The Americans 4.03 “Experimental City of Tomorrow” Review: “Run, Run, Run”

31 Mar

A weekend away is just the thing the Jennings family needs right now with everything going on in The Americans and considering their cover profession they have the ability to do just that in an instant (and with a discount!). However it isn’t as easy as booking and going; there are ulterior motives at play, high stakes and that little matter of getting exposed to a potentially deadly pathogen to put a spanner in the works.

Philip and Elizabeth have always felt (here at TV Ate My Wardrobe we like to feel) only just a few steps ahead of those who might bring them down whether it was Stan in the pilot episode sniffing around their garage or when they were being trailed last season. There has always been a way out, an option whether good or bad; they’ve always made it happen but their current noose is getting tighter by the second.The Americans 4.03 Philip and ElizabethSo much is going on and it even has Gabriel rattled as he echoes Philip’s sentiment that now is the time for them to leave. Claudia sides with Elizabeth on the matter (without realizing it) and the pair are more alike than either would care to admit. Time is what is needed and it is also the thing they are short on and so now is a really great time for them to get exposed to something that requires a self-imposed quarantine blowing their other plans out of the water. Sorry Henry, no Epcot for you. Although the last time they went to a theme park things didn’t end well so maybe it is for the best.

Let’s do a quick rundown of the balls they have up in the air from most pressing to least; Pastor Tim knowing their big secret and invoking the code of telling his wife, Paige’s continued spiral after finding out her parents are spies, Martha getting used to Clark’s real face and playing it cool at work, Elizabeth’s new and as yet unexplained mission with Young Hee and the Stan/Philip fractured friendship. That is a lot to contend with and now is not a good time to be benched because they pose a risk to everyone they know for an entirely different reason.

The Pastor Tim problem keeps on expanding if that was possible and he isn’t buying Philip and Elizabeth’s wide eyed “Peace Workers” explanation. It probably doesn’t help their case that Tim has been on the receiving end of Philip’s quiet menace back in season 2 and I think he sees real danger in who they are and what they do. Plus there is that matter of Communism and organized religion not really seeing eye to eye. It is maybe a tad convenient that Pastor Tim hasn’t gone to the authorities yet because of his clergy honor code, but this doesn’t read as disingenuous coming from this character and it does seem like the kind of thing he would weigh up. One thing Pastor Tim wants to make sure is that Philip and Elizabeth’s work doesn’t put anyone in danger; if only he knew the extent of their actions and what their superiors have in store for Tim and his wife. And even though he doesn’t kill anyone with his bare hands this week, Philip does resort to a full on spit in the face to force William into acting rather than running. Gross Philip, gross. The Americans 4.03 PhilipPaige is caught in the middle of this one and she is upset with Pastor Tim for divulging her secret to his wife, but she is also still unclear as to what her parents work entails. They are both quick to point out (maybe too quick) that no one gets hurt (tell that to the airport security guard last week) and they plan on telling her more when they go away including where Philip goes two nights a week. While they are incredibly in tune with each other to the point of deeply exhaling at the same time – kudos again to Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys for not only how they say things but giving each sigh a meaning – the finer details probably need ironing out to get their stories straight and a weekend locked up at Gabriel’s is as good a time as any to figure this out. Other body mirroring occurs and it is impressive how often they mimic each other in how they look/stand/sigh.

When people talk about the secret to a strong marriage the ability to compromise is always on that list and it is something Philip and Elizabeth are actually quite good at. Perhaps it was all those years where they went through the motions as a married couple or that the time we have spent with them has been exploring the shift from this pretense to actually feeling it, but if one of them doesn’t want to do something then the other will listen and hold off. Even when it was something as big as telling Paige last season Elizabeth waited despite her very contradictory feelings on the matter.The Americans 4.03 Philip and SandraLater when Philip talks to Sandra about their current Paige predicament (leaving out the finer details of course) he mentions that there are disagreements, but ultimately his family would go where he goes. In a way this is Philip trying to repair his friendship with Stan through Sandra – it is useful having a friendly face in the FBI and an actual friend – and he is also pointing out the fundamental reason why his marriage is strong.

Philip wants to run because that is what his internal alarm has been telling him to do, but because Elizabeth’s hasn’t then they stay. It is as simple as that. The same goes for when they find Gabriel in distress and after a short debate about what they should do, while Elizabeth feels (there’s that word again) she should remain there with Gabriel they both ultimately leave to meet William together. All or nothing.

At the core of what makes The Americans so compelling is this relationship and the moments that resonate are ones which are familiar to us such as talking about their day while undressing for bed or discussing what is best for their family; even if the wider issues they are dealing with are completely alien. The Americans 4.03 Elizabeth and PhilipThis conversation in their office at work after Philip has been praised for making time for family by his employee is especially important because not only does it lay out why Philip isn’t insisting on doing things his way (even if he was right about telling Paige), but it also points to the notion that they are fucked whatever they do; Paige loses in either scenario. If they leave and go back to Russia it will be a huge culture shock for all of them and even if Elizabeth has dreamed of Odessa (a small detail she seems impressed that Philip has remembered) this level of upheaval will be devastating for each member of this family.

Philip is the most at home in the US and yet he is the one suggesting a return home; Elizabeth reluctance comes from leaving everything they have built here and the twenty years of work they have put in. I also wonder if she also likes it in the US despite what her duty to her country and cause is telling her. For Philip what is important is keeping his family together and “it all matters” to him; as with their initial Paige disagreement last year they are at an impasse and we will have to wait and see how it plays out as there are so many players involved now. They are in this together and the clasping of hands shows their commitment to each other regardless of this difference of opinion.

One thing they do agree on is how important it is for Paige to control her anger when confronting Pastor Tim regarding his secret spilling. Anger is an emotion we rarely see from Philip and Elizabeth; Philip ripping out the pages from Paige’s bible and Elizabeth reaction to Paige’s confession last week are the two times we have seen them display this feeling. The other is in the pilot episode when Elizabeth kicked Timoshev’s head through the garage wall and Philip snapped his neck; this is one occasion where anger acted in a unifying manner. Otherwise it is a reaction that is unstable and leads to unpredictable moments such as Lucia attempting to kill Larrick in season 2 and ending up dead herself. Anger can push someone further away and Philip knows the importance of keeping Pastor Tim close and in this scene with Paige he is both manipulating her and teaching the skills of emotional manipulation; whether they like it or not Paige is now very much in this business.The Americans 4.03 Patty and Young HeeLaughter is not something we hear very often on The Americans and it is equal parts disconcerting and delightful to see Elizabeth engage in such cheery behavior while in disguise as Patty. Patty is someone I have been really looking forward to meeting ever since Entertainment Weekly unveiled this new look and talking to Americans costume designer Katie Irish last week increased those already high anticipation levels; this costume/persona did not disappoint.

We are introduced to Patty at a Mary Kay party and it is quickly established that Young Hee is who Elizabeth is interested in. Later on she ‘bumps’ into her while grocery shopping and they instantly develop a rapport with Elizabeth playing the nervous about approaching people card, which is kinda required for the Mary Kay selling model. Young Hee offers to help and they have a good day together; so good that Elizabeth gets an invite to dinner.

What makes this different from other occasions where Elizabeth has made a friend for work such as Michelle is that she usually uses it as a time to unload in the guise of someone else. On this occasion when asked about her family she deflects and I think that she wants to keep that separate from this genuinely good time she is having hanging out with Young Hee. It is still work, but it is also a distraction from the very real and high amount of problems she is facing right now. This is an escape for her and yet it is also important that she tells Philip that she had fun; this is not a secret she is keeping from him. Also the pepper dance was really cute and I’m not sure I’ve ever used this word to describe Elizabeth.

The FBI doesn’t want reports to contain “I feel” and sends out a memo to underscore this point and Stan is using a whole lot of gut feelings when it comes to his surveillance of Martha. This isn’t Stan plucking suspicions out of this thin air and something doesn’t sit right with him with the whole Gene suicide thing and really if anyone could plant a bug in Gaad’s office then his secretary is an obvious suspect. Plus she has been acting jumpy as hell and there was that dream Stan had in the season 2 finale pointing to his subconscious knowing something was up long before the big reveal. So far all Stan has is that Martha doesn’t come home two nights a week (those same two nights Paige asks about) and he wants Agent Aderholt to come on board the surveillance plan. Aderholt has a better idea than sitting in a car until 3 am suggesting he takes her out to dinner instead. If this all takes place while Philip and Elizabeth are stuck at Gabriel’s then they might be in trouble here too.The Americans 4.03 NinaNina is the one dreaming this week and she’s back in a cell after her latest exploits; “exceptional punishment” has a terrifying ring to it and it is no wonder she is dreaming of the old apartment she met Stan in and this time it is full of flowers. Anton is also there dragging her back to her current location and even though she smiled reading what he wrote about her that doesn’t make up for how bad things are going to get. Can Oleg save the day? If this was a different show I would be inclined to think he could, but as this is The Americans my hopes for this are diminished.

But if Pastor Tim can get some divine intervention in the form of a pathogen then maybe someone will answer Nina’s call too.

Shot of the WeekThe Americans 4.03The discovery of Gabriel is frantic and as I mention above there is something truly wonderful about how in sync Philip and Elizabeth are in their reactions and in the manner in which Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell play them. So much comes from gestures, glances, micro expressions and even their sighs which speak a thousand volumes.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016

The Americans 4.03 Patty coatThe coat casually slung over the shoulders is a hard one to pull off and Elizabeth and her current cover are the perfect candidates to work this look. While Patty is leaning hard into 80s fashion there is still a little something of the previous decade in her grocery shopping attire which I really love. Thanks to Mad Men I find it hard to watch a supermarket scene without thinking of Betty slapping Helen Bishop hard in the face. Luckily this encounter was far happier.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.03 Patty Mary KayThere were no other disguises this week, but if there were it would have taken a lot to beat Patty as she is everything I was hoping for and more. Elizabeth doesn’t get to go glamorous in her cover world too often as she doesn’t want to stand out, but with Patty she gets to try out new trends and wear bold clothes and makeup.The Americans 4.03 Elizabeth and Young HeeIf this week’s costumes are any indication then Patty loves purple and her coat collection is just as extensive as Elizabeth’s (which will come in handy later this season for logistical reasons). More Patty and her new BFF Young Hee please as Elizabeth really needs a friend right now. 

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One Response to “The Americans 4.03 “Experimental City of Tomorrow” Review: “Run, Run, Run””

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  1. The Americans 4.04 “Chloramphenicol” Review: Just One More Thing | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 7, 2016

    […] got increasingly clammy. And Keri Russell somehow still looks amazing in this super sick state. Last week I talked a lot about compromise and how since we have met Philip and Elizabeth they have moved from […]

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