Tag Archives: Dylan Baker

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 4.06 “The Rat” Review: Trust Me

21 Apr

Guilt can do funny things to a person and Philip has been feeling increasingly bad about all the terrible things he has done over the years starting with the moment he killed someone when he was 10 years old that we saw in the season 4 premiere of The Americans. More recent events have left their mark including what happened to assets like Anneliese who ended up broken and shoved into a suitcase to the random strangers who have ended up dead at their hands. Martha is the embodiment of everything terrible he has done with all the lying and violent acts committed and Philip’s ability to deal with the possibility that Martha has been compromised is soaked in the guilt of everything he has done for his country.

At the end of last week’s episode “Clark’s Place” we saw Martha alone in bed with Stan and Aderholt keeping watch outside while across town Elizabeth and Philip were letting off steam in an entirely different way. This was in part a reaction from Elizabeth to seeing (and maybe lip reading the “I love you”) Philip’s face after he called Martha and she was both acting out of jealousy, but also comfort and this was a way to take both their minds off everything that is going on right now. This diversion doesn’t last long and the episode opens with them in bed entangled in each other with the conversation quickly shifting from nipple size observations to the status of Martha. Elizabeth reassures Philip that nothing has changed since they fell into bed. The Americans 4.06 William and PhilipSoon everything will be very different as Philip’s increasingly twitchy feelings about whether Martha has been blown or not cause him to do something impulsive that could jeopardize everyone. Philip has in fact already been incredibly impulsive with Martha; when he removed his disguise and didn’t inform either Gabriel or Elizabeth that he had done such a thing. Now Philip has scooped Martha off the street rather than waiting for their Tuesday appointment time and we are in uncharted territory. Promises that all will be okay and the repeated trust assertions are all well and good, but there is very little to back up anything Philip is saying and his actions are getting increasingly desperate.

Here Philip is very much the married man having an affair making promises he knows are unlikely as a way to keep his mistress on side and once again The Americans takes a very unlikely spy problem and makes it relatable in a relationship sense.

The act of removing his Clark face is something he can’t quite put into words when Elizabeth confronts him and the mixture of hurt and betrayal is all over Elizabeth’s face when she turns up to the safe house and sees him as he is; now it probably feels like he is cheating on her. This is one hell of an awkward set up with Gabriel, Philip, Elizabeth and Martha all under one roof and I half expected we would see a contender for most fucked up dinner party with Philip, his two wives and his handler/dad substitute. Instead Philip insists that he stay because that makes most sense for keeping things on an even keel with Martha and Keri Russell delivers a mixture of sadness, confusion and acceptance at what Philip has done by taking off his Clark disguise. Luckily for Elizabeth she doesn’t have to hear what Gabriel does later.

One other striking thing Keri Russell does here is change her voice from her Jennifer tones to her regular Elizabeth voice when Martha realizes she isn’t really Clark’s sister. She is giving off reassuring Elizabeth and it sounds exactly the same as how she has been talking to Philip about Martha’s safety.The Americans 4.06 JenniferNot only has Philip shown his face, moved ahead with the extraction plan before they have a clear idea of what the FBI does or doesn’t know, but he has done the one thing he really shouldn’t and that is reveal who they work for. My reaction to Philip uttering “KGB” caused a full out loud gasp and I still can’t believe he went so far as telling this truth. I am looking forward to seeing just how Elizabeth will react to this one especially considering what happens at the end of the episode. This is a betrayal of who they are not only as agents, but as husband and wife.

But first back to this sharing scene and it seems like Philip sheds another layer of his Clark persona every time he thinks he needs to give Martha something to convince her she can trust him; but the more he spills, the more he risks everything.

Philip feels responsible for Martha and now she is in a position of no return there is this extra element of culpability and it all started with the pen discovery and has spiraled since then. Blaming Gene was a good distraction, but that never quite sat well with Stan and so ultimately that was another needless death. Martha can’t go back to work or the way it was before now that she has called in sick because Stan and Aderholt keep on digging and keep finding things that could be suspicious. They now know Clark’s name and this whole web is unraveling at a quick speed. They have even put two and two together with Amador’s murder and how it might be connected to all of this, which it is. And somehow this is all happening by the mid-point of this season and I can’t get over how the writers can crank up the tension this much, this early. Everything teeters on the point of oblivion and Philip is getting closer to the edge with every move he makes.The Americans 4.06 PhilipLast week Philip told Elizabeth that it can all move so fast and he has become a self-fulfilling prophecy as he is the one who is making this happen. When he has no secrets left to share – Martha asks if he is involved with Jennifer and all he says is they have worked together for a long time, which is technically not a lie – things lead to a moment of comfort and an embrace. One thing leads to another and sex is a distraction tool once again; however this is more desperate and sad than the passionate release we saw between Philip and Elizabeth in “Clark’s Place.” And Gabriel has to listen to it all.

Something comes up, because it always does and this means Philip has to leave Martha with Gabriel. Philip has concerns with good reason about doing this and once again he doesn’t divulge to his handler exactly what he has done and a heads up here would be useful. He takes Martha’s gun, perhaps for her safety and also so she doesn’t have a weapon to use against Gabriel, but all this does when Martha wakes is freak her out and give her reason to flee when she sees Clark has gone. Gabriel’s assurance that she can trust him means absolutely nothing and she threatens him with a weapon far more dangerous than a gun; revealing who they really are. Philip, you fucked up bad. The Americans 4.06 Philip and MarthaMartha’s gun has been threatening to go off for two seasons now, but I am now getting a Chekhov’s Valium feeling with every time we see the bottle of pills. Martha has survived for this long and this is an impressive feat considering what a burden she now is to Philip’s mission; this is a much more interesting story to see how they back themselves out of what feels like an inescapable situation and the same goes for Pastor Tim. As with Nina it does seem like there is no way out and her time might be soon, but The Americans writers don’t do easy or obvious. I can’t see her on a ship to Moscow anytime soon and I wonder if instead she will flip and go back to the FBI. Or the Valium might come into play and if she is going to die then maybe it will be at her own hands.

We get to find out a little more about Martha’s backstory and why she was such an easy mark for Philip; she lives “a lonely existence” and with that Stan observation my heart broke a little more for Martha. It also turns out that she was engaged to her high school sweetheart and he broke up with her when she fell pregnant. Martha had an abortion at a time when it was dangerous (as it was illegal) and my heart breaks even more when I think about how much she wanted to foster a kid. If she does survive I wonder if there will be a pregnancy storyline down the road as she did have unprotected sex with Philip and if there is something Philip doesn’t need then that is a fourth child. The Americans 4.06 Martha wineWilliam is another person we find out a little more about this week; the partner he used to have was also a wife who got sent back home. Her name is/was Eliza and it is unclear whether she is alive or dead. I suspect the latter. All that is clear is William wishes he hadn’t kept quiet and had done something to stop it and the dream of Philip and William as BFFs is coming closer to fruition as William is very interested in asking Philip about his life. Although now I type that out I wonder if there is an ulterior motive at play because this is The Americans after all. Hopefully this suspicion is incorrect and I happy Philip and Elizabeth have both found people they can call friends this season. They sure need this kind of connection.

Using the hero line on William to inspire action gets a snarky response about how he will return in a coffin, but he comes through and things are back to being fraught when meeting with him as they no longer know when he is being surveilled. Hence the disguises and Hans with his binoculars. William and Philip chat like any co-workers who are annoyed at their bosses lack of awareness at what they actually do and William points out that the powers that be have no idea what they are doing. Everything is reactionary and it doesn’t matter how much any of these characters get reassured as the shit could hit the fan at any point. Martha is very much this in action.

Stan’s hunch is playing out and it is time to bring Gaad into the fold and he is in shock at this revelation as Martha has worked for the FBI for over 10 years. Later on he is still ruminating about this development and he questions how he didn’t see it; Stan might wonder the same when/if he finds out who Philip and Elizabeth really are. The Americans 4.06 StanPerformance wise this is another stellar week for all with Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright edging out in to MVP territory. There are a lot of different emotions swirling around and there is one moment where Philip’s entire body sags after he sees that Martha has a gun, which is pretty much the pure expression of mental and physical exhaustion at what is going on. The Americans doesn’t normally play within a time frame that is this tight, but it has only been 3 weeks since the wig removal and so much is stacking up in a small period for these characters. Alison Wright has been playing Martha as part defiant, part nervous wreck this season and walking the line between these two aspects is hard without coming across as hysterical, but she is doing just this and crushing my soul in the process.

The use of TV in Martha’s morning routine provided some fun historical timeline information including Princes Charles and Princess Diana’s trip to Australia and New Zealand with Prince William (Princess Diana would have been pregnant with Harry at the time, but this would not have been public knowledge at this early stage in the pregnancy). This is followed by a segment about three different women – single, divorced, widowed – and how all three are loving life; Martha switches the TV off just as the single woman mentions she has never felt the need to be married. Martha’s single life was definitely less fraught/complicated than the one she lives now and ultimately less lonely.

Expectations of a different kind are occurring in the Jennings house and Henry is not giving up on his Epcot quest and he even comes up with a new slogan of sorts – “EPCOT: Don’t Kill the Dream.” Pastor Tim might feel differently about this.

For now Henry should just be happy his parents are not in jail because if this Martha thing goes south then that will be where they are headed. The hunt for Martha from both sides will be on and while The Americans is too tense to be a good binge watch show, with this cliffhanger I really wish I had the next episode available now.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.06 Martha's gunThe lighting of this scene and the weight of this moment are both important and every single action Philip makes is causing everything to spiral further out of their control.The Americans 4.06 handsShots of hands are repeatedly used in “The Rat” and here Philip and Elizabeth’s bodies are tangled up together with Philip’s wedding band taking a prominent position in this moment of unity. Close ups of reassuring shoulder squeezes from Philip to Gabriel, Philip to Martha and Tatiana to Oleg are all significant in their affection, but this is the one that stands out in its intimacy.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 4.06 Elizabeth disguiseI did consider the return of Jennifer as she is one of my favorite Elizabeth disguises, but as we got a couple of new ones this week it made sense to give them a spin. First up Elizabeth rocking a slightly Felicity-esque curly hair look.The Americans 4.06 disguise close upA close up on the star earrings (which we have seen before) is necessary.

Meanwhile…The Americans 4.06 Philip disguisePhilip goes blonde again for William.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016

The Americans 4.06 ElizabethThere’s not a whole lot of options this week, but I do really like Elizabeth’s paisley dress as she cooks a dish that Young Hee showed her how to prepare as she tries to push down feelings of resentment as to where Philip is in this moment.

Behind the Insta-Scenes: Photos from the Set

12 Nov

Master of None was how I spent my weekend and there’s a whole bunch of photos from this show on this week’s TV Instagram round-up including one that hit me right in the feels. Plus plenty of other set shenanigans from shows like ElementaryJane the Virgin and the forthcoming Legends of Tomorrow.

 

Future excellent Good Wife guest star and excellent Lucca Quinn outfit ahoy.

 

The excellent Master of None is definitely a family affair with Aziz Ansari’s parents playing his parents on the show and his brother Aniz collaborated on the writing end. I am now in a post marathoning funk.

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My dad took off most of his vacation time for the year to act in Master of None. So I'm really relieved this all worked out. Tonight after we did Colbert together he said: "This is all fun and I liked acting in the show, but I really just did it so I could spend more time with you." I almost instantly collapsed into tears at the thought of how much this person cares about me and took care of me and gave me everything to give me the amazing life I have. I felt like a total piece of garbage for all the times I haven't visited my parents and told them I wanted to stay in New York cause I'd get bored in SC. I'm an incredibly lucky person and many of you are as well. Not to beat a dead horse here and sorry if this is cheesy or too sentimental but if your parents are good to you too, just go do something nice for them. I bet they care and love you more than you realize. I've been overwhelmed by the response to the Parents episode of our show. What's strange is doing that episode and working with my parents has increased the quality of my relationship to my parents IN MY REAL LIFE. In reality, I haven't always had the best, most open relationship with my parents because we are weirdly closed off emotionally sometimes. But we are getting better. And if you have something like that with your family – I urge you to work at it and get better because these are special people in your life and I get terrified when my dad tells me about friends of his, people close to his age, that are having serious health issues, etc. Enjoy and love these people while you can. Anyway, this show and my experiences with my parents while working on it have been very important in many ways and I thank for you the part you all have played in it.

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And now things are getting a little misty up in here.

 

I mentioned this a couple of days ago, but I really hope there is more Shannon in season 2 because Danielle Brooks killed it as Dev’s agent.

 

And you should definitely Treat Yo Self.

 

Mostly I just want an excuse to talk about how incredible Regina King is on The Leftovers this week (and every week) and the questionnaire scene with Carrie Coon is jaw-droppingly good. Powerhouse performances from both women and I am still thinking about it.

 

From page…

 

To screen.

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different faces same disguise #TheAmericans

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The cast of The Americans has just as much fun with the disguises as I do writing about them.

 

More from The Americans season 4 table reads and is that Dylan Baker I spy sitting there?

 

Scream Queens is pretty patchy; one person who has been consistently brilliant throughout is Glen Powell and he really can work a golf bro ensemble.

 

I want to see which character comes next in this chain. Maybe Andy Sachs.

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FIRESTORM rainstorm brainstorm #legends #bts

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Fake rain or real rain on Legends of Tomorrow? I will be very glad when this show starts because a) more Victor Garber on TV and b) Arrow and The Flash can go back to focusing on their own storylines rather than setting up the spinoff.

 

Elementary made a very welcome return last week and I am as happy as Lucy Liu and Aidan Quinn are delightful in this Jonny Lee Miller snapped shot.

 

I still need to watch last week’s episode and so I’m reading the look on Viola Davis’ face as one that is questioning my viewing choices.

Julie Hammerle

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