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The Americans 4.11 “Dinner for Seven” Review: No Control

26 May

An FBI Agent moving in across the street from a pair of deep cover KGB spies posing as Americans was one of the initial setups in The Americans pilot. That FBI Agent went from suspicious to best friend, dinnertime crasher and video provider (well he can’t give them to Nina anymore). Stan is having a sort of crisis at the moment relating to those he has killed (Vlad) and those friends who have been killed by the KGB (Amador, Gaad) or because of the KGB and the FBI combined (Nina). Plus there is the matter of his co-worker who turned out to be a spy and his non-existent personal life.

Everything is spinning out of control for all the major players on The Americans and because events can’t be fully predicted or sketched out there is a lot of doubt seeping through the cracks.The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth and PhilipTake Elizabeth and the Young Hee operation, which ultimately was the Don operation. When Elizabeth started out with Young Hee she commented that it felt different, but she had no idea of the strong emotional impact that would come. It could’ve been Lisa who she bonded with in this way or Elizabeth could have stayed completely neutral on the whole thing. Instead Young Hee has left her mark in a big way. There are several reasons for this including Elizabeth’s state of mind after finding out her mother had died and Young Hee filled a very big hole in Elizabeth’s life. Also Young Hee is several levels of charming and fun so it is hard not to want to be her BFF. I’m going to miss Ruthie Ann Miles, but I am not going to miss those teary phone calls about why Don is behaving so strangely. Every scene post fake hookup has been soul crushing and I can’t bear to see Don’s confused/sad face anymore.

Gabriel gave Elizabeth the chance to ask for another way into Level 4 and while Gabriel could have done this prior to her seducing and drugging Don, it didn’t really matter in the end as the Centre turned down this request. It is important for us to see Elizabeth contemplate her feelings in all of this even if she thinks they don’t matter as it shows her humanity. All goes to plan from Elizabeth telling Don she is pregnant to Philip and Gabriel (with their new asset) gaining access to Don’s office by pretending Patty has killed herself (RIP Patty and all those fabulous clothes) and they need money to pay for her funeral. Here’s the kicker as they don’t find the codes, but they have copied all his floppy disc files so hopefully something will turn up otherwise all of this emotional turmoil and family destruction would be for naught.The Americans 4.11 Pastor Tim*A quick production design note about the above shot because I want to point out once again how much of a family home this is right down to the photographs that are pinned onto the kitchen phone.

Even something as straightforward as planning dinner can meet an unexpected turn. When Alice asks Elizabeth if she makes a big spread like this every night Elizabeth says she tries to but it doesn’t always go according to plan. This is what the grilled cheese and Sloppy Joe nights are for; for when you feel so shit after a mission and you just can’t be bothered to cook. Elizabeth invites Pastor Tim and Alice over for dinner as a way to maintain the position of power they now have over this couple after Alice accused them last week of having something to do with Tim’s disappearance in Ethiopia. As Elizabeth later explains it works to their advantage because both Tim and Alice feel bad about accusing them and making them worry about their safety. Whether the tape exists or not (I suspect that Elizabeth suspects the latter) they’re not going to do anything about it yet because of their new advantage.

The dynamics have shifted in favor of the Jennings, but there is something that Elizabeth can’t quite shift in terms of her current feelings and there is something inviting about Pastor Tim’s counsel even though she does not believe in God. Three separate conversations all with the convenient excuse of picking Paige up has Elizabeth talking to Tim about some deep and meaningful things. You can chalk it up to working an asset and sometimes it is hard to tell what is real and what part is the spy talking, but there is definitely an element of trying to work through Elizabeth’s current crisis. Not a crisis of faith (toward her country) specifically, but a crisis in letting her emotions impact her ability to complete a mission. One of these conversations focuses on this idea of control or the lack of and that faith helps Tim in these moments; what does Elizabeth have as her version of this?The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth, Stan and HenryFamily is probably the nearest thing along with duty to country and in a later discussion she asks what he does when he has something on his mind that he can’t stop thinking about. Tim’s answer is prayer and not one for the Elizabeth Jennings playbook; Tim responds that none of these things matter and it is how we treat each other is all that is important.

Well that’s a whole lot of awkward because Elizabeth has done some very terrible things to a lot of people. Whereas Philip has found EST as a way of walking through his anguish at the very terrible things he has done, Elizabeth has yet to find her outlet, but I think her just talking about it is a big step.The Americans 4.11 Philip and StanBack to the serendipity of having a neighbor who is an FBI Agent and Stan is also feeling adrift much like his KGB pals. Stan tells Philip about Gaad’s murder and how he doesn’t buy the ‘robbery gone wrong’ theory and he suspects it was the Russians who did it. He doesn’t know why they would target him, but he is certain those ‘animals’ played a part. Philip’s face stays impassive throughout as it does at dinner when Stan’s occupation comes up with Henry enthusiastically telling Pastor Tim and Alice what Stan does – Tim questions the happenstance of this and Elizabeth points out that they lived there long before the Beemans – and Stan is at a low ebb. Philip for his part is concerned that by mentioning Gaad’s trip in one of his Stan reports he might have accidentally planted the seed of this operation and this is another example of a lack of control; Philip simply thought of it as a throwaway remark and Gaad wasn’t even supposed to end up dead. It was just bad luck.

Rather than go all in on the Oleg plan as I suspected Stan might he instead calls a meeting to tell him about the original plan to blackmail him using Nina or his brother. Stan has a lot of guilt with what happened to Nina and how he killed Vlad in retaliation to what happened to Chris Amador (another wrong place, wrong time death). This also goes a long way in showing how deep The Americans storytelling well is as names like Gregory, Irina and Chris are all important long after their last appearance on the show. Consequences stretch back and Stan is feeling the weight of the conscience that Gaad warned him about. The Americans 4.11 mail robotThere is what you would call a lucky break at the FBI and the return of Mail Robot both hanging out in the background as if on cue and in one of the Martha reports gives them a new lead. Aderholt notes a curious note as when Mail Robot was being repaired a 911 call was made from that building and a woman was found dead of ‘natural causes.’ Aderholt is rightly suspicious of this cause of death and this is another case of a past event coming back to the forefront.

Stan told Philip that he couldn’t tell him stories because they are classified, but he has far looser lips with his son Matthew who in turn told Paige some things last week. Paige tells Elizabeth about the spy secretary as they are walking back to the car in a notably sketchy and deserted looking neighborhood. In a bit of foreshadowing Elizabeth tells Paige that they will “do anything to keep this family together” and she doesn’t just mean with the Pastor Tim situation. As they approach the parking lot it is clear something is going to happen as very little of the episode remains and no amount of driving lesson talk can subdue the tension. What does happen is Paige gets to see who Elizabeth really is as a spy way beyond the ‘social action and making the world a better place’ party line; she gets front seats at the Elizabeth is a deadly and badass spy up show.The Americans 4.11 Paige and ElizabethYou can see Elizabeth assessing the situation straight away going for tempering with handing her wallet over so they can get away without having to resort to violence. Unfortunately one of the would be muggers makes a would be rapist suggestion and there is no way Elizabeth is letting that happen to her daughter so she pulls out some swift self-defense moves that turn deadly when one of the guys pulls a knife. Big mistake there buddy and the end results are what you would expect, except Paige did not expect this and has wide eyed horror all over her face. Now she’s getting a look at who her mom really is and I’m not sure Philip and Elizabeth will be able to talk their way out of this one. Time for Paige to step up once again and the question of trust will come into play once again. Also this is a good time to point you in the direction of my essay over at Collider where I discuss in detail the teenagers on The Americans and how this is one drama that gets this age demographic right.

Everything keeps on spinning and with just two more episodes left of this season there is a chance that some of this will come crashing down; in good news it was announced yesterday that The Americans has been renewed for two more seasons with the 10-episode sixth season as its last. While I am sad that my favorite show has an end date, I am also happy my favorite show has an end date and 23 more episodes to complete the story after this year. This means the writers can carefully plot the conclusion and there is nothing better than a show that can control its own destiny.

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth, Alice, Tim and PaigeStarting with one that made me laugh for a number of reasons; first of all because Stan made a very terrible ‘roast in the oven joke’ which everyone is politely reacting in good humor to. Second because of the biggest salad bowl in the world as an IRL pregnancy bump cover up, when Alice is holding a tiny bowl over the actresses’ fake but very large bump. There’s several references to pregnancy throughout with Patty pretending she is pregnant and it all gets a bit meta as we know Keri Russell is really pregnant. For those who listen to the Slate Americans podcast I am assuming this episode is the one they referenced a few weeks ago when pointing out that Keri Russell was still doing stunts this late in the game.The Americans 4.11 Philip and ElizabethAnd to the heartbreaking as Philip tells Elizabeth they didn’t find the Level 4 codes in Don’s office and she asks him whether he thinks Don will tell Patty. He doesn’t think so, but it is hard to really know. The Jennings bathroom mirror has been put to good use this season and this is another great shot of the pair.

Disguise of the Week The Americans 4.11 Philip and GabrielThis is a disguise we first saw way back in season 1:

 The slightly rough around the edges blonde hair/glasses dude is making a reappearance as Patty’s brother. Also along for the ride is Gabriel as Patty’s father and new recruit Kathy Geiss (she doesn’t have a character name yet so I’m going with her 30 Rock name).

The Elizabeth Jennings Coat Parade The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth coat 1It’s winter so it makes sense that Elizabeth is wearing a lot of coats and there is a secondary reason for this garment particularly in the second half of the season to cover up Keri Russell’s bump and like myself Elizabeth is a woman of many coats. All of which I would probably wear in 2016.The Americans 4.11 PattyThe saddest coat of them all and this Patty stuff is such a heartbreaker that I’m gonna leave it there.The Americans 4.11 Elizabth purple coatThis purple number is one Elizabeth has worn for quite a few seasons now and I am always fond of a bit of wardrobe repeating.The Americans 4.11 Coach coatAnd to the coat of the season and the tan Coach trench which I am coveting hardest of all.

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6 Responses to “The Americans 4.11 “Dinner for Seven” Review: No Control”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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

    […] other main cover from this season as the super ’80s stylish Patty. Also RIP to this look as Patty ‘killed herself’ and I am looking forward what new creations costume designer Kate Irish comes up with for the […]

  2. The Americans 5.01 “Amber Waves” Review: Protect Yourself | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 8, 2017

    […] so it is not to see a repetition of this foreboding shot and for Paige there is no escaping the night she saw her mother stab a guy in the throat in self […]

  3. The Americans 5.02 “Pests” Review: Playing By the Rules | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 15, 2017

    […] find Paige is a concern for another reason as she was asleep in her closet as she continues to have post-stabbing sleep issues. There are no set parenting rules for dealing with first boyfriends and really they […]

  4. The Americans 5.03 “Midges” Review: Even Cowboys Get the Blues | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 22, 2017

    […] out about all the other stuff they do all in the name of their country.Everything changed when Paige saw her mother act in self defense and kill a man in front of her; while she had already figured out that the […]

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

    […] – and instead she bases her comments in reality while scoping out the room. She discusses the mugging and I’d say this is something that isn’t playing on Elizabeth’s mind. But she […]

  6. The Americans 5.10 “Darkroom” Review: Heavy Wears the Crown | TV Ate My Wardrobe - May 10, 2017

    […] try and push Evgheniya back to Russia. Elizabeth tells her to fight for her family and as with the wrecking of Young Hee’s marriage (*sob*) last year it is extremely unpleasant (to put it mildly) what Pasha is being put through. […]

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