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Tag Archives: Holly Taylor

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

12 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Americans 6.02 “Tchaikovsky” Review: The Dark Parts

5 Apr

Elizabeth Jennings has a lot on her plate. Not only is she running all the operations alone, when she used to have a partner to share the load, but now she is also being taught how to draw. This is of course part of a very important operation, but Elizabeth could end up exploring a part of her psyche that could be enlightening. But only if she lets it.

Right now she doesn’t get why someone would dedicate their life to something she sees as unimportant, but being told to draw what’s dark is pretty much what she does every day. Her darkness isn’t the mug before her, but the life she lived for all of her adult life. Erica explains that drawing is about looking at what is light and dark, but Elizabeth has spent so long in the moral grey area her eye isn’t trained in this way.The world Elizabeth works in is far from black and white, no matter how much Reagan tried to paint the Soviets as the Evil Empire. A point that Elizabeth reinforces when Paige mentions some light reading she has been doing on the tactics of spies. Paige is still very much in the dark about some of the things her parents have done in the name of the cause; when she asks outright whether operatives use sex as tool to get information her mother lies. The truth would be devastating because as we saw from last week’s opening montage Elizabeth is still very much using this tactic. Not to mention the many men and women her parents have seduced in the name of Mother Russia including the one that ended up as a wife and the one that ended up in a suitcase.

Dancing around the subject Elizabeth explains that those close relationships with sources could turn into something else. This conversation also reinforces how cut off Elizabeth is from everyone else; there is no water cooler in the spy biz. Or at least not in the version Elizabeth lives.

Words like monster and evil have been applied to Elizabeth in the past, most notably in the incredible season three episode “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” when she forced an old lady to kill herself (I watched this episode again recently and Lois Smith is devastatingly good in her condemnation of Elizabeth’s justifications). Here she tells her daughter that things aren’t black and white, the world is complicated.But the weight of doing this alone is getting to Elizabeth. She lies back on Claudia’s couch talking to her as if this is therapy appointment—Matthew Rhys directed this episode and the intimacy of these moments is extraordinary—and when Paige comes in things switch from work chat to another Russian history lesson.

Elizabeth might scoff at artists, but she appreciates classical music. She took Paige to see The Nutcracker and Claudia explains that Tchaikovsky was all she could listen to after the war. It all sounds very melancholic to this classical music novice’s ear, but each woman seems to take something different from this moment. I really love what is going on with the three generations of women this season. These moments are really effective. We have come a long way since Elizabeth beat the shit out of Claudia; now Elizabeth is asking Claudia to continue with Paige if anything happens to her. This is a disturbing conversation when you think about her relationship with Philip because he has been entirely cut out of this huge part of this life.

Considering how many risks Elizabeth is taking that now seems more likely than ever. Whether it is switching out wigs/outfits within the State Department walls or wildly underestimating how much General Rennhull wants to help out the enemy. Formally a Colonel, who first appeared in the season one finale, “The Colonel” (btw I am so glad I rewatched all of The Americans before this final outing), Rennhull believed he was sharing intel for the greater good. It was to stop a crazy arms race that was more a sci-op than technology that would be possible in this period. But it spun out of control (as things do on this show) and he ended up killing someone to save his skin. It also shows that in this world, anyone can come back. No matter how long ago they were involved. It isn’t an easy life to escape no matter how much you try. Just ask Philip and Oleg.

Elizabeth uses this knowledge as leverage to get a lithium based radiation censor—for the Dead Hand—but what she doesn’t factor in is Rennhull’s state of mind. He would rather kill her than go to jail or betray his country again. The climatic moments in the park has Elizabeth using her kids as a way to stall, to get sympathy and after a brief tussle, Rennhull shoots himself covering Elizabeth’s face in his blood. It is quite the striking image, one that Paige sees as she runs over to make sure her mom is okay. Just another day at the spying office. Of course this isn’t the first time Paige has witness the aftermath of a violent act, but it isn’t getting any easier. And I don’t think Paige is ready for Disposing of a Body 101. After all, it was meant to be better for Paige in this line of work. Not the shit Elizabeth has been through. Getting a bloodier version of Dustin Hoffman in Straw Dogs vibe from this shot. Again, Matthew Rhys did an incredible job behind the camera as well as in front.

As Elizabeth juggles her care work (and art classes) where she offers her euthanasia services—while lying about how effective morphine can be—and the various other multi-wig requiring ops, Philip is having some money woes at the travel agency. Not so much life and death, but Philip is learning the price of expanding the business too much. Capitalism at its finest. A call to a very relaxed and happy sounding Henry has his son noting how forlorn his dad sounds—see Henry is perceptive. But with the Oleg thing hanging over his head it isn’t surprising to see that very familiar clenched jaw.In terms of Philip/Elizabeth interactions it follows the same pattern as last week, but without the fight at the end. She comes down for breakfast, which is a cigarette outside and later on they have a stilted conversation (also while she is smoking). She shares the vaguest of information with him about Paige; it is heartbreaking to see just how much she is keeping from him. This is worse than when they were screaming at each other about whether to tell Paige in season three. They are shells of themselves with each other and you can feel the ache emanating from them both. Philip’s different perspective is why they were so effective as a team, he took the time to think rather than act on a duty bound impulse. Without this Elizabeth ends up in a park at night with blood all over her face. Just how long will it be before he gets pulled back in? Her impulsiveness is a strength, but it can also be a near deadly weakness.

The Jennings aren’t experiencing marital strife per se, more like marital emptiness. Maybe they could do with the not so stellar marriage advice from Stan. Stan is mostly working homicide, but Sofia and Gennadi—the Russian couple from last season—are experiencing relationship woes that could impact a long running operation. Gennadi is a courier and we get to see his operation play out with another excellent music choice; “Slippery People” by Talking Heads. How to x-ray a diplomatic pouch while undetected is hard

And just like Philip, Stan seems reluctant to be drawn into his old life. But the return of Oleg certainly causes some interest.

The Felicity LinkFelicity could teach Elizabeth a lot about art. I don’t think Elizabeth would enjoy it very much. Felicity could also give Elizabeth some curly hair tips for her Stephanie wig.

Teens in ’80s Jeans The ’80s jeans continue to be amazing. Particularly the ones they give Holly Taylor and Keidrich Sellati to wear.

Fake Teeth

When I spoke to costume designer Katie Irish, one of the things she mentioned was the fake teeth that everyone loves, but rarely get used because the actors can’t really speak in them. Well, they made an appearance in “Tchaikovsky” in one of the many new Elizabeth disguises.

Smoking Cardigan UpdateElizabeth has more than one. We will continue to update the smoking cardigan collection as hey come. There’s a lot of walls between Philip and Elizabeth right now.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

30 Mar

A quieter week for “Out of the Box,” but a very good one for magazine content including gasp worthy covers and a reunion that warmed my soul. It was exactly what I needed to see on Wednesday when I was knee deep in work. So, thank you for that.

There are also ladysuits, animal print, kitties and some very good costume design. This is from last week at a FYC event (Emmy season is coming!), but I missed it and I can’t not include Cody Fern demonstrating that leopard print makes for a perfect button-down shirt choice. This is how you add sartorial flair to a black suit.

Fern plays David Madson on American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace and was a revelation. Here he looks nothing like his ACS character; the hair wave he is serving up is fantastic. Sound the ladysuit klaxon! At the A Series of Unfortunate Events season two premiere, Allison Williams gives great menswear in Gabriela Hearst.

Timeless continues to be the most fun and delightful show that also has me wanting to know more about the historical events they cover. This cast also continues to be the most fun and delightful as evidenced on Abigail Spencer’s Instagram.

The most recent episode, “Hollywoodland” paid homage to Queen Hedy Lamarr and also featured some stunning ’40s costumes. And the Timeless lipstick game is so strong right now. This Gucci jumpsuit has recently graced these pages, but it is definitely worth a second look on Holly Taylor. This is from Anna Silman’s profile of Taylor for The Cut and Silman is one of my favorite interviewers at the moment . In the piece they talk about Taylor’s background growing up in this industry and what she plans on doing next.

And for all things Americans season six as Paige falls further into the spy biz here is my review of the amazing premiere and my interview with costume designer Katie IrishGrown-ish star and TV Ate My Wardrobe fave gives great cover on Essence. And for Grown-ish style tips, here is where you find a lot of the costumes; this is a show that mixes aspirational and affordable. This made me gasp in the best way. It has been a very good week for Christina Aguilera including this Drag Race moment.

Paper continues to do very interesting things and this is beautiful (song title ref intended). But this isn’t an indictment on makeup because as Aguilera mentions in the interview “I mean, I’m a girl that likes a beat face, let’s not get it twisted.” We can do both.
Entertainment Weekly excels when it comes to WB reunions—first Felicity, then Buffy—and this Dawson’s Creek issue hits all those sweet nostalgia spots. It is always heartening when a cast comes back to celebrate the show that made them famous and they do this in spades.

There is a 55-minute reunion show which delivers on the feeeeeeelings and fun including Michelle Williams seeing the Crying Dawson meme for the first timeI yelled with joy about this on Twitter because there is nothing better than Michelle Williams opting for a cover with Busy Philipps over a solo shot. As Joanna Robinson put it “Let’s all enjoy the fact that Michelle Williams clearly has a Busy rider.” Yes this is now my lock screen image. Yes I am extra when it comes to this friendship.

The Americans 6.01 “Dead Hand” Review: “Everything is Divided Up”

29 Mar

Personal and political have been entwined on The Americans since the pilot; Philip has always been the more pragmatic, seeing the larger picture, whereas Elizabeth will do whatever her country asks of her. It is part of the reason why they are such a good match. There is balance. But it could also end up being their greatest downfall.

In season five this job began to take its toll on both husband and wife (now official); a decision was made to get out, to return home, but there is always something else.  After giving Tuan a speech about how he wouldn’t make it alone, Elizabeth decided it was best for Philip for him to get out. Too tired and beat down, Philip went from the “it’s us” emphasis to agreeing to this compromise. They’d stay and Elizabeth would carry on. Cut to the start of season six, which jumps from 1984 to October 1987 and the state of the Jennings marriage is fractured. The divide has happened on the home front and back in Mother Russia.

Photo credit FX/Patrick Harbron

Gorbachev has been in power for two years, but there is still a push/pull between the old and new way of thinking. The INF (Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces) Treaty is what is on the table in a forthcoming three-day summit in Washington DC between the old foes. This is why Elizabeth’s workload has gone up on the last few months, it is why she is running on coffee and cigarettes. “Dead Hand” opens with the kind of montage The Americans excels at; telling us everything we need to know about the state of Philip and Elizabeth’s marriage. Much like the last time there was a big time jump midway through season four it is set to an ’80s classic track, this time Crowded House’s “Don’t Dream It’s Over” sets the tone.

Philip has built the travel agency into something bigger; the new office is far more spacious, his office has a window where the blinds no longer have to be drawn. On the other end of the spectrum, Elizabeth has multiple operations going at once requiring a cavalcade of wigs. These operations range from care worker to honey trap. The latter hasn’t got any easier either as we see Elizabeth in the shower washing the skeeze off her, while wearing said wig. As the episode progresses we see Elizabeth looking more drawn, the lack of sleep is showing and she is serving up a level of weary face that became a Philip signature. They do say couples start to look alike.

Meanwhile, Philip physically looks lighter without the burden of being a spy. Sure his home life isn’t what it once was—there is an aching loneliness when Elizabeth arrives home in the opening montage and all they can muster are half smiles at each other—but he’s enjoying all the trappings of America without the weight of the double life. He gives great pep talks, has a sweet new car with all the modern extras (electric sunroof! portable radio! car phone!) and has found a reason put those cowboy boots he coveted in the pilot on. Yep, Philip is now a hands on boss and it is good to see recurring employees like Stavos has made the move.

Style shifts over the last three years has Philip switching to v-neck sweaters; his shirts are more fitted, his suits more boxy. He looks good. Meanwhile Elizabeth still has her arsenal of silk blouses, but she’s also invested in some outdoor smoking knits, what appears to be sweats and oversized sweaters. Elizabeth also has a pair of cowboy boots, but don’t expect to see her dancing anytime soon. These are for her trip to Mexico. A trip shrouded in secrecy and part of the big divide back home. It is where the “Dead Hand” of the episode title is explained and it sounds terrifying; tldr everyone dies regardless of who strikes first.

Here she acquires a new piece of jewelry with an extra; yep it has a cyanide tablet and if Elizabeth didn’t already have the weight of the world on her shoulders, she is now wearing death around her neck.

Speaking of necks and the first kill of the season is delivered in a swift moment after Paige encounters a beyond persistent dude. Elizabeth will do whatever it takes to protect her daughter. And this isn’t the first guy she has stabbed in the neck for her child. Ah yes, Paige is very much in the spy life as she is being trained to be part of Elizabeth’s team (they are not aware of the family connection) and partakes in a hangout at Claudia’s.This early scene establishes this has become a routine; three generations of women that look like family. Russian television is watched, stories of home are shared and Paige even gives a rundown of her politically leaning college classes. Any tension between Claudia and Elizabeth has gone, Elizabeth is happy to do whatever missions Claudia sends her on with minimal questions asked. Philip was the one that pushed back and without him here this resistance is no more.

Ah yes, that mission. The one that brings both Oleg and Philip back into the game. An old friend visits Oleg and home, I missed Arkady and I’m glad to see they found an organic reason to bring him back. Arkady is now Deputy Chief of Directorate S and he has a favor to ask Oleg. In this conversation we get a lot of exposition about what has happened to Oleg over the last three years, again it feels organic. Everyone knows what he did, but there was no real proof. Not that the lack of proof has stopped someone getting a bullet to the head, but Oleg’s connections saved him.

Now, like his father he works in the Ministry for Transportation. He’s happy, he has a fabulous beard, a wife (Elina, one of the blind dates) and a baby boy; why would he risk that? Well, Arkady knows what kind of guy he is and taps into the honorable side. The side that warned the Americans about biological weapons. Arkady thinks Oleg is the guy to get Philip to spy on his wife, he refers to Philip as being “different” and notes that he met him once.

Just like that Arkady brings back not one, but two agents. Because Philip can’t ignore the signal and his whole demeanor changes in an instant. Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman” kicks in just as Philip’s jaw clenches and everything Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell do with their faces and posture in this episode is everything I have been yelling at Emmy voters for years. They convey so much without saying a word.

Photo credit FX/Eric Liebowitz

The Philip/Oleg meeting is a coming together of these two worlds. Two worlds that are enmeshed and yet have always (well almost) been separate. Oleg knows the way to convince a very stubborn Philip, who keeps on insisting he is out of the game, is by emphasizing the risk he has taken. If Oleg gets caught he’s fucked, he has no diplomatic immunity and if he gets sent home he will be killed. Philip the ever loving husband notes Elizabeth is just doing her job, but Oleg sews the seeds of doubt about which side Elizabeth is on. Philip knows her well enough to get that she might be on the hard line side.

Over the course of this episode Philip and Elizabeth share three scenes; the first is wordless, the second is a stilted conversation with Elizabeth explaining why she can’t watch Henry play hockey and the third threatens to boil over. Since the whole sleeping with Irina thing, they’ve been pretty good at not keeping things from other. And it seems like Philip is going to tell her about Oleg, but Elizabeth’s lack of sleep causes her to lash out. She doesn’t want to talk and especially not to Philip. His concerns about her state of mind are warranted, but right now they are far from being on the same wavelength. Reagan is about to ask Gorbachev to tear down this wall and the one between the Jennings has never been higher.

At the Movies It is unlikely that Philip will be taking Elizabeth to see Wall Street when it comes out in December.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2018Paige’s jeans are a little too high-waisted and acid wash for my taste, but this jacket and striped shirt are right in my wheelhouse. A new haircut also gives Paige that college age feel.

Disguise I Want to See More OfElizabeth wears a lot of disguises in the season six premiere; the one we see the most is care worker Stephanie. Here she is trying to spy on Gilmore Girls Max Medina, or rather Scott Cohen as Glenn Haskard, an important person working in the State Department. Glenn’s wife Erica is an artist and it looks like she is going to tap into Elizabeth’s fractured psyche. And if you’re wondering about the real artist behind these pieces check out this interview with Alyssa Monks.

And I spoke to costume designer Katie Irish about season 6 here.

The Americans Final Season Trailer: “It’s On Us”

14 Mar

The Americans returns in two weeks (March 28) and a new trailer is dishing out end of Cold War anxiety. Philip all but quit the spy biz at the end of season five, but his wig wearing game is still strong.

There is a strong sense that things are not going to be okay for our fave spy couple because even Elizabeth looks rattled. In some movies and TV shows, smoking means a character is a bad guy, in The Americans it is a sign that Elizabeth is stressed. There are flickers of scenes shown in earlier trailers such as the aforementioned pensive smoking and a bloody Elizabeth, but here she looks panicked when in full disguise. Plus a chat with Claudia reveals what they are up against. It finally looks like things are swinging Stan’s way.

Matthew Rhys continues to be the king of expressing the erosion of Philip’s soul with a look of the eye. From sitting alone, enduring another awkward group dinner with Stan (this time with Aderholt) and explaining to Elizabeth that they are complicit in all of this. But with the appearance of Philip in a wig it is clear he is willing to do anything; maybe not for country, but for his family. Also his plaid shirt game has never been stronger.

And Paige has a decision to make about her future career; to spy or not to spy?

Plus new cute wigs including a look that made me think of Diane Keaton and a brief appearance from Max Medina.

The Americans returns for its sixth and final season Wednesday, March 28.

Out of the Box: Look of the Week

12 Jan

Last week felt like a busy “Out of the Box,” then the Golden Globes and so many other events took place. Coverage of the very different Golden Globes can be found across three posts including the activists that attended and why it is important to credit designers. Being a feminist and caring about fashion are two concepts that don’t have to exist separately.

Post Globes parties, other awards, premieres and looks from TCA panels are featured. For the Critics’ Choice awards—which were held last night—there will be a rundown post soon. Busy Philipps is usually Michelle Williams’ award show date. But after discussing using her place of privilege in respect to what has been going on in Hollywood in her Harper’s Bazaar interview, Williams came up with the idea of bringing activists as guests. Williams was accompanied by Tarana Burke, the woman who created #MeToo over a decade ago and seven other A-list actresses followed suit.

Don’t even get me started on the shit Marky Mark pulled with regard to the reshoots.

Later in the night the pair did hangout, Busy’s Stories included the ridiculous question a paparazzi dude asked Michelle “What’s next for women?” But if Busy did decide to put this Q on a tee or sweatshirt and donate the money to #TimesUp I would be first in line.

Blurry mirror selfie with my bb.

A post shared by Busy Philipps (@busyphilipps) on

Black iridescent Jeffrey Dodd looks great on Busy, but I am also very much a fan of their day after outfits. This is such a fun spin on the ladysuit by Sonequa Martin-Green; cropped/high-waisted Vitor Zerbinato suit with high ruffled collar Elisabetta Franchi shirt. The latter is making me feel like my Alienist as a style influence prediction isn’t totally off.Amy Brenneman looks cool af at the HBO Golden Globes after party and I am still mad Leftovers got no love. I never thought I would be this enamored with a sheer turtleneck, but holy wow is Tessa Thompson working another fabulous twist on menswear inspiration in Alexandre Vauthier.

And after calling out Lena Dunham for doing the most Lena Dunham thing, Thompson got embroiled in an apology/not apology news cycle. She handled it well and with eloquence, even though her first statement didn’t need explaining or walking back as it sounded pretty accurate. But, Hollywood. Or as Ira would say, “Keep It” (check out his new podcast, which is also great).Including this photo mostly because of how great Gaten Matarazzo and Joe Keery are together in season 2 of Stranger Things. Also because I just remembered Keery was in Molly’s Game. His hair was just as impressive. Gillian Anderson got a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame this week. Her new shorter, blonder do has been getting quite the workout this week, much to my delight. This silver number by Sophia Kah is my favorite of the three dresses she has worn this week. The specs with the glitz are excellent and X-Files co-star Annabeth Gish is also crushing the style stakes.

Oh, and this week’s episode of The X-Files was incredible, especially in comparison with last week’s mythology mess. So many fun Mulder and Scully scenes. Their chemistry is still off the charts and enough to make me feel like I am fourteen again. Lots of giggling.  There’s been a lot of dressed up Greta Gerwig this week, but here she is at a SAG-AFTRA Foundation Conversation event in a super cozy sweater just to mix it up.

After Lady Bird won at the Golden Globes, Gerwig was asked about her position on Woody Allen as someone that has worked with him in the past. She fumbled with a non-answer; it was disappointing even if I could recognize that it was once again a woman being asked to justify another man’s abuse. But, she did follow up with a response that is far more definitive on her position and also acknowledges why it is important to speak up.At the 2018 Film Society Of Lincoln Center & Film Comment luncheon, Greta Gerwig got daytime dressed up in this fabulous pop of floral color. Get Out’s Lil Rel Howery took the suit/turtleneck pairing to new levels in this amazing color combination. At the National Board of Review Awards, Gal Gadot wears an Elie Saab dress that is reminiscent of her blue frock from Wonder Woman. Minus the giant sword of course.The Black Panther press tour is approaching and I am so ready. Lupita Nyong’o looks in command of a space ship in a sparkly Balmain ensemble.I finished Maureen Orth’s Vulgar Favors this week, the book the new American Crime Story is based on so my anticipation levels for the show are now even higher. Penelope Cruz gives Versace-adjacent vibes in velvet custom Stella McCartney.Queen Judith Light has been cast in the perfect part for her and she lights up the red carpet as always.As far as I can tell, Anna Chancellor is not in American Crime Story, but I wish she was. But I do love this patterned frock and ankle boots combo even if it looks more Sundance attire.

This is also a good time to mention how much I miss The Hour. If any show deserves another season it is this one.TCA is still going, but it is the FX panels from last Friday that I am mostly interested in. Including Edgar Ramirez wearing a lovely sweater while discussing American Crime Story. I would love to know what Darren Criss is reacting to. The last TCA panel for The Americans and Keri Russell brought out the polka dot pussy-bow blouse big guns. I’m still in denial that it is ending. And their TV family was rather well coordinated, all getting the black/grey/white memo. I mentioned this on Twitter, but Keidrich Sellati looks like he should be hanging out with the Stranger Things teens in star collared Givenchy. Holly Taylor’s long jacket/legs out is the perfect spin on panel attire and I am still super impressed with how The Americans broke the teens in a prestige drama curse.Atlanta returns for season 2 in March and I am so ready. At the TCA panel Zazie Beetz brought all the floral ensemble glory, while Donald Glover and Brain Tyree Henry worked the more casual versions of their red carpet style.At yesterday’s HBO session, Phoebe Robinson and Jessica Williams were there to discuss 2 Dope Queens. And Phoebe is offering up another fun take on the ladysuit including a faux fur sash. I am very much looking forward to these specials.

The Americans 5.13 “The Soviet Division” Review: It’s Us

31 May

There are a couple of threads running through season five of The Americans that culminate in some big decision moments; first the idea of staying together and this applies to partnerships and the family unit as a whole. The other is the impact on the teenage characters of which this show has a number of extending way beyond just Paige and Henry.

In fact both of these threads have been important for some time now and back toward the end of season 3 I wrote about how teen girls rule the world on The Americans (they just don’t know it), but this has now been extended to several boy teens. Boy teens are typically ignored or just sit and wave (oh hey Chris Brody) on prestige dramas so this is going against the norm in making them integral.Let’s start with the scariest boy teen there is and if Elizabeth is trying to make Paige in her own image, well there’s already a spy version who is even more committed to the cause than even she is. Tuan is terrifying because like a lot of teens he has strong opinions and he’s also super impulsive. Yes his plan worked, but Pasha did almost die and they can’t ever know whether he would’ve survived if Philip hadn’t stomped over there.

He sees weakness in Philip and Elizabeth and he has the perfect one-liners to throw at them including their “certain petty [or petit] bourgeois concerns.” Those concerns on this occasion being whether a teenage boy is going to live or die. Not whether to get McDonald’s for dinner.Tuan admits his own weakness in his report and also points to Philip and Elizabeth’s failings, ‘failings’ which can be attributed to their experience and the fact that a) they have been working on multiple operations and b) they work as a pair. So despite Philip’s potentially rash choice to break protocol and head over to Pasha’s house while a CIA agent is posted outside, Elizabeth is by his side in an instant.

Early in the episode as they discuss Tuan, Philip notes how young he is and Elizabeth wishes she could take him with them back to the Soviet Union. Elizabeth sees a lot of herself in him and despite his hard exterior she knows that he needs someone. When she has her one-on-one chat with him after he has attempted to ream them out – the side eye Elizabeth gives is magnificent – Elizabeth points to his weakness.

Telling him he will fail if he stays by himself is a very on theme message for this episode and season as a whole. After all they were very young when they started this dangerous life and they have always had each other, even when they weren’t together together.I keep coming back to the conversation at the end of “Lotus 1-2-3” and the unifying statement Philip makes telling Elizabeth he can’t let her take over the whole thing because “It’s us,” but ultimately the point they come to by the end of the finale is that this is the path they are going to take. Kimmy’s dad has been promoted and he’s going to be the head of the Soviet Division.

This is the spy jackpot and everything they have been working towards; Philip considers getting rid of the tape and whether it is duty to country or knowing that he can’t lie to Elizabeth he refrains from doing this. I suspect it is more the latter and the ‘normal’ life they have been dreaming of disappears as soon as he tells her about the tape’s contents.

Family is important to Elizabeth and yet she is a soldier for her country first and there is no way she can leave now they have this goldmine opportunity. But hey this means Henry can go to boarding school now. Elizabeth understands why Philip yelled at their son in the same way she totally got it when he tore out the pages of Paige’s Bible; it is a culmination of so many things and fun dad is not always fun. Especially when he is slowly being ripped apart from all the shit they have to do.This brings me to another theme of the episode with Elizabeth’s reasoning as to why moving back home will be great “All of us together without all of this shit on our backs” and Stan telling Renee that he is “tired of feeling shitty.” They’re all at a crossroads and the parallels are hard to ignore; different sides, but the same awful side psychological side effects. They all have to manipulate and put other people’s lives on the line. People have got hurt and worse along the way and it is getting too much to handle.

Stan’s situation is also running concurrent to Oleg’s (who sadly does not appear in the finale) and they are both good agents trying to do the right thing. This is something Renee emphasizes to Stan as a reason why he should keep doing what he is doing and she is definitely a spy, right? Or the writers are throwing up another red herring.

Either way there is no confirmation about her status, but Philip remains suspicious and also has times for jokes pondering what it would be like if they ever had kids quipping that Paige thinks she has it bad.It is good that despite his soul being shattered into pieces, Philip can still see the dark humor in their dark situation but the pipe dream of getting away and living a happy life in Russia as a family is over by the end of this finale.

Also this fantasy of a happy life together back home is of course a fantasy because there is no way that Henry (and even Paige) would react well to this massive change. And it is not just their kids who would find it hard and as Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” plays we see Elizabeth looking at her wardrobe full of clothes and kitchen appliances. Their petty bourgeois concerns.

In fact this relates to a scene from season 2 after Philip bought the Camaro and he asked Elizabeth if there was anything that she liked about this life. She denied it at the time, but her wistful glances at her beautiful shoes tells another story. It would be a massive lifestyle shift for all and even when they’re talking about planning a European vacation as their cover there is an end of The Graduate like moment where they both look a little unsure about the course they have set for themselves.Ultimately this is all irrelevant by the end of the episode because they’re staying put and when Philip apologizes to his daughter about not having the normal things like a dog or a regular boyfriend across the street, it is because he already knows what his wife will say when he tells her about the tape. It is a heartbreaking scene for a number of reasons as he slowly welcomes his fate. There is no escaping this life.

Paige is embracing certain aspects and like Tuan she’s a risk taker; parking her car in the same place where she saw her mother spring into full on defense mode and this feels like a test. A test to see if she can defend herself or at least confront her fears about getting attacked. It is also pretty dumb. Later on she takes a smack to the mouth from her mother and she’s still got ways to go before she is as tough as her teacher. Although she takes it pretty well, this is very Elizabeth Jennings of her.Because Philip and Elizabeth lost their father’s at an early age, they both know what a loss like this can do and they are on the same side when it comes to this notion of keeping a family together. This is why they both fight for ensuring Alexei returns to Moscow with his wife and son. He’s too scared despite Tatiana’s earlier assurances and it looks like he will be staying behind. Part of their attempts at reversing his choice comes from guilt feelings at the things they have done – see Young Hee – and because they are tired of ruining so many lives. Philip’s concerns are impacting Elizabeth in this way.

One person who has seen positive growth since the spy world unknowingly entered her life is Kimmy and Philip as Jim emphasizes how much she has changed for the better when he reveals he is moving to Japan. Guessing Jim’s job is going to fall through now and if Elizabeth gets her way this will be the only operation Philip will be running from now on. The fact that Kimmy looked like she was going to get out of this whole mess better off, only to unknowingly become a bigger part of their scheme is pretty depressing. Can she remain unscathed? And will her friend ever get to Japan? Oleg and Mischa Jr. are absent this week, but there is one Russia thread that managed to shine a ray of light and not only is Martha’s Russian coming on, but they’re also making sure she isn’t alone as they’re giving her a super cute (or adorable) orphan girl. This feels like a good thing and after all it was what Martha wanted with Clark, but there’s also part of me wondering if there is something more insidious at play because intentions are rarely pure on this show.

So what about that big conversation at the end? In true Americans tradition the conversation itself is rather sedate and a quiet end to a mostly quiet and meditative season. If season 1 ended with Elizabeth telling Philip to come home in their native tongue then in this moment she is setting him free. It is still proclamation of “It’s us” but in telling Philip she will go it alone from now on she is doing her duty to both country and her marriage. Plus he’s still going to be some pretty important work (as well as running the travel agency) and if he can look a little less sad in season 6 well then that will be a victory for Elizabeth.

This being The Americans it is probably not going to be as simple as that and while this year has seen a less explosive season than one might expect for the penultimate outing getting to the point where Philip is bowing out while Elizabeth stays in is pretty huge. Especially as they’re doing it together. “It’s us.”

When Not to Make Jokes“My fellow Americans, I am pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” This is from the news item Paige is watching (and Henry is oblivious to, because of course) and it also gives us a date in time around when this episode is set; August 11, 1984.

This shot is also an appropriate time to once again to give a shout out to the production design department for the Jennings family photos.

The Return of My Favorite Philip TopStill on the hunt for a retro Dunlop tee and Philip is once again taunting me with this perfect version.

 

Until next year and the final 10 episodes of The Americans. It has been a pleasure!

The Americans 5.12 “The World Council of Churches” Review: What’s In a Name?

24 May

Lines between make believe and reality are intrinsically blurred on The Americans because Philip and Elizabeth’s cover lives are so entwined with who they are and were that it’s impossible to separate the two at this point.Small acts of defiance such as getting married in secret, in a ceremony that used their original names is important to the series as a whole, not because it’s going to bring down the Berlin Wall or end the Cold War, but because it gives Philip and Elizabeth something that is actually theirs. Mikahil and Nadezhda are now really married and it doesn’t matter that their American marriage certificate isn’t legit. And now they have got from that point of brief contentment (because crowns and okay, commitment) to wanting to go home.

But it’s not as easy as that and while Claudia is surprisingly receptive to the idea, it’s their kids inherent Americanness that is ultimately going to be the issue. Maybe this is why Claudia is so receptive; she knows they have other things to consider and the journey home is long. Also, Philip continues his pattern of never sitting down at these meetings.Names come up on countless occasions; first when Paige asks about how they came by Jennings. They explain that Philip Jennings was a real person (as was Elizabeth’s maiden name) and the KGB take the names of real (and now deceased) people to strengthen their covers. This was how they cracked the Clark code and realized Martha’s husband was KGB. Philip admits that he misses his old name and there is a wistful tone when he says this. Wistful because this is the first time home has felt this close. 

But it is far from easy. They can talk all they want about what names they will go by when they return to Russia and the Jennings marriage has never been stronger – remember “it’s us” – but they are living in a fantasy land if they think that Paige and Henry will be fine with any of this. Sure Paige is adjusting to life as a junior spy and soon the weight of Pastor Tim (and the cross around her neck) will be gone, but she’s going to be just as alienated there as Pasha is in America. And Henry. Well Henry is another story as he’s got his hopes set on an entirely different dream. Seeing first hand what has happened to Pasha and the lengths Tuan is willing to go to when it comes to completing their mission is chilling. He’s just a teen in a Marty McFly like gilet and rotating pop culture tees (this week featuring Knightrider), but he might also be the most ruthless of them all. He’s the king of manipulation including convincing Pasha to slit his wrists as a way to get back home. He told him how to avoid the artery, but there is no guarantee. And this is why Philip (dressed as Brad) storms out of the house in a bid to stop this plan.

It doesn’t matter that this might jeopardize the entire op, because Philip has had enough of this shit and his parent brain kicks in. And when she catches up with him, Elizabeth is there to grab him by the hand and be all in this together. It’s all in their vows. Plus she’s got to make this surprise visit look more natural than it currently is.
With one episode left to go this season it looks like breaking point has well and truly been hit. And it’s only going to get worse.

Note – this week’s review is much shorter because I am traveling. Will be back to the usual essay length for the finale next week. 

The Americans 5.10 “Darkroom” Review: Heavy Wears the Crown

10 May

Manipulation is one of the biggest weapons a spy has and to get someone to do exactly what you want without them even realizing it is an important skill to master. On The Americans we have seen different levels and techniques; pretty much every episode is a demonstration in how to assert some level of control over a situation to get the outcome they want.

At the start of “Darkroom” Tuan explains how he got the new group he’s hanging out with to put dog shit on Pasha’s locker and that he did it without them even realizing it. This comes just after Elizabeth has praised Tuan for how good he is at this work. A point of subtle manipulation in itself as this encouragement is to make him feel better after he strayed from the path last week by telling him he is special and she admires him.

In a way it is like a parent praising their child mirroring their cover story and Elizabeth also wants to maintain the good work he has been doing through positive reinforcement. One thing Elizabeth doesn’t do is bullshit him into thinking this life is going to get easier and she doesn’t go for the “it gets better” speechifying that she delivers to Evgheniya about Pasha. Instead she tells him that it won’t get easier, but he can be great at it. Plus they didn’t report him so he doesn’t have to be concerned about that aspect.

Calling something manipulation makes it sound calculated and underhand, which it quite often is on The Americans and yet there are times when certain things are done to protect. One such case is the potential path for Pastor Tim as it has become clear that his presence is doing more damage.

They never made it to EPCOT – The Americans version of the farm – and there is also the matter of the tape that Alice made when he went missing in Africa. It isn’t a simple case of sweeping him under the rug by a well timed car accident or faulty piece of electrical equipment at home. They know they would lose Paige forever if they went this route and we all know that Philip has had enough of killing.But something has to be done as Paige’s is teetering closer to the edge and finding entries in Pastor Tim’s diary about being worried about Paige’s soul is doing nothing to help their situation. This is a burden they don’t want to place on their daughter and while they have ops that run for years it doesn’t mean Paige should endure this challenge. The solution here is to get him sent far away and make it look like this job opportunity has nothing to do with them. And yet the damage might already be done by Pastor Tim’s private thoughts and what Philip and Elizabeth have put Paige through.

Pastor Tim was the reason why Paige asked the big questions in the first place and it is hard to see how even with all of their skills they could have avoided getting to this place. They can keep repeating to Paige all they want that Pastor Tim doesn’t know her and even if this is the case it doesn’t stop the weight of the words he has written down niggling away.

Paige takes a page (boom) out of her parents spy book and takes photos of his diary to help with picking what country to send him to, but also to show exactly what he has written about them. It isn’t a good look for the Jennings family as he questions whether they are monsters and suggests their actions are worse than the sexual abuse and affairs he has been witness to.This is a lot to take in under the red light of the makeshift darkroom, as the family develops these pictures together and Philip has already been having a hard time reconciling everything he has done and this includes the idea of bringing Paige into all of this. He has been reluctant from the off and Gabriel’s parting words further reinforced his fears. Elizabeth has always been the more optimistic and this mirrors how they both feel about the cause; Philip is far more pragmatic whereas she is the true believer.

Reactions are wordless in this scene and in a way it feels like that moment when the hero detective stumbles upon a serial killers murder wall. But instead they are finding out that they are the real villains of the piece.

Let’s not forget that Pastor Tim has seen Philip at his lowest ebb and scariest. This was a glimpse into the broken man Philip was in “Martial Eagle” after another innocent lost his life and this was before Pastor Tim even knew who the Jennings really were.  These comments in his diary use spiritual language and even though they are atheist and scoff at his protection from God, these words don’t have to be connected to religion.

Philip through EST is exploring aspects of himself and particularly his past that were buried and the principles are similar even if the methods and language is different. Even Elizabeth works through things while in disguise using real experiences to sell the fake one and while it never goes particularly deep she is still using it to help process emotions.Truth is the thing at stake and while Philip runs it intercuts with his EST meeting; we are all machines and we are mechanically programmed to respond to stimulus. Enlightenment is knowing truth. Pastor Tim is concerned that because of how big the deception was that Paige will never be able to trust anyone again and he actually has a point.

Earlier on in this episode, Philip and Elizabeth explain their loophole about this secret and lie as they only did it to protect their family. A family that only exists as part of their spy cover; it is something I keep returning to but there is no way to extrapolate one from the other and this is where real and fake merge on The Americans as the Jennings do not exist without the KGB.How do they make it real then?

Let’s go back to season one and a conversation between Philip and Elizabeth dressed as Clark and Jennifer in “The Oath.” This takes place just after Clark and Martha just got married and at this point Philip and Elizabeth are still separated with Elizabeth showing some early rare emotion:

“It was touching. No, it was. I didn’t expect it to be. You and I were never really married”
“No”
“It’s funny, I know they’re just words people say. Do you think things would’ve been different between us if we would have said them?”
“I don’t know”

A lot has happened since then and the cracks in Elizabeth’s super cool exterior have been slowly forming since and what better way to reinforce what is real than making it so. So much of their lives is performative and their relationship for a long time was part of this.

This hasn’t been the case for some time now and they are in a stronger place than ever before and this big romantic gesture by Philip does a couple of things; it solidifies what they already have and things are not going to get any easier for them professionally. In fact it looks like it is just going to get harder. It also gives them something real to hold onto as this ceremony is done in their native language and using their real names bringing in Gabriel’s Russian Orthodox priest contact.

Plus they get to wear crowns and boy do they look good in them. Philip and Elizabeth for Game of Thrones, please. Also a good place to tip my hat to Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys as it is not often they get to play this level of contentment and happiness. It is a moment to breathe for both them and the audience – even though the pit of dread is never far away – and it is an incredibly tender scene. The whole thing is performed in Russian and despite the presence of religion, which Philip apologizes for, it is actually perfect. This ceremony provides a connection to their home and past while cementing their relationship in the present. It is a renewed commitment to each other before everything else.

Later they must return to their ‘real’ lives and their actual wedding bands get locked away in the laundry room cupboard of things from home. Ah yes the same room where Pastor Tim’s words are going to get burned into their brains.

Because there is also still Topeka and tai chi as the plant they got needs years of research. When Claudia tells them they have to continue working their honey traps they don’t say no with their words, but their body language speaks volumes about how unhappy they are at this prospect. Another reason to remind each other that it is this united front that matters.

Protecting family isn’t just a Philip/Elizabeth concern and it is what they are using to try and push Evgheniya back to Russia. Elizabeth tells her to fight for her family and as with the wrecking of Young Hee’s marriage (*sob*) last year it is extremely unpleasant (to put it mildly) what Pasha is being put through. For everything they are doing to their own daughter, psychologically they have destroyed so many people in ways that go beyond just killing. The trail of destruction is long all in the name of this Cold War. Just look at the dinner table scenario with Oleg; they have a lot to work through and instead no one is saying a word.After their double date – yes I want to see karaoke with these guys – Elizabeth asks Philip why he is so bothered by the notion that Renee might be one of them. For Philip it is a simple answer; he doesn’t want Stan to be like Martha. I think when Stan finds out the truth about their real identities it is going to be far more devastating but I appreciate his efforts to shield his friend.

To send Henry away to boarding school would be getting him as far away from any fallout and Paige fights her brother’s corner by suggesting it isn’t too late for him. She says that Henry is different and he knows what he wants; she’s right as well and I wonder if Pastor Tim’s words no matter how much they try to ignore them will have an impact on this decision. Sometimes protecting someone means sending them away.What “Darkroom” managed to do was somehow magnify the sense of infinite dread, but in a different way than before; this wasn’t about how broken Philip’s soul is and instead Paige becomes the focus again. Now she is stress cleaning and while this is better than stress sleeping in her closet it is far from good. It is also a nice callback to when Elizabeth made her clean the kitchen floor in the middle of the night. This time Elizabeth is highly concerned about this late night activity.

Philip and Elizabeth are already bound by vows made to their country and by making their marriage real at this late stage in the game it puts another point in the column for choosing family over ideology if push comes to shove. We already know Philip would defect in a heartbeat if Elizabeth was to say yes and while the motherland is why they fight it is becoming increasingly clear that all might not be as it seems. And by making their union real on every level it strengthens them in ways the KGB never can.

Fabulous ’80s Knitwear 

There’s a lot of great vintage sweaters on The Americans and this one reminds me of so many from my mother’s closet.

Retro Sportswear AppreciationYou know I am always down for period specific sportswear. Philip’s polyester zip up is no exception.

The Americans 5.07 “The Committee on Human Rights” Review: History Repeating

19 Apr

History has a habit of repeating and while the players/scenarios might change there are certain elements that remain the same. Gabriel’s departure on The Americans gives Philip the opportunity to ask questions he might normally let simmer, festering away in a mind that has been taught to compartmentalize. There is only so much that can pushed deep and season 5 is dealing with the consequences of years of manipulation.

Paige has only recently been brought into the fold, but things are weighing just as heavy on her and while on the surface it appears that things are getting better the reality is quite the opposite. Is it too late to stop the spy cycle from continuing?Gabriel’s goodbyes to his surrogate children couldn’t be more different; from the physical interactions to the set up of these scenes and the overall tone. Mirroring his relationship with the pair and Philip has always pushed back, which is why his farewell includes a real sense of finality and less warmth. Those niggles are still there and Philip can’t help but poke some more. Gabriel notes that at least they are ending on something positive with the plant sample they secured in Mississippi, but Philip isn’t satisfied with leaving things here. Instead he asks what the mini-operation Elizabeth is doing and from which this episode gets its title. Elizabeth has been vague and it is unclear how much she actually knows and Gabriel is just as withholding.

Switching gears to Gabriel’s past and this is something they touched on last week when Philip found out about his father’s real line of work. There’s a sense of pretending that some of this stuff didn’t happen and Gabriel asks what Philip thought about the stuff they did before and after the war “I didn’t. I didn’t ask questions.” Without going into too many specifics Gabriel emphasizes just how bad it was and the number of people who died including those who had done nothing wrong. Parallels between how Gabriel and Philip see things are clear in this conversation and Philip is looking for a reason to justify for the terrible things they have also done.Bear hugs are not how this duo say goodbye and instead Philip pisses him off in the way he always pisses him off; by pushing too far. His follow up question is about Stan and unlike Elizabeth, Philip cares. As far as Gabriel knows she is not one of them, but the Centre might not have told him for this very reason. And if this goodbye was going badly already Gabriel ends it all with a humdinger of a mic drop telling Philip that he was right about not wanting Paige to be part of this. That’s one hell of an exit.

With Elizabeth things are far less contentious; he praises her for how she raised Paige to not think the world owes her happiness. The plant sample sits between them with a red bow on it like a gift – which it is – and when he describes Paige as having a big heart and not being a quitter that is really a combination of both her parents. As the light streams in from outside it matches the warm and tender tone with Elizabeth asking why he is really leaving.

In the past I think he would’ve mentioned Mischa, but now he knows Elizabeth would tell Philip straight away. They are no longer a couple who keep secrets from each other. She questions what they will do without him and he flips it back on her as he barely has anyone back home. What will he do without them? They clasp each others hands and this is a stark difference to his Philip conversation. He could always be more honest with him.Justifying their actions can at times be hard to do. Especially as innocent people get hurt and when Gabriel references a higher purpose as a way to reason with his conscience it reflects this current cycle of intelligence collecting.

Paige still thinks that they are trying to stop the US from poisoning their crops and it would be far too complicated to explain that they got things wrong and it is lot more complicated than that. It’s been quite the 180 for them to get their heads around because of the death of the lab worker and it is much easier for Paige to think that they are the very good guys in this scenario. When she mentions going to the press she gets shut down quite quickly, but Chekhov’s newspaper expose has been thrown into the mix.  Also Philip’s not exactly having the best time with Deirdre and she called out his neediness all the while he is waiting for an opportunity to ask about super-wheat. Ben’s also not quite the MPDB that he seemed and there’s another lady in his life other than the Elizabeth. There’s a flicker of satisfaction from Philip when he sees him stepping out with this mystery blonde and he’s not beneath a little jealousy.

Paige’s conversation with Gabriel has him waxing lyrical about the heroes they are and the lives they have saved; heroes don’t tend to like this moniker or being praised in this way and for Philip and Elizabeth it is a lot more complicated than that. The positioning at the table at Gabriel’s is also interesting as Elizabeth sits by Gabriel beaming while Philip looks a lot more conflicted next to his daughter. Elizabeth isn’t the staunch soldier she once was and there is conflict brewing there, but she is still very much more about country first and ask questions later. Propaganda in any war is vital and Philip quips that he feels like he is on one of the posters when they are out in the field getting their sample. Not with that wig you wouldn’t be, but it is the most wistful he has been for a while. Gabriel referring to them as heroes doesn’t sit well and yet if this crop works out then they will be just that. Many lives will be saved and yet that can’t erase the horrific things they have done.

The emotional toll is also significant and the weight Gabriel feels is reflected back in Philip. This is another acting showcase from all the major players and this also happens to be Matthew Rhys’ second time behind the camera on The Americans. Not quite the same big levels of drama or forehead vein of anger and like a lot of season 5 the story is a slow burn and yet the consequences feel just as high.

As they manage Paige they’re still ignoring their other child and I’m still convinced Henry is going to be their potential downfall or be a better candidate for spy training. Paige is like her father in that she feels too much; when Philip tells Elizabeth that it is okay to care about the sources she is working she emphatically shuts him down. Not for her it isn’t. Otherwise she might end up with another Young Hee. Matthew Rhys uses lamps and light from widows to good effect showing the stark difference between Gabriel’s farewells to Elizabeth and Philip. It might seem cruel leaving Philip with that humdinger of a statement and from the look on Philip’s face he is pretty aghast at being told he has been right all along. Especially after all the reassuring that has been going on.

In a way it is Gabriel’s gift in trying to stop the continued cycle of the kids bearing the burdens of their parents. But he surely could’ve wrapped this up in a less thorny bow. And this all comes after Philip and Elizabeth had a not so convincing conversation about how the Paige situation has shifted for the better. In fact it is a whole lot worse. What it has done is bring Paige closer to her parents. There are moments of familial intimacy that would’ve been out of the question last year including Elizabeth warmly putting Paige’s legs across her lap and Philip moving from a kneeling position to getting her to scooch over on her bed.

She broke up with Matthew in a fraught scene and while Philip and Elizabeth are privately pleased about this, they both give good sympathy conversations. But I wonder how happy they would be if they knew just how gut wrenching the break up conversation was. Elizabeth talks about her own experiences (with Gregory I presume) and Philip reassures her that she will get used to this. This also gives Paige a chance to express how she always felt different and at least now she knows why. It is some of the better parenting they have done and yet they have also done this to her and they are more than complicit in her heartbreak.  Having honest conversations with parents occurs over the pond in Russia with Oleg and his bond with his mother is strong. He tells her about the CIA no-show and also discusses his brother; this closeness is not something he has with his father. Later on we see him getting his mother’s prison file and even though his story is separate from all things Jennings there are parallels. Again they are looking to the not talked about past to inform the present. A present that has far too many similarities to back then and those cannot be ignored.

Oleg doesn’t know Stan was behind the intervention and Stan finds out this week that his threats were taken seriously. His boss intervened in getting him reassigned thanks to his current operation, which has finally started providing some sense of results and the scene where he tells Renee everything without telling her anything is an impressive use of dialogue. It also once again does nothing to quell the theory Philip has suggested about her being KGB. Mail Robot also made a brief drive by in the FBI corridor. Good to see you again, old friend.Is this the last we’ve seen of Gabriel? It is hard to believe that Frank Langella won’t grace The Americans scenes again, but if this is the case then he has ended on a strong note and hopefully the Emmys will recognize his work. In terms of conflict if Philip and Elizabeth are back to dealing with Claudia this could prove to be rather difficult and therefore fun to watch.

She has far less patience for their bullshit and at the same time there is more likely to be some kind of push back particularly from Elizabeth. Claudia is not one for gifting stuffed toys or for their relationship dramas. They are far stronger as a unit now than when she was their handler last time and it will be interesting to see how she adapts to this change in dynamic. If Gabriel is very much like Philip then Claudia is the mirror of Elizabeth.

Book Club

Elizabeth did indeed get Paige some books to go with her copy of Marx and this is good collection of literature in understanding the whole history repeating notion I mentioned at the start. It also doesn’t look like Paige is returning this book to Pastor Tim anytime soon and she’s also questioning her faith. Not something he probably expected from this book lending sitch.

Fun Camera AnglesShooting through the wardrobe always makes me think of Halloween, but on this occasion Philip and Elizabeth are talking about his trip while he unpacks. Matthew Rhys makes use of familiar spaces from a different perspective.

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