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Tag Archives: 4.01

The Americans 4.01 “Glanders” Review: “You’re Safe. We’re Together”

17 Mar

The concept of truth on The Americans is ever changing; lies mask the reality and confessions come pouring out in the strangest of settings. Season 4 delves even deeper into this blurring of the lines as a result of revealing real identities to Paige and half identities to Martha. When Paige asks Elizabeth where Philip has gone in the middle of the night Elizabeth tells her the kid friendly version that doesn’t include information about her father’s other wife or the man he has just killed; it is part truth, part sugar coated lies.

Kicking off where we left these characters at the end of last year and so many precarious situations need to be handled. First up Martha and the last time we saw her Philip dewigged and showed his real face. Philip also killed Martha’s co-worker staging it as a suicide and placing the blame for the bug in Gaad’s office on him all in an effort to protect her and ultimately protect the whole mission. Getting woken up in the middle of the night to be told by your husband with his new face and different hair that he’s killed someone and not just a random person, but a co-worker/friend is not the best wake up call and Martha doesn’t take it so well. She doesn’t go for the gun she keeps in her apartment so that is an automatic win for Philip. The Americans 4.01 Martha and ClarkIt is a delicate situation and he can’t push her too hard; he has to trust his persuasive techniques that have so far worked like a charm, but this is next level emotional manipulation that must come into play. Ultimately it works and the face reveal, while incredibly disorientating has strengthened their relationship and as Elizabeth explained to Paige in the most PG version of what they do it is all about getting people to trust you. Philip’s other confession to Martha about the childhood incident that plagues him is part unburdening of his soul, part pealing back the layers to give Martha the feeling that she really knows him. It is also interesting that he tells Martha the same anecdote about the toys in Gene’s apartment that he told Elizabeth in “March 8, 1983” and he can’t quite get out the reason why this struck a chord with him.

Elizabeth may come across as the more inaccessible one of the pair, but we know far more about her past and childhood experiences than we do Philip so it makes sense at this point to visit his origin story especially as his soul continues to be eroded by the things he has done. Season 2 saw his kill count go up by a great deal and it almost broke him; last year he got a respite and it was left to Elizabeth to drop cars on innocent dude’s heads until the finale when Philip offed Gene. The burden returns. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the turning point for childhood Philip or rather Mischa is a story that he half shared with Elizabeth back in the season 2 finale and one he didn’t get to finish because their asset had just been shot. All we got to hear back then was that some older boys would jump him as he walked home with his families milk and he made the decision to not let it happen again; it turns out he certainly did just that in a moment of explosive violence.The Americans 4.01 ESTThis moment that haunts Philip throughout the episode is one that he discusses in front of a whole bunch of strangers at EST leaving out certain important details, but giving just enough that he can unload in this form of very public therapy. The one person who he could reveal the unedited story to is the one person he keeps telling he is fine when clearly he is the opposite. EST gives Philip an outlet of sharing he doesn’t feel comfortable with doing at home and there is definitely this worry that Elizabeth will judge him; as Paige points out to Pastor Tim her parents aren’t really big talkers. Philip isn’t alone in using other outlets to share his secrets and worries as we have seen Elizabeth do this with plenty of assets in disguise; from how she talked about her rape to discussing relationship quandaries. They both talk far more to other people than they do to each other and this stoicism with each other is the one habit they find hard to break. Maybe Philip needs to get stoned again.

Part of this is down to the many years that they inhabited the same space, but were not in the kind of relationship they now are with each other. Trust is not something that needs to be won here and yet there is still a wall between them when it comes to sharing thoughts, feelings and painful memories that might read as a weakness. It is this aspect of The Americans that makes the show sing; the spy stuff is great, but the depiction of marriage is exceptional and hats must go off to Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell and Alison Wright who deliver such incredible performances in this season opener in a variety of ways. Wright has the most overtly emotional material and yet she also has shades of subtly while at work doing Clark’s bidding that Philip made seem as if it was her idea all along. After all while I think that Philip does care for Martha and feels the weight of responsibility he still also needs her for information otherwise this operation is pointless. Subtly is an art for both Russell and Rhys and the reason why these characters don’t always say too much to each other is because their expressions can say so much more.The Americans 4.01 Philip and ElizabethWhat Philip should do is take the lessons from his conversations with Martha and the advice of Sandy Beeman and tell Elizabeth what is plaguing him and I expect she will be far less judgmental than he is expecting (maybe not about EST). Plus it would be much better than the very obvious lie of “I’m fine.” The problem of course is finding a time to have this chat as they’ve got a laundry list of problems including Gabriel being pissed at them for lying about the Germany trip, keeping an eye on Paige (not doing a great job there, guys), Martha and now biological weapons! This latter issue is and the meeting they are meant to have involves a number of dangers such as coming into contact with said weapon and getting caught be a surveillance team. Plus there is also this new asset to deal with and William sure is sassy; I am so happy to see that Dylan Baker is a regular this season in this role. The strain William gives them isn’t even the thing they’ve been inoculated against and there is the added bonus of having to store it in their freezer. Plus a surprise visit from Stan.

Stan is hooking up with Tori the woman he met at an EST meeting last season and Tori also happens to see Philip with Sandy Beeman post EST meeting enjoying some dessert, which she infers as an intimate moment. I would go with friendly, but whatever. Of course Stan is furious and decides to confront Philip while he happens to have an incredibly dangerous chemical agent in his pocket (and one the episode is named after). Let’s just say there won’t be any Philip and Stan hangouts in the near future. We can add this to Philip’s already very long list of shit he has to sort out.The Americans 4.01 PhilipMeanwhile back in Russia, Nina and Anton’s relationship continues to develop and she is playing the role we have seen her inhabit before; one where we can’t be certain how much she is playing each side. The conversations she has with Anton forever circle around his son and the many regrets he has about the manner in which he was taken leaving his family with no answers. There is something incredibly haunting about his fears that he will be sent to a camp and they will never know where he went or what he did. He doesn’t want to disappear and become just dust with “no one ever knowing.” At least for Philip and Elizabeth one of their children knows who they are even if it is just the surface details. It is also interesting that Anton has such warm and fuzzy feelings towards Russia from when he was a kid and his religion was not an issue whereas Philip’s own childhood recollections are filled with such horror. One is serving his country by choice whereas the other has been forced to do so.

Nina also has demands and she wants to see her husband; is this so someone remembers her or is there an ulterior motive?

At the Rezidentura Arkady is having his own power play problems including be kept way out of the loop on the whole bio-weapon situation as it turns out that Tatiana works for Department 12 (suddenly this sounds very Alias) and he is not happy about it. But he does have Oleg on his team and while he suggests that this environment would work better with everyone getting along he is not above getting someone to spy for him. Spies within spies within spies.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.01 costume caveThe wig cave! Or at least one of them was unveiled this week as I suspect they have several locations at their disposal and while I was hoping for a fabulous Cher from Clueless style revolving closet what we actually got is the exact level of grime and on the fly that it should be.
The Americans 4.01 Elizabeth and PhilipThis location gives off a Sydney meeting Vaughn on Alias vibe as well as putting a physical barrier between Philip and Elizabeth as he continues the pretense that he is okay. And this shot does a good job of adding to how disconnected they are at the moment from his getting spooked into pulling out of the meeting (it turns out his bad feeling was just a feeling whereas Elizabeth does spot a real surveillance team later on). If only he could get his words out.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.01 disguiseA new disguise for season 4 and they get to break out this new blonde couple on three occasions over the premiere including a fake belly for Philip and a whole lot of skeptical face at Philip’s beard for Elizabeth. In one of the lighter moments this week the pair discuss Henry’s new disgusting cologne and there’s nothing more I enjoy about this show than when they have conversations like this while in heavy disguise. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of this pair throughout the season with William coming into play and I am looking forward to seeing what other disguise treats costume designer Katie Irish will deliver this season.

Outfit(s) I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.01 ElizabethIt doesn’t matter if it is 1983 or 2016 – a plaid shirt is always a win. This basement conversation is all about Paige and how she is complicated, which could pretty much describe everyone on The Americans and as tends to be the case they don’t get a chance to deep dive into this situation as they have other more pressing issues.The Americans 4.01 Paige and ElizabethAdding to my list of clothing obsessions the robe has now been added and scenes that take place in the heart of the Jennings home are always a favorite. Especially when they are over something so familiar as discussing jet lag mixed in with where Philip goes in the middle of the night. This is Elizabeth in full on mother mode and I believe that she believes what they are doing is for peace.

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New Girl 4.01 “The Last Wedding” Review: Fist of Fun

16 Sep

A quick note before discussing the season 4 premiere as last year was uneven and disappointing after the highs of the previous season. I was a bit of a New Girl defender insisting that Nick and Jess weren’t the problem, even with episodes like “The Box” which had the pair yelling at each other for things they knew about each other prior to getting together (Nick not having a bank account was a bit of a stretch) and for me at times they were the only thing working. Well them and crazy Winston. Now they are not together and despite being a staunch Nick and Jess fan I’m excited to see how this will impact the dynamic of not just them, but of the group overall as the group is what suffered when they we’re together. So how is the first outing back?

New Girl The Last Wedding“Wedding” was the first episode of New Girl which felt like a fully formed thing and as this was relatively early in the life of a sitcom (the general rule is the first 6 episodes are a bit wonky and this was only episode 3) it was a really positive sign. It was the first wedding Jess was attending with her roommates which a signaled an acceptance until they told her to “repress the Jess,” but by the end the chicken dance happened (still one of my favorite scenes) and they became more than just three friends and their new quirky roommate. Flash forward to now as the New Girl writers hit refresh and try to get back the spark which was absent for a lot of last season. As with the first wedding they attended together, the twelfth wedding of their summer of weddings has a lot going for it.

Taking place 4 months after Nick and Jess broke up means the wounds aren’t fresh; it might still be a stretch that they are living together the apartment is the central location of the show and without Jess living there it would lose the heart so I’m willing to suspend my disbelief here. Plus Nick and Jess are both total weirdos when it comes to their relationship that it’s actually not really that hard to buy. The aim of the episode is for everyone to hook up with someone at this wedding as only Coach and Schmidt have had any success all summer (Nick’s claim of a bridesmaid smooch is negated by her hospital bracelet and goldfish accessory). This leads to an ongoing joke about the five of them being a sex fist and the smut levels are at an impressive high. Maybe the Fox Standards and Practices people were taking it easy on their first episode back. See also the salt/pepper hole gag.

The problem with this many weddings – I’m not even going to question how all five of them are getting invited to this many – is they run into a lot of the same people, for Coach this is the biggest issue as he hasn’t called anyone back plus he maybe also stole the photographers charger as well as not calling her back. Coach deserves all the drinks he gets poured on him and the blurred flash induced vision. There are a lot of people who are already together narrowing the options so when the bridesmaids suggest a four-way with Nick and Schmidt one of them is far more into the idea than the other. Winston can’t summon the strength to move as he is in pain from the police academy training and Jess is encouraged to go big targeting the best man.

One of the best pairings on New Girl is Schmidt and Nick so when season 3 ended up with the two of them in a disagreement and in their own romantic subplots it meant there was far too little Schmidt/Nick interaction and it was contentious when there was. They’re still sparring of course, but in that grumpy old man Nick/over eager Schmidt manner and this storyline includes all the elements I love about this unlikely friendship. Nick is excited about one thing and that’s his tap shoes; they don’t get mentioned outside of the opening scene, but they provide the sound effects for my favorite running gag of the episode whenever Nick leaves. This happens often as Schmidt tries to convince Nick the four-way is a great idea and Nick only relents when he finds out Cece is single to stop his friend from doing something stupid. Nick’s hoof hands are the thing that throws Schmidt and Nick reveals Cece’s new romantic status prompting potential weirdness and drama down the line.

The ongoing saga of Schmidt and Cece is something I have been reticent of in the past; however they have such good chemistry together that if it happens then I won’t be annoyed. I would like Hannah Simone to get something to do and while it would be preferable if it was a storyline of her own, as the only non-apartment 4D dweller she is isolated and this makes it hard to achieve this.

Jess ends up competing with guest star Jessica Biel for the affections of Ted, the best man (a wedding celebrity no less) and this involves “being there” or “Bidening” – this gag didn’t really work for me beyond the association with guest star Reid Scott’s main gig Veep – and she spends most of  the time hovering awkwardly. Jess takes a drastic measure that backfires “and at wedding 12 I sat on a men’s toilet seat” which leads to a sweet and not all that uncomfortable heart to heart with Nick considering both the location and the ex factor. This is the Nick and Jess that I love, not the arguing about bank accounts version, but the pep talk go get ’em kind. What’s great is this episode is reminding me of a whole lot of previous strong moments with this toilet conversation harking back to the season 2 premiere sitting atop a car as Nick consoles Jess about her career situation. This time it is about love and Nick reinforces the idea that she can be a fridge person (a fridge person being a big life event, usually a wedding invite person) too. It’s also a little like the photo booth scene from “Wedding” just without the drunken sadness and Nick tells Jess to be herself, even if she automatically takes this to a Tina Turner place. It’s sweet and supports my belief that the best conversations on TV take place in the bathroom.

Both Jess and Jessica Biel move from subtle attempts to laying it all out there with Jessica Biel doing this in the naked phone picture sense (Jess shows a photo she took with a dude who looks like Larry King). Ted can’t choose and ends up with neither; Jessica Biel goes home with her plan B (the vicar) and Jess goes home with her friends. They might have failed in their original mission, but none of them are going home alone. It’s this sentiment that suggests the writers know the group aspect is what the audience wants even more than will they/won’t they tension. There are still those aspects of course, but the friends come first and as they tear down the invites on the fridge with some of them going to dark places about these weddings (Nick’s comment is dark, but hilarious) it reminded me that this is the New Girl I love.

One episode doesn’t mean we can start yelling from the rooftops how the show is back on top form, however it is a step in the right direction and it gives me hope for the rest of the season. As far as the ensemble goes there wasn’t a whole lot for Coach, Winston or Cece but it also didn’t feel like they were off on their own either and I’m pretty excited about the prospect of Winston as a cop. A solid season opener and I’m glad to have these guys back.

Julie Hammerle

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