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The Americans 5.03 “The Midges” Review: Even Cowboys Get the Blues

22 Mar

When Philip and Elizabeth first told Paige their big spy secret towards the end of season 3 of The Americans they left out a lot of the details about what they did. How do you explain to your teenage daughter that not only are you a Russian spy, but that you also pretend to be other people to get the information your country requires?

This is already a confusing and difficult conversation and let’s not even consider the ramifications if Paige found 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 breadcrumb details she was given didn’t tell the whole story, this was a real eye opener. The questions they keep on coming and by dating an FBI agent’s son Paige has put herself in an even more precarious position from an emotional point of view. Dealing with parents who are spies is one thing and throwing in all of these first boyfriend feelings just makes things even more complicated.

If I was talking about vampires on The Vampire Diaries I would be throwing around the phrase “heightened emotions” and this is exactly what Paige is experiencing. But instead of learning that she can live forever, Paige has found out that her parents are nothing like your regular mom and dad.

The reason why Paige confronted them in the first place was because she could sense that something was off with their behavior and by withholding they are still keeping her at an arm’s length. Of course there are things they can’t reveal and aspects such as sleeping with assets would not be the best way of keeping her on side. Or the fact that they have destroyed lives (see Young Hee and Martha *sob*) and killed a lot of people in the process. If Paige thinks it is gross lying to people with ease, can you image is she knew how often her parents have to resort to bullets and back breaking as a way to protect their identity/work.The latter happens at the end of “The Midges” after their investigation at the lab is interrupted by someone who works there. Another case of ‘wrong place, wrong time’ and Randy gets added to this growing list which also includes security guards, guys returning for a left behind wallet and delivery drivers. Randy at first attempts to lie about his position at the lab and while he’s high up, he also doesn’t know a whole lot about why they are breeding this type of pest. The information he does give shows that this is linked to Stan’s investigation and the FBI and KGB are going to be crossing paths again soon. As Elizabeth informs him “You should’ve asked.”

Philip has a bad track record with the cowboy hat and the last time this was part of his disguise his wig got ripped off and another innocent bystander paid the price. This time it is a double team effort and despite being much shorter than Randy, Philip and Elizabeth easily intimidate him. First Elizabeth hits him from behind against the glass and then she pushes him toward Philip who quickly ends things by breaking his back. Pretty fucked up date night and when Philip mentions telling Paige about this aspect of their work it is a super dark joke I was not expecting, but considering how much terrible stuff they have done as part of their job it isn’t surprising that morbid humor is the way to go. It is either that or go to the dark place that Philip has been circling since season 2. And I’m not even sure Philip intends it to be funny.It is his idea to tell Paige about what their current operation is because it clearly shows Russia as the victim; attacking food supply and starving a country is something Paige will understand as bad. What they also do is reveal part of their cover telling her about having fake identities while leaving out their fake son. They mention that they are pretending to be a pilot and flight attendant and how hard it can be. Throughout this scene Elizabeth looks pleased that they are sharing this with their daughter and there is a sense of pride that they can talk openly with her about this stuff. Well, not entirely and as with Elizabeth’s later conversation with Paige she talks about the importance of not sharing everything.

Not that Elizabeth is maybe the best at giving romantic advice considering how closed off things were with Philip when we first met them. They are of course a lot better at sharing with each other than they have ever been, but because of the nature of their arrangement and how they had to compartmentalize their original lives there is always going to be some aspect of holding back. They’re experts in emotional manipulation and yet they are often stumped at how to deal with their own feelings.

Communication has vastly improved and there is no one better than having a conversation without saying a word than Philip and Elizabeth; they say so much to each other in their glances and this is a point I could make on a weekly basis (and probably do) as Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are so good at saying so much without saying anything at all. This brings me to the scene in the motel room where Elizabeth recognizes how much the weight of what they are doing is burdening Philip’s soul.

Targeting food has brought up a whole lot of shit about his childhood and as we saw in the very brief flashback as Philip stares into the bathroom mirror his upbringing was not an easy one and the thought of anyone going through that again back home is too much to think about. Philip ponders on the notion of why can’t they grow enough grain to not have to rely on the US when home looks similar to the fields of Oklahoma.So when Elizabeth turns on the radio and “Old Flame” by Alabama plays, she takes this as a moment to distract him from the big picture stuff. Plus they have time to kill and she takes the cowboy hat part of his disguise first wearing it herself making a joke about being queen of the rodeo and then places it on his head.

Instant thoughts of Philip in the pilot giving great embarrassing dad while dancing in the department store wearing cowboy boots and in the past Elizabeth has mocked him for liking this part of American life. Here she does the opposite and in an incredibly romantic moment she sees his hunched over sadness and turns this into a fantasy moment for him; she places the hat on his head and they slow dance to the song. For a moment everything else gets blocked out and it is just them in this motel room. It is also the first time I’ve realized just how tiny Keri Russell is height wise as in the wide shot you can see she is on bare foot tippy toes. But real life is coming for them and later these disguises turn from romance to just another day of an operation not quite going to plan and someone else paying the price.

Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship instantly improved when they were finally open with each other and the same can now be said for how they are with Paige; even if this burden is huge and it comes with a new set of worries. Those worries do not extend to where exactly Henry is and I have a feeling that Henry’s absence is going to bite them in some way this season. All of their focus is on Paige and Henry is getting the classic teen son in a prestige drama treatment right now. Chris Brody says hi BTW.

Meanwhile, Philip’s other son continues his long journey to meet his papa stopping off at an address in Yugoslavia where he finds his contact has been arrested and so the cost of crossing the border into Austria has gone up. Oh, Mischa.

And while we’re over in that part of the world; Oleg has started his corruption investigation while also finding out that he really should’ve gone to that secret meeting. Now he has a tape of the conversation with Stan and a map and it looks like Stan is not the one behind this attempted contact as I suspected. When Oleg walks through the supermarket with its barely stocked shelves – despite all the amazing produce out back – the camera lingers on someone looking at a can. It is none other than Martha! I’m very excited to see Alison Wright again. Will she somehow cross paths with Oleg?

All the pieces are slowly coming together and as crisis looms the Jennings family could be getting even closer – well, not Henry – but at what cost?

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017Very much in love with Elizabeth’s plaid jacket and considering my go to outerwear at the moment is a red and black Levi’s jacket this comes as no surprise. Great sweater game from Elizabeth this week in a purple turtleneck and the teal number you can see below.

Felicity Flashback

This isn’t Keri Russell’s first rodeo.

Bonus Wig Cave!

I love it when we see their place of disguise prep so I was very pleased to see their post Tuan dropping off changing back from Dee and Brad to Philip and Elizabeth.

Bonus Song Choice!

The musical moment of the episode is quite clearly the country slow dance, but I was also thrilled to hear the dreamy Roxy Music’s “More Than This” playing over the opening bowling scene and as things go to shit at the lab and they have to clear up their mess. It is also interesting to note that while this plays Philip goes to check on the woman keeping watch – their Hans replacement? – to make sure she was okay after seeing them bring out the body. She says she is, but the look as she sees them with her would suggest otherwise.

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4 Responses to “The Americans 5.03 “The Midges” Review: Even Cowboys Get the Blues”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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

    […] of land and yet how backward they are with their methods. This plays into the discussion in the motel room last week and there’s a push/pull at play between the very real things that are wrong with the corrupt […]

  2. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 31, 2017

    […] Alison Wright at the moment as she’s crushing it (and me in the process) on Feud, making surprise appearances and performing on Broadway. At the Sweat opening night party she looks incredible in a Balmain […]

  3. The Americans 5.05 “Lotus 1-2-3” Review: This is Us | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 5, 2017

    […] time collateral damage has happened on numerous occasions and when they killed Randy in the lab a couple of week’s ago he was seen as being a cog in this evil famine causing machine; this death was justified by the […]

  4. Bowling at the FX All-Star Event with The Americans, You’re the Worst and Fargo | TV Ate My Wardrobe - April 7, 2017

    […] no bowling shoes though.We’ve seen that this is a favorite activity of the Jennings (and their covers) on The Americans and it is nice to see everyone out of the super tense environment of spy life […]

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