The Americans 3.07 “Walter Taffet” Review: “They Don’t Have a Lot of Choices”

12 Mar

Philip and Elizabeth have been embroiled in a Paige related dance all season so when Elizabeth went ahead and started taking baby steps in pointing their daughter toward who they really are it was never going to go over well with Philip. It is impressive how compelling this story remains considering The Americans has essentially barely budged or moved forward with the Paige problem all season and much like the actual Cold War they are playing with a precarious situation that could tip at any moment; the nuclear issue here is related to the family rather than grand scheme ideology or weapons. Tension continues to build with neither side backing down.

At its heart it is about what a parent wants to do for their child and how they can navigate their differences. So Philip can talk to Stan about this in the broadest of terms describing how he is on opposing side of everything when it comes to parenting decisions with Elizabeth; Stan counters that they are in a better place than him and at this point Philip doesn’t look so sure. Everything is stacking up and some of it is about to come crashing down.

The Americans Walter TaffetFor most relationships admitting you have a child by someone else might cause the already present gulf to grow ever more, in this household it might actually result in bringing them closer together. The Jennings still engage in some very standard arguments resulting from feelings of resentment like who left the empty bottle of aspirin in the medicine cabinet or having the most passive aggressive discussion while getting ready in the morning* and like most relationships trust is a fundamental factor.

*Quick side note regarding some of the nudity on The Americans as it is rare to get such a realistic approach with the naked body that doesn’t lead to or at least hint at sexuality. Here Elizabeth and Philip are essentially having a work related chat as one is getting in the shower while the other is getting out, which of course means the removal of clothes. Oh and they are both mad at each other, also taking any potential sexy business away.

Semantics come into play as when Philip confronts Elizabeth about her Paige field trip and Gregory related revelations she claims that at no point did she lie to Philip, as she had already informed him of her plan to move forward. This is a grey area and she knows it as later on in the middle of the night when Philip gets in from a Martha visit she draws him into her saying “I should have told you about my talk with Paige.” It is not a straight forward apology, but still an admission that he has a right to know. The Philip/Elizabeth confession hour is at its strongest when Philip comes in from whatever asset he has been working and in tiredness it is when they are both at their most emotionally vulnerable state. There is no need for the weed soaked moments of honesty and as he reaches out to Elizabeth to see how awake she is by touching her hair she pulls him into an embrace; earlier on in the evening he pretty much booted her out of the car so he could go to Martha’s and now we’re back at this point of unity.

Despite these huge differences and the distance that lies between how they want to move forward there is still a thread holding them together. Each time they dig a little deeper into how they feel or revealing something about themselves it reinforces this bond. So Philip’s “I have another son” isn’t the devastating confession it might be under other circumstances – particularly as Irene was the breaking up factor in season 1 – and instead leads to more sympathy from Elizabeth towards her husband as she turns to face him in bed. Earlier on she has been talking about Ncgobo waxing lyrical about his stance on getting his children involved in his cause. Philip’s counter is all about choice; Ncgobo and his family are lacking the many choices Paige and Henry have, but what about Mischa Jr? He is involved in the fight in Afghanistan and even though Philip has only just had his existence confirmed – I am still a tiny bit suspicious that Mischa Jr is not real – it gives him a deeply personal connection to this war they are fighting. It is why we see him listening to the news reports on the radio in the laundry room at the start of the episode whereas before he would have openly listened in their bedroom.

Everything is fractured and yet it still doesn’t stop them from performing when called upon so even though they are in a huge fight they are more than capable of playing the roles of super flirty, happy new couple at dinner with Lisa. In the car before and after it is just as icy as the weather. All those years of not actually being in love and faking it really pays off when they are in love and pissed at each other. To escape the bad atmosphere at home Philip goes to Martha’s leaving things in this perpetual state of unresolved tension with Elizabeth, so he kind of deserves the super cold welcome when gets over to his other wife’s apartment.

The Americans 3.07The bug in Gad’s office has been found and Martha reacted as if it had fallen out in front of her. Making a quick exit to go to the bathroom to pull apart the recording device in her bag, she barely held her shit together alternating between teary panic and “I’m going to throw up” panic in equal amounts. Martha’s poker face is pretty terrible; however she manages to escape suspicion at this current point. Will she be able to keep this up in an interview situation?

One thing working in Martha’s favor is that despite her access there is also a certain level of invisibility, which is why going after secretaries makes sense. It is worrying for Philip that instead of letting Clark in on what happened at work she instead does her own mini investigation on him insisting they go over to his place for the first time (lucky his apartment is nice and ready) and not falling for his usual romantic tactics. It is ominous that Martha’s gun makes an appearance and this week Poor Martha takes her crown back from Poor Kimmy. Allison Wright is incredible in her bathroom stall meltdown and with how plays Martha’s new found mistrust of what Clark is asking of her. He passes all the tests with his apartment, but still something is off.

The Americans 3.07 PaigeOne running theme in “Walter Taffet” comes with the offer of takeout food as a peace offering that fails in every instance; Martha is not interested, Paige has already eaten and Henry is out. Takeout is convenient and a luxury, the only person who’s up for sharing with Philip is Stan – considering the horror show combo of toppings I find it hard anyone would want that pizza – and Stan’s kitchen is stocked with a random assortment of not much. Philip has downplayed his activism instead pointing out how other things became important to him and at this point his gesture of pizza in an attempt to be cool dad fails. In a surprising turn and over a nothing special food prep Stan has better luck at engaging with his son Matthew as he talks about his colleague and friend who died last week as they worked undercover with each other; this is the first time Matthew has seemed genuinely in awe of his father and it is a result of hearing about his work. Food wins in the making an impression stakes at dinner with Lisa when Philip as Jack sells his worth by talking about how much he loves exotic cuisine like sushi.

Stan isn’t much of a sharer but he does so with both Philip and Matthew to a degree revealing to Stan that he has some concerns about his overeager colleague; maybe some of his undercover work rubbed off on him as he mentions Agent Aderholt’s race even though that isn’t really pertinent to the story.

The big mission of the week comes as a result of the intel Hans got and it’s his first time out in the field. Elizabeth is concerned that she hasn’t had enough time with him and when we see him shaking an inhaler I am storing that for things that will probably be important later on. Hans has scored big on his suspicions and he corrects Elizabeth when she thinks Todd has been got to when he was impressionable; this isn’t the case as he is just a “miniature copy” of his privileged and self-centered parents. Once again there is this nod to parents and children following on from the example they have been taught. When Elizabeth talks to Ncgobo he references biting as form of discipline and how Americans don’t discipline like this. Elizabeth is quick to note that she isn’t American and the kitchen cleaning in the middle of the night for Paige last season is perhaps the strongest indicator of this, but still she is constrained by her cover and they don’t know the “badass woman their mum is.”

Playing against the odds is how they operate and nothing is easy on The Americans as kinks tend to happen in any plan. Venter is unsurprisingly tough when Philip grabs him and a scuffle breaks out; Philip has the advantage using the van he knows is coming to incapacitate him and they have their man. That isn’t before Elizabeth has dispatched of an eyewitness in typically cold fashion – remember she did drop a car on a dude’s head a few episodes ago – and now for the next stage of the plan. At first I thought she must be involved somehow, but nope I think Elizabeth was just cleaning up the scene. The kill count now stands at Elizabeth with two and Philip on zero. There are so many angles being worked at the moment and it is a concern that Philip thinks Martha’s cold mood is to with kids rather than everything else he is asking from her. This is the kind of thing Gabriel warned against and even though we didn’t see Kimmy this week that mission is looming over them. Cracks are beginning to form and as we have already seen with Martha something is going to give and it is going to be soon.

Shot of the Week

The Americans 3.07 shot of the weekStan himself, Noah Emmerich directed this week’s episode adding flourishes from the get go as we start outside the house with Philip listening to the news and the camera pans up the house. Just before we kick into the opening credits – I see you hula hooping girl also from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – the scene ends outside once again with Philip and Elizabeth embroiled in another standoff. It is an amazing shot and Emmerich delivers throughout including the way he films Martha’s bathroom meltdown spiraling, the way the bug lands on the desk and the Fleetwood Mac infused action sequence rounding out the episode.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.07 date nightElizabeth wore her best ever wig this week. No it isn’t the Michelle, but the one at the top of the review but I have a feeling the ‘Nancy’ will be on display next week so in the meantime it is time to talk about another blonde with Philip rocking this curly look as charming Jack. Very into Elizabeth’s gold top showing off Michelle’s new found glitzy style.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.07 ElizabethSnow! And Elizabeth’s coat/scarf combo is pretty neutral in knowing what decade it is from. Only the widelegged burgundy pants (which I suspect are velvet) and boots suggest a different period. This is Elizabeth essentially in her travel agency threads and I am impressed she’s not falling over in these heels in this weather. She really is a badass.



4 Responses to “The Americans 3.07 “Walter Taffet” Review: “They Don’t Have a Lot of Choices””


  1. The Americans 3.08 “Divestment” Review: “Is Any of This True?” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 19, 2015

    […] Last week Philip listened to the news in the laundry room away from his wife, now he is back in the bedroom and the tight closeup on Philip’s face reveals a whole world of worry for the child he has never met. Elizabeth asks what his son is called and while we have seen Elizabeth share what her real name is we were not privy to seeing Philip do the same. So whether she recognizes the significance of Misha or not by hearing his name it only adds to this personal connection, which leads to the favor asking. Elizabeth also receives a package from Gabriel and for a brief moment she fears the worst about her mother, instead Gabriel reinforces the notion that her mother is “a fighter.” As with Ncgobo and the home he has long since left there is this aching for the past and the family they can’t access. […]

  2. The Americans 3.10 “Stingers” Review: “If You Really Love Me” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 2, 2015

    […] given him a second thought if it meant defying Centre’s orders. Things are different now and Elizabeth even apologizes for her trip down memory lane with Paige and Elizabeth Jennings is not one for […]

  3. The Americans 3.11 “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” Review: “We Do Hard Things” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 9, 2015

    […] of unstable entities and Maurice wants in on Michelle’s money making plan. Lisa hasn’t made an appearance for a few episodes and this reminds us just how many missions […]

  4. The Americans 4.02 “Pastor Tim” Review: “You Were Almost Free” | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 24, 2016

    […] of the WeekThis looks like a less curly version of this season 3 delight and Philip tries to work all his persuasive magic with sadly terrible results and it gives rise to […]

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