Tag Archives: 6.03

The Americans 6.03 “Urban Transport Planning” Review: The Way We Were

12 Apr

Nostalgia is powerful as it can make us long for a time that was less than perfect. Change can be hard particularly when the place you long for no longer exists. This final season of The Americans encapsulates how romantic notions of where we came from can cloud perspective. Elizabeth and Claudia are teaching Paige about her Russian heritage, but Elizabeth is very much stuck in the past, clashing with the political progress being made. A collision course has been set and knowing the global outcome makes it is hard to not scream at Elizabeth to let go. Pizza Hut is indeed coming to Moscow.

Hatred for America still burns inside Elizabeth, the look on her face when Philip mentions serving zharkoye to Stan is a flicker of betrayal. Season five focused on food, but it has always been an important aspect of The Americans. It is a family-centric show, so naturally a lot of scenes take place in the kitchen; the heart of the home. It has been a long time since the tap has been left running or the radio switched on, this used to be a place where they talked work and family. Paige demanded to know the truth in this very room, it is where Philip tore Paige’s Bible, late night cigarettes and sex as salvation. The Jennings kitchen has seen it all.Philip and Elizabeth growing up in poverty means they are particularly attached to the small amount they had. It isn’t about what you liked and didn’t like or getting bored of eating the same thing—Paige, still so American—but appreciating what you had.

Elizabeth sneaks some leftovers to Philip, which he can only manage one bite of because he is stuffed full with takeout, which is very reflective of Philip’s push/pull between American culture with his home. Smell is very important when it comes to memory and this moment of connectivity between husband and wife fills this void. It also reads as a nod to the caviar surprise from the second episode of season one. Circumstances are very different; then they were truly getting to know each other on an intimate level, now they are adrift. For a brief moment it feels like it used to, the intimacy is back. But the food ends up down the garbage disposal and they have a bitter back and forth about the state of the world.

The shift in body language goes from pointing toward each other to standing apart. Philip doesn’t think Elizabeth can speak for people back home as she hasn’t spoken to anyone there in over twenty years, her retort of “neither have you” is met with a weighty silence. This would be the time to tell her about Oleg, but he just can’t do. Philip clearly fears whatever Elizabeth is working on and her passion to do whatever needs to be done. Later he contemplates it while brushing his teeth. She asked him to let her sleep and now he does. The amount Philip clenches his jaw at the moment, he’s gonna need a trip to the dentist. And not the basement kind.

A quick costume note to point out how great the winged shoulders of Elizabeth’s coat look in every shot. And if you’re wondering where it comes from, alas it is a custom design by Katie Irish. You won’t be able to pick this one up from Coach. A heavy sigh emanates from most of the major players this week. Elizabeth has no time for talking of feelings. It doesn’t matter that EST has rebranded to The Forum, you will never see Elizabeth indulge in this program. This isn’t a new stance from her, but the work is very much starting to weigh on her, even if she can’t admit it to anyone. She is unwavering in her anger toward her daughter. There is no sleeping over on a work night.

When Philip tells Elizabeth he told Paige she could talk to him, she snaps that she was doing just that. Elizabeth’s lack of empathy here made me laugh out loud because it is so brutal. And yet this is how Elizabeth has chosen to protect herself from all the horrible shit she has done. The cracks are starting to show.Again, Keri Russell gives a masterclass in showing Elizabeth’s exhaustion before steeling herself in front of others. The ‘out damn spot’ opening sequence is incredibly telling, but it is the moment she realizes she has to kill yet another person (that makes two murders and one death caused indirectly at her hands) which delivers the “Give Keri Russell all the awards” moment of the week.

Elizabeth’s repeated stressing that it is important Evan doesn’t spill anything about this meeting is undercut as soon as he mentions his girlfriend as she works in the same department as Elizabeth. The fake smile flickers as he eyes register exactly what must be done, but it is the moment after she has choked Evan that betrays how Elizabeth is really feeling. A mixture of “not this again,” exhaustion and emptiness as Leonard Cohen’s “Dance Me to the End of Love” plays over the top (another incredible music choice and one that connects me to my family as Cohen was my dad’s favorite singer).

Three missions have gone to shit in such a short space of time. Elizabeth has a team, but doing this alone is really fucking with her strike rate. Elizabeth might not be scared of dying for her country, but at this rate it is going to happen sooner rather than later.While Elizabeth is killing yet another guy, Philip has suited and booted or rather wigged and mustached as he keeps with his meeting with Oleg in the park. Matthew Rhys is also doing an incredible job in showing Philip’s betrayal; he is part disgusted at himself with a dash of looking like he wants to vomit, complete with the classic Philip ‘soul being crushed into a thousand pieces’ face. There is no easy solution to the Jennings martial strife, but we all know how Elizabeth feels about Philip lying to her, so this is really not going to go down well when she eventually finds out about the park rendezvous. Although it is not like Elizabeth has been particularly forthcoming either.

One person wants to help Elizabeth and Philip fill their relationship void and that’s Father Andrei. The last time we saw this priest was in much happier times for this couple on their big day and he can sense all is not well with this marriage. Like the audience, he has a personal investment and he tells Elizabeth to bring her husband the next time they see each other. She explains Philip is out of the spy biz, but Father Andrei insists.Will some spiritual guidance be the surprise fix? That fact that Elizabeth is willing to admit to Father Andrei there are issues with Philip is quite a big deal; last week I mentioned Elizabeth on Claudia’s couch as giving off therapy vibes, but this conversation is even more like that. I can’t see Elizabeth showing a lot of vulnerability in front of Claudia, but Father Andrei is another story. He knows them on this intimate level because that ceremony was just for them. There was no ulterior motive or reason behind it. This is what could bring them back together

Unlike the last time Paige saw a violent act up close and personal, she doesn’t seem particularly shaken even though she can’t get it out of her mind. Or at least on the surface level she isn’t. The following day Elizabeth is far kinder to her daughter with regard to this operational error. Elizabeth points out she also made a mistake with this guy, but Paige put everyone at risk. There is also the emphasis that Paige’s job will be different. She might not be throwing on a wig or seducing strangers for information, but the evidence of this is lacking. Is Elizabeth kidding herself?Meanwhile Philip is having a hard time financially due to expanding the business and not having the sales to match. He sweet talks his way into deferring tuition payment—he’s still got it—and gives pep talks straight from “Success through Positive Mental Attitude.” It is awkward as hell.

In other job related conversations there is an odd one in the Beeman kitchen where Renee points to the success of Philip and Elizabeth’s relationship is that they work together. Stan notes they don’t do that much work together anymore as Elizabeth is in charge of the corporate clients (lol at this excuse for her not being in the office much). When Stan finds out the truth… Anyway, Renee floats the idea of joining the FBI, which is bizarre because we of course still don’t know whether Renee is for real or a spy. Stan shoots this idea down because she is too old (the cut off is 37) and I wonder if we will ever find out if Stan is the Martha of this marriage.Stan has some pressing work business including the disaster that is Sofia and Gennadi. Sofia is a bad Soviet if she thinks Soviets are good at keeping secrets and they end up pulling them both out. Very publicly. Gennadi wants to stay together and tasks Stan with fixing his marriage.

There is also Stan’s catch up with Oleg where they catch up on old times including Nina. There is a mutual respect even if Oleg is still pissed at him for the CIA stuff. Stan warns Oleg to leave because he doesn’t have diplomatic immunity, but that meeting in the park still takes place. Each storyline looks set to overlap in a big way and it is only going to get more fraught. Strap in, this is only the beginning of the end.

Get Me That Electric Blue Eyeliner Another week. Another new wig. Or rather a wig we haven’t seen since season one. There are no Stephanie curls, but Elizabeth can get up close to Glen in this getup because she looks so different. Plus she has her back to the group they are tailing. The electric blue eyeliner/pink lipstick is the one.

What is Henry Up To? Henry’s jeans aren’t so acid wash as he rings to tell his dad about his hand in the hockey win. Sadly for Henry he calls at a bad time and this is the first time Philip has referred to spy shenanigans as work this season.

The DARE poster detail is just one reason I love the production design team on this show.

Hat Watch This isn’t the first time Paige has worn this pink beanie this season and while she hasn’t got to wear a wig yet, she does have a steady rotation of hats. Good job it is winter. Elizabeth also got in on the beanie action with Father Andrei, giving her a break from the cavalcade of wigs she’s been wearing this season.

Fun fact – Elizabeth has already worn ten different disguises in three episodes, the most she has ever worn in an entire season is twelve (season two), the least is six (season four).

Heroes and Villains on The Good Wife: Alicia’s Game Face is On

6 Oct

Alicia has spent the first three episodes of The Good Wife’s sixth season insisting to everyone who dare mention the State’s Attorney election how she is definitely not running and it’s been pretty clear that something or someone would eventually persuade her to join the race. After a series of conversations including Eli’s sometimes subtle and often obvious attempts to get her on board, Alicia comes to Eli at the end of “Dear God” asking what the plan would be if she ran. This is as close to saying “Yes I am running” as Alicia has entertained so far and in this episode we see Alicia make several compromises; moving position on whether she will enter the race and indulging in conversations about the Bible to help her win a case. Alicia might be referred to as Saint Alicia, but she definitely has none of the religious beliefs to back up a nickname like that.

What it takes to get Alicia to this point is an array of persuasive tactics and even if Alicia knows Eli is saying Peter will endorse Castro just so she puts herself forward, when Castro sinks to an abhorrent level even for him, she can’t ignore how terrible Castro winning would be. Castro is the villain of The Good Wife even when there are drug dealers/murders like Lemond Bishop; Castro is so much worse because he’s the guy who is meant to be good. Alicia also gets a push from another source as guest star and feminist icon Gloria Steinem acts as both an imaginary and real motivational coach.

The Good Wife 6.03 AliciaAlicia’s feelings regarding Castro are pretty straight forward as she tells Eli “Castro is a bad man” even before he reaches a new despicable low by daring to bring up Will and their rumored relationship – there’s something supremely icky in the way Castro accusingly says ‘lover’ – which sparks her final visit to Eli’s office. Words like ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are both definitive and abstract; one is included in the title of the show and represents a certain image and perception of our protagonist. ‘Saint’ takes this even further and it’s a word that Castro invokes earlier in the episode as he tells Alicia “Very few saints survive oppo research.” This is something I discussed a few weeks ago here on TV Ate My Wardrobe and on Twitter in a conversation with Kristen Warner we speculated about how Alicia’s secrets could be the perfect setup for a ‘ripped from the headlines’ story involving the recent iCloud hacking. What better way to ruin a reputation that plays up on someone’s virtue than by shattering this perception with photos revealing an affair.

Hats off to Michael Cerveris as he is doing a fantastic job of making Castro so villainous without any metaphorical moustache twirling. Castro can’t quite let things go and plays into Alicia’s “Men always have something to say” challenge, which in turn works in Eli’s favor. Between Castro’s vile words and Gloria Steinem’s encouragement, Eli couldn’t have primed Alicia any better to say yes.

The Gloria Steinem moment is amusing (and amazing) for a number of reasons. First up is this facial expression:

The Good Wife 6.03 AliciaIn an episode where Alicia is at her most unflappable, she has a moment where she almost loses it in a bumbling and very human way as Gloria Steinem encourages her to run and she effectively tells her to get out of her own way by asking the simple question “Would you do a good job?” and reinforcing the notion that “We need more good women to run.” There’s that word again. Twice.

Alicia also allows herself to daydream for a moment extending the conversation with Steinem in her mind as she briefly succumbs to the power of compliments from a woman she looks up to and respects. The eye rolls at herself and later a quick look around to make sure no one knows what she has been thinking can be added to the list of amazing facial expressions Julianna Margulies delivers in “Dear God.” In fact Steinem first ‘appears’ to Alicia while she is absentmindedly playing with her wedding ring in a church as a deity like presence, bathed in the same blue light from the stage that now appears to be other worldly. Blue is a repeated color throughout the episode with both Diane and Cary wearing this color throughout signifying a unity that might not be so obvious considering how combative the brief flashbacks to the office are.

The Good Wife 6.03 Gloria SteinemIn a conversation with Dean about religion, Alicia explains that she isn’t “genetically built” to believe and while she might not be open to a traditional form of worship she does have idols/heroes who help guide her in this episode, no matter how silly Alicia thinks she is for indulging in these moments.

Is it kismet or Eli manipulation that leads to Alicia’s bumping into Gloria Steinem and thereby adding another voice to the get Alicia to run campaign? It’s not as clear cut as the Valerie Jarrett phone call last week and I think Eli was hoping this encounter could happen. What he couldn’t necessarily predict is how well Castro would play up to his villain role and thereby aiding Eli’s master plan.

Alicia delivers the best ‘go fuck yourself’ face I’ve seen in a long time and coupled with her steely “Anything else?” I think we’re going to have quite the messy race on our hands. Alicia has come far since standing by Peter’s side in the pilot all meek and with little media awareness; I cannot wait to see her enter the fray and come out blazing even with all the oppo research threats Castro suggests will ruin her reputation. I say bring it.

Julie Hammerle

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