The Americans 4.10 “Munchkins” Review: How To Earn Someone’s Trust

19 May

It was at this point on The Americans last year when Paige found out the truth about who her parents really are, but it has taken this amount of time for Paige to finally feel like she can trust them again and they have Pastor Tim to thank for this. Trust is a fundamental part of a spy’s job; getting someone to open up to extract the information needed without looking like that is all they are after and there are many ways of achieving this.

Building up relationships is important and sex is one method. The other is friendship and as we have seen with both Philip and Elizabeth they have to really commit to make a convincing agent. With Paige they have used some of the same somewhat emotionally manipulative techniques to try and get her on side, but faking it with feelings is much harder when it is your own daughter.The Americans 4.10 Elizabeth, Philip, PaigeOne of the points of entry and really one of the reasons why Paige initially started to question everything was the lack of extended family. Taking her to Germany to see Elizabeth’s mother was meant to bring them together; instead it caused her to spiral further and confess to Pastor Tim about their Russian nationality. Paige didn’t think she could convincingly lie and yet we have seen her gradually get much better at faking her way through things. Elizabeth going all tough parent on her a few weeks ago certainly helped underscore exactly what is at stake and the disappearance of Pastor Tim coupled with the suggestion of having to leave if things did go south have further cemented this notion.

In terms of parenting Elizabeth is the tougher of the two and has been since the pilot episode; her relationship to her own mother is something I discussed in detail over at Collider and it provides the foundation for everything Elizabeth feels about duty to country. With Philip, details about his childhood have been sparse with the odd comment about icicles and the fully fleshed out version of his milk story that we saw at the start of this season. In “Munchkins” we finally get to hear about Philip’s relationship with his parents after Paige asks whether his mom was a good cook. We find out that like Elizabeth’s mother, Philip’s was also tough and so was his dad. This is not unusual for post-war Russia and Philip explains it wasn’t about what you liked; instead hard work and protecting your family was what mattered. Both are values Philip and Elizabeth adhere to now. The Americans 4.10 Philip kitchenThis bonding session is much like last week’s Philip and Paige scenes; intercut with Elizabeth and her soul crushing Young Hee operation. It goes a long way to explaining exactly why they do the terrible things they do and a word like ‘tough’ could easily be assigned to Elizabeth when thinking about what kind of mother she is. Philip mentions his dad was often tired and this again could describe his state when returning home from work at all hours of the day.

It is pretty magical seeing how Philip’s face lights up when he thinks about his childhood and this in stark contrast to his other most recent memory from his past; Paige’s curiosity opens up this part of him that has been sealed off for over twenty years. These father/daughter moments are lovely and the chemistry between Holly Taylor and Matthew Rhys gives off these nurturing warm and fuzzy feelings. Philip was the one who appealed to Paige last season based on their family history with photos from her childhood and his relationship with his daughter is much warmer than Elizabeth’s is.The Americans 4.10 Young HeeWithout the KGB the Jennings family would not exist because Philip and Elizabeth are only together because of this assignment. Paige and Henry are part of their cover as Americans, but unlike a lot of the relationships they fake their way through the bonds here are very real. “Feelings matter” as Gabriel later tells Elizabeth and this certainly became the case when they committed to each other at the start of season 1. Now these feelings are seeping into every crack like a warm and gooey poison. Elizabeth is no longer the stone cold agent and this is most likely not down to one thing, but an accumulation of everything that has taken place over the last four seasons.

There is nothing fake about Young Hee and her family; they are loud and love each other very much. Elizabeth is about to destroy all of this. If the seduction scene was hard enough to watch last week, well then this family dinner with a super awkward Don is even more excruciating as he can barely look at Patty. It gets even worse when Elizabeth listens to Young Hee’s tear filled phone message and her instance at completing this mission only wavers when Gabriel pushes her.The Americans 4.10 kitchenDiscussions between children and parents or about children and parents run throughout the episode and as the father figure in her life Gabriel holds a lot of sway. He has changed his handler tactics and instead of admonishing or simply pushing her to complete the mission he offers the chance of a way out. There are no guarantees, but they can always ask. Elizabeth pauses for what feels like an age as she contemplates this suggestion and you know there is a big part of her that feels like a failure for letting her feelings get in the way; her feelings don’t or shouldn’t matter. But they do and Gabriel now has a much better read on who his agents are and how to work with them. It is a really touching scene and watching Elizabeth peel away her cold exterior continues to be one of the highlights of this season. Insert my weekly Keri Russell is amazing comment here. Same with Matthew Rhys.

The core parent/children conversations take place between Philip, Elizabeth and Paige over three scenes. First comes Alice’s surprise arrival after family dinner and before her bombshell we see they are now at a place where they can joke about getting Paige to mop the kitchen floor. The news that Pastor Tim has disappeared in a country which is a Soviet client state does not go down well and Alice has a whole contingency plan if anything happens. Paige also questions her parents and doesn’t think she can believe anything they say on the matter and storms out of the kitchen once again mirroring that big reveal from last season. In a hilarious moment Philip waits a beat and then ponders whether they did have anything to do with it.The Americans 4.10 AliceElizabeth has zero time for this line of thought pointing out that they would have been told if a plan like this was going ahead. It would also be incredibly sloppy if this is how the Centre decide to deal with the Pastor Tim problem months after the Epcot aborted plan. Paige doesn’t know anything about that though and so this version seems plausible.

Later on when Paige returns from seeing Alice a tense conversation in the kitchen is peppered by the sound of Henry banging a tennis ball against the garage door, which adds an unsettling tone to proceedings. It is pretty funny that both Paige and Elizabeth make the same ‘break the garage door’ comment independent of each other; like mother, like daughter. This is where Paige gets to act like her most teen as she flips out when she finds out that a move to Russia will be on the cards if things go south. Paige tells them that everything they say is crazy and then lands a blow asking them who they are going to lie to and kidnap? This might be a good moment to sing the praises of Holly Taylor who shows the conflict Paige is feeling in numerous ways including wide eyed confusion, anger and fear at what might happen to both Tim and her family.The Americans 4.10 Elizabeth and PhilipWhen Pastor Tim shows up unhurt – they ran out of petrol and got lost, way to go Tim – Paige realizes her parents have been telling the truth all along. Well about this anyway. Getting to a place of trust is hard and sometimes it needs something big like this to earn it. Closing ranks is important and Elizabeth explains that “the one thing dad and I have is we tell each other the truth.” The one time Philip didn’t was when he slept with Irina and as the blowup argument proved a few weeks ago this is still a deep burn. But other than that they are golden and now Paige is also part of this. They can’t tell her everything, but they promise not to lie to her. This is what Philip did with Martha too and that definitely made her more willing to go along with things like the Moscow move. Martha did not have a shit fit like Paige threw.

What they also find out is Paige is starting to think like them as she explains the reason why she didn’t ask for the tape straight away was to make sure Alicia knew that she cared about Tim being found and not just to save her parents. There is now an immense amount of trust between Alice and Paige; their plan is working. The girl who didn’t think she could lie is now becoming quite the little spy.The Americans 4.10 Paige and MatthewWithout even knowing it Paige has also gathered some vital information from Matthew as he tells her that Stan has been opening up a lot more about his work at the FBI. My first thought when he told her about the Martha stuff was for her to run and tell her parents, but at this point Paige doesn’t know the goldmine she has stumbled upon. This conversation is also important for another reason as Matthew is the other side of the Paige coin; Matthew wasn’t privy to Stan’s work life and had a strained relationship. Now Stan is being more open with him things are a lot better. I also love that Paige used to be super nervous around Matthew as she had a crush on him. Now she has so much other shit going on these nerves have gone and she isn’t concerned with looking super cool going so far as asking him for a lift and taking him into her church. They can be like the KGB/FBI version of Romeo and Juliet except both houses are seemingly friends right now.

There is another teen in this equation (not you Henry – go back to listening to your Walkman) and this week marks the return of Kimmy! Julia Garner it is so good to see you again especially now that Kimmy has a boyfriend and Philip is much more of a surrogate father/big brother type rather than someone Kimmy is launching herself at. Thanks show for making this a lot less uncomfortable. Kimmy tells Philip that her dad told her who he really works for and suddenly everything to do with her dad makes so much more sense. The Kimmy storyline ran parallel with Paige’s last season and it does so once again here. Philip tells her she shouldn’t have told him this big secret as it breaks her father’s trust (much like Paige did) and it will bring her closer to her father if she does keep his trust (also see Paige). We also find out that Kimmy thinks Philip has the best pot and that he is a pot connoisseur. Maybe it is time for Philip and Elizabeth to get stoned together again.The Americans 4.10 Stan, Aderholt, Martha's dadOne more father/daughter relationship makes an impact this week and that is the one between Martha and her dad. We know Martha was super tight with her parents and it makes it all the more heartbreaking that they still don’t know where she is. Her dad has traveled to DC to meet up with Stan (who drags Aderholt along for this beer and awkward chat) and he tries to convince them how good his daughter is. In the most polite way Stan explains that they target people like Martha and they assure him they won’t give up on looking for her, but probably not for the reasons he hopes for.

The new boss at the FBI is no Gaad and is what Stan would refer to as a “Munchkin” (like the episode title) and is someone who is a carbon copy of the director with no out of the box thinking. A rule follower if you will. Gaad is on vacation with his wife in Thailand and nothing bad could happen to him there, right? I thought we had seen the last of Gaad, but now we definitely have. A visit from some shady looking Russians who want to talk ends with Gaad impaling himself of the glass pane door and bleeding out. This all made me pretty sad. Why they wanted to talk is unclear, but Arkady had something to do with this mission. Stan takes the news as you would expect it and at the moment he doesn’t know the how/why. When he does I think he might be more inclined to step up his Oleg op.

Oleg meanwhile is still enjoying some out of office time with Tatiana and she tells him what department she works for. I still don’t trust her in the slightest and this opening up seems pretty calculated to me.

Shot of the Week

The Americans 4.10 Elizabeth side eyeThe side eye from Elizabeth coupled with the excellent use of counter top props to cover Keri Russell’s IRL pregnancy bump is pretty wonderful. And just think if they had written her pregnancy into the show then she would have got to wear the Princess Di inspired (costume designer Katie Irish confirmed this) maternity wear. Cute collars make a tent dress almost bearable.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.10 Kimmy and JimThe return of Jim Baxter and his leather jacket definitely warrants a mention here. Also Patty is making me too sad.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016

The Americans 4.10 Philip tneckA black turtleneck is a classic for a reason and Philip always wears it well.

The Americans 4.10 PaigePaige takes after her dad in the fashion stakes this week, but pairs her tneck with a sweater and even though the weather is getting warmer (although not as warm as May usually is by this point) I am getting a hankering for knitwear.

Next week we have the ominously titled “Dinner for Seven” and it sounds like we are in for a culinary accompanied hoot.

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3 Responses to “The Americans 4.10 “Munchkins” Review: How To Earn Someone’s Trust”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 20, 2016

    […] Hayley Atwell had already been cast on another ABC show (Conviction – watch the promo here), but the Agent Carter cancellation still hurts and I’m sad we’re not going […]

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

    […] been a long time since Elizabeth engaged in some extra-martial spy seduction shenanigans. The whole Don set up was faked and all of her other recent operations have been friendship based. Post-end of season 1 […]

  3. The Americans 5.06 “Crossbreed” Review: Sins of the Father | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 12, 2017

    […] is what crushes his soul and while this also makes Elizabeth feel some kind of terrible it is what she did to Young Hee that bothers her deeply. A visit from a Mary Kay rep dredges up these usually well buried emotions […]

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