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Tag Archives: 5.09

The Americans 5.09 “IHOP” Review: Secrets and Spies

3 May

Keeping secrets is a big part of being a spy and on The Americans there is always a thin line between someone speaking the truth while wearing a wig and hiding everything in plain sight. Secrets have power and the ability to destroy as well as protect and the person who knows the most tends to be the one in control. Our parents keep things from us even if they aren’t international super spies and I think we can all relate to finding out something later in life about our families that is surprising.

No, not all of us will learn our mother was in a Soviet prison camp or that both parents were born in a different country and are only part time travel agents. And yet there is a time when we find out something from the past that will open our eyes to why our parents are the way they are; suddenly they become people and not just your parents. Season 5 continues to take note of how much of a toll this life is taking on everyone and “IHOP” took a break from Paige to shift focus onto the other teens that know varying degrees of what a covert life entails. Kicking off with a returning face and Kimmy is back to emphasize just how much Philip has on his plate and he is still maintaining this relationship so he get the tapes from her father’s briefcase.

When Kimmy was introduced she was acting out against her father’s emotional neglect in a way that would be considered pretty typical; drinking, drugs and hooking up with older guys. This could also just be explained as typical teen behavior, but the death of her mother when she was younger and her father always being at work definitely contributed to her desire to connect and this was something Philip could exploit.Luckily for Philip he came up with an excuse to not sleep with a story about religion and a made up son; ah yes the made up son that was based on the real son that Philip still hasn’t met. It is hard to keep track of the different incarnations of sons on this show and Mischa Jr. provided the backstory for Philip’s lack of sexual interest in Kimmy. This story is of course born out of real feelings and when Kimmy talks to Philip (as Jim) about how he wishes he could do the family stuff gain, but right this time she astutely says “I don’t think anybody does it right.”

And in fact if it wasn’t for the KGB then Philip wouldn’t have the family/house he does, which on the outside looks like picture perfect suburban living and yet there is a strong undercurrent of wanting the spy part of his life to be over. He rectifies his original statement changing it to ‘not wanting to screw things up’ and this wistful tone applies to his real life. As with most interactions Philip and Elizabeth have when in disguise reality and fiction blend.

What about Henry? The neglected Jennings child who is thriving without any help from his parents. It is a smart and unexpected move by the writers to have Henry excel at school rather than bottoming out; it would be far easier to have him lean into delinquency. As with Paige and her religious rebellion it makes for far more interesting storytelling and now they have to decide whether to send Henry to the boarding school he has already applied for. In another great move they set up Henry’s pitch in the same way Paige asked for the truth in “Stingers.” He stands waiting for them to come home in the same position at the kitchen island all nervous and when Philip and Elizabeth initially walk in they can be forgiven for thinking “Oh fuck. Not this again.” Instead Henry has a whole speech planned about his future and again Philip and Elizabeth can’t hide their confusion (and initial waves of nausea this time) when it comes to Henry’s education.

Time for my weekly “give all the Emmys to Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell” comments and again they are very good in their lack of poker faces here. They just can’t quite understand what is going on or why he might want to study away from home.

Circling back to this discussion later when it is just the two of them and perhaps surprisingly Elizabeth takes the pro boarding school stance. And it would be good for Henry to get him out of this environment so he doesn’t get sucked into this business or just further neglected.

You would think Philip would be for this as he’s all about getting people out of this spy orbit and yet it bothers him how this boarding school looks quipping that it is a “fancy orphanage” while pointing to how much they already have in comparison to what they did have when they were Henry’s age. As with all discussions like this they get interrupted by the phone and no decision is made about Henry’s education. They have their other son to go check in on.After noting that Tuan seemed lonely last week, Elizabeth has also picked up on this vibe and decided to make a surprise visit with a fast food care parcel. Except Tuan isn’t home and Tuan doesn’t come home prompting a strong amount of concern from Philip and Elizabeth. Getting the team on Tuan’s trail they track him out of the state and see him going into an IHOP. Confronting him in the dark of their house in the middle of night they are very much not in parental mood with Philip shoving him up against the wall as Elizabeth holds a gun on him. Tuan explains that his adopted brother from the family who took him in has leukemia and he’s been going out of state to check in on him. So while he answered the call to work for his country he still cares about those he is effectively working again. They all have attachments.

In a heartbreaking moment he begs Philip and Elizabeth not to write any of this in his report. Elizabeth believes his story and Philip thinks that maybe he wants to get sent back so he can escape this shit. “That’s not who he is” responds Elizabeth and once again we are presented with how they are ultimately diametrically opposed when it comes to how they see the work. It doesn’t matter how in sync or united they are as a couple as this factor always has the power of coming between them. This also mirrors what Philip was about to say about Henry while discussing boarding school as he got cut off saying “He’s not the kind of kid…” But do they even know what kind of kid he really is. Over in Moscow there is another discussion between father and son that informs the arc of this entire season as Oleg confronts his father with what he knows about the past. When he asks why they didn’t tell him sooner Igor responds that every family has a story like this one and they did it so Oleg could have the life he has. It is a heartbreaking scene as Igor explains how Yelena was a changed woman after she came out of the camp after everything she did to survive inferring that she had to sleep with other men as part of this. Again the specter of the past comes back to haunt the present and the fear of history repeating. It isn’t like how it was, but there are figures just as imposing and dangerous that threaten this family and others like them. No matter how powerful a person thinks there father is.

Keeping this secret from Oleg and his brother ensured they didn’t suffer and this mirrors the secret that is being kept from Henry Jennings. It is not like Paige is better off knowing even if it has brought her closer emotionally to her parents; the burden far outweighs the benefits.Also for Oleg there is the matter of the investigation he is leading and the one that is happening on him. He has some success in working his source giving over an apple and healthy dose of emotional manipulation as he talks about his brother being nothing more than a photo on the wall. Saving a son in place of putting yourself in danger is good enough reason for Dimitri to talk. Even if he is clearly incredibly scared of the consequences.

It is unclear what Major Kuznetsov has on Oleg, but they are very keen on hearing all about Stan Beeman. Again Oleg and Stan’s story runs in parallel and now revenge for Gaad is being used to get Stan to consent to the CIA using the tape against Oleg.Picking up the pieces isn’t just a family matter and in Moscow we also get to see a little more from Martha. Her sad looking dinner (I do love a baked potato though) in her sad looking apartment, wearing her sad ensemble is interrupted by a familiar face. This whole apartment is devoid of bright color and neutrals reign.

Martha is not pleased to see Gabriel and her lack of enthusiasm extends to when he takes his coat off implying this will be an extended visit. Not even the mention of Clark can lift her spirits and instead she lets Gabriel know that time has allowed her to process her situation and understand just how much her services are appreciated. She doesn’t want to see Gabriel again and I don’t blame her as he is another reminder of why she is here. Maybe Gabriel will have better luck finding a friend in Mischa Jr.

There are consequences for all their actions and so many lives have been left in ruins because of this work. And now it turns out that maybe the virus William and Hans gave their life for is being used not for protection in case of a nuclear attack, but as a weapon in the war in Afghanistan. Elizabeth doesn’t believe that, but Philip thinks it is too much of a coincidence to not be. If this is the lie they have been told it will be hard for Philip to look beyond this; it is only really his wife that is keeping him tethered to the cause at this point.

In Praise of the Production Team The production team on The Americans continues to give great family photos that don’t look a) badly photoshopped or b) like a production still from an episode. Ivan Mok who plays Tuan mentioned on Instagram that this is a real photo of his as a kid and that family portrait is a delight.

Disguise of the Week 

This is quite possibly the most basic disguise Philip has ever worn that involves fake facial hair; flat cap, mustache, big glasses and a turtleneck. It would only be more Spy 101 if he had a trench coat on and was talking behind a newspaper. And that’s kind of the point. He doesn’t have time to deal with another person to meet with and he gives Gabriel’s source the exact kind of effort with his disguise that he has the energy for. They are stretched too thin and with the return of Kimmy we are reminded just how much they have on. No time for baby sitting someone else.

The comment about praying is an interesting one as a way to deal with this kind of life and at the moment Philip looks willing to try anything for some peace.

 

For more style highlights from Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys check out their fabulous custom Rag & Bone outfits from the Met Gala.

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The Americans 5.08 “Immersion” Review: What Do You Want to Be?

26 Apr

Elizabeth Jennings, international super spy has been many things over the years including a Mary Kay sales rep, fashion buyer, flight attendant, housewife, travel agent and countless other professions that have provided the details of the disguises required to complete the work of her actual job. That of KGB agent.

Even her role as a wife and mother is part of the bigger picture; the main difference here is that she’s not faking her way through most of these things as she really is a mother to two children and her relationship with Philip has evolved from doing the necessary to becoming the thing they were projecting.At its heart The Americans is a marriage/family show wrapped up in spy packaging and with the recent Paige developments home and work have become even harder to separate. Philip and Elizabeth have a lot on their plates right now with several operations running in tandem and now they’re most trusted adviser has upped and left them.

For Philip, Gabriel’s departure is more complicated because of how contentious their relationship was at times and because of his parting words about Paige being kept out of all of this. In fact Philip even questions Gabriel’s motives and whether it was simply because it was his job. Elizabeth believes otherwise and is certain he cared about them – caring was something she said she couldn’t do with their targets last week – and she’s stunned when Philip tells her he’s glad Gabriel has gone. A world where none of them have to do things like this is a repeated theme this week and Elizabeth is the first one to head down a wishful thinking channel. Bookending the episode with talk of a world without spying and Elizabeth seems genuinely surprised by this question of what she would’ve done as an alternative career. After a beat she says she would’ve been a doctor. Something that Paige finds amusing as her mother has terrible bedside manner. Much like Keri Russell’s other most famous TV role there is a push pull between two vocations; for Felicity it was between art and medicine and this is a far cry from Elizabeth’s two job opportunities. Ben Stobert has a whole Scott Speedman vibe and everything keeps coming up Felicity.

Placing focus on doing the things you wish you didn’t have to is something that this season keeps circling back on; in this career conversation Paige asks if Elizabeth likes what she does and Elizabeth sings the party line about being proud of her work,. She wishes she didn’t have to do the things she does, but there is a purpose. I wonder what Paige’s father would say if he was posed with the same question. Philip is of course going to do what he has to even through gritted teeth and the Topeka operation is indicative of this. So even when he kind of tanks his relationship with Deidre he finds a way to win her back; she wants someone who is more assertive so he tells her that he’s married.

It is interesting watching both Philip and Elizabeth cancel their Topeka plans on the phone. First because their both kind of going against the Centre by canceling with both claiming it is not because of the other, but the quick sideways glances in the office suggests otherwise. They both have their game faces on even though it is all through the phone and it is odd to see them as Brenda and Gus when they are not wigged up. Discussing their respective days in the Jennings bedroom is unlike most other marriages as Elizabeth shows off her new fondness for tai chi – “looks like slow kung-fu” quips Philip – as it is relaxing. There is a broad smile across her face until Philip mentions that he has been dumped. Elizabeth thinks that EST is to blame and that it has softened Philip; something he very much disagrees with and yet this conversation doesn’t end in an argument showing just how good things are between them right now. They’re sharing everything with each other and this includes what Elizabeth told Paige about her past.Keri Russell should probably use this episode as her Emmy submission for the training scene in the garage alone as she goes from badass fighting mom to revealing her deepest secret in a bid to show Paige how it is possible to move beyond being scared.

Elizabeth was raped when she was 18 by a superior officer – the superior officer who turned traitor in the pilot – and after that moment she trained hard so no one would hurt her like that again. She’s no longer afraid nor does she ever really think about it and by revealing this part of herself she is giving Paige something to cling to while she scrambles in the dark. For a long time this was something Elizabeth kept as her secret to bear the weight of by herself and by telling Philip this opened the door to where they are now. The power gets shifted from her attacker and what it did to her; by telling Paige about this she shows how fear doesn’t have to rule you. When Paige goes to hug her mother, Elizabeth stops her and reinforces the idea that she trained hard to combat being afraid. Elizabeth is never going to be a touchy feely mom, but this level of emotional intimacy is her way of being open with her daughter. Later when it comes up again Elizabeth lists the things that allowed her to focus; her job/her kids. Of course in this truth telling session she doesn’t tell Paige what became of her rapist and the time he spent in the trunk of their car in close proximity to them while they slept. And also in the location where this fight training is now taking place.

Claudia remarks that Paige is her mother’s daughter and asks some catch up questions now she is back to being their handler. This is met with reservations from Philip and Elizabeth, with Philip particularly having no time for her bullshit. She is the woman who split up his marriage back in season 1 after all. No need for polite chit chat and Philip pretty much wants to get whatever information she has to give them and get out.

Later on Elizabeth indulges in a drink and conversation and despite almost beating her to death there is an understanding between these two women beyond animosity. Unlike Philip, I am sad to see Gabriel go and yet I am thrilled Margo Martindale will get more screen time particularly as this dynamic is a lot more prickly. And because she’s Margo fucking Martindale. All hail the return of the squirrel pins.The last time they saw her would’ve been at the end of season 2 when Claudia informed them of the Centre’s plans for Paige. Plans that are very much in motion and Claudia asks for an update from Elizabeth and not for work reasons. Claudia it turns out has been back home in-between sessions with Gabriel spending time with her daughter and grandchildren and she sounds genuinely sad when she mentions that they didn’t remember her. Claudia asks what Elizabeth wants for Paige and it is all rather abstract as she just wants her to care about things that matter. This also echoes her conversation with Stobert as she references how much his work matters in comparison to what she does; flattering his ego to keep him on the line or showing respect for what he does?

She also mentions to Claudia that with Philip they will never see eye to eye on this Paige stuff, but despite that things have been good between them. She seems reluctant to go into detail and I wonder if this is in part related to the time Claudia drove a wedge between them. Philip still has his mind in the long ago past after learning about what Gabriel did in the bad times back home and he wonders what Claudia was up to during this period. We have seen how deadly she can be and I have a feeling she was doing something similar. Fear related to the past is something we see in Oleg’s story as his mother is terrified that her only surviving son is going to get taken away. When his room is searched she thinks they will find something even if there is nothing as that is how things used to operate.

More information is given regarding her time spent in the gulag as she was accused of sabotage, which back then could have been for something as innocuous as taking a pencil home from work. She was eventually pardoned and Oleg wonders if his trip to the archive brought on this home visit. His boss doesn’t think so and in a regime ruled by paranoia it could be anything. The surprise here is that because of his father’s position this search even happened and it is troubling. Also tipping into troubling territory is Tuan and so far this operation has been chugging along nicely in the background. Evgheniya has been a surprising source of opportunity for them with her job teaching Russian and the affair she is now having. Now they just need to get her to go back to Russia so they can utilize this to maximum effect. This will require Tuan to turn on his friend as they need Pascha to want to go home and Tuan thinks this should be easy.

The concern here should be their adopted son as this is the second time he has asked them to spend more time at this home and unlike their actual son he is showing signs of wanting their attention. Because they have so much going on I have a feeling this is the operation that will end up causing them the most bother in the long run. Meanwhile, Stan and Aderholt are gently coaxing their new source Sofia into feeling more comfortable. She is incredibly jumpy and they are using monetary incentives and her son’s future as a way to get her more on board. She talks about all the different things her young son wants to become and it once again points to this notion of growing up to be something and the hopes we have for our children.

Stan also has some good quality time at the Jennings house in which Renee’s name comes up and she wants to get him to go sky diving. He quips that he wants to be alive to see Matthew graduate college and cue raised eyebrows from everyone watching. They touch on the recent teen breakup while also quipping about Henry’s current girl situation and if he wasn’t so neglected I would say that Henry has it best out of anyone on The Americans.A sense of dread permeates all and there’s nothing to suggest that is all going to collapse as everything is moving along rather nicely. However we are entering the last third of the season and this implies that something is going to give soon; what this season has been doing a lot of is exploring the internal while moving the pieces for the final act.

It is a slow burn and it definitely feels like we’re heading toward something, but who is going to break first? My money for what it is worth is on the trifecta of sons being what leads to the dam breaking; Henry, Tuan and Mischa.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017Another fabulous disguise and this season has been the gift that keeps on giving with Elizabeth. This jacket alone is on my covet list as I am always partial to vintage ski style and if I could also get Henry’s sweatshirt (that you can see near the top) then that would be great. Those glasses are fabulous and I’m looking forward to seeing Katie Irish’s inspiration board behind this one.

Updated to add the bio board for this disguise. Interesting to see what changes during this process. 

Julie Hammerle

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