Advertisements

The Americans 4.07 “Travel Agents” Review: A Lonely Life

28 Apr

Running away from it all is an idea that has been touched upon on The Americans this season with Philip’s inner voice whispering ‘run, run, run’ as a reaction to Pastor Tim knowing their big spy secret. Now Martha knows a version of everything and she’s the one on the fleeing; she is out there on her own and her whole world has collapsed. Leaving Martha with Gabriel was a bad idea as the only person holding her together was Philip and now they have a valuable asset to find in a huge city while the FBI are also trying to do the same thing.

Season 4 is all about consequences that come from living a double life and the resulting spiraling from Martha and to a lesser extent (at the moment) Paige is a result of their relationships that are not as they seem. Martha has been torn from everything she has known and flung into a very dangerous place and her fleeing is an attempt to regain a sense of control; but what do go when everywhere is a potential danger and every face could be the one coming to arrest you?The Americans 4.07 MarthaMartha was chosen as a target not only because of whom she is secretary to, but because of her lonely heart status and I can’t help but picture Miss Lonelyhearts from Rear Window when I think of how they picked her. Later when Philip tells Martha she will be making the trip to Moscow solo she remarks that she will be alone “just the way I was before I met you” and if my heart hadn’t already been crushed by this storyline then it would be in pieces after that. Stan and Gaad talk about the why of what Martha has done with money and sex coming up and then pondering if she was really that unhappy and I think we have our answer. Stan even wonders if this is a real love scenario and at first this interpretation surprised me and then I remembered how he felt about Nina; it isn’t that uncommon to fall for the person you are meant to be working or vice versa.

Emotions are manipulated in this business and sometimes it is hard to know what is real and with every new bit of information Martha is getting she is becoming harder to keep at bay with promises and reassurances. Knowing who Philip works for peels back another layer and shatters her illusion of what this relationship was. When she speaks to him on the phone she is desperate and broken, but not completely done as we see her contemplating jumping from a very high bridge and not following through. Chekhov’s Valium does not come into play either. Martha wants this all to end and she is now wise to Philip’s methods knowing he will “tell me some version of the truth that’s not very true.” There is a moment where she contemplates hanging up the phone and not revealing her location, but she is all out of other options and Philip is the only person she can turn to.The Americans 4.07 carElizabeth gets to her first and has a job convincing Martha to a) calm the fuck down and b) come with her willingly. Elizabeth has one hand in her pocket and the other one is not giving a peace sign; there is a strong sense that Elizabeth really doesn’t want to have to resort to the ultimate silencing method and yet you know she will if this goes bad. Martha has a whole host of questions about who Elizabeth is and whether she is “sleeping with my husband.” Knowing this is not the time to speak wife to wife she denies the sleeping with part, but does explain they are all part of this operation. When Martha continues to freak out Elizabeth sucker punches her hard in the gut and whispers the very real facts of how she has nowhere else to go as the FBI knows who she is. Martha needs to do exactly what Elizabeth says and she will live.

As Martha has seen Philip’s true face it is why Elizabeth (and an unseen Hans) get sent out to find Martha while Philip gets to go hang at their phone operator’s apartment. In terms of a lonely existence this job seems to encapsulate all of that and this is probably why Joan is so pleased to have someone to talk to that isn’t just a voice on the end of a line. Philip is of course rather preoccupied and isn’t much up for chatting although he does indulge in some day old borscht. While he isn’t hungry he does seem to appreciate the taste and reminder of home. When they do converse it is about the person who had this job before her, the person Larrick killed and before Philip can answer her question the phone rings and it is Martha. Back to solo living for Joan.The Americans 4.07 PhilipA taste of home food and Martha’s forthcoming trip to Moscow and Philip couldn’t be blamed for longing for a way out. This is how Elizabeth infers things and she is at her most vulnerable and forgiving in “Travel Agents.” Instead of reacting with anger as I expected she would that Martha has fled and knows about them being KGB she instead shows empathy telling Philip that this is not his fault. This is a very different Elizabeth to the one we met back in season 1 and she is much more in tune with how complicated things can get. Plus she also went through something similar when Gregory was put in the cross hairs of their operation.

Later on when Martha is back at the house and Philip has gone to find some ice – ice that is stored next to the infected rat – for the injury caused by Elizabeth they have the kind of open conversation that didn’t seem possible until this season. For all their skills at emotional manipulation Philip and Elizabeth are not so good when it comes to sharing their real feelings and this has caused issues in the past such as when Philip slept with his ex Irina in season 1 and then lied about it. Pot helped them open up last year and they have been getting better at telling each other how they feel; EST can also take credit as Elizabeth’s willingness to listen and even participate when Philip told her about the classes showed how much she has changed. The Americans 4.07 ElizabethNow Elizabeth is allowing herself to be vulnerable in front of her husband even if that means potentially (she talks as a hypothetical) losing him and she takes off her Jennifer glasses (because you can’t have a serious conversation in those specs) and asks him if he could go with Martha, would he? Confusion is part of Philip’s response “Are you crazy?” that she could suggest he would want to leave her and she tries to fill in the blanks by saying she knows this is different. It is a huge amount of different and he emphatically tells her “I love you.” I think Elizabeth also forgets that Philip is the one who has been deeply in love with her since the beginning and all these feelings are still somewhat new for Elizabeth. She was also not privy to Philip’s conversation with William while she was ill a few weeks ago when he said he would only want the normal life if it was with Elizabeth. This is the kind of reassurance Philip probably doesn’t think Elizabeth needs as he doesn’t see her as an insecure person, but her slightly teary eyes while she tells him she would understand if he did want to go with Martha indicates otherwise.

Elizabeth getting ready for bed by herself – and this is the only time we see Elizabeth as Elizabeth in this episode – at the end of “Travel Agents” mirrors Martha’s pre-bed routine in “Clark’s Place” but this time no one is having any kind of sex; desperate, sad, fierce, passionate or otherwise. Instead we see Philip wide awake starring at the ceiling contemplating the lonesome existence he is about to send Martha on, while Martha lies with her back to him also getting no sleep whatsoever. At first he insisted he would be home within a few hours, but Elizabeth smartly pointed out that he should stay because otherwise what would Martha do? This one night of what Elizabeth perceived as comfort is pretty much two people sleeping in the same bed, but two people who are very much apart. Now Martha knows his real name – both Philip and Mikhail (Mischa was his nickname) – it appears the ties that bound them have disappeared with everything Clark.

There is no lie from Philip that he will join her in Moscow and he ignores Elizabeth’s advice and while telling Martha this lie would give her hope at first, it is ultimately kinder her to tell the truth that this is them done. She is never seeing him again. And while I say this pretty much every week Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright are crushing it on every single level possible. Wright could quite easily fall into hysterics, but instead she plays Martha as walking the line between holding it together and coming apart at the seams. There is an economy in the interactions between Philip and Elizabeth; so much is said in a look so that when Philip does go all in on his “I love you” moment we know it matters and he means it. Basically I am in awe in a weekly basis and it would be a wonderful thing if the Emmys would recognize their talent this year (although I am not expecting them to after ignoring this show for three seasons).

I’m also pretty sure the last time Philip said “I love you” was after Elizabeth found out about what really happened with Irina. Back then his words had no weight or meaning; here it is everything.The Americans 4.07 GaadOver at the FBI the fallout from Martha is swirling around Gaad, who as he notes had a bug in his office, the Gene stuff and his secretary fell for a Romeo plot and has been married to a KGB agent for two years. Not a great list of things for the person in charge of counterintelligence. Richard Thomas’ delivery of “They seduced and married my secretary” is full of disbelief and he would find it funny if it wasn’t so bad for his career. Actually he probably wouldn’t find it funny even then, but it definitely made me chuckle.

When sorting through Martha’s things we get to see her photo albums and once again The Americans art department does a fantastic job with how authentic these look using real photos of a young Alison Wright. There is also the heart necklace Philip gave her back in season 1 (which belonged to Elizabeth) and if only Stan knew who the former owner was.The Americans 4.07 photo albumThe Americans 4.07 necklaceAnd while the FBI are working hard to catch Martha, Oleg and Tatiana are the travel agents of the episode title and are planning an escape route for Martha, well at least Oleg is. Tatiana has other ideas by the looks of things and she is only concerned with transporting the sample; she has her backup pilot and isn’t so subtle about shutting the red folder when Oleg comes to see her. It will be interesting to see how the office politics plays out here and what impact it will have on the wider operation if they try to fuck Martha over (and in turn really piss off Philip).

What we got in “Travel Agents” is an accumulation of the Martha plot and now it has all spilled over into the point of no return and season 4 is firing on all cylinders in new and unexpected ways.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.07 Philip and MarthaThis week director Dan Attias employed a lot of tight close ups particularly during moments of high emotion, but the two shots I want to single out are wide angles which help isolate the characters contained within. After Philip tells Martha he won’t be joining her in Moscow we see them from a distance, this is them coming to an end as a couple and as an asset; the two are intrinsically linked and this really emphasizes how alone she was and is going to be. Philip might be sharing the same space, but that means nothing now.The Americans 4.07 Elizabeth and MarthaWhen Elizabeth finds Martha in the park she approaches slowly and there is a certain gun duel aspect about the framing here (or I have listened to Hamilton too much) and the hidden gun versus the secret Martha knows makes this a potentially deadly set up. Elizabeth inches closer and closer before she makes her move and this is another case of excellent tension building and execution.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.07 Philip and ElizabethThere are no new disguises this week unless you count Philip’s super light cap disguise – the point that Martha has seen his face is reiterated – but I do love the Jennifer look so much and this is the longest Elizabeth has stayed in one disguise over an episode and we only see her true self at the end when she gets ready for bed.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.07 teensThis isn’t about what is worn in the above shot, but more about the ad on TV. First I want to say how much fun this scene is because teens are often the much maligned characters in shows like this and The Americans is doing a good job of incorporating the kids; Paige in the main story and Henry (and Matthew) as ultimate latchkey kids ignored by their busy at work dads. Here they drink beer and rather than getting all self-righteous Paige joins in and even gives Henry some extra.

Before Paige came in the sound of a Calvin Klein ad was heard and Henry comments how hot the model is and finally Henry has found a girl around his age to lust after as Brooke Shields was 16 when she shot this campaign. Now this commercial reads on the creepy end, though nowhere near as bad as the last commercial this show led me to look up.

But yeah I’d wear some Calvin Klein 80s jeans, but this ad would not be the reason.

Advertisements

One Response to “The Americans 4.07 “Travel Agents” Review: A Lonely Life”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Best of TV Costuming 2016: The Americans, Vulnerability and the Jennifer Disguise | TV Ate My Wardrobe - December 14, 2016

    […] the Jennifer disguise and where we find her at the mid-point of season 4 in the episode “Travel Agents.” Performance wise it doesn’t get much better than what Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Ex-aspirational

Depression, creativity and the pressures of growing up, as told by a twenty-something not living her best life

Julie Hammerle

Nerds Need Love Too

Sofa and Remote

I love talking about TV as much as I love watching it

Ellie Writes Stuff

About this and that

Heather Cocks & Jessica Morgan

Authors, Bloggers, Fashion Assassins

Twitter Music Club

A rotation curation music club, based on Twitter, mainly for Kiwis

INTO ROW Z

If you enjoy a challenge, like Claude Makélélé, read my blog. Its about sport.

lost somewhere in new york city

We rock a lot of polka dots

sankles

We rock a lot of polka dots

frocktalk.com/

Just another WordPress.com site

Cultural Learnings

Television Reviews and Analysis

judgmental observer

film, tv, popular culture, higher ed, unicorns

Rookie

We rock a lot of polka dots

ScreenFad

TV show news, reviews, recaps, spoilers, and photos

The Frisky – Popular Magazine

We rock a lot of polka dots

irkyle.wordpress.com/

I review this shit so you don't have to.

%d bloggers like this: