Tag Archives: costume design

The Americans 5.02 “Pests” Review: Playing By the Rules

15 Mar

Lines are blurry on The Americans and rules are constantly being broken with each side doing what they believe they have to do in order to protect their country; however there are certain things that neither would do, right? This is one of the main questions at hand with Russian grain supply (that comes from the U.S.) being at the heart of Philip and Elizabeth’s new operation as they move from biological weapons that could cause mass casualties to a potentially more insidious tactic by their enemy.

Targeting food is something Philip never thought the Americans would do and after a long night of digging and delivering both the sample and bad news about Hans, when Gabriel tells them what this new plan might be Philip can barely contain his horror through his exhaustion.There are rules in combat no matter how cold this war actually is and it seems like both sides are feeling at a loss with some of the tactics at play. For Stan he feels it is his duty to stop Oleg from getting caught in the cross hairs of another operation; the CIA wants to recruit him no matter what. If they were to just let him be then they might see that he is doing important work back home as he investigates the corruption that threatens to destroy Russia from within. Patience is a virtue and the CIA want something to work with now and they believe Oleg is their guy. To them he is another cog in the machine, but – and to borrow from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – for Stan it is a lot more nuanced than that.

It also is not a coincidence that the establishing shots of the FBI and KGB buildings show just how similar each looks in all its concrete glory. Chris Long directs once again and he also gives the Jennings house exterior the same horror feeling as he did in the season 4 finale and last week’s premiere only this time it is daylight as the camera pushes in.

Stan has already lost one agent who he was working (in more ways than one) and Nina is the tie that binds him with Oleg. He pleads his case to the deputy AG and this is where the notion of rules and good/bad comes into play. Everyone has to have a code and he believes Oleg already gave them this huge gift and he should be allowed to go home and be free from the burden of that treason admitting recording. And it looks like his plan has worked to some extent as Oleg receives a message from Stan and a map of where to meet to discuss further. Although a big part of me thinks this isn’t really from Stan; instead it is the CIA using his name to secure this meeting and they will attempt their original plan that Stan so vehemently opposed.

Difficult conversations take place over friendly beers as Stan talks to Philip about his Paige concerns; concerns that he can’t quite verbalize beyond asking if everything is okay in Paige-land. The Beemans and Jennings are entangled in friendship and this burgeoning romance making this a ticking time bomb that Philip and Elizabeth know could go off at any minute. So far strong arming Paige to stay away from Matthew is of course doing the opposite; Philip has tried and now it is time for Elizabeth to have a go at explaining why this relationship cannot happen.
Elizabeth opts for talking while training and as with last week’s garage defense lesson scenario it is about giving Paige a sense of control while also emphasizing why Matthew as a boyfriend is a bad idea. The rhythmic sounds of Paige hitting her target as Elizabeth still dressed in her work attire coaches her adds to the tension and fraught nature of this conversation. This is also part one of ‘the talk’ and when Elizabeth asks if Paige is having sex she quickly follows up with pointing out that she doesn’t care if they are. Not what you would expect to hear from a mother as she talks to her daughter about sleeping with her first proper boyfriend, but Elizabeth has other concerns beyond the usual teen sex worries.

The Elizabeth/Paige dynamic continues to be fascinating as for the first time Elizabeth can be seen for who she is by her daughter. So much of Elizabeth’s decision to become a KGB officer and take on such a long deep cover mission is tied to her mother; the sacrifices she made (which were reiterated in terms of food last week) and her mother’s beliefs that mirror her own. With the training sessions she now gets to show her how to build on her strength and there is a deep sense of pride amidst the concern that Paige might inadvertently ruin everything by spilling their secret.

Tactics to keep Paige and Matthew apart are not working and when they return home from their digging expedition to find Paige’s bed empty, Philip and Elizabeth fear the worst. Where they find Paige is a concern for another reason as she was asleep in her closet as she continues to have post-stabbing sleep issues. There are no set parenting rules for dealing with first boyfriends and really they are no different from any other parent trying to work their way through first love. Except for that whole enemy spy thing.


Marriage strength between the pair comes in telling each other exactly what is going on; something Philip and Elizabeth have not always done and these bathroom confessions while applying night cream and brushing teeth reinforce just how good things are in this relationship even if everything else falls apart around them. This week’s conversation includes bonus heartbreaking Hans chat with Elizabeth telling Philip how excited Hans was about his sister’s forthcoming visit. The sighs and silences that punctuate all of their scenes speak just as much volume as any dialogue. Philip relays his chat with Stan while Elizabeth informs him of how unsuccessful her attempt at the Matthew problem was. The question of how long before Paige slips up hangs in the air with no immediate solution.

Babying Paige or even laying down threats (if only Paige knew how dangerous her parents are) is doing nothing and after a painful dinner out as the Eckerts with their new Russian defector friends – if Elizabeth could stab Alexei with her fork she would – Elizabeth comments that she is fed up with treating Paige like a “goddamn kid.” The scene that follows is up there with the stomach churning levels of when they first told Paige who they really are because Philip and Elizabeth aren’t your average parents and this isn’t your average sex talk.

In fact they approach this conversation as if Paige is an asset rather than their daughter and they are far more successful at relaying their message because of this change of tactic. They have both trained a lot of people especially when it comes to sex and while they’re inexperienced as parents in this particular arena they very much know how to manage feelings and not let them muddy things. It is a practical conversation and while we have seen just how fucked up the training they had was in this department there is a whole lot of compartmentalizing on their behalf.

This is also an incredibly sad scene because they’re viewing sex through this lens of their work, but it is also a weirdly bonding experience that gives Paige a practical tool and her parents’ piece of mind. In a weird way this is them teaching her about protection, but instead of a condom over a banana it is a way not to reveal their secret. Also I now want to go back and watch previous episodes to see if either of them ever use this technique.

In other big developments of the heart Stan finally mustered the courage to ask out the gym woman – Renee – and things are going well here. She’s the female version of Philip! Oh, Stan. It is also interesting to see Philip viewing her with suspicious eyes, but I guess he is always accustomed to looking at these things with spy eyes and Stan could be a target for this.


Also there are bugs aplenty in the greenhouse Elizabeth breaks into and because I’ve watched The X-Files my first thought went to bees that interrupted an all important Mulder and Scully moment. Thoughts of X-Files also courtesy of Stan’s new love interest. Instead Elizabeth ended up with a whole lot in her hair (despite the wig) and she tells Philip they need Alexei to help figure out what is going on with this agriculture business.

We also spend some more time with Tuan and find out that he really was adopted by an American family; a family who treated him well but who were also very pleased with themselves for this seemingly altruistic act. This might be where some of his resentment comes from along with the fact that his entire family (save his grandma) were killed by bombs in the Vietnam War. There’s a bit of a bond already with Philip and we see more of Tuan than both of Philip’s actual sons as Henry says he is at the library and the look on Elizabeth’s face when Paige tells her this is one of “yeah right.” Paige agrees and suggests he’s probably at the arcade. Meanwhile Mischa continues to make his voyage off screen.

Tension continues to build and deciding to open further to Paige will mean drawing her in closer; both to who they are and the job they do. The lines continue to blur.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017

I’m so happy whenever Philip hits the court with Stan as this means retro sportswear. While not quite hitting the levels of this Dunlop tee, I would still be happy to have this stripe polo or Stan’s Adidas in my closet. Got to remember to keep an eye out on Etsy as costume designer Katie Irish suggested.

This is also another week of wanting to wear all the high-waisted pants and silk blouses a la Elizabeth and the outfit she’s wearing when they have the talk with Paige is the ideal version of this. And I have never related so much to Philip as him halfheartedly throwing his jacket in the direction of the coat hooks by the door.

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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.

A post shared by The Americans (@theamericansfx) on

 

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.

 

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 4.11 “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 4.08 “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.

The Americans 4.07 “Travel Agents” Review: A Lonely Life

28 Apr

Running away from it all is an idea that has been touched upon on The Americans this season with Philip’s inner voice whispering ‘run, run, run’ as a reaction to Pastor Tim knowing their big spy secret. Now Martha knows a version of everything and she’s the one on the fleeing; she is out there on her own and her whole world has collapsed. Leaving Martha with Gabriel was a bad idea as the only person holding her together was Philip and now they have a valuable asset to find in a huge city while the FBI are also trying to do the same thing.

Season 4 is all about consequences that come from living a double life and the resulting spiraling from Martha and to a lesser extent (at the moment) Paige is a result of their relationships that are not as they seem. Martha has been torn from everything she has known and flung into a very dangerous place and her fleeing is an attempt to regain a sense of control; but what do go when everywhere is a potential danger and every face could be the one coming to arrest you?The Americans 4.07 MarthaMartha was chosen as a target not only because of whom she is secretary to, but because of her lonely heart status and I can’t help but picture Miss Lonelyhearts from Rear Window when I think of how they picked her. Later when Philip tells Martha she will be making the trip to Moscow solo she remarks that she will be alone “just the way I was before I met you” and if my heart hadn’t already been crushed by this storyline then it would be in pieces after that. Stan and Gaad talk about the why of what Martha has done with money and sex coming up and then pondering if she was really that unhappy and I think we have our answer. Stan even wonders if this is a real love scenario and at first this interpretation surprised me and then I remembered how he felt about Nina; it isn’t that uncommon to fall for the person you are meant to be working or vice versa.

Emotions are manipulated in this business and sometimes it is hard to know what is real and with every new bit of information Martha is getting she is becoming harder to keep at bay with promises and reassurances. Knowing who Philip works for peels back another layer and shatters her illusion of what this relationship was. When she speaks to him on the phone she is desperate and broken, but not completely done as we see her contemplating jumping from a very high bridge and not following through. Chekhov’s Valium does not come into play either. Martha wants this all to end and she is now wise to Philip’s methods knowing he will “tell me some version of the truth that’s not very true.” There is a moment where she contemplates hanging up the phone and not revealing her location, but she is all out of other options and Philip is the only person she can turn to.The Americans 4.07 carElizabeth gets to her first and has a job convincing Martha to a) calm the fuck down and b) come with her willingly. Elizabeth has one hand in her pocket and the other one is not giving a peace sign; there is a strong sense that Elizabeth really doesn’t want to have to resort to the ultimate silencing method and yet you know she will if this goes bad. Martha has a whole host of questions about who Elizabeth is and whether she is “sleeping with my husband.” Knowing this is not the time to speak wife to wife she denies the sleeping with part, but does explain they are all part of this operation. When Martha continues to freak out Elizabeth sucker punches her hard in the gut and whispers the very real facts of how she has nowhere else to go as the FBI knows who she is. Martha needs to do exactly what Elizabeth says and she will live.

As Martha has seen Philip’s true face it is why Elizabeth (and an unseen Hans) get sent out to find Martha while Philip gets to go hang at their phone operator’s apartment. In terms of a lonely existence this job seems to encapsulate all of that and this is probably why Joan is so pleased to have someone to talk to that isn’t just a voice on the end of a line. Philip is of course rather preoccupied and isn’t much up for chatting although he does indulge in some day old borscht. While he isn’t hungry he does seem to appreciate the taste and reminder of home. When they do converse it is about the person who had this job before her, the person Larrick killed and before Philip can answer her question the phone rings and it is Martha. Back to solo living for Joan.The Americans 4.07 PhilipA taste of home food and Martha’s forthcoming trip to Moscow and Philip couldn’t be blamed for longing for a way out. This is how Elizabeth infers things and she is at her most vulnerable and forgiving in “Travel Agents.” Instead of reacting with anger as I expected she would that Martha has fled and knows about them being KGB she instead shows empathy telling Philip that this is not his fault. This is a very different Elizabeth to the one we met back in season 1 and she is much more in tune with how complicated things can get. Plus she also went through something similar when Gregory was put in the cross hairs of their operation.

Later on when Martha is back at the house and Philip has gone to find some ice – ice that is stored next to the infected rat – for the injury caused by Elizabeth they have the kind of open conversation that didn’t seem possible until this season. For all their skills at emotional manipulation Philip and Elizabeth are not so good when it comes to sharing their real feelings and this has caused issues in the past such as when Philip slept with his ex Irina in season 1 and then lied about it. Pot helped them open up last year and they have been getting better at telling each other how they feel; EST can also take credit as Elizabeth’s willingness to listen and even participate when Philip told her about the classes showed how much she has changed. The Americans 4.07 ElizabethNow Elizabeth is allowing herself to be vulnerable in front of her husband even if that means potentially (she talks as a hypothetical) losing him and she takes off her Jennifer glasses (because you can’t have a serious conversation in those specs) and asks him if he could go with Martha, would he? Confusion is part of Philip’s response “Are you crazy?” that she could suggest he would want to leave her and she tries to fill in the blanks by saying she knows this is different. It is a huge amount of different and he emphatically tells her “I love you.” I think Elizabeth also forgets that Philip is the one who has been deeply in love with her since the beginning and all these feelings are still somewhat new for Elizabeth. She was also not privy to Philip’s conversation with William while she was ill a few weeks ago when he said he would only want the normal life if it was with Elizabeth. This is the kind of reassurance Philip probably doesn’t think Elizabeth needs as he doesn’t see her as an insecure person, but her slightly teary eyes while she tells him she would understand if he did want to go with Martha indicates otherwise.

Elizabeth getting ready for bed by herself – and this is the only time we see Elizabeth as Elizabeth in this episode – at the end of “Travel Agents” mirrors Martha’s pre-bed routine in “Clark’s Place” but this time no one is having any kind of sex; desperate, sad, fierce, passionate or otherwise. Instead we see Philip wide awake starring at the ceiling contemplating the lonesome existence he is about to send Martha on, while Martha lies with her back to him also getting no sleep whatsoever. At first he insisted he would be home within a few hours, but Elizabeth smartly pointed out that he should stay because otherwise what would Martha do? This one night of what Elizabeth perceived as comfort is pretty much two people sleeping in the same bed, but two people who are very much apart. Now Martha knows his real name – both Philip and Mikhail (Mischa was his nickname) – it appears the ties that bound them have disappeared with everything Clark.

There is no lie from Philip that he will join her in Moscow and he ignores Elizabeth’s advice and while telling Martha this lie would give her hope at first, it is ultimately kinder her to tell the truth that this is them done. She is never seeing him again. And while I say this pretty much every week Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright are crushing it on every single level possible. Wright could quite easily fall into hysterics, but instead she plays Martha as walking the line between holding it together and coming apart at the seams. There is an economy in the interactions between Philip and Elizabeth; so much is said in a look so that when Philip does go all in on his “I love you” moment we know it matters and he means it. Basically I am in awe in a weekly basis and it would be a wonderful thing if the Emmys would recognize their talent this year (although I am not expecting them to after ignoring this show for three seasons).

I’m also pretty sure the last time Philip said “I love you” was after Elizabeth found out about what really happened with Irina. Back then his words had no weight or meaning; here it is everything.The Americans 4.07 GaadOver at the FBI the fallout from Martha is swirling around Gaad, who as he notes had a bug in his office, the Gene stuff and his secretary fell for a Romeo plot and has been married to a KGB agent for two years. Not a great list of things for the person in charge of counterintelligence. Richard Thomas’ delivery of “They seduced and married my secretary” is full of disbelief and he would find it funny if it wasn’t so bad for his career. Actually he probably wouldn’t find it funny even then, but it definitely made me chuckle.

When sorting through Martha’s things we get to see her photo albums and once again The Americans art department does a fantastic job with how authentic these look using real photos of a young Alison Wright. There is also the heart necklace Philip gave her back in season 1 (which belonged to Elizabeth) and if only Stan knew who the former owner was.The Americans 4.07 photo albumThe Americans 4.07 necklaceAnd while the FBI are working hard to catch Martha, Oleg and Tatiana are the travel agents of the episode title and are planning an escape route for Martha, well at least Oleg is. Tatiana has other ideas by the looks of things and she is only concerned with transporting the sample; she has her backup pilot and isn’t so subtle about shutting the red folder when Oleg comes to see her. It will be interesting to see how the office politics plays out here and what impact it will have on the wider operation if they try to fuck Martha over (and in turn really piss off Philip).

What we got in “Travel Agents” is an accumulation of the Martha plot and now it has all spilled over into the point of no return and season 4 is firing on all cylinders in new and unexpected ways.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.07 Philip and MarthaThis week director Dan Attias employed a lot of tight close ups particularly during moments of high emotion, but the two shots I want to single out are wide angles which help isolate the characters contained within. After Philip tells Martha he won’t be joining her in Moscow we see them from a distance, this is them coming to an end as a couple and as an asset; the two are intrinsically linked and this really emphasizes how alone she was and is going to be. Philip might be sharing the same space, but that means nothing now.The Americans 4.07 Elizabeth and MarthaWhen Elizabeth finds Martha in the park she approaches slowly and there is a certain gun duel aspect about the framing here (or I have listened to Hamilton too much) and the hidden gun versus the secret Martha knows makes this a potentially deadly set up. Elizabeth inches closer and closer before she makes her move and this is another case of excellent tension building and execution.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.07 Philip and ElizabethThere are no new disguises this week unless you count Philip’s super light cap disguise – the point that Martha has seen his face is reiterated – but I do love the Jennifer look so much and this is the longest Elizabeth has stayed in one disguise over an episode and we only see her true self at the end when she gets ready for bed.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.07 teensThis isn’t about what is worn in the above shot, but more about the ad on TV. First I want to say how much fun this scene is because teens are often the much maligned characters in shows like this and The Americans is doing a good job of incorporating the kids; Paige in the main story and Henry (and Matthew) as ultimate latchkey kids ignored by their busy at work dads. Here they drink beer and rather than getting all self-righteous Paige joins in and even gives Henry some extra.

Before Paige came in the sound of a Calvin Klein ad was heard and Henry comments how hot the model is and finally Henry has found a girl around his age to lust after as Brooke Shields was 16 when she shot this campaign. Now this commercial reads on the creepy end, though nowhere near as bad as the last commercial this show led me to look up.

But yeah I’d wear some Calvin Klein 80s jeans, but this ad would not be the reason.

The Battle Between Truth and Power on The Good Wife

25 Apr

Funeral flowers and a buttload (an official measurement) of wine is all that is needed to get a Good Wife celebration going and there are a lot of moving parts this week what with divorces, engagements and Peter’s looming trial. Reasons to talk stack up and Alicia is in demand while she tries to play happy host for Howard and Jackie’s ketubah, hence all the wine. There are Jason problems, kid problems, parent problems and of course Peter problems. Although the latter isn’t so much about the end of their marriage, but more about the allegations against him. The Good Wife 7.20 Alicia and PeterAlicia at the moment doesn’t have any work concerns and all of that is going rather smoothly because David Lee understands brands (and will be getting the same amount of money regardless of not having his name in their fancy new title). What they probably need to do is cool it on the reshuffling; this should be the final one because otherwise the brand means nothing. It is fun seeing Diane so giddy at this new name now they have a letterhead and everything.The Good Wife 7.20 Lockhart FlorrickNow for the various messy dealings Alicia had this week, which were plentiful. First up Jason and “Party” employed a Good Wife narrative technique favorite; starting the episode on the question/statement where the last one ended. Alicia tells Jason that the thing she wants is him and in return Jason gives her a very random gift that causes Alicia to question everything about their relationship. He thinks it would be bad if she is getting a divorce because of him and I believe her when she says she isn’t and this is about taking a moment rather than blaming things like bad timing (*sob*).

The timing is bad and their very important conversation is interrupted by a hollering Grace – I don’t understand why she doesn’t just come inside, but then I guess that would kill the comedy/drama – who is having flower issues. They leave it in this weird place with Jason giving Alicia a deed to some land on Mars and it is a bizarre gift which he makes even worse by badly explaining his thought process. The Good wife 7.20 GraceMeanwhile Jason is also much in demand with Eli as he still has him investigating the investigation into Peter, despite Peter’s disapproval and the potential awkwardness here. What Jason does is show they have a strong case against him as his involvement on the Richard Locke case was unusual and it can be spun to make it look like he was overbearing with regard to evidence. Peter has a good explanation for all of the suspicious behavior and says he was so involved because he feared this case would be their OJ (hot topic reference alert). The lab technician does have a history of sloppy mistakes and even though Jason’s services are no longer required after Eli confronts him about whether his feelings for Alicia are interfering, he returns to the crime lab and lets the technician know he is onto her and whoever is trying to set Peter up.

The battle between truth and power is something Matan – always happy to see you! – talks about over drinks with Cary; in this case they are the truth and Peter is the power, but there could be someone else pulling the strings with Peter as the fall guy. Who is this mystery force trying to bring Peter down? The ghost of Will? Colin Sweeney (I just want to see Dylan Baker on this show one last time)? An old political opponent? A random someone we have never met? Robyn? Okay I just want to know where she is.

Regardless, everyone is lawyering up and Cary has gone with Louis Canning as his representation and now Canning wants to start a “coalition of the innocent.” Canning starts with Eli and does this via Diane (his lawyer). This is a non-starter as is his conversation with Alicia; he tries to sway her by pointing out that somehow she might be culpable in all this. Nice try, Canning. Alicia might be divorcing Peter, but she is still loyal.The Good Wife 7.20 Diane and KurtOne person I am concerned for is Kurt and what part he is going to play in this as it sounds like he was the last person who had the piece of evidence that went missing. It is also notable that Kurt’s name is not mentioned later when Eli talks to Jason about Peter’s explanation for everything. We spend a lot of time seeing how happy Diane is and Alicia pretty much shouts #RealtionshipGoals at them; this gives me a feeling that something bad is going to happen at this late juncture and goddammit if Kurt gets dragged into this mess.

Kurt also gets hero points for how he dealt with Hannah – Zach’s fiance – bailing through the need for more booze. Ah yes, Zach and his big engagement/dropping out of college/moving to France news. Alicia’s reaction is laughter which she tries unsuccessfully to cover with fake tears. She finds it hilarious that Zach wants to become a writer – “what would you write” – and equally hilarious that he wants to move to France. Hannah is kinda the worst and therefore perfect for Zach who has always had this streak of self-righteousness. I’m sorry Grace for all the times I thought that Zach was the better Florrick child and he is clearly who Alicia was talking about when she said she wasn’t sure if she likes her kids.

They talk it out and Alicia is fine with Zach going through with his plans and this is very much the Alicia who gives none of the fucks that we have seen a lot of this season. The kids find out about the divorce plan because Veronica has been drinking a lot of wine (much like everyone else at this party) and she wants to provoke Jackie forgetting that Grace is sitting right next to her. And to think moments before they were enjoying an episode of everyone’s fave prestige cable drama “Darkness at Noon.”The Good Wife 7.20 Grace, Owen and VeronicaThere are a lot of goodbyes this week with Jackie telling Alicia she never has to see her again, although I think she is forgetting the small matter of Peter’s trial and this seems like a place they will cross paths. Plus other family events involving her grandchildren. Jackie gives as good as she gets by telling Alicia that they are more alike than she can imagine and the look on Alicia’s face is pure horror. This also feels like the last time we will see Veronica and Owen; Veronica is very happy Alicia is going with the hunk and all she wants is for her daughter to be happy. Marissa also goes in hard on the hug front and what a delightful bunch of recurring guest stars this show has. The bench is deep.

Marissa mentions they could all die tomorrow and Eli’s stress levels suggest he would be number one on his list. Due to a dog related issue Mike Tascioni has dropped out and now they need a new lawyer for Peter. It is a shame they don’t know any. Considering this Instagram behind the scenes photo I think I have an idea who they might choose (speculation/spoilers).The Good Wife 7.20 Alicia and LuccaBringing it back to Jason and after all the awkwardness and random gifts they talk it out on the street. This is a very public location and being this cavalier with where they smooch might have consequences. They figure out where they stand and Jason explains his itchy feet when it comes to staying in one place. It is resolved with a hint of still not quite hitting a solution. For now they are fine and if Jason could stop using Lucca as his relationship go-between then that would be swell; she deserves much more than being their relationship adviser and sadly this is what she has been reduced to at the moment.

One costuming note and Alicia brings it again in red and this ensures she stands out in every single scene she features in and she pulls all the focus; she is very much in demand from all angles and in this outfit she is not hard to spot. It is such a signature look for Alicia particularly at big events and I am glad they are keeping with this costuming theme right to the end.The Good Wife 7.20 wineAnd the end is nigh, so make like Alicia and get prepared.

The Americans 4.05 “Clark’s Place” Review: People of Action

14 Apr

There is a reason The Americans didn’t go with “Heroes” as their David Bowie closing music choice, opting instead for the apt “Under Pressure” collaboration with Queen. There are no heroes on The Americans and this is the kind of war where both sides do some very bad things and people definitely get hurt no matter how much either team wants to spin their tales of horror. It is relentless and by this point it a battle that has been simmering for nearly 40 years and while we know the end is in sight; there is no sign of it letting up for the people in the midst of it all. The wheels keep on spinning and the problems keep on coming.The Americans 4.05 Elizabeth and PhilipLast week’s quarantine getaway might not have been the vacation Philip and Elizabeth need, but it did give them the briefest respite from the many challenges they’ve got going on at work and home. There is no taking a break now and the things that stacked up during the ‘maybe you’ve got glanders’ 48 hour period have to be addressed. Bowling was fun and all, but there are other wives, daughters and Pastors who have a lot of questions.

Paige wants to know where they have been and her late night chat with her mother (Philip is at Clark’s) doesn’t give her any answers as Elizabeth stonewalls her. Firstly it is the middle of the night and Paige fully startled Elizabeth out of her slumber and even though it isn’t surprising to see her react in this way with all that is going on, it is surprising to see Elizabeth this twitchy. I guess she did just think she might die so her vulnerability levels are high.

Paige’s quest for answers is also not a shocking turn of events as finding out your parents are spies is not an everyday kinda problem. They are vague when it comes to describing what they do and the only thing they keep stressing is how dangerous it is for someone else to know their secret and how much trouble they would get in if they were caught. While Martha spins the story in the exact way Philip tells her to with this notion that she is having an affair with a married man, Paige comes straight out and tells Pastor Tim what her parents wanted her to say to him. Paige is wrestling with her confusion with honesty, whereas Martha’s is a much deeper predicament because if she fucks up she will be going to jail to and her loyalty to Clark is incredibly complicated. The Americans 4.05 Philip and ElizabethWith Pastor Tim and Alice the solution to get them on side is to spin a religious angle because Pastor Tim believes that the Soviets have a very dim and oppressive take on those who believe. That’s why Philip and Elizabeth take their very good friend Father Rivas with them to explain all the good work they do and the lives they have saved. This definitely has a positive impact on Pastor Tim and also gives Philip and Elizabeth the chance to double down on this idea that both sides do good and bad. And of course they do good and this whole bit is well orchestrated. It also leads to one of the funniest moments this week when after dropping Rivas off Philip ponders whether he is even a priest. Regardless, part 1 of getting Pastor Tim on side is successful and it is Paige they might need to work on.

Paige is resistant to all of this and the gentle prodding/manipulation; she tells Pastor Tim that it seems like there is a grownup conspiracy going on where they are telling her how to feel and then they do whatever they want. That’s what adults do, Paige. Such a teen. Paige does admit that they at least told her the truth when she asked even if in retrospect they probably shouldn’t have. That scores them points and Elizabeth will be glad to know that Paige does know they love her. Later on they pop in on Paige while she is in bed and she tells them they were right about how Pastor Tim cares about her; while this should be comforting Paige still looks like sleep will be evading her and the weight of the world is on her mind.

Sleep or lack of is a problem this week for Martha and the Valium she has been prescribed for her panic attacks is not helping all that much. Out of everyone she is truly on her own right now; she couldn’t reach Clark before her dinner date with Agent Aderholt and even though she has a new emergency number to reach Philip on this doesn’t make him any more available to her really. “Clark’s Place” opens with their only face to face interaction and here she tells him about the copy machine query and the possibility they are on to her. When Philip gives her the number to memorize he tells her he needs that bit of paper back in the morning and her response is heartbreaking – “Why would I expect to keep anything?” Even their wedding photo is gone when she comes back to the apartment.The Americans 4.05 MarthaPhilip puts Hans on Martha full time and he thinks he spots someone tailing her and while Hans isn’t sure, we know that his hunch is correct and they are getting closer to figuring out that something is up with Martha that goes beyond an affair with a married man. What this does is isolate Martha even further and the call later where Philip tells her he loves her is not much of a consolation prize. Another week with another knockout performance from Alison Wright and this entire cast is crushing it this season. Is it too much to hope the Emmy voters are paying attention?

The phone call Philip makes is all under the watchful eye of his other wife and Elizabeth’s concern here is part mission related with a big dollop of jealousy. Martha is an important asset and one they must protect at all costs, but as Gabriel points out they are good at what they do because they care about the people they work with. Part of this is Gabriel buttering them up, but Elizabeth also knows that Philip does have some feelings for Martha, which is maybe why she asserts her role as wife with some super steamy moves at the end of the episode. All while Martha is across town; alone in bed and with a pair of FBI agents sitting outside her apartment.The Americans 4.05 ElizabethIn season 2 Martha told Elizabeth (while dressed as Jennifer) that Clark was a wild animal in bed. This was a point of contention that led to a very upsetting physical moment between Philip and Elizabeth; this time however Elizabeth definitely has the upper hand in the wife stakes. And she always does really. Considering how much shit is going on and that they just faced a near-death adjacent experience it isn’t surprising that sex is on the cards as it is both the perfect distraction and way to work out all this nervous energy. They are people of action after all. Let’s just hope Paige is also out as she has been through enough as it is to have to hear that as well. 

This moment comes after they have put it together that Agent Aderholt is the guy Elizabeth took out in the season 3 premiere and he’s also the guy who took Martha out; none of this is good news. The friendly face they have in the FBI is friendly once again as Philip and Stan have finally made up. Philip apologizes and then uses his chat with Sandra a few weeks ago to tell Stan that Sandra feels bad about things too; all the ways to get him back on side and Sad Stan re-earns that nickname by revealing that he doesn’t have many friends. Henry doesn’t count and his relationship with Oleg is goes back to being cordial this week, but that is all it is.The Americans 4.05 OlegAh yes Oleg and Stan and the news of Nina’s death reaches all the people who care about her this week. Oleg is angry that his father could do nothing to stop it even though he knows he knows he shouldn’t expect anything and the death of his brother is wrapped up in this overwhelming grief. Oleg’s father Igor is angry that even though his son died fighting for his country there will be no military honors at his funeral; he was a hero, but in this Cold War there are no heroes and everything related to it must be erased from history.

Similarly the details surrounding Nina’s death are incredibly vague and they don’t even have the information regarding what she did other than she “interfered.” To her country Nina was a traitor even though she got valuable intel when she was working as a double agent. It doesn’t matter and Arkady swings between anger at Nina and anger at the system with what happened to her. When Oleg tells Stan he doesn’t dance around her death coming straight out and telling him. Stan is speechless and Oleg shares the story about his brother’s funeral and how there are no heroes in this war. It all seems so futile.

The word hero gets used as a suggestion from Gabriel about how they should push William; he has been in the US for 25 years and has achieved barely anything. Now is the time for him to step up. But even if he does come through and help swing the balance of power the only time he will be getting called a hero is in a secret meeting in a car park. He probably should not expect a statue or portrait to be put up in every office.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.05 Paige and ElizabethThis week’s episode was directed by none other than Stan Beeman himself, Noah Emmerich and there are lot of wonderful moments to choose from; particularly in the Jennings house. This one between Elizabeth and Paige in the middle of the night does a good job of showing how this huge spy reveal has opened things up, but there is also a gulf between them. Also experiencing a lot of long hair envy. The Americans 4.05 Paige and PhilipLater on Elizabeth comes home to find a very normal affair; Henry on the computer while Philip and Paige watch TV. Ronald Reagan is between them and Reagan is the elephant in the room or rather the clown in the room as Elizabeth can’t stifle her laughter at what his red cheeks makes him look like. A new lighter Elizabeth is always welcome and Young Hee is having a good effect on her. This is a very different level of emotions than the last time Regan was on TV.The Americans 4.05 Paige in bedAnd to complete the Paige and her parents circle here they are checking in while she is in bed, not asleep.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.05 PattyA light disguise week with one appearance by Patty, Clark and Hans. Patty wins because just look at her and I love that purple is her dominant costume color. Young Hee is fascinating and even though we still don’t know why Elizabeth is interested in her, I don’t care as she is super charming and it is nice to see Elizabeth with a friend. Yes Henry, your mom has friends (even if they are work related).

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.05 Elizabeth trenchIt always comes back to the Coach trench and this week Elizabeth switches it up by alternating between her tan and black version. This is also the one Holly Taylor wore to a recent FX event. It is a classic for a reason.

The Americans 4.04 “Chloramphenicol” Review: Just One More Thing

7 Apr

Philip and Elizabeth have been living in a burning house for so long on The Americans that adding another thing to their already extensive “To Do” list is not really a big deal. Okay so it had to take what felt like a brush with death to get to this point, but after the decision is made they are pragmatic and ready to take on another thing that could destroy this life they have made for themselves.

In “Chloramphenicol” there are both no options and no good options; Paige must lie about where her parents are even though she doesn’t have a clue just how bad things are for them. Martha also has a problem that requires some input, but once again her go to person is out of reach and she must wing it.The Americans 4.04 Philip and ElizabethAnd then we have Nina and where she is there are no options; good or otherwise. There is a potential White Knight coming her way as it just so happens that Oleg is back home fighting her corner. His brother’s recent death provides Oleg with a reason to return and he wants his father to have another go at freeing Nina. If his father is successful then Oleg will leave his position in America even though this is the last thing he wants to do, but he’s bargaining with the only thing he has to give. Let’s just say his dad did not come through. Was there any attempt on his part?

Nina received her “exceptional punishment” in a scene we should have probably expected, but was shocking nonetheless. It had echoes of Stan killing her friend Vlad (sans burger) in both manner and execution; seeing the clinical and cold way they scooped up her body leaving the pool of blood behind made it all the more devastating. Nina has been marked for death since Stan entered her world and she has been living on borrowed time. As soon as she made a choice to do something that wasn’t motivated by self-preservation her luck ran out and this make it even more tragic. Coupled with her recent dreams and the signs were all there; particularly the funeral like quality of the flower filled former safe house last week.The Americans 4.04 NinaWe do get to see Nina’s happy ending and in this version it looks like Oleg will be moving back to Russia after his father pulled some strings, but as this sequence continues and Anton gets involved we know it is nothing more than fantasy. Narratively it makes sense for Nina’s story to come to an end as they had backed themselves into a corner of sorts and as this is The Americans the options are slim and there is only so much treading water that a character can do. This is TV so there is always a chance though, right?

Nope, nope, nope and Annet Mahendru crushed it with both her happy dream tears and the ones which showed the brief fear she experienced before her death sentence was swiftly delivered. The real kicker is that her letter to Anton’s son didn’t even make it out raising the heartbreaking levels to I just got misty eyed typing this paragraph out. All that is left of Nina’s life is that sad grubby plastic bag full of her sad grubby things and the memories Anton, Oleg, Stan and Boris have of her. She didn’t start a revolution, but she did bring some kind of hope to Anton’s predicament. There is that.

Connections are important and the one Nina had with Anton was life changing; Oleg wants to save her and he isn’t sure if it is for love or something else. There are the ones we have with our family and there are a lot of parent/child moments this week that call to the notion of this deep bond. For Oleg it is his father explaining that the death of a child is like nothing else and it is why he wants him home. We see Elizabeth fever dreaming about the time her mother was sick with diphtheria and this ties into her mother’s recent death, her current sick state and what is going on with Paige. William comments on how lucky Philip and Elizabeth are to have each other as he has no one he can talk to about this stuff on a personal level and it goes some way to explain his prickly exterior.The Americans 4.04 WilliamI like the idea of William being Philip’s snarky friend and Philip opens up about a few personal things that he could never do on this level with Stan or even Gabriel. He tells him about how long he has been with Elizabeth (over 20 years) and gives him a good recap of season 3 in the whole telling/not telling Paige of it all. They keep so much close to their chest that in these rare moments of honesty it can be somewhat disconcerting especially when Philip explains that Elizabeth would always chose this life while he would chose to be normal, but he would still want Elizabeth at his side. Matthew Rhys delivery of this line is both raw with a hint of the life he knows that never could have been; the one they pretend they have every day and enough can’t be said about how good everyone is in this cast.

That is a real humdinger of a revelation and while we are very much aware of Philip’s desires it is unusual to hear him speaking so freely with someone who knows exactly who he is; this isn’t him working his issues through a disguise or EST. Philip doesn’t feel like a lucky guy, but later on when he is in an all enveloping ‘yay we’re not dead (again)’ hug with Elizabeth, William looks on with sad envy and it is clear in this business that Philip should be thankful for this relationship.The Americans 4.04 hugPhilip to his credit doesn’t even entertain the idea that Elizabeth is actually sick and I’m not sure whether this is optimism or because he can’t even bear to think of the alternative. Between the vom and everything being super clammy things don’t look good for Elizabeth; unlike Nina we know there will be a way out of this one because Elizabeth is a co-lead and this show still has at least another season on the cards.

What Elizabeth is experiencing is a very bad reaction to the drugs and Wikipedia helpfully notes that “Its use is only recommended when safer antibiotics cannot be used.” This very bad reaction could also be Glanders so it isn’t surprising that she considers the worst and this leads to her taking a very Philip position on a couple of things.The Americans 4.04 makeup part 1Also a quick shot out to the makeup team for the journey of Elizabeth’s eye makeup as it got progressively smudgy while her skin got increasingly clammy. And Keri Russell somehow still looks amazing in this super sick state. The Americans 4.04 makeup partLast week I talked a lot about compromise and how since we have met Philip and Elizabeth they have moved from a bond out of necessity to this deep, deep and intense dynamic that goes far beyond any other relationship on this show. Elizabeth knows Philip’s overall position when it comes to their family going so far as telling him to be an American and blame her for anything Pastor Tim death related if she should die. Henry never has to know the truth and they can live the life Philip wants. Except without Elizabeth this is far removed from his dream alternative. The solution they come to when Elizabeth is better the next morning is one they come at together; she now gets why Philip doesn’t want Pastor Tim and Alice to be killed and she is very much on board the cancelling and not just postponing of this plan.

One other choice is to run which Philip is still all for because it means they will be together, but nope Elizabeth wants to go for bonus door number 3 by working Tim and Alice saying “It’s one more thing.” Convincing Gabriel isn’t so hard, but as with Oleg’s father they need to give him something in return to convince the Centre and that is the promise of Paige coming into the family business. It doesn’t sit well and yet they agree nonetheless.

Paige has proven herself pretty adept with spy like qualities as she comes up with a convincing lie when Stan asks where her parents are and even though she is spiraling she manages to keep a lid on her emotions. Gabriel tries to warn them of the forever fear they will feel sharing pre-war tales of terror, but their decision has been made and there is nothing more for them to do but go home and be with their kids.The Americans 4.04 bowlingEpcot might be off the menu, but bowling isn’t and I can’t tell you how wonderful it is seeing them enjoying family time with no ulterior motive or nefarious plan on the go. Elizabeth it turns out is a killer bowler and even makes a joke in a Russian accent that it was part of their training. This is so unexpected and delightful that it is clear something very horrible is going to happen if we’re getting a moment of levity.

And horrible it is as Nina’s dream then death follows happy Jennings family time. Oh, show.The Americans 4.04 MarthaOne other person who is out on her own this week as a result of the Glanders affair is Martha and she doesn’t have any kind of back up when dealing with her dinner date with Agent Aderholt. The evening starts off badly as she zones out on everything he is saying and maybe the wine courage kicks in she goes into detail about her relationship with a married man. In fact a lot of what Martha says is accurate in that he is married and he wouldn’t leave his wife for her. She mentions how they’re not wearing wigs, which well one of them is no longer wearing a wig and that it is a simple set up.

The aspect of honesty and how they provide each other with comfort is half true and she sounds convinced and convincing with this tale. This makes it sadder because while I think Philip does care for Martha it is more out of a sense of responsibility than anything else and Martha is ignoring every other terrible thing about this marriage. After this date I think I might be shipping Martha and Agent Aderholt.

While Martha is at dinner, Stan sneaks around her apartment taking pictures and rifling through her things finding her gun and copy of the Karma Sutra. Luckily the wedding photo is no longer on display as Stan would surely clock it was Philip even in the wig. Will Martha’s married man quell Stan’s suspicions? Or is this another problem for Philip and Elizabeth to add to their growing list?

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.04 Nina dreamAnd I’m crying as Nina gets her Adriana from The Sopranos moment and we realize the end is nigh for Nina.The Americans 4.04 Elizabeth bowling The Americans 4.04 Philip bowlingBecause we all need these bowling pictures after that heartbreak. More Jennings having fun please.

Disguise of the Week

There were no disguises this week and is this the first wig free week for The Americans?

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.04 Elizabeth and PaigeAgain we need this shot of a happy Elizabeth and Paige. Plus Elizabeth’s sweater is giving me a lot of Felicity feelings and the cable knit is working like a charm (also one of the secrets costume designer Katie Irish told me about a couple of weeks ago).

Update! The Felicity sweater comparison from Season 1 “Boggled.”Felicity ep 4 more watchingI think we found a match.

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