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The Americans Season 5 Key Art and Dining in Disguises

15 Feb

The Americans returns next month and talk has already centered on the very different political landscape we’re now experiencing than when the show debuted in 2013. Season 5 might be set in 1984, but right now The Americans seems more and more relevant and it will be interesting to see how/if this alters the viewing experience and how the creative team/stars will discuss these aspects while promoting the new season.

For now we can let the series of trailers FX has released focusing on “Best Show on TV” aspects (I concur) speak for themselves, about what we can expect from season 5 and if they are any indication then somehow the tension and stakes are going to be raised even further.

The first full promo focuses on Paige and how she is being brought further into the family business with self defense classes from her mother and the boyfriend who happens to be the son of Philip’s FBI Agent bestie. And here’s another of Philip and Elizabeth in full disguise playing a different couple at dinner discussing how they got together.

You will never suspect them. Beware of #TheAmericans when the new season premieres March 7 on @fxnetworks.

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Now for the key art and every season takes on a new color palette. This is no exception and it is as bold as it is fabulous.img_0606A color scheme that will standout on billboards/taxis/buses/subway stations and as per co-showrunner Joel Fields the inspiration behind this season 5 poster comes from Rosie the Riveter.

Yellow is such a striking and often ignored color when it comes to marketing unless there is something that points to the sun in the title; see It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless MindLittle Miss SunshineOr if the main characters are also this color; see Minions.

Combining it with two other primary colors is an immediate way to take notice and it is also somewhat jarring visually using such a cheery palette for a show that is this steeped in darkness. But it is also super effective and like a lot of Americans artwork it does read as propaganda and techniques from both countries have been utilized over the last five years (hence Rosie).

There is a sense of unity here and it is impressive that the FX marketing department has found ways of bringing out something different each year – season 2 is still my fave – even though it is always just Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys that feature on these posters.

This also strikes me as a smart idea as rather than throw in Paige training or Stan lurking there is always a sense that at the center of The Americans it is Philip and Elizabeth as spies and husband and wife.

Guns tend to feature making sure you never forget the nature of their work and there is always a sense of unity between them. Here in his hand clasped around her wrist – wedding band clearly on display – which could read as an act of control, but we know this to be sign of togetherness/partnership and their unbreakable bond. Plus Elizabeth is the one holding the gun.

To hammer (accidental USSR related pun) this point home they are dressed in matching blue and the blue of their eyes has been enhanced to complete this mirroring/togetherness. And even though they were physically apart in the final scene of the season 4 the look they share and everything that came before it reinforces just how strong they are as a unit. As does this poster.

The Americans returns Tuesday, March 7 on FX.

 

 

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The Americans Season 5 Trailer: Gonna Need a Training Montage

8 Feb

The Americans returns for season 5 next month and somehow things look tenser than ever before. I don’t know how they manage this every year, but the threat levels look higher and also there is some training to be done.

After seeing her mother take out two dudes – including killing one of them – at the end of last season Paige has even more questions about what her parents do and she’s ready to help with the family business. This includes her relationship with Matthew Beeman in The Americans version of Romeo and Juliet and getting self-defense lessons from her mother.

The net continues to close in around Philip and Elizabeth and there is concern that their position is more precarious than ever. Here is the trailer and the ticking clock does a very good job of setting my frayed Americans nerves on fire. Great music timing with the punches too.

Prepare for the all new season of TV's most acclaimed drama. #TheAmericans returns March 7 on @fxnetworks.

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And here is my breakdown of some notable moments.img_0460Henry is still excluded from all important family conversations for obvious reasons. Costume wise Elizabeth is back to silk blouses and not worrying about hiding Keri Russell’s IRL pregnancy. Philip still does dad sweaters better than anyone.img_0488Disguise cave! It is always fun to take a sneak look at their getting ready process and even more so when they’re discussion domestic issues. Philip has concerns with regards to Paige and I don’t blame him tbh.img_0489Maybe all Stan needs is some red string to connect the dots. Or the Carrie Mathison color coding method.img_0466Mischa Jr. is coming! His voyage to the US is far from first class with the trunk of a car providing the non-luxury conditions. I had to double check this wasn’t Matthew Rhys so good casting guys!img_0486Philip and Elizabeth tend to have their most intimate conversations in the bathroom (for anyone who has read my teen TV pieces they will know how happy this makes me) and Philip is also great at miming the clusterfuck they are now in.img_0490Getting every Buffy/Alias training montage vibe.img_0491If this was 2017 Paige would probably be wearing an Ivy Park hoodie. As it is 1984 she is in ESprit. And it is also worth noting her cross necklace is still on display.img_0492A very proud mama.img_0501Stan has very strong concerns about Oleg’s safety as he is still giving the FBI information and this is probably wrapped up in the fact that he already got one informant killed. Oleg looks every level stressed. img_0478This is a tad on the blurry side as this shot is very quick, but here are two new disguises. The last time Philip wore a hat like that it did not go wellimg_0494A gentle stroll in the park or really a difference in opinion about Philip and Elizabeth; Claudia thinks that nothing scares them, Gabriel believes the opposite.

Considering how broken they were at the midpoint last season I am definitely inclined to side with Gabriel on this one.img_0495They definitely just did something bad. Bonus points for the eerie mist and pensive stares.img_0496A brief look at the new flight themed disguises which debuted in Entertainment Weekly at the end of last year.img_0498And I am always thrilled to see Elizabeth in huge frames.

The Americans returns Tuesday, March 7 on FX.

 

Best of TV Costuming 2016: The Americans, Vulnerability and the Jennifer Disguise

14 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2016” costume series and rather than doing a straightforward countdown we’re going to do a variety of posts that look at which costumes and shows have made a huge impact this year. From items we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking; we want to celebrate the work of television’s best costume designers.

Kicking off with the show which would be top of my list (and has been for the last few years) and The Americans continues the impossible task of somehow getting even better each season and upping the stakes/tension levels. In previous end of year essays about this show we have discussed wigs, the marriage disguise and the act of removing and revealing the truth.

This year is a combination of all of those things as we take a closer look at costume designer Katie Irish’s work with a focus on Elizabeth Jennings, 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 Alison Wright are doing this season (and the ones before) and this episode showcases the best of this very complicated dynamic.

the-americans-4-07The implications of Philip removing his Clark cover in the penultimate episode of season 3 (discussed in detail here) are huge; for whom Philip and Elizabeth are as partners in both the professional and personal. By showing his real face he risks the identities they have crafted and lived over twenty years and this act could be read as one of betrayal. It doesn’t help matters that Elizabeth finds out what Philip did when she turns up at the safe house all dressed up as Jennifer (Clark’s sister) – lovely Jenny – and sees her husband without his disguise on.

What he did was an in the moment choice, but he could’ve at least given her a heads up rather than reveal it in this bombshell manner. Three weeks is a long time to be sitting on this secret and Philip’s sheepish reaction is very much their version of getting caught in the act.

Without Clark, Jennifer is nothing and it becomes apparent to Martha that their relationship is definitely not brother and sister; but the Jennifer disguise stays on because they can’t risk her face being seen by someone who has no love or loyalty toward her. It is a humiliating moment for Elizabeth and not just because the Jennifer cover isn’t entirely flattering.jennifer-the-americansAs the seasons have progressed Elizabeth’s tough exterior remains tough, but through falling in actual love with her arranged suitor she has become emotionally vulnerable and the Martha situation brings all these feelings of jealousy to the surface. This isn’t a conventional love triangle and the last time Elizabeth showed outward signs of Martha curiosity/envy was back in season 2 when Martha referred to Clark’s bedroom prowess (not a good conversation point with a sibling or as it turns out in this case his wife) and yet this is about more than just sex. They have both slept with so many other people as part of their job and this goes much deeper than that.

Sex does play a role and it is a form of communication when the words are hard to find or speak; Elizabeth does attempt to stamp her position as wife (and give them both a much needed release) and yet there is a nagging feeling that can’t be subdued.

The thing about the Jennifer look is that she is meant to be unassuming and like a lot of the spy costumes she is meant to be unmemorable. The glasses swap her face and her clothing is pretty ‘Plain Jane’ and she is very much the original Barb. These granny frames are all kinds of endearing, however there is no glamour here; which is in strong contrast to Elizabeth’s other main cover from this season as the super ’80s stylish Patty. The Americans 4.08 Young Hee and ElizabethAlso RIP to this look as Patty ‘killed herself’ and I am looking forward to whatever new creations costume designer Kate Irish comes up with for the forthcoming season (check out Irish’s Instagram for shots of her research and more BTS from The Americans).the-americans-4-07-travel-agentsSo not only does Elizabeth have to watch her de-wigged husband interact with this woman who he also calls his wife, but she has to do so all while dressed in a confidence crushing appearance (Keri Russell talks about the Jennifer disguise as part of 92Y Americans panel and explains that it is a “little rough” on her self-esteem).

Plus she gets questions like this from Martha “Are you sleeping with my husband?” and rather than go for an “Actually” truth response she takes the much easier road of lying to prevent a figurative gut punch. Quickly followed by a literal one.The Americans 4.07 ElizabethEmotional devastation comes in many forms over the course of this season and The Americans level of romance isn’t one coated in chocolates and flowers. However as a show about marriage it nails the ups and downs of romantic love with Elizabeth uncharacteristically laying out her fears for Philip to see, all while dressed as Clark’s sister Jenny. She is so exposed and it doesn’t matter that her mane of hair is stuffed in that wig (another amazing feat).

The glasses are removed because you don’t want to have a conversation like this with half your faced covered, but the wig and ill fitting pink coat remains (the coat and layers is pure Jennifer, but also act as an IRL bump concealer). Elizabeth poses a hypothetical question where she wonders if Philip would go with Martha if he could; she dreads he’ll say yes because he wants the easier life with a more emotionally available woman, but of course this couldn’t be further from how Philip actually feels and he responds with a hint of confused anger at such a thought.

So much gets said with a look and one of The Americans’ strengths is economy of words; this scene delivers on the complexities of this marriage, how hard it is to show this level of vulnerability and how you can be mad that the person you love could even consider such a thought. Ending with a passionate embrace as Elizabeth still clutches her glasses and the realization that he needs to stay cements what we already knew; these two are made for each other and there is no hypothetical situation Philip would be happy with that doesn’t involve his wife. The first one.The Americans 4.08 argumentIt is also fun viewing this scene in juxtaposition to the very honest marriage discussion (okay screaming match) in the following episode. Here Philip is reassuring his wife that this is the life he wants and she is the one he loves, cut to their big hallway blowout which brings up the names of betrayals and former lovers they haven’t forgotten. The Martha situation is a sticky one, but this has nothing on Gregory or Irina. No wigs or glasses present in this trip down romantic rival memory lane.

This episode directed by Matthew Rhys is the best of the season, but this scene in “Travel Agents” is the one which is the true standout for me; the fact that it involves Elizabeth dressed as Jennifer answering a question she won’t be able to take back and Philip is so emphatic with his answer underscores how good every level of The Americans is from the acting, writing, directing to the costuming and hair/makeup.

Watch the scene below and The Americans returns for season 5 next year and if I had to guess I’d say March again, but I’m sure we’ll find out the date next month during TCA.

For more essays on The Americans by me in other places from 2016 check out:

Big Coats, New Disguises: Secrets From ‘The Americans’ Costume Designer

Personality Crisis: How ‘The Americans’ and ‘Orphan Black’ Blur Identity

Born to Run: What TV Characters Reveal While Working Up a Sweat

‘The Americans’: Motherhood, the Motherland, and Elizabeth Jennings

How ‘The Americans’ Portrayal of Teenagers Puts Other Dramas to Shame

‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Americans,’ and Why Cold War Fears Are Making a Comeback

An Evening with The Americans: Panel Highlights

31 Oct

The Americans has just started shooting its penultimate season, but it won’t be back for at least a few months. To fill the wig and complicated relationship void showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields joined stars Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys at the 92nd Street Y as part of The Hollywood Reporter’s TV Talks panel series to discuss all things The Americans.

Regular readers will know how much I enjoy a good panel/roundtable (movie award season is coming!) and as this one has the bonus of being about my favorite show.the-americans-panelWeisberg and Fields are both very cautious when revealing anything that could be considered a spoiler so if you want some season 5 secrets then you might be disappointed. Instead what follows is a fascinating chat about the process of making this show from a writing and acting standpoint. It is also very funny at times with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys displaying the kind of back and forth ease/humor that you would hope to expect from an IRL couple.

This includes Rhys joking about how he directed Russell during her big Paige confrontation scene in “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” explaining that it was a “very simple scene to direct because Keri was pregnant at the time, so I just said pretend like you’re talking to me.” He also made Holly Taylor cry for real during this scene and he seems to feel very bad about this.

One of the most revealing aspects of this scene discussion was the behind the scenes debate in the editing room about whether to CGI out the vein which grew more inflamed on Russell’s face as Elizabeth’s anger at Paige increased. Joel Fields fought the corner of keeping it as it was and Russell loved that her face naturally looked like this as “You’re mad. Why would I want to be a pretty version of that? Like I want to be mad, but I want to be pretty.”

Russell also mentions that she understood why this conversation took place; “In everyone’s defense they were just trying to protect me.” It really is a stunning moment and physical performance from Keri Russell’s face parts so I am thrilled they didn’t alter it in post.matthew-rhys-and-keri-russellWhile talking about what it is like to work with the person you also go home with Rhys a little hesitantly at first takes the lead referring to the duality of it all “it’s amazing and it’s difficult. And it’s challenging and exciting. It’s everything.” And that so far they seem to be getting away with it.

One of the answers that surprised some of the audience was when Rhys responded to ‘Did Philip love Martha?’ with a quick “no.” In the way he played it (and I read it) his feelings for her were intrinsically linked to guilt rather than love and there is an aspect of caring, but not being in love. There were lots of Martha questions from the audience – all audience Qs should be done on cards as it really speeds up the process – and she is an important character.

Of course this being Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields they didn’t reveal whether they have plans to bring her back. The only new S5 info was that Philip and Elizabeth would have some different operations to deal with as most of their old ones wrapped up in S4. And there are some theories from the actors about how they would like to see the show wrap up including a dramatic interpretation by Matthew Rhys that has him going out in a blaze of glory.

It wouldn’t be an Americans panel without a little bit of wig/disguise chat and Russell and Rhys were asked to name their favorite disguise the other has worn. This resulted in a Margo Martindale anecdote that is worth clicking on the link below (and comes just before the hour mark).

Praise for Holly Taylor (and whether she has a real tattoo or not) was scattered throughout and how the Paige reveal scene is one of the hardest they have ever shot as it was a lot more heartbreaking on a personal level than Russell expected. This also allows Rhys to gift us with a Monty Python impression and for how serious this show is the set life sure sounds like a lot of fun.

 

Watch the whole panel here (and click ahead to 9 minutes in if you want to skip the clips).

The Americans 4.13 “Persona Non Grata” Review: Auspicious Beginnings

9 Jun

Home or the idea of returning back to Russia has been humming away in the background throughout season 4 of The Americans as the risks keeping stacking up and the chance of getting caught increases with every move. Gabriel tells Elizabeth and Philip that they have always been in danger and yet when they get this offer to return home they are both stunned into silence rather than action.

At the start of the year when Philip’s inner voice was telling him to “run, run, run” he knew this wasn’t an option because Elizabeth didn’t feel the same way and even with everything that is going on with William’s arrest, Pastor Tim and managing Paige there is still something holding them back. The Americans 4.13 Elizabeth and PhilipWe’ve found out a lot more this season about Philip and Elizabeth’s origin story; the places they grew up and the hardships they faced. Elizabeth tells Philip about her Smolensk chat with Paige and her wistful pondering about how much has changed. Philip is far less romantic about the state of home suggesting that it probably isn’t that much different from how they left it; despite this slight rebuttal it is a really nice moment between the pair as they contemplate their home that once was.

Everything about Russia in the present is an abstract to them and later on as they contemplate Gabriel’s offer they both struggle to picture their kids in the USSR, which is hardly surprising considering just how American they both are. Paige underscored a lot of the issues a couple of weeks ago when Russia was on the table with the language being a primary concern. Despite their loyalty to their country they are accustomed to this American way of life and the idea of moving is hard to fathom; what exactly will they do when they get home?The Americans 4.13 Paige and ElizabethPhilip and Elizabeth are not the only ones who the Motherland is calling back for one reason or another and they might end with Oleg and Arkady as seatmates. Oleg is choosing to return to his family because his mother is still in a bad way after the death of his brother and he is told twice in “Persona Non Grata” that he is a good son. First by Arkady, then by Tatiana. The pull of America has always been strong for Oleg and as with Philip there are certain pop culture and lifestyle aspects he is drawn to.

Unlike Philip, Oleg had a comfortable upbringing and lived in relative wealth but when he returns he will also have to find a position for himself in a place with fewer resources. Arkady’s reasons for departing are not his own and he is given 48-hours to leave thanks to what happened to Gaad. Even though there is no proof he had anything to do with the hotel room tragedy Gaad’s replacement still has the sway to get him kicked out. Perhaps we will see Oleg and Arkady working together from Russia next season. Here’s hoping as both characters are vital to the Russian portion of The Americans.The Americans 4.13 Oleg and TatianaThere is someone who will be making the trip from the Motherland to the United States as Philip’s other son Mischa is on the hunt for his American travel agent dad. We first meet Mischa locked up in an institution because he has been saying some anti-Soviet things about the war in Afghanistan; a war he fought in. Luckily for Mischa he has some powerful friends and his release is secured and he heads to his grandfather’s home.

Irina’s father has a low key looking Jason Bourne package of passports and money for him from his mother and it turns out Irina is also in prison. She ran, but they don’t know why. We learn that Mischa’s grandfather didn’t meet Philip, but he did see him with Irina once and they looked happy; this idea of auspicious beginnings runs throughout this Americans finale in a season which has been looking back and dealing with consequences.

EST has helped Philip explore his feelings about this line of work and it is worth noting that this season began with a vital moment in Philip’s journey; the explosive act of violence at the age of 10 that sent him down the path he is now on. The versions of his stories are of course edited and yet the feelings are still the same. So in the first one the bully moved away rather than “oh I killed him” and this week we see him telling the group about how much he hates his job as a travel agent, but can’t quit. The sentiment is still the same as he describes the ‘sick feeling’ in the pit of his stomach that he experiences every morning and how he has commitments and responsibilities to the people he loves. The Americans 4.13 Philip and ElizabethThe difference between most careers and the one line of work Philip has found himself in is how consuming it is; he isn’t just a KGB agent from 9-5 and this job is his entire life. It is why he married Elizabeth and had two children and his family and work are forever entwined. So while the EST coach suggests that he can quit, it is far from the simple “you ain’t that important.”

Philip also focuses on this idea of picking a job before you know who you are and while Elizabeth has remained steadfast and unquestioning of her commitment Philip has long been staring into the abyss. Gabriel notes his heart hasn’t been in it for a long time (while highlighting Elizabeth’s length of service as a way to get her to quit) and despite his reservations there is no way Philip is quitting without Elizabeth.The Americans 4.13Change and the way things can turn in an instant is something Philip has long been concerned with; when they were fighting about Paige getting pulled into this world Philip argued that something always changes and he doubles down on this sentiment here. Over the last four years we have tracked these changes with the most significant coming in the central relationship as they have fallen in love for real – or rather Elizabeth fell in love with Philip because he was already there – and the impact this has had on everything.

Their relationship is unique in this world which seems to drive everyone else into being alone; Gabriel discussed this last week with Philip and all season we have seen William watch Philip and Elizabeth with a mixture of wonder and envy. William ends up in the custody of the FBI, but before he is caught he infects himself with the Lassa virus sample that he was going to pass onto Philip. The KGB has no idea that William has sacrificed himself in this manner and the concern for the Jennings cover comes directly from William’s capture.The Americans 4.13 Stan and AderholtAs with Philip we get to hear about William’s changing opinion about the job he took on years ago; at first it was exciting and this commitment to something drove him. William also talks about being invisible and how special this made him feel at first, but his secret power became his curse.

It is a sad tale of a lonely life and this absence of closeness meant that all he had left was his commitment; this is why Gabriel knew to target this last week when he convinced him to do this one last job. The unnamed friendship William had with Philip is one he views as at a distance and that there was always a barrier between them.The Americans 4.13 WilliamLater as the oozing begins – Dylan Baker’s delivery of what will happen to him is a thing of wonder and I’m going to miss him – and William starts to slip he reveals the relationship he had long ago; that they were always fighting and how he wishes they could have been like them. In the vaguest of terms he talks about Philip and Elizabeth; “she’s pretty, he’s lucky” and how with their two kids they are living the American Dream. Will Stan equate this to the couple who have been on their radar since season 1?

For now they are safe from arrest as Elizabeth notes the lack of FBI cars when Stan finally comes home after days at work and all is as it was and yet this sleepy suburb is no longer the refuge it once was and their house looms like a warning as Philip marches Paige back home after finding out she has been smooching Matthew while Henry has been left to watch the Super Bowl by himself (making this January 22, 1984). Poor Henry.The Americans 4.13 StanIn a very awkward dad to dad moment Stan is kinda giddy about Matthew hooking up with Paige. Ew, Stan. But this shows the difference between a dad of a son and a daughter in this situation and also everything else that Philip knows so good job laughing off the father of the bride joke that Stan makes. Philip is angry at Paige because of just how complicated this whole situation is already as he forbids her from seeing Matthew. When she starts to sass back he simply tells her “you have no idea” and let’s just see what happens if he mentions the move to Russia considering the shit fit she threw last time.

Relationship wise beyond the one they have with each other Philip, Elizabeth and now to some extent Paige are likely to understand exactly what William means by the barrier he felt when he tried to reach out to people. Paige asks Elizabeth how long it was after she gave birth before she wanted people to come visit and she answers that she didn’t really have any friends. Bleak.

The same can be said for now and even the friend she made this season was built on a foundation of lies and torn down by deception. I’m still super bummed out about Young Hee. The same goes for Philip as Stan might be his BFF on the surface, but he is always holding back and withholding and he sure does not want Stan’s son to date his daughter. For reasons. Paige talks to Matthew about trust and this idea that parents are just people and here she is also unable to completely be herself. The same goes for when she held Pastor Tim and Alice’s baby as her smile soon shifted to sadness as the strains of Leonard Cohen’s “Who by Fire?” plays.The Americans 4.13 Paige and babyThe season ends not so much on a cliffhanger, but with this feeling that everything is somehow going to get harder. There is no vacation coming the Jennings way and even if they keep up appearances the net is closing in. Dealing with consequences both on a grand scale and the personal toll has made this season the best The Americans has done yet and with every move the knots in my stomach get even tighter; the following of William in tandem with Philip going to his drop location involved very little action, but it is sequences like that that elevate this from other spy shows.

Everything that has gone on in the core relationships this season including Paige’s evolution which has led to junior spy like actions – this week she also asks her mom for some self-defense lessons – has strengthened what was already incredible. Philip and Elizabeth continue to grow as a couple even when they disagree and it has been the emotional changes in Elizabeth that is the true standout for me this year. The bold moves with Martha and her devastating arc has been another high point in a season of highs.

Performances have been incredible across the board with Holly Taylor delivering wide eyed horror and confrontation in equal measure and Alison Wright giving off far than just Poor Martha as she took her fate with strength and resolve. Come Emmy nomination day I would love to hear both Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys’ names getting called out for the acting masterclass they have delivered on a weekly basis and there is so much they say even when there is no dialogue.

There are two more seasons to follow this one and it definitely feels like we are approaching the final act. And I cannot wait.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.13 Arkady Going for three shots this week; first up is Arkady contemplating his return home while looking up at the bust of Lenin.

Last week I mentioned how well the painting of Lenin is utilized in the Rezidentura for dramatic effect and I’m glad to see them playing on this theme with this different imposing version of Lenin.The Americans 4.13 Philip and Elizabeth bedroomMirroring the end of season 3, but Elizabeth is in the seated position and instead of contemplating a murder she has just committed as Philip did at that point they are instead weighing up their running options.

They are very much on the same page rather than at a distance with Ronald Reagan delivering a grand speech.The Americans 4.13 houseThis looks straight from a horror movie.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.13 Philip ESTA repeat of the Philip disguise which reminds me of my dad has led me to a non-disguise disguise with Philip wearing his travel agent hat and a giant name badge at EST. It was also fun hearing Elizabeth describe EST to Paige as she attempted to be non-judgmental (and failing) of her husband’s outlet.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.13 kitchen tableOne final shout out to the Coach trench Elizabeth has been sporting all season and the ultimate in the roll call of coats from this year. Also shout out to Keri Russell for wearing stiletto boots while this pregnant or any time really because while they look amazing this would be incredibly perilous if I was to wear them in any condition.

 

Thanks for joining me on this season 4 Americans adventure and I will be back to talk about the show later in the year.

The Americans 4.12 “A Roy Rogers in Franconia” Review: “Did You Have to do That?”

2 Jun

It is hard to hide who you are on The Americans when confronted with a moment of danger and when Elizabeth’s protective motherly instincts kicked in with her training last week there was only going to be one winner against the two would-be muggers/rapists. Elizabeth was not only quick in her methods; taking out both guys in a matter of seconds, but her calm demeanor after the incident also has Paige questioning the few non-specific bits of information her parents have given in regards to their work.

There are only so many vague and repeated phrases a girl can take before she demands a little more and seeing her mom in full self-defense mode has sped up this process. The Americans 4.12 ElizabethQuestions and doubt are seeping through the ever growing cracks and it isn’t just the threads on the Russian containers that are unstable. Paige is in shock over what she witnessed and Elizabeth is doing her best to keep her queries to the minimum. Yes she had to do that and no this is not the first time. The conversation about ‘how many?’ is never a fun one, but on this occasion it is even more problematic (don’t even ask Elizabeth or Philip the more common and often contentious between couples ‘how many?’ query) and even if Elizabeth did know the number (and I can’t see her keeping a tally of the dead) it isn’t going to offer Paige any comfort. They’ve also told Paige that they’re not going to lie to her and so going with a non-committal “I don’t know” is the safest option.

Paige is pushing back in a big way this week as we have seen her do on a number of occasions and part of this includes a common grumble from a teenager; they’re treating her like she is 12. The difference here being that anything they do tell her could severely impact their safety and how she sees her parents. When Elizabeth tries the “I wanted to serve my country” party line Paige calls her out on this and so we get a deeper insight into Elizabeth’s motivations for joining the KGB beyond her mother.The Americans 4.12 Philip, Elizabeth and PaigeMirroring Paige’s conversation with her father about his background we find out more about the city of Smolensk and how like a lot of Russia it was torn apart during WWII and the years that followed involved a lot of hardship. In essence what Elizabeth took from this experience was seeing a community up against it surviving and fighting. This is all she wanted to do and it didn’t matter whether it was dangerous or not. What this does is reinforce Philip’s proclamation that it wasn’t about what you liked growing up because they grew up in a war ravaged and poor climate worlds away from where they are.

Danger still exists, but it is the cloak and dagger variety. Although it is worth noting that this season opened with a mugging turned murder in Philip’s flashback and a version of this has happened in the present; danger lurks beyond their work. The difference here being that it is Paige who is new to this killing business and she will also need therapy. EST probably is not the answer.

Elizabeth’s explanation works on a couple of levels as it deflects Paige from some of the more insidious answers she could give about the work they do (multiple murders for example) while also giving Paige the connection to her past and family that she craves. Elizabeth mentions how much she would love to go back home with Paige to see how much has changed and this is the first time Russia has been discussed by either Philip or Elizabeth in a way this season that hasn’t been tinged with the notion of having to return home as a last resort.The Americans 4.12 groceriesThrowing a spanner in the works is Philip having to leave for work during these conversations with Paige as it just prompts more questions they’re not inclined to answer. However, Paige keeps pushing and in these pauses Philip and Elizabeth do the wordless communicating with their eyes thing that is so incredibly effective; these silent agreements to tell Paige a little bit more coupled with the way each of them takes part of the info dump reinforces the notion that the Centre matched well when they paired Elizabeth with Philip. It doesn’t matter how much they differ in their opinions on matters such as the bio-weapon plan, when it comes down to their family they will present a united front. Luckily for them the op Philip is leaving for is William and not Kimmy and I’d love to see them explain away why he needs to go hang out with a 16 year-old and smoke pot.

Fear, intrigue and wonder all cross Elizabeth’s face as she watches Paige with Matthew; Paige is becoming exactly what the Centre wanted and yet there is something a little disturbing about seeing her in this role. Another place where the pauses are loaded with meaning is when Elizabeth tells Philip about what happened prior to the violent incident and this is the thing she can’t stop thinking about; Paige was reporting what Matthew had told her about Stan and Martha (Gabriel follows through on his promise to contact Martha’s parents to Philip’s satisfaction).

They don’t need Paige to spy on Matthew for them and they are concerned as to what her motivations here are especially as Elizabeth has witnessed a little bit of flirting between the pair. Little do they know that Paige just had her first ever (?) kiss with him and it is hard to read exactly what Paige is doing here as we do know she used to have a crush on him. Philip and Elizabeth are fine with her being friends with him or whatever (I would love to see exactly how they would be with Matthew if they start dating), but as long as it is on her terms and not for them. Paige is concerned about what Henry might have been saying to Stan and I’m with Paige on this one, particularly how they shut Henry out after the ‘mugging’ incident.The Americans 4.12 Henry and MatthewThis is where Paige really digs her heels in and she wants to know what Philip is doing beyond a meeting as she now knows they lied to her about the lack of danger. She has a point when she mentions that her mom killed someone in front of her and she might as well know everything, right? Well Paige, let me tell you a few stories. Regardless, they do relent and reveal the weapon part, but not the gory details of ‘squirting yourself out your anus in liquid form.’ The way Holly Taylor responds with “Great” to this secret is ultimate teen disdain and The Americans continues to get their teens so right.

What Philip doesn’t know is he is walking into a trap and so is William. William has been resistant to getting those codes ever since Philip and Elizabeth first approached him and his concern is about how fucked up this weapon is. William doesn’t want to be part of something that could cause this much death, but Gabriel works his Gabriel convincing magic laboring the points about home and duty.

The Americans 4.12 Philip and Gabriel

Philip is surprised that William was that easy to convince, but Gabriel knows what it feels like to be alone and he taps into that part of William we have been seeing. As with soaps like General Hospital it is “not logical, it is emotional.” Side note – there is nothing funnier this week than seeing Elizabeth trying to ‘get’ an American soap opera.

Connections are important and Elizabeth and Philip’s partnership is the rarity in this business of so many people working and ending up alone. No matter their differences they are the spy equivalent of #RelationshipGoals.The Americans 4.12 Elizabeth and Paige GHOleg has been grappling with his position and what this whole war means in a way that parallels William and the death of his younger brother has had a huge impact. When Tatiana jokes about killing half the population of the Eastern Seaboard he takes this joke seriously as he understands that while they have brilliant scientists they also have terrible resources.

One such example is the near missile miss when a glare of sunshine read as a weapon and here he sees himself as the steadfast hand that didn’t leap to conclusions. Oleg does what William cannot and warns their enemy of this bio-weapon plot putting Philip in danger of being caught. Philip knows that Stan hasn’t been home from work for two days and this might be vital in reading the William situation even if his instincts have been all over the place this year.The Americans 4.12 The VaultMail Robot comes into play in a secondary sting operation as the FBI discover a surveillance device within it and catch the person who has been switching out the tapes. The title of this week’s episode “A Roy Rogers in Franconia” is also where this woman met the so-called mobster who offered $500 a week to swap out the tapes and it sounds like the most run of the mill location there is. Just how they like to do these dead drops. The key is to not draw attention. While the William op takes precedent, a car with a video camera has been left to watch this drop and I’m worried about what might happen to Hans as he seems like the number one most likely person to take the fall for this.

Everything is amping up for next week’s season finale and it is incredible to think just how much has taken place this year from the first half of the season with Nina’s sad demise and the Martha conclusion to every development in Paige’s somewhat unintentional junior spy training. Feelings have come into play far more this season than any before it with Philip’s earlier spiral and Elizabeth’s new found vulnerability reinforce this idea that it is emotions and not logic that drive things. Even when you are a spy.

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 4.12 Oleg and Tatiana The Americans 4.12 olegThe Rezidentura set is great for a number of reasons including how it feels like a completely different country – which it kind of is – and the huge portrait of Lenin which pulls focus. In the first shot he stands over Tatiana’s shoulder and is the constant reminder of where this version of the USSR started.

Oleg is to the side of him in both these scenes and it suggests the resistance he is currently experiencing. He is feeling a duty to something bigger because of how shitty their resources are and there is real fear in his mind. I also love that he is using his coat in the first shot in such an expressive way that would imply he is also hiding an IRL bump (he is not).The Americans 4.12 Elizabeth fridgeSpeaking of which – best use of a kitchen appliance so far this season. Also A+ reaction face from Elizabeth as Matthew tells Henry how to hook the computer up to the TV.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 4.12 PhilipOnly one disguise this week and it is Philip’s standard William attire as they don’t know when the surveillance teams will be on him and it really weirds me out how much this version of Philip looks like my dad in the 1980s.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.12 Elizabeth and PaigeI’m going the easy route this week with the classic plaid shirt and jeans option and once again the costume department is doing a terrific job in concealing Keri Russell’s bump. And not just with an endless supply of coats. Excellent wardrobe repeating with Paige’s choice of pajama shirt too.

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.

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.

The Americans 4.09 “The Day After” Review: Never Enough

12 May

After everything came to a head for Philip and Elizabeth on The Americans last week the pair were granted a vacation of sorts with no new missions and just the low level intel they had been gathering from Kimmy and whatever the Young Hee friendship has been leading to. Their breaking point was almost hit and it looks like the war between the US and USSR is reaching a similar stage albeit 7 months later and on a much more global disaster scale.imrs.phpLast week’s pop culture milestone was all about hope and recognizing freedom with David Copperfield’s Statue of Liberty spectacle and in “The Day After” we see everyone gather to watch the ABC TV movie event of the same name. This is wonder of a different kind and instead tracks the very real possibility of nuclear war as twitchiness levels grow. Oleg tells Tatiana of a case a few months prior where sunlight was mistaken for a missile launch from the US and luckily for them the person behind the controls didn’t go into full panic stations.

The Day After aired November 20 and just a few weeks prior to this a 10-day NATO exercise by the name of Able Archer 83 ran in Europe and had some convinced on the Russian side that this was actually more than just an exercise. I am glad I have seen Deutschland 83* as it not only gives a slightly different perspective on these events, but it also adds to the background of what was going on in Europe and why Russia was feeling a little on edge about their substandard technology in comparison to what the US had in their possession.

*It also means I am very familiar with one of the two standout song moments from this episode as Tom Schilling’s “Major Tom (Coming Home)” is Deutschland 83’s theme song (for the subtitled version – New Order’s “Blue Monday” is the theme song for the version shown to German audiences).

Everyone is on edge so while Elizabeth and Philip are feeling well rested there is still much work to do and the broadcast of The Day After underscores the importance of the Young Hee operation. Philip sides with William’s way of thinking in that if they tell the Centre about this brand new terrifying biological weapon it is only going to keep getting worse. The Lassa virus sounds even more horrific than Glanders as this one liquifies your organs and causes blood to seep through your skin. Thanks for that image and TV certainly teaches. William explains to Philip that nobody needs something like this in their lab and while he doesn’t really trust the Americans with it he also doesn’t trust his own people; he has seen how terrible the threads of their containers are first hand.

This level of escalation can be matched in the other kinds of weapons each country is producing and nervous fingers on buttons makes for nervous operatives. All you need is for one person to overreact and you’ve got farms in Kansas getting obliterated and Steve Guttenberg trying to stay alive (I watched some of The Day After prior to this episode and it is easy to see why people might have been even more terrified of nuclear war after).

Elizabeth views things differently to Philip as is often the case when it comes to these matters and she sees it as the US making this virus to use against them and their people; she does have a good argument as she points out the bombs they have dropped in the past. So while they are comfy and on ‘vacation’ there is this very real threat and they can’t just sit idly by while all goes to shit. This is why they are the perfect team as they come at things from very different places and ultimately they balance each other out. We saw this early on back in season 1 after the Reagan assassination attempt when Philip held off on giving some information over to the Centre so not to cause possible WWIII and his instincts turned out to be spot on.

With this he doesn’t argue against Elizabeth and her decision to go ahead and find out if there is anything they can use to blackmail Don. Don it turns out has access to the dreaded Level 4 (as I saw some speculate on Twitter) and this is why Elizabeth befriended Young Hee in the first place. This friendship goes way beyond anything we have seen with Elizabeth and any of her previous assets. Philip knows why this mission is hard for her and suggests looking for an alternative way. It is also worth noting they have gone around Gabriel with this meeting and it is like the next generation of Russian operatives are starting to show some level of disobedience to their elders. But pulling an agent out is not the same as concealing information and ultimately they only steer a tiny bit outside of the lines.

Young Hee has given Elizabeth something she has been lacking since who knows when (I guess her last real friend was Leanne and she was a colleague as well) and that is friendship. There is also a strong nurturing element which I discuss in this piece for Collider regarding Elizabeth and motherhood. The entry point to this relationship wasn’t real and neither is the way Elizabeth looks as Patty (who is wearing SO many amazing outfits this week including her purple seduction number), but everything else is. This is a lighter Elizabeth; one that doesn’t look burdened by everything so it is really hard to watch her come to the conclusion of what she must do in order to complete the mission. She offers to watch Young Hee’s kids while she and Don enjoy a romantic night away. This gives Elizabeth plenty of time to find something on Don, but as Philip posited he is pretty clean. The only vaguely incriminating thing Elizabeth finds is a porn video, but that is not enough to blackmail him with. As the hours tick by and nothing is found the grim look on Elizabeth’s face is telling.

It is a heartbreaker for us to watch too because we know how unlike Elizabeth it is to become attached to an asset in this way and Ruthie Ann Miles is so charming as Young Hee. Plus her relationship with Don is solid and Elizabeth’s attempts to seduce Young Hee’s husband are met with a hard drunken pass on his side and then a hard drunken passing out so Elizabeth can stage a hook up. This is an evergreen remark but once again Keri Russell crushes the emotional devastation and elevates her performance with how disgusted Elizabeth is at herself for the things she has to do; I don’t think we have seen Elizabeth look this conflicted. Even when she has had to kill someone she hasn’t looked this broken before and it rivals last week’s post-Lisa kill for self-loathing. No extra vacation time now.

Also I really would not want to get on the wrong side of Elizabeth when it comes to fucking up a booking and it was fun seeing her taking out her stress with something travel agent related. This is when Philip notes that she doesn’t have to go through with it; not because of him but because of how this will impact her. This comes back to strength in numbers and his support here is vital. Philip has her back no matter what and this is why William comes to him with his dilemma as he has no one to talk these things through. Philip opened up to him both about what he would want from life if this job was not in his way (Elizabeth) and with the Martha situation (we find out here that Martha made it to Moscow) and my desire for these two to become besties is happening.

William questions the notion of the freedom Martha now has and also scoffs at the idea that they get vacations, but at the moment Philip is all he has. He also likes Philip’s new disguise (and one Keri Russell discussed on Late Night with Seth Myers). I am more partial to Elizabeth’s raspberry beret and glasses combo (pictures to come).

Speaking of friends and Philip has some much needed bro time with Stan over racquetball. Here we get to see excellent early 80s gym fashion such as Philip’s Dunlop tee and some short shorts. Stan wonders why Philip is so on fire at the moment and he explains about all that extra sleep he is getting and the clients they have ditched, ahem. Stan meanwhile tells him about his shitty time at work and his new boss who refers to as a Munchkin (also the title of next week’s episode) because he is very much by the book and way more than an kiss ass. Sad Stan is still sad because he has broken up with Tori, but hey him and Matthew do come over to the Jennings house for the TV event of decade (the viewing figures for The Day After were over 100 million and Super Bowl levels).Philip and StanOne relationship in focus this week is Philip and Paige with some bonding over driving lessons. This injects some humor into proceedings and this season continues to deliver on the funny front in these unexpected places. First of all this gives Philip a chance to brush off some dad jokes and it is also quite possibly the most petrified this character has looked. Sure he has been involved in knife fights and exposed to deadly viruses, but nothing prepares you for sitting in the passenger seat next to your teenage daughter. It also shows just how good he is at teaching and when he tells her to relax and blink he could also be talking about the spy side of their life.

After The Day After Paige is understandably worried considering how close this all feels to home and it gives Philip not only the opportunity to sell what they do a little more, but also gives him the chance to be honest regarding his own fears. Paige wants them to be together if something like this does happen and at the moment they don’t have to worry about her going against them. Pastor Tim is a different story as despite her best efforts and fake smiles, he has been getting sadness vibes off Paige and he wants to have a sit down with them all when he gets back from his Ethiopia trip. Alice is looking very Princess Di in her maternity frock and she would have just given birth to Prince Harry so this influence would have been strong at this time.

Philip takes on what Pastor Tim says and treats Paige to a spin in the Camaro and this is the second time in this episode where a Paige/Philip sequence is intercut with Elizabeth’s Patty/Don mission. The first track used is “Winter Kills” by Yaz and this band will forever be connected to Kimmy and I wonder if this is another reminder we will be seeing her again. The second track as I have already mentioned is “Major Tom (Coming Home)” by Tom Schilling and it underscores Paige’s fear and then thrill at driving. The joyous high five juxtaposed with Elizabeth’s completed mission is pure Americans happiness intercut with something terrible. And Elizabeth can’t fake too much enthusiasm for Paige’s triumph when she gets home; instead crying off with a headache and going upstairs where Philip joins her.

“Major Tom” is replaced by the strains Philip and Elizabeth’s melancholic theme and it is heartbreaking when as he takes her hand she tearfully tells him “I’m gonna miss her.” Me too Elizabeth, me too.

Meanwhile in other relationship updates Oleg and Tatiana are very much doing it and I still don’t trust her. Her motivations seem to be all over the place and she definitely seems to resent his comfy circumstances growing up. They do watch The Day After together and it is sad to see that William and Arkady are the only ones watching alone. Maybe they need to be pals too.

Even with the brief moment of respite which for these characters is the lengthy 7 months and for us just a week, tension continues to build as the threat goes from small scale to global.

 

The Americans 4.08 “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” Review

5 May

Making the Statue of Liberty or a compromised agent disappear is a tall task, but what about all the guilt that has been building up over the years on The Americans; what is to be done about that? Philip has been exploring this through EST this season and yet he is still visiting the grave (or an adjacent one) of the man he killed to protect Martha’s position at the FBI.

All killing Gene did was buy them slightly more time and Martha’s freedom has ultimately still been sacrificed. She won’t be sitting in a jail in the US, but what is her box of loneliness going to do when she makes it to Russian soil and she doesn’t even know the language? The mostly dialogue free opening sequence of Martha’s departure is incredibly heartbreaking before a word is uttered and then comes Martha’s plea for Clark to not be alone. Which as you can see in the photo below he is far from that and no matter what disagreement is taking place Philip will always have his family. It wouldn’t be a Martha farewell without an emotional kicker. The Americans 4.08 Jennings familyWith the Martha problem sorted everything goes back to normal, right? Well not exactly and even though the weight of that operation has been lifted there is plenty of guilt and resentment swirling around. Part of this comes as a result of Philip and Elizabeth being terrible at telling each other how they are actually feeling. While they have been getting better at this with last week’s declaration of love and Philip’s first kill confession earlier this season, there are still moments where they don’t get each other at all.

Martha is a significant example of this and it doesn’t help when Elizabeth tries to describe what kind of woman she is using words like nice and simple. Philip is protective of Martha and the sacrifice she has made explaining that she was much more than that and how people underestimated her (which I would definitely agree with). Philip and Elizabeth are coming at this from two very different angles and there is also an element of (understandable) jealousy on Elizabeth’s part and the things Philip shared with his other wife. Philip isn’t giving Elizabeth much to respond to on the sharing front and this is why she attends an EST meeting to see why this is giving Philip an outlet.The Americans 4.08 estSkeptical face is on the menu for Elizabeth as she pieces together the point of the seminars and it is not surprising to see she comes away thinking it is a con. She sees it as a way to endlessly reach into your wallet as there are no answers and more seminars are required to delve a little deeper.

This conversation turns into the most explosive argument Philip and Elizabeth have probably ever had about their marriage begins with Elizabeth trying to give Philip her understanding, but he can sense she is holding something back about her EST opinions. Which she is and she calls the whole endeavor manipulative and when she underlines how American it is, he takes that as her way of calling him an idiot for trusting this process and ultimately liking the country they live in.The Americans 4.08 Elizabeth nametageWhat follows is a series of deep cuts from both as Gregory’s name comes up and unlike Martha he died in a hail of bullets. For every Gregory there is an Irina and this wouldn’t be a fight about their biggest emotional betrayals without a reference to the woman who broke them up in season 1. It is a painful exchange, but one that needed to happen for them to move forward. This is not a week where they will be fucking the pain away.

This fight only ends when the phone rings and the resentment spills over into their meeting with Gabriel and he has had enough of their bullshit. I mean he is recovering from glanders still so it is understandable why his patience for their problems is lacking.

In one of the most delightful scenes of this very tense episode Gabriel and Claudia chat it out about Philip and Elizabeth’s petulance. Gabriel is a fan of comparing what he has been through with how easy they have it in America and rather than agree with him Claudia instead takes the neutral path by pointing out that no one has the answer. She pretty much boo hoos his complaining and she doesn’t even bring up how lucky he is that Elizabeth hasn’t beaten his face in yet.The Americans 4.08 Claudia and GabrielClaudia’s words obviously have an impact as instead of admonishing Elizabeth for losing another asset in Lisa – who in a badly timed moment threatened to tell the police about her secret filming of the plant she works in – he instead goes for the sympathy angle.

Part of this is probably down to seeing just how broken they both look and Elizabeth comes in smoking and in a daze with blood on her neck; at first I assumed this was Lisa’s, but it looks like a defense wound and maybe Lisa put up a fight. Gabriel has been referring to them as children and in this scene they do look like kids who have had too much thrown at them. The Americans 4.08When Gabriel tells them things need to change it sounds like a threat; instead he is going to talk to the Centre about giving them no new operations so all they will have is Kimmy (who Philip is still getting tapes from) and Young Hee. Plus the small matter of their at home operation with Paige and their cover jobs as travel agents. This will be the closest they will ever come to having a vacation and boy do they need it. Epcot even comes back into play, but this time not as a code for murdering someone.

They even manage to get home in time for David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty disappear and finding out the reason why he wanted to do such a thing. It is all about what Lady Liberty represents and this land of immigrants (which Philip and Elizabeth are) as well as a fancy trick. Freedom or lack of comes in various forms this week from Martha’s resigned trip to safety to the lack of freedom Paige now has regarding her Pastor Tim related activities.The Americans 4.08 Philip and MarthaPaige couldn’t have picked a worse time to miss a Bible study session as Elizabeth is particularly on edge after her fight with Philip and everything that has been going on. The excuse of ‘not feeling like it’ does not work now that there is this much at stake and Elizabeth makes it crystal clear just how vital it is that Paige keep up appearances no matter what. Feelings can be controlled and in this scene Elizabeth is releasing a whole lot of rage (for the second time this week) and anger is not something we are used to seeing at this level, which really underscores both her state of mind and how important this is.

Paige, if only you could know what activities your parents have got themselves in the mood for or best not as that would be pretty scarring. Also don’t walk away from your mother before she has finished as all hell will be unleashed. I’ve been watching a lot of iZombie this week and Elizabeth got so angry I half expected for her eyes to go red.The Americans 4.08 PaigeThis might also be a good time to point out just how incredible Keri Russell is this week and if any Emmy voters are watching then now would be an ideal time to recognize her work because we get the entire spectrum of emotions in “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears.” The way she spits out “goddamn church” with the slight break in her voice is next level. This scene is also reminiscent of the last time one of her parents went at her for church related antics when Philip tore her Bible up and also left her in tears. The lesson here is don’t betray your parents trust.

The transition from the actual reappeared Statue of Liberty to a miniature golf version is seamless and we have jumped forward seven months. What this does is free up the storytelling and from the end of season 3 to this episode only a month has been covered. Everything has felt so urgent and like the walls are coming down, which has been great as a viewer but seeing that we have moved forward this far is a welcome relief; now we can let out a deep breath mirroring Philip’s when Martha’s plane took off.

What this does is move beyond the immediate aftermath of Martha for both the FBI and Philip. They have had a chance to recover and the ‘vacation’ they have been given will surely be at an end when we return next week. Time jumps tend to occur between seasons, but Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields don’t always stick to TV storytelling conventions and this is what makes The Americans one of the best shows on TV. They go where the story does and screw conventions.

So now we see Paige is doing exactly as her mother told her too despite her real feelings and reporting her findings in a very matter of fact way that is kinda chilling. Especially when Philip and Elizabeth are doing the whole happy family thing with Henry out in the front yard playing hockey (which Philip mentions earlier in the episode about wanting to do again). The Americans 4.08 Elizabeth, Philip and HenryWith the FBI they are in a shambles in the days after the Martha reveal and have got no closer to either her or the mysterious Clark Westerfeld (he even has his own wall now).The Americans 4.08 Stan and AderholtStan confides in Philip about the disaster that is going on at work, but without going into the specifics Philip is already more than aware of. Now they are made up Stan has someone to vent about his Sad Stan marriage problems and a fridge full of beer to pilfer as his own supply is mysteriously depleted. Philip was right to pull Martha out and yet this doesn’t clear his conscience.

For Stan he has his own conscience related issues and when we jump forward a now out of the FBI Gaad gives him some much needed advice about his Oleg flipping situation. Gaad knows that what happened to Nina plays on his mind and this bonds him to Oleg, but he has to stop thinking like that and get rid of “feelings, sympathy, friendship” and not “lose sight of how these people are.” It is essentially a less terrifying version of Elizabeth’s speech to Paige and while these characters have enjoyed a respite, we are very much going to get thrust back into the action and I cannot wait.

Shot(s) of the Week The Americans 4.08 Young Hee and ElizabethThis week marks Matthew Rhys’ first time behind the camera on The Americans (he has directed on his old show Brothers & Sisters) and not only was he a force on screen, but he delivered a powerhouse of an episode that got right to the heart of who these characters are while delivering some beautiful moments.

The above scene at the movie theater between Elizabeth and Young Hee was a moment of lightness that “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” needed and the side of Elizabeth this friendship brings out is so charming and free. The use of the mirror and neon light as Young Hee reapplies her tear stained makeup gives this moment a whole other world feeling as it looks like it is from an entirely different show.The Americans 4.08 argumentAnd in contrast this intense scene between Philip and Elizabeth is very much of this world and the way they get closer to each other as the words become more hurtful increases the tension and it is only broken when the phone rings. I do wonder if an episode like this benefits from someone behind the camera who is very much in tune with exactly who these characters are. Regardless, both Matthew Rhys and Noah Emmerich have directed two excellent episodes this season.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.08 PhilipOnly one new disguise this week as Philip wears a Clark adjacent visage to spy on Gene’s grave. Maybe want to go for something vastly different from the dude the FBI are searching for.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.08 Elizabeth and PaigeMore excellent sweaters from Elizabeth and Paige and I am always here for 80s knitwear.

The Americans Book and Movie ClubThe Americans 4.08 Est bookInstead of telling Elizabeth how he is feeling Philip is instead reading est: 60 Hours that Transform Your Life. Which doesn’t seem like the best way to transform his life.The Americans 4.08 cinemaSo Elizabeth does something she doesn’t normally do and goes to the movies with Young Hee. First they watch Robert Duvall in Tender Mercies followed by an impromptu sneaking in to The Outsiders. Now all I want is an episode of Elizabeth and Young Hee hanging out and Ruthie Ann Miles is bringing so much charm to this performance I still don’t care that we don’t know why Elizabeth is working her. All I know is whatever it is can’t be good for the future of this friendship.

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