how home life with Sandra is pretty much an empty shell as they lead separate lives. It’s really depressing and it is shot in an appropriately dark manner with only the alcohol behind them bathed in light.

The Americans 2.04 video gamesLightening the mood of the episode is Henry as he pleads his case for video games – “but it’s good for your brain and you’re not just sitting there, you’re doing something” – don’t ever change Henry. This links back to Arkady’s Oleg concerns about him being too Westernized and the Jennings’ have got one kid who wants all the things and the other who has fallen in with the wrong crowd.

The Americans 2.04 graceAh yes, Paige and in this case the wrong crowd isn’t doing drugs, well not the kind you would normally find. Instead they are partaking in the “opiate of the masses” and that’s religion as Elizabeth quotes Karl Marx at Philip. Elizabeth’s reaction to Paige’s Bible reading and this youth group is hilariously over the top as it’s an affront to her personal values. Elizabeth practically spits the word “praying” and she talks about it coming into their house as if it’s the plague and end of times. Paige of course doesn’t know why they are so bothered by it and she’s definitely getting her rebellious kicks from this. Oh and it also looks like my Kelli theory was wrong as the Center has called off the protection on the kids and there’s no way someone from the Center would introduce Paige to something like this, it’s more likely they would go the actual teenage rebellion route of smoking and drinking. Philip is less concerned than Elizabeth and he suggests they eat later as she’s less likely to want to pray if she’s hungry. Elizabeth can’t understand why he’s being so reasonable and I love how this show switches between conversations about parenting and missions in a heartbeat.

Things Elizabeth and Philip have to worry about at the end of this episode: getting files from Brad, Elizabeth’s fear and control issues, Martha’s job application, Paige’s religion phase, Henry wanting video games, getting a new car and who has taken Anton. Philip is spot on with this assessment “There’s been kind of a lot going on.” One thing that is relatively solid is Philip and Elizabeth, she just needs to open up to him. The other relationship that is steady and blossoming is between Philip and Stan; he does have a real friend after all. Well, as real as they can get in this business when it is someone from the other team.

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3 Responses to “The Americans 2.04 “A Little Night Music” Review: “You’re Afraid. Too Afraid””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Americans 2.05 “The Deal” Review – What is Home? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 27, 2014

    […] the scope as there is new found stability and trust in Elizabeth and Philip’s relationship. Last week ended on a cliffhanger as a simple snatch and grab descended into chaos. “The Deal” […]

  2. The Americans 2.09 “Martial Eagle” Review: “I’m not here to be Saved” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 24, 2014

    […] Paige is crying and Elizabeth has the same look in her eyes as Philip did when she went at the Mossad agent hard; it’s possibly the first time that either has seen Philip like this. It’s not […]

  3. The Americans 5.04 “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Review: Meet Cute | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 29, 2017

    […] Post-end of season 1 reconciliation the only other honey traps Elizabeth has been a part of were during season 2 and this is ground they haven’t had to cover while their marriage has been this strong. It […]

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