Tag Archives: 6.07

The Americans 6.07 “Harvest” Review: Committed

10 May

Throughout our lives we make commitments; to a person, a job, a child. Most commitments can be broken in some way or another. You can quit, get a divorce. Some commitments come with a lifetime of responsibilities including being a parent, but even those can be broken.

The Americans has always been about marriage, family. The spy stuff is akin to football on Friday Night Lights. It sets the scene, ultimately guiding what these characters to do, but at the heart, the relationships are what matter.At the end of last season, Philip did the impossible. He got out of the spy biz at the behest of his wife. She could see that it was breaking him, but she couldn’t break her commitment to the cause. She couldn’t break her commitment to him. Elizabeth and Philip have been together for twenty-five years, but they have only been legally married for three, wholly devoted to each other for six years. Prior to events in the pilot it had been a very functional relationship, they were great work partners; they did all that was asked of them including having two kids. The perfect American family. You would never suspect a thing.

In the pilot their dynamic shifted, Elizabeth saw something in Philip she hadn’t previously seen. They connected in a way that went beyond duty. The weakness she used to see in him, the weakness that had him suggesting defection (Elizabeth would never) transformed into an understanding. In “Harvest,” Elizabeth sees her husband again as if for the first time. She finally gets out of her own way. Elizabeth isn’t oblivious, she would never have suggested he quit if she didn’t realize quite how crushed he was by all of this. But here it is like she finally gets it, the pain etched over his face is because he made a mistake committing to this life. The things you realize when cutting up a body with an ax in a parking garage.Big life events for Philip and Elizabeth happen in garages, basements of disused factories, their own laundry room. In the shadows they see each other. Elizabeth wasn’t sure Philip would actually show, but there is no way he could leave his wife in dire straits. Even if this means leaving Henry, giving Stan a reason to get suspicious of the places his neighbors go. Philip is wearing all the spy accoutrements, but he no longer has that feeling of pulling things off.  Elizabeth thinks this is ridiculous, but later she sees it. He can still perform when called to, even when it requires the grimmest of tasks. But he’s empty.

“Harvest” has a lot of callbacks to the pilot; the scene in which they drive to ditch Marilyn’s head and hands is reminiscent of the “In the Air Tonight” accompanied sequence of body dumping, followed by car sex. This time Patti Smith’s “Broken Flag” plays over the scene. There is no hook-up here. That was about connecting in way they hadn’t done before, they have come along way since then. Instead Elizabeth does the task alone while Philip observes. Stan’s sneaking around his best friend’s home is an extended version of the checking the trunk scene from the pilot. Philip isn’t waiting in the shadows gun in hand, there is now six years of history between them. A hunch led Stan into checking on his new neighbors, a hunch is causing him to check up on his BFF.Certain things aren’t adding up. The emergency trip to Houston during Thanksgiving. The late nights. Last week he was an accidental marriage counselor, now Henry is an accidental narc, his comments about how his parents leave for work at all hours as if they’re brain surgeons don’t help. The non-existent extended family.

Stan remembers that time Elizabeth went to stay with Aunt Helen, but Henry has never met her. Stan also recalls that it coincided with a crazy time at work. That time he shot a female illegal. The operation in Chicago also felt like a callback to the season one finale; they’re cornered, someone gets shot. They end up in a parking garage. Elizabeth remains unscathed this time. It is Marilyn who gets a bullet to the head. Harvest also ends up shot in the stomach, mirroring Elizabeth’s injury, unlike Elizabeth he doesn’t make it. Opting to swallow the pill he has been given. A pill Elizabeth is wearing around her neck. A pill she has told her husband about.The couple. It all comes back to the couple Stan has been chasing for years. The couple he now suspects could be living across the street. William’s delirious words about them as he was dying at the end of season four have come back to haunt them; the two kids, the pretty wife. Stan doesn’t have any real evidence, but the niggle is going to be enough. Plus there are now only three episodes left.

Stan is going to find out very soon and it is making my stomach hurt. That hug between Philip and Stan is heartbreaking. The trick to selling a good cover story is to keep it as true to life as possible, when Philip thanks Stan for all he has done it is genuine. Elizabeth keeping it together is real, so are the business woes. But they have both made commitments; Stan won’t be able to keep his word of being there for Philip when he finds out who he really is. Tension is building. Wordless scenes are something The Americans has always excelled at. The way Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys can have an entire conversation without saying a word continues to be extraordinary. Intimacy when extracting a tooth or cutting off body parts with an ax is not the easiest thing to convey, but they somehow elevate these horrifying moments into something much more than the task at hand (no pun intended).

When Philip pauses after they are almost interrupted—this is quite the public place to dismember somebody—it is like a lifetime goes by. The fact that he is doing this again, the only reason is for her. It is the kind of grand romantic gesture that only makes sense on this show. Elizabeth can’t quite fathom it in the moment. It takes the conversation with Erica for her to see. The pointed way Philip drops the matching poison accessory into the bag is such a relationship moment. It is purposeful because he effectively just had Elizabeth’s end flash before his eyes.The sequence in which they extract Harvest is reminiscent of another moment in the tooth extraction episode. The car “chase” in which Elizabeth is being tailed for hours. One of their closest of close calls. That one ended with everyone unscathed, this time they aren’t so lucky. Two on each side go down. For once, Elizabeth didn’t pull the trigger. Philip doesn’t add to his body count either, but he definitely got his hands dirty.

The Americans is very good at drawing on its rich, layered history. Stan brings up the time in Philadelphia from early on in season one (in the very good episode “Gregory”) in which the FBI lost sight of a source just for a moment. The body disposal moment called back to not only the pilot, but Annelise in the suitcase. There are the two flashback moments to already existing scenes, something this show uses sparingly. Visual cues that remind Stan of what William said, remind Philip of his real vows.When they get home Elizabeth has to leave straight away. The summit is only a week away—for both us and Elizabeth. Again there is wordless communication, she touches his face, his heart. Her way of saying thank you before disappearing into the night. Philip surprised her by showing up in Chicago, she makes a stop by the office the following day as a gesture of making sure he is okay. She notes she saw his expression while he was doing his ax-work. Erica is becoming a therapist of sorts for Elizabeth; the soothing drawing, the determination she has for working through extreme agony, but also noting the time she has wasted.

Philip and Elizabeth still aren’t on solid ground when it comes to their relationship. Too many secrets exist between them right now. She told him about the necklace, but not the what of the mission. He now knows there is an important part of the scanner in France. Will he tell Oleg? At this point, Philip’s main objective is to not have Elizabeth die in his arms the way Harvest did. She is very much work first, however stopping by the office signals she isn’t wholly consumed by work. The final scene with Philip sitting on the sofa thinking about his marriage can be read in a number of ways. For me it is a resigned felling that this is what he signed up for, his commitment to Elizabeth cannot be broken. That moment of bliss was a lifetime ago.And after this operation went to shit, Elizabeth offers Paige the option her father never got; to get out. But Paige, like her mother is headstrong. She wants to make a difference. But most notably she doesn’t want to be alone. She wants what her mom and dad have. Prediction time; this show is going to end in a manner fitting for a Russian tragedy. Paige will end up alone either because her parents die or she gets arrested while they escape. Just three episodes left.

All Aderholt needs is some red stringAderholt was thrilled last week. Now he is experiencing despair. All he needs is some red string to go full Charlie Day from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. While he won’t be as upset as Stan, it’s gonna hurt when he finds out he has shared the table with the woman that kicked his ass at the start of season three.

Earring Watch I recently got my ears pierced (I know). I have long been obsessed with Elizabeth’s earrings in and out of disguise. Her best ones are when her cover looks like this.

The old couple they will probably never get to become

On the flight how, Philip and Elizabeth’s disguises skew older than they are. A vision of what we won’t get to see. Also it gives Philip an opportunity to ask about the drawing without letting on that he has searched her secret stash.

Family Photos

These are the photos that provided the backdrop to Philip and Elizabeth’s fight on the staircase from a couple of week’s ago. Again The Americans production design team deserves a shout out for these very realistic shots of the Jennings family instead of using promo photos from the show.

Who is the Hypocrite on The Good Wife?

3 Nov

The desire to run for political office can be motivated by many things and The Good Wife has featured several characters stating honest and clean intentions. As Alicia is now running it has intensified the focus on campaign strategy and opened her up to a whole new level of scrutinization. In “Message Discipline” Alicia flails revealing weakness in how savvy she is when the preparation hasn’t covered all ground. Alicia also accuses the new opponent Frank Prady of being a hypocrite and while Prady seems sincere it is hard to buy his good intentions speechifying as plenty state honesty and are anything but.

The Good Wife 6.07 AliciaLast week I discussed compromise and how Alicia had to make certain omissions about her belief system (in that she is an atheist and yet claimed otherwise during an interview) to stay in this race. Who is the hypocrite now? Even though it didn’t sit well with her, she still went ahead and played along using Grace for religious prep and citing a ‘struggle’ when it comes to religion; really the struggle is with politics. Alicia and family are two disconnected entities at the moment so when Frank talks about the Florrick family sitting at the dinner table talking politics this image seemed far from anything we have ever seen. Have we ever seen them have a dinner with just the four of them? If so it was very long ago as on other occasions Jackie or Veronica have been present and it has been chaos. Relationships are fraught as their marriage is a sham and Zach got an earful over the phone a few weeks ago regarding the abortion that Alicia only became aware of during oppo research. The abortion is referenced this week during interview prep and rather than giving the restrained answer, Alicia lets rip at Johnny (who is role playing as Prady) showing the full force of why you don’t go after Alicia Florrick’s family. This is something they can work with as controlled passion is fine, but don’t say ‘horseshit’ (which of course gets blanked out and in doing so it drives this point home). BS is fine.

The personal and the political are intertwined and previously Alicia had some say in limiting the access to their children, but now as she is running there are going to be plenty of softball questions about her family. This includes the ‘how do you find the time?’ opener that totally throws Alicia during her interview with Prady. Alicia is all about preparation and she is constantly taking notes; when something unexpected takes place Alicia finds it hard to react accordingly and she comes across as cold and stilted.

Alicia Florrick is one of my favorite characters on television and I love to see her mess up like this. Flawed, messy and complicated are all attributes I am drawn to and of course Saint Alicia is a brand construction that has little to do with the Alicia we have been watching for the past 5 years and she has made plenty of mistakes over this time. Very few of these flaws are seen by the public and now she is out of her comfort zone, which means there is a higher chance she will make mistakes on a larger stage. This occurs in “Message Discipline” as Frank Prady gets a series of gotcha moments (I wonder what horrors we didn’t see) going for the softball family questions when Alicia had prepped for abortion, affair and criminal activity. Her “I’m going home to get drunk” remark is meant to be a joke, but we know there is a bottle of red wine and a rather large glass waiting for her. Or at least another bar meeting with Finn (just make out already).

There are similarities between Frank Prady and Alicia if he is to be believed as they were both courted by an outside party and convinced to run for State’s Attorney. The other big similarity (also *if* Prady is being honest and who the hell knows if he is) is they both only entered after someone came after them with a personal attack as Alicia was tipped by Castro taunting her regarding Will’s death (and with Gloria Steinem’s encouragement) and an essay leak prompts Prady’s decision to enter. This is a piece of work Alicia didn’t want leaking and if he is telling the truth then Eli and Johnny made a mistake in alerting Castro to this essay. Of course Prady could be full of shit and his nice guy demeanor might all be part of his campaign strategy. It does feel like Alicia is making a mistake by calling him a hypocrite as she is basically doing to him what Castro did to her by making it personal. Prady’s unannounced visit is enough to rattle her and seeing Alicia reaching for her glasses and pretending to do work when he comes in is hilarious in how transparent it is.

Johnny and Eli are a dream team of scheming and manipulation when it comes to campaigning and while Eli knows Alicia very well (he still misjudges the whole Prady leak) they can’t prepare her for everything and it is clear much more work needs to be done. They know politics and Alicia knows the game to a certain point, but her involvement up to now has been very much as a periphery player and how many of her values can she really hold onto now she wants to win? Alicia does still say no to the things she thinks are dumb or beneath her, but she is malleable and it is up to Johnny and Eli to mold Alicia into a viable candidate and this includes doing the things that seem stupid.

The Good Wife 6.07A quick note on costuming before I turn my attention to the Cary situation and the episode is bookended with simple monochrome outfits while Alicia is at the office. The two jackets Alicia wears while visiting Prady are striking and she is wearing richer power colors for the campaign in contrast with her general work attire of late, which has been sticking to neutrals.

The Good Wife 6.07 blueThe blue Escada* toggle jacket (with matching toggle-detail dress**) contrasts with Prady’s burgundy tie (which mirrors the color of Alicia’s jacket during their first meeting) and yet she ends up blurring into the blue of the background. It is bold jacket and strong blue tone, but she doesn’t stand out here and it is indicative of how horrible this experience is for Alicia.

*The tuxedo style jacket Alicia wears in the final scene is also Escada and this outfit instantly reminded me of this season 5 outfit when Alicia returned to L/G for the first time after the big split (this jacket is also by Escada).

** Update! The Escada toggle dress and jacket despite looking very similar is not what Alicia is wearing in the above scene instead as per costume designer Daniel Lawson it is a Pucci suit. 

While Alicia has to scramble for half of the episode, Cary continues his journey down shitstorm alley when Finn discovers yet another potentially devastating piece of evidence relating to Cary and Lemond Bishop’s drug empire. Cary is also dealing with the Kalinda 3o foot rule and never has an iMessage conversation been so sad on television. The longing looks that punctuate this conversation between Cary and Kalinda is matched by the equally heart wrenching phone conversation at their new former offices. Their office space has walls now, but when they are made of glass they are perfect for intense and emotional forbidden discussion moments. They can’t stand next to each other and yet these are some of the most intimate interactions we’ve seen between this pair. Castro’s desire to get Cary has nothing to do with Cary; it is all Alicia related so it makes it worse that Alicia is so preoccupied with her campaign she has no idea just how much shit Cary is in. A desperate last minute ‘good luck in court’ is not enough. Alicia promised last week they would work at this as a team and so far she is failing to come through with this claim; their relationship is already strained and I wonder how much more Cary can take.

Finn has quit the SA office as a result of Castro’s tunnel vision with this case so if Alicia does win this frees up any kind of power disparity between the pair. There also happens to be a whole floor of office space available and late nights are very much a thing on the cards. Finn still can’t reveal anything about the Cary case to Alicia, but maybe after a few more drinks he will spill.

Alicia hasn’t always been the confident lawyer she is today and her campaign missteps are reminiscent of her early court days. Someone else who bears a resemblance to Alicia is Ramona; the mother of the intern who favored sans underwear and a Florrick family friend. Like Alicia, Ramona is returning to the law after raising her family and Alicia ends up asking all the questions she got when she also came back to her former profession. There is warmth here amid the slightly patronizing tone and Alicia really hasn’t kept up to date with her friends from her ‘good wife’ days. Ramona has good instincts where she lacks in confidence and I have a suspicion there might be a Peter/Ramona connection a la Will and Alicia, as Peter stumped for her in the same way Will did for Alicia in the beginning.

When it was just Castro versus Alicia it was about the bad versus the good with a dollop of personal animosity in the mix; now Prady has entered the race the dynamic has completely changed. The energy David Hyde Pierce brings in this first episode is entirely different as his temperament is very mild mannered, but beneath the surface he comes across as incredibly savvy and I am so happy to have him on board to mess with both Alicia and Castro.

Julie Hammerle

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