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Tag Archives: Katie Irish

The Americans 5.04 “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” Review: Meet Cute

29 Mar

It has been a long time since Philip and Elizabeth had a new honey trap mission on The Americans and in “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” they both get to give their seduction skills a workout with varying results.

There is reluctance from both husband and wife when Gabriel gives them their objectives at the start of the episode and each comes up reasons as to why this is very bad timing; the travel to Kansas, how intense things are with Paige, their other ongoing operations. And while Gabriel has been accommodating in the past to their calls for space and time, this is not one of those occasions and it is full steam ahead.
Philip is particularly reluctant and his heart really doesn’t seem in the flirting game. He gives it a good go though and the gym has proven to be a great dating ground for others recently (see Stan and he’s already at the double date stage). Deirdre does give Gus Alexander his number, but is pretty non-committal when Philip rings to make a dinner date. There’s the work excuse as she seems pretty invested in her job, but there’s also the Philip factor of not being quite as effective as he tends to be in this arena.

Maybe he’s out of practice and his most recent new mark before Deirdre was Kimmy and he was even less enthusiastic about that one. Martha was long term and that started just prior to the new phase of the Jennings marriage where pretending turned into reality and the same goes for Annalise. Maybe Philip just doesn’t have it in him anymore

The marriage at the heart of the story is stronger than ever; they are on the same page when it comes to Paige (I’ll get my coat) and this is evident in how in sync they are with their similar reactions to Paige’s snooping at Pastor Tim’s. When talking about this new operation there is reinforcement from both about how reluctant they are. Philip jokes about how he might die of boredom with Deirdre (although this could also be good deflection if he strikes out) and Elizabeth brings Philip a gift from the plane. A drink that another guy bought her, but she made sure he knew who she would be giving it to.Philip waits up for Elizabeth to get back from Topeka and one thing the Americans does very well is use spaces throughout the home for these intimate moments. Even if the outside still looks like a looming house of horrors, inside it is nothing but warmth.

This is also where this show excels at the marriage aspects and despite the overall content of their conversation being very different from the average “How was your day?” back and forth this is very much a husband/wife chat. Along with the miniature bottle gift, Elizabeth tells Philip that her guy is “full of himself” and doesn’t go into much detail beyond the hiking date she has set up. Even without mentioning how hot he is (he is very hot, hello beard) Philip’s jaw clenches in a way that would suggest just how unhappy he is with this whole scenario. This is also time for my weekly praising of how good Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are at saying so much with just their faces.

Other than the hotel manager in season 3 it has been a long time since Elizabeth engaged in some extended extra-martial spy seduction shenanigans. The whole Don set up was faked and all of her other recent operations have been friendship based. Post-end of season 1 reconciliation the only other honey traps Elizabeth has been a part of were during season 2 and this is ground they haven’t had to cover while their marriage has been this strong. It clearly makes Philip jealous and his comments about her liking this new guy after she mentioned that he’s funny are met with a stern rebuttal and this previous scene from season 1 would work wonders here as a response.

Instead of getting angry she instead points to the big picture of the why they are doing this and how she actually feels about Ben. Those jokes are something she has to laugh all while he is trying to starve their country.

Earlier in the episode Philip quips “Think we’re going to get fired” and she points out to him that this isn’t funny (he knows) so the mention of Ben’s humorous qualities strikes a nerve that is already frayed. This is tension that hasn’t been felt since the Martha stuff came to a head mid last season and with all they are doing right now it isn’t surprising that emotions are high even if they are both experts in control.Elizabeth’s meet cute at the health food store is way more successful than Philip’s lukewarm gym attempt and Elizabeth plays the awkward clumsy girl to perfection. Not only does Ben get to show off his knowledge of all things health food, but he also gets to play the hero sweeping in to help with the dispenser she purposefully can’t quite figure out how to use. Elizabeth works the ego element well – all the while a store worker awkwardly sweeps up – and her look as Brenda might be my favorite yet. Yes even more so than Patty last season.

Brenda works in fashion selling women’s clothes and her look is more edgy than Patty’s. It’s all about the various blacks and this is Elizabeth’s first foray into acid wash denim territory; a hard look to pull off and of course Keri Russell does just that. The shorter black bob looks cute on her and the glasses are not quite the full ’80s covering half your face horror show that Philip’s guy is wearing (which I actually love).

After a fun hiking date, Elizabeth goes back to Ben’s and before things go too far she makes her excuses to leave; she has him on the hook and wanting more. There’s also a sense that she’s doing this not only for the mission, but because of the complicated emotions at play. Or maybe Elizabeth is just better at separating the work from her marriage, even if her marriage is intrinsically entwined with her work. In the same way Elizabeth felt insecure about Martha, Philip is leaning into this state and she shuts him down pretty effectively at the end of “What the Matter with Kansas?”Paige also gets let in on some of the aspects of this mission after she asks about their separate time away. Elizabeth is vague on details explaining that sometimes they have to work sources on their own. She asks about her cover name and profession and is rightly weirded out by the thought of her mom pretending to be someone else. If only she knew the whole story and then her mind would be really blown. In this sharing session Paige also reveals she found Pastor Tim’s diary while she was babysitting. Elizabeth is more concerned than proud as she points out that Paige could easily slip up and act different if she was even almost caught in the act. This is the same point Philip makes and there is worrying amount of cavalier attitude with Paige as she points out to her mother that she wasn’t there.

Not to completely shit on her achievement and Elizabeth does call her brave and smart for finding it; later she also raises the point that there might actually be something useful in the diary to use against Pastor Tim and Paige is very much her mother’s daughter. Blackmail is very much a central theme in the other major thread this week with Stan finally figuring out what he can use as leverage against the CIA and that’s public embarrassment. He threatens to go to the press about that time he gave Vlad a burger and then shot him in the back of the head, but is it too late? Aderholt gave him the idea after he mentioned a very successful operation in which blackmail was used and everyone came out a winner. This is not something that typically happens on The Americans and all’s well doesn’t tend to end well.Oleg is deep in his investigation and this one also uses weak spots to exploit for the so-called good of the country. He’s not really into this line of reasoning and he wants to find another way and this further reinforces the idea that he’s not that different from Stan. Except he thinks Stan has betrayed him and he tells his mother about his big dilemma.

So far we have only seen her as a weeping mess, but this week we get to see an entirely different side to Oleg’s mother. Unknown to him and before Oleg was born his mother was sent to a camp for five years. She explains that she survived by doing what she had to and now he should do the same.In other son news Henry is now really tall and delivering on teen sass. He’s pissed that his mom doesn’t put enough jam on his toast and instead of simply putting on more he throws it in the trash; a very significant point considering how much food or the lack of is at play this season. Henry is also in trouble at school and Elizabeth thinks his old friend Doug is actually code for a girlfriend. Just who is he on the phone to for hours? Meanwhile the other son makes his dangerous trip across the border and arrives at JFK. I figured Mischa’s travels would take a lot longer than that and the speed of his venture is welcome rather than dragging it out.

Philip goes for a beer with Alexei and is far more successful with him than his other mark. They talk about how everyone sees Alexei as a genius here as he’s giving them a lot of information about Russian infrastructure. Alexei notes how similar the two countries are in terms of land and yet how backward they are with their methods. This plays into the discussion in the motel room last week and there’s a push/pull at play between the very real things that are wrong with the corrupt system at home and loyalty to country.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017

I don’t think I can pull off acid wash, but I would definitely give this jacket and those glasses a go. A+ costume work from Katie Irish and her team. Looking forward to more Brenda.

Felicity Flashback

Halloween on Felicity was an early look at how good Keri Russell looks with a short bob.

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

15 Mar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017

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

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

The Americans 5.01 “Amber Waves” Review: Protect Yourself

8 Mar

Home is meant to be where you feel safe, but at the end of The Americans season 4 finale the Jennings house loomed like a visage from a horror movie as Paige was escorted home and told she couldn’t see Matthew Beeman anymore. Chris Long directed both that finale and this premiere episode so it is not to see a repetition of this foreboding shot and for Paige there is no escaping the night she saw her mother stab a guy in the throat in self defense.

Paige is having nightmares and there is something comforting about hanging out across the street while her parents are out working doing who knows what (we know). She might not get food with any good nutritional value at Stan’s, but it is the only place she can go where the scary images don’t follow.“Amber Waves” throws us back into stories long established such as the Paige problem; how do they manage what she knows without destroying her a piece at a time? There is also a new mission, loose ends from an old one to tie up and the matter of what is going on back home. Ah home, you can never really go back and Philip and Elizabeth are forever caught between two worlds. Forcibly smiling through dinner with a defector who spouts on about how much he hates the homeland puts them to their acting test and of course they pass with flying colors. The car ride home provides plenty of time to spew venom about his treacherous opinions and reflect on their past lives.

It is rare to hear Philip and Elizabeth talking about when they were Mischa and Nadezhda and as with previous conversations this one reveals just how hard things were in post-war Russia for both of them. There is also a sense of guilt, particularly from Elizabeth with regard to how much her mother sacrificed for her and it goes a long way to explain why she is so hardened to everything. But they also haven’t been home in a long time and they don’t know just how bad it has got; the post credits montage shows just this by juxtaposing the impressive American crops with the disaster that is taking place in the USSR. Followed by those long lines for food that looks inedible. Philip might remember a time when onion soup tasted just like hot water, but as we are reminded of in this episode the amount of food available to them is endless.


Food is plentiful and it isn’t like The Americans is suddenly remembering that their characters eat; food scenes have played a big part as well as an everyday part with Stan often popping over for dinner (as we can see from his cooking skills there is a reason why). Elizabeth often offers to cook eggs for Philip when he has had a shitty day and there was also that time I found out that tuna noodle casserole is a thing people ate. Oh the ’80s. There was also that time Elizabeth ate bacon after Paige had walked in to her parents’ bedroom at an unfortunate time and a variety of kitchen items were used to conceal Keri Russell’s IRL bump last season including crock pots, unpacking groceries, salad bowls and the refrigerator door. What I’m saying is they aren’t changing the amount of produce being consumed, but by focusing on the issue Russians are facing it puts this endless supply of food into focus.

Oleg is now back in Moscow; returning at his mother’s request as she is still deep in grief about the son she lost at war and his new role within the KGB is also about the food supply issues at hand. Bribery is a huge part of the problem and his new boss wants him to get to the very top of the matter, which might include some very powerful people who know his very powerful father. Oleg is quick to accept and his guilt about what happened to Nina has already led to him helping the FBI; when he sees just how corrupt the whole system is will this further push him toward Stan? Stan for his part is concerned about why Oleg has flown back home and whether he has been burned with regard to his part in the William.


Speaking of William as he makes a surprise appearance in “Amber Waves” and he gave me a reason to yell “What’s in the box?” at the screen, which I am always happy to do. Before this comes Gabriel telling Philip and Elizabeth about William’s fate; how he wished he could’ve given him the fantasy ending of returning home and having a family. Instead he died a painful death and after Elizabeth calls him a hero, Philip bitterly responds that maybe they can put him on a stamp.

This isn’t the end of their association with William and deadly pathogens as the last quarter of “Amber Waves” involves a whole lot of digging in a dialogue free sequence that involves the biggest team we have seen them work with. They break into Fort Detrick and dig a very deep hole to retrieve an important tissue supply from the now deceased William – oh hey Dylan Baker in a bag – and the exhausting nature of the task is shown in how long it takes. The team is so big because this mission is so arduous; digging in February is not easy and between the beanie hats (which I talk about at length here) and their visible breath this only adds to the extremes they are going to. At one point when Philip and Elizabeth are taking a break and sharing a flask it looks like a bleak picnic.


Everything looks like it is going according to plan, but as this is The Americans something goes wrong and Hans slips and falls into the hole landing on the open metal coffin cutting himself and exposing his blood to the Lassa virus. I was going to tweet how happy I was to see Hans again as he is now a vital part of their team and it is a good job that I didn’t. After a wordless exchange between Philip and Elizabeth – Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are incredible at saying so much to each other with just their eyes – Elizabeth pulls out her gun and shoots Hans in the back of the head. They then dispose of his body in the same metal box as William and that’s another death to add to their list of bad feelings. We have seen Elizabeth kill without hesitation in the past, but I think this one is going to take its toll. As we saw Philip grappling with the weight of their job in season 2 after a whole lot of collateral damage, Elizabeth could be headed in the same direction.

The fact their daughter now knows who they are and is continuing to ask questions about what they do could add to this burden of guilt. Elizabeth is also in full training spirit and while Philip is having no luck with detracting Paige from spending time with Matthew, Elizabeth is trying a different tactic. As they circle around the awkwardness of a sex chat, Elizabeth teaches Paige that she needs to know how to protect herself; spy training 101. The Esprit sweatshirt that made an appearance in the promo is worn by Paige in the premiere and it is fun seeing such a fashion touchstone moment like this (also for more costume details check out my interview with costume designer Katie Irish here).


Philip and Elizabeth also have a fake new son. Someone they spend more time with than their actual one (poor Henry). Posing as a couple who are an airline pilot and flight attendant with an adopted Vietnamese son, Tuan (who is also an agent) this new mission is all about crops. Whereas biological weapons and the insidious nature of threatening a population with a disease was at the heart of season 4, food and stopping the supply of it is the weapon of choice this year. At the heart of it is always family and protecting that unit at all costs.

Speaking of family as Philip’s son has made his way out of Russia on the first part of his journey to meet his father. Much like the biological weapons last season that posed a threat throughout; there is also something unnerving about what Mischa’s trip to the U.S. is going to do for Philip and Elizabeth’s whole cover. He is the ticking time bomb headed their way and it’s not like they already have a lot on their spy and parental plate already.

As with the season finale this is a slow burn and it does what The Americans does best; somehow raising the stakes and tension levels to new heights. Setting up new stories, while threading the ones from the past and all while adding another layer to this intricate and complicated world. As we head into the almost final stretch with this penultimate season it looks like there is a still a lot of story to be told and I am excited to see how Philip and Elizabeth will handle the new and deep rooted challenges.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017


Henry got tall and he’s also wearing another ski like jacket that I am coveting hard. Elizabeth is still up their with her strong coat game and I’m glad to see a return to silk blouses and high waisted pants now there is no IRL bump to cover up. Also Philip’s still got the best dad sweaters in the business.

The Americans Season 5 Trailer: Gonna Need a Training Montage

8 Feb

The Americans returns for season 5 next month and somehow things look tenser than ever before. I don’t know how they manage this every year, but the threat levels look higher and also there is some training to be done.

After seeing her mother take out two dudes – including killing one of them – at the end of last season Paige has even more questions about what her parents do and she’s ready to help with the family business. This includes her relationship with Matthew Beeman in The Americans version of Romeo and Juliet and getting self-defense lessons from her mother.

The net continues to close in around Philip and Elizabeth and there is concern that their position is more precarious than ever. Here is the trailer and the ticking clock does a very good job of setting my frayed Americans nerves on fire. Great music timing with the punches too.

Prepare for the all new season of TV's most acclaimed drama. #TheAmericans returns March 7 on @fxnetworks.

A post shared by The Americans (@theamericansfx) on

 

And here is my breakdown of some notable moments.img_0460Henry is still excluded from all important family conversations for obvious reasons. Costume wise Elizabeth is back to silk blouses and not worrying about hiding Keri Russell’s IRL pregnancy. Philip still does dad sweaters better than anyone.img_0488Disguise cave! It is always fun to take a sneak look at their getting ready process and even more so when they’re discussion domestic issues. Philip has concerns with regards to Paige and I don’t blame him tbh.img_0489Maybe all Stan needs is some red string to connect the dots. Or the Carrie Mathison color coding method.img_0466Mischa Jr. is coming! His voyage to the US is far from first class with the trunk of a car providing the non-luxury conditions. I had to double check this wasn’t Matthew Rhys so good casting guys!img_0486Philip and Elizabeth tend to have their most intimate conversations in the bathroom (for anyone who has read my teen TV pieces they will know how happy this makes me) and Philip is also great at miming the clusterfuck they are now in.img_0490Getting every Buffy/Alias training montage vibe.img_0491If this was 2017 Paige would probably be wearing an Ivy Park hoodie. As it is 1984 she is in ESprit. And it is also worth noting her cross necklace is still on display.img_0492A very proud mama.img_0501Stan has very strong concerns about Oleg’s safety as he is still giving the FBI information and this is probably wrapped up in the fact that he already got one informant killed. Oleg looks every level stressed. img_0478This is a tad on the blurry side as this shot is very quick, but here are two new disguises. The last time Philip wore a hat like that it did not go wellimg_0494A gentle stroll in the park or really a difference in opinion about Philip and Elizabeth; Claudia thinks that nothing scares them, Gabriel believes the opposite.

Considering how broken they were at the midpoint last season I am definitely inclined to side with Gabriel on this one.img_0495They definitely just did something bad. Bonus points for the eerie mist and pensive stares.img_0496A brief look at the new flight themed disguises which debuted in Entertainment Weekly at the end of last year.img_0498And I am always thrilled to see Elizabeth in huge frames.

The Americans returns Tuesday, March 7 on FX.

 

Best of TV Costuming 2016: The Americans, Vulnerability and the Jennifer Disguise

14 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2016” costume series and rather than doing a straightforward countdown we’re going to do a variety of posts that look at which costumes and shows have made a huge impact this year. From items we want in our own wardrobe to pieces that got everyone talking; we want to celebrate the work of television’s best costume designers.

Kicking off with the show which would be top of my list (and has been for the last few years) and The Americans continues the impossible task of somehow getting even better each season and upping the stakes/tension levels. In previous end of year essays about this show we have discussed wigs, the marriage disguise and the act of removing and revealing the truth.

This year is a combination of all of those things as we take a closer look at costume designer Katie Irish’s work with a focus on Elizabeth Jennings, the Jennifer disguise and where we find her at the mid-point of season 4 in the episode “Travel Agents.” 

Performance wise it doesn’t get much better than what Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and Alison Wright are doing this season (and the ones before) and this episode showcases the best of this very complicated dynamic.

the-americans-4-07The implications of Philip removing his Clark cover in the penultimate episode of season 3 (discussed in detail here) are huge; for whom Philip and Elizabeth are as partners in both the professional and personal. By showing his real face he risks the identities they have crafted and lived over twenty years and this act could be read as one of betrayal. It doesn’t help matters that Elizabeth finds out what Philip did when she turns up at the safe house all dressed up as Jennifer (Clark’s sister) – lovely Jenny – and sees her husband without his disguise on.

What he did was an in the moment choice, but he could’ve at least given her a heads up rather than reveal it in this bombshell manner. Three weeks is a long time to be sitting on this secret and Philip’s sheepish reaction is very much their version of getting caught in the act.

Without Clark, Jennifer is nothing and it becomes apparent to Martha that their relationship is definitely not brother and sister; but the Jennifer disguise stays on because they can’t risk her face being seen by someone who has no love or loyalty toward her. It is a humiliating moment for Elizabeth and not just because the Jennifer cover isn’t entirely flattering.jennifer-the-americansAs the seasons have progressed Elizabeth’s tough exterior remains tough, but through falling in actual love with her arranged suitor she has become emotionally vulnerable and the Martha situation brings all these feelings of jealousy to the surface. This isn’t a conventional love triangle and the last time Elizabeth showed outward signs of Martha curiosity/envy was back in season 2 when Martha referred to Clark’s bedroom prowess (not a good conversation point with a sibling or as it turns out in this case his wife) and yet this is about more than just sex. They have both slept with so many other people as part of their job and this goes much deeper than that.

Sex does play a role and it is a form of communication when the words are hard to find or speak; Elizabeth does attempt to stamp her position as wife (and give them both a much needed release) and yet there is a nagging feeling that can’t be subdued.

The thing about the Jennifer look is that she is meant to be unassuming and like a lot of the spy costumes she is meant to be unmemorable. The glasses swap her face and her clothing is pretty ‘Plain Jane’ and she is very much the original Barb. These granny frames are all kinds of endearing, however there is no glamour here; which is in strong contrast to Elizabeth’s other main cover from this season as the super ’80s stylish Patty. The Americans 4.08 Young Hee and ElizabethAlso RIP to this look as Patty ‘killed herself’ and I am looking forward to whatever new creations costume designer Kate Irish comes up with for the forthcoming season (check out Irish’s Instagram for shots of her research and more BTS from The Americans).the-americans-4-07-travel-agentsSo not only does Elizabeth have to watch her de-wigged husband interact with this woman who he also calls his wife, but she has to do so all while dressed in a confidence crushing appearance (Keri Russell talks about the Jennifer disguise as part of 92Y Americans panel and explains that it is a “little rough” on her self-esteem).

Plus she gets questions like this from Martha “Are you sleeping with my husband?” and rather than go for an “Actually” truth response she takes the much easier road of lying to prevent a figurative gut punch. Quickly followed by a literal one.The Americans 4.07 ElizabethEmotional devastation comes in many forms over the course of this season and The Americans level of romance isn’t one coated in chocolates and flowers. However as a show about marriage it nails the ups and downs of romantic love with Elizabeth uncharacteristically laying out her fears for Philip to see, all while dressed as Clark’s sister Jenny. She is so exposed and it doesn’t matter that her mane of hair is stuffed in that wig (another amazing feat).

The glasses are removed because you don’t want to have a conversation like this with half your faced covered, but the wig and ill fitting pink coat remains (the coat and layers is pure Jennifer, but also act as an IRL bump concealer). Elizabeth poses a hypothetical question where she wonders if Philip would go with Martha if he could; she dreads he’ll say yes because he wants the easier life with a more emotionally available woman, but of course this couldn’t be further from how Philip actually feels and he responds with a hint of confused anger at such a thought.

So much gets said with a look and one of The Americans’ strengths is economy of words; this scene delivers on the complexities of this marriage, how hard it is to show this level of vulnerability and how you can be mad that the person you love could even consider such a thought. Ending with a passionate embrace as Elizabeth still clutches her glasses and the realization that he needs to stay cements what we already knew; these two are made for each other and there is no hypothetical situation Philip would be happy with that doesn’t involve his wife. The first one.The Americans 4.08 argumentIt is also fun viewing this scene in juxtaposition to the very honest marriage discussion (okay screaming match) in the following episode. Here Philip is reassuring his wife that this is the life he wants and she is the one he loves, cut to their big hallway blowout which brings up the names of betrayals and former lovers they haven’t forgotten. The Martha situation is a sticky one, but this has nothing on Gregory or Irina. No wigs or glasses present in this trip down romantic rival memory lane.

This episode directed by Matthew Rhys is the best of the season, but this scene in “Travel Agents” is the one which is the true standout for me; the fact that it involves Elizabeth dressed as Jennifer answering a question she won’t be able to take back and Philip is so emphatic with his answer underscores how good every level of The Americans is from the acting, writing, directing to the costuming and hair/makeup.

Watch the scene below and The Americans returns for season 5 next year and if I had to guess I’d say March again, but I’m sure we’ll find out the date next month during TCA.

For more essays on The Americans by me in other places from 2016 check out:

Big Coats, New Disguises: Secrets From ‘The Americans’ Costume Designer

Personality Crisis: How ‘The Americans’ and ‘Orphan Black’ Blur Identity

Born to Run: What TV Characters Reveal While Working Up a Sweat

‘The Americans’: Motherhood, the Motherland, and Elizabeth Jennings

How ‘The Americans’ Portrayal of Teenagers Puts Other Dramas to Shame

‘Stranger Things,’ ‘The Americans,’ and Why Cold War Fears Are Making a Comeback

Behind the Insta-Scenes: Photos from the Set

27 Oct

TV Instagram mourns those lost on The Walking Dead (spoilers ahead), celebrates a birthday on Game of Thrones, gets excited about A+ guest stars and has a whole lot of style on and off set.

A post shared by Lauren Cohan (@laurencohan) on

 

The biggest TV event this week was the season 7 premiere of The Walking Dead and even though I quit watching last year the first thing I checked after the episode aired was the identity of the departed. The Walking Dead is a show I generally keep up with just in case I ever want to go back and this is mostly through the Richonne tag on Tumblr.

My other favorite character is/was Glenn and this photo by Steven Yeun’s TV wife, Lauren Cohan is a heartbreaker. I am very excited to see what Yeun will be doing next.

@cudlitz

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Steven Yeun paid tribute to the other Negan victim from the TWD season premiere in a very cool atmospheric shot of Michael Cudlitz.

 

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend returned last week with a fantastic episode (and songs) and everything about this photo fills me with joy.

 

And in excellent Crazy Ex-Girlfriend casting news I offer you the above.

From Graeme Manson on Twitter: “If you go out in the woods today… #CloneClub #OrphanBlack”

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If I *had* to pick a favorite clone it would be Helena and I cannot wait to see more of her adventures in the woods with Donnie and Alison.

 

Paparazzi got some BIG photos this week while Game of Thrones was shooting (don’t click this link if you want to remain spoiler free – I have SO many costuming thoughts). This is not these photos and there is something very unnerving about Dora and SpongeBob hanging in Westeros.

🐈🐀🧀 #girlshalloween

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Get ready for an onslaught of Halloween celeb photos after this weekend, but meanwhile enjoy the SNL ladies and this fabulous sketch. While I’m on the subject of this holiday; check out my piece on teen TV classics, costumes and growing up.

My first solo billboard in New York and it's in the middle of Times Square!! Leaping with joy! #voiceofthecurves

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Everything about this is stunning.

 

I’m enjoying this season of The Last Man on Earth as much as I’m enjoying Will Forte’s drawn on eyebrows and Carol’s fabulous top. So that is a lot and it will be fun to see what the new location will bring.

 

Also high on the fun list is Timeless and it continues to capture the same feelings that early Sleepy Hollow gave me; the core cast is just as delightful.

3 die-hard Cub fans. Let's get 'em tonight. #flythew

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‘Tis the season for baseball and shooting Christmas episodes.

On set and Found this in my coat pocket….Season 1. The Bet. #Brooklyn99

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Brooklyn Nine-Nine blast from the past.

 

I still need to watch the I Love Dick pilot on Amazon, but knowing Phoebe Robinson is going to be in it when the full season lands makes me even more eager to do so.

 

Abbi Jacobson and Jon Glaser serving up very different interpretations of talk show style with Glaser opting for something from Jon Glaser Loves Gear. In non-shocking news, I am very excited about Abbi’s new book.

That was golden! @Elleusa Women In Hollywood #GlamShed #ELLEWIH

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Lupita not only stuns on the red carpet, but she also gifts us with a closer look at her Elle “Women in Hollywood” celebration ensemble.

 

Also from the Elle “Women in Hollywood” event is this perfectly understandable reaction to Lupita Nyong’o from Yara Shahidi.

Autumn

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Perfect fall style from Game of Thrones’ Carice van Houten.

A great example of the #soviet fashion of the early 1980s. Love the obvious 1940s influence!

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Americans costume designer Katie Irish gives another sneak peek into her fabulous research materials.

Found by @elisabethmossofficial and @goldiegoldberg in Toronto. That's some big love right there. #greetingcards

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The fact that this card was found by Elisabeth Moss makes it even better.

Behind the Insta-Scenes: Photos from the Set

13 Oct

As I have been away for a couple of weeks some of these Instagram highlights are from during that time period.

Now for some behind the scenes of how I choose which pictures I include; while I’m scrolling through I’ll screengrab the ones that catch my eye and because I wasn’t on the internet all that much while on honeymoon/during wedding prep this will be a lighter week, but a fun collection nonetheless featuring a lot of my favorite shows/people.

Next time everything will be back to regular transmission.

 

Our first proper night in New York was spent in the company of Gil and George (charmed, I’m sure) and as a huge fan of the “too much tuna” sketch on Kroll Show this stage production was everything I hoped it would be and more. Funny and so dark in places, that I was equal parts laughing and picking my jaw up off the floor.

From best of friends to tonight's Brd'way opening. We'll say it again, bozos: THIS IS NOT A PRAHNK. #OhHelloBroadway

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This fun photo collage of the evolution of this sketch is also a delight.

Blowing the lid off: Finally, the proof that @tatianamaslany is in actual fact a clone.

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There is still time for some 2016 Emmy coverage and this photo Tom Cullen posted of Tatiana Maslany links nicely into Orphan Black and my desire to get drinks and go dancing with them.

"This dork. Day 1. Season 5." 📸= @tatianamaslany on Twitter

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Speaking of Orphan Black and they are back on set for the fifth and final season. Helena is coming to play and this always makes me very happy.

Also it just occurred to me that a lot of shows I hold close to my heart are getting the chance to wrap up on their own terms (see also The AmericansHalt and Catch Fire and The Leftovers). Sure, it is a bummer they will be over soon(ish), but also such a relief they will get a proper ending to their story.

Westeros 2015

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Also on this list is Game of Thrones (although it was never in doubt that they would get to choose their end date unlike some of those shows listed above) and this is very fun flashback to 2015 from Carice van Houten.

 

Two more seasons of The Americans (*sob*) and day one of season five already has me excited for the skirt/boot combination Keri Russell is wearing (even in this is an out of focus shot).

 

To the woman who creates these Americans costumes surrounded by her work and this photo of costume designer Katie Irish is a stunner.

From @janiebryant Mad Men archives 💛

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And to a show that is over, but not in our hearts or January Jones’ Insta and these costume shots from Janie Bryant are always a welcome sight.

Today @nbctimeless premiers & I am so grateful to have been a small part of awesome show!! My character was a total transformation into another time period, from sleeping in hair pins, to stylized makeup, some awesome pants called jampers and I loved every moment of it!! It's the best part about what I do, stepping outside myself and becoming someone who is a whole different individual. Bringing her back to life from 1937 allowed me to learn more about the journey of women in this world! My inspiration was Margaret Bourke-White who as a woman had a lot of "firsts" on her resume.. Like being the FIRST FEMALE photographer on staff at LIFE magazine and featured on the cover! Make sure to tune in tonight..: and thanks #timelessteam for letting me be a part of your world!! #lovemyjob #luckygirl

A post shared by Shantel VanSanten (@therealshantel) on

 

Now for a closer look at the hair, makeup and costuming Shantel VanSanten wore on the Timeless premiere – a show that is tremendous amounts of fun from both a story and costume perspective – and I love the detail in her description here. Also so much lipstick coveting.

 

Constance Zimmer shared a piece of fan art that celebrates the many characters she has played on TV and it is wonderful.

 

No hot sauce required.

#1Spice shoot! #BTS #KitengeTakeover @QueenOfKatweMovie @yc_hab

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A couple of style highlights include Lupita Nyong’o on the Queen of Katwe press tour crushing it all over the place.

 

Followed by Jenny Slate going full vintage in this fabulous casual look.

JUUUUDIIIIITH LIIIIGHTTTTTTTT @elleusa @cateware 🐩

A post shared by abbi & ilana (@broadcity) on

 

Ending things this week with a couple of very important things from the Broad City Instagram including the best dog ever (Tom Hiddleston you look okay too).

Keri Russell's Jennifer disguise in The Americans got us feelin some type of way YOWWWW !

A post shared by abbi & ilana (@broadcity) on

 

As a Top 5 Americans disguise it feels right to finish this first “Behind the Insta-Scenes” post after being away with this joyous moment. Abbi and Ilana, I’m sure would agree.

The Americans 4.13 “Persona Non Grata” Review: Auspicious Beginnings

9 Jun

Home or the idea of returning back to Russia has been humming away in the background throughout season 4 of The Americans as the risks keeping stacking up and the chance of getting caught increases with every move. Gabriel tells Elizabeth and Philip that they have always been in danger and yet when they get this offer to return home they are both stunned into silence rather than action.

At the start of the year when Philip’s inner voice was telling him to “run, run, run” he knew this wasn’t an option because Elizabeth didn’t feel the same way and even with everything that is going on with William’s arrest, Pastor Tim and managing Paige there is still something holding them back. The Americans 4.13 Elizabeth and PhilipWe’ve found out a lot more this season about Philip and Elizabeth’s origin story; the places they grew up and the hardships they faced. Elizabeth tells Philip about her Smolensk chat with Paige and her wistful pondering about how much has changed. Philip is far less romantic about the state of home suggesting that it probably isn’t that much different from how they left it; despite this slight rebuttal it is a really nice moment between the pair as they contemplate their home that once was.

Everything about Russia in the present is an abstract to them and later on as they contemplate Gabriel’s offer they both struggle to picture their kids in the USSR, which is hardly surprising considering just how American they both are. Paige underscored a lot of the issues a couple of weeks ago when Russia was on the table with the language being a primary concern. Despite their loyalty to their country they are accustomed to this American way of life and the idea of moving is hard to fathom; what exactly will they do when they get home?The Americans 4.13 Paige and ElizabethPhilip and Elizabeth are not the only ones who the Motherland is calling back for one reason or another and they might end with Oleg and Arkady as seatmates. Oleg is choosing to return to his family because his mother is still in a bad way after the death of his brother and he is told twice in “Persona Non Grata” that he is a good son. First by Arkady, then by Tatiana. The pull of America has always been strong for Oleg and as with Philip there are certain pop culture and lifestyle aspects he is drawn to.

Unlike Philip, Oleg had a comfortable upbringing and lived in relative wealth but when he returns he will also have to find a position for himself in a place with fewer resources. Arkady’s reasons for departing are not his own and he is given 48-hours to leave thanks to what happened to Gaad. Even though there is no proof he had anything to do with the hotel room tragedy Gaad’s replacement still has the sway to get him kicked out. Perhaps we will see Oleg and Arkady working together from Russia next season. Here’s hoping as both characters are vital to the Russian portion of The Americans.The Americans 4.13 Oleg and TatianaThere is someone who will be making the trip from the Motherland to the United States as Philip’s other son Mischa is on the hunt for his American travel agent dad. We first meet Mischa locked up in an institution because he has been saying some anti-Soviet things about the war in Afghanistan; a war he fought in. Luckily for Mischa he has some powerful friends and his release is secured and he heads to his grandfather’s home.

Irina’s father has a low key looking Jason Bourne package of passports and money for him from his mother and it turns out Irina is also in prison. She ran, but they don’t know why. We learn that Mischa’s grandfather didn’t meet Philip, but he did see him with Irina once and they looked happy; this idea of auspicious beginnings runs throughout this Americans finale in a season which has been looking back and dealing with consequences.

EST has helped Philip explore his feelings about this line of work and it is worth noting that this season began with a vital moment in Philip’s journey; the explosive act of violence at the age of 10 that sent him down the path he is now on. The versions of his stories are of course edited and yet the feelings are still the same. So in the first one the bully moved away rather than “oh I killed him” and this week we see him telling the group about how much he hates his job as a travel agent, but can’t quit. The sentiment is still the same as he describes the ‘sick feeling’ in the pit of his stomach that he experiences every morning and how he has commitments and responsibilities to the people he loves. The Americans 4.13 Philip and ElizabethThe difference between most careers and the one line of work Philip has found himself in is how consuming it is; he isn’t just a KGB agent from 9-5 and this job is his entire life. It is why he married Elizabeth and had two children and his family and work are forever entwined. So while the EST coach suggests that he can quit, it is far from the simple “you ain’t that important.”

Philip also focuses on this idea of picking a job before you know who you are and while Elizabeth has remained steadfast and unquestioning of her commitment Philip has long been staring into the abyss. Gabriel notes his heart hasn’t been in it for a long time (while highlighting Elizabeth’s length of service as a way to get her to quit) and despite his reservations there is no way Philip is quitting without Elizabeth.The Americans 4.13Change and the way things can turn in an instant is something Philip has long been concerned with; when they were fighting about Paige getting pulled into this world Philip argued that something always changes and he doubles down on this sentiment here. Over the last four years we have tracked these changes with the most significant coming in the central relationship as they have fallen in love for real – or rather Elizabeth fell in love with Philip because he was already there – and the impact this has had on everything.

Their relationship is unique in this world which seems to drive everyone else into being alone; Gabriel discussed this last week with Philip and all season we have seen William watch Philip and Elizabeth with a mixture of wonder and envy. William ends up in the custody of the FBI, but before he is caught he infects himself with the Lassa virus sample that he was going to pass onto Philip. The KGB has no idea that William has sacrificed himself in this manner and the concern for the Jennings cover comes directly from William’s capture.The Americans 4.13 Stan and AderholtAs with Philip we get to hear about William’s changing opinion about the job he took on years ago; at first it was exciting and this commitment to something drove him. William also talks about being invisible and how special this made him feel at first, but his secret power became his curse.

It is a sad tale of a lonely life and this absence of closeness meant that all he had left was his commitment; this is why Gabriel knew to target this last week when he convinced him to do this one last job. The unnamed friendship William had with Philip is one he views as at a distance and that there was always a barrier between them.The Americans 4.13 WilliamLater as the oozing begins – Dylan Baker’s delivery of what will happen to him is a thing of wonder and I’m going to miss him – and William starts to slip he reveals the relationship he had long ago; that they were always fighting and how he wishes they could have been like them. In the vaguest of terms he talks about Philip and Elizabeth; “she’s pretty, he’s lucky” and how with their two kids they are living the American Dream. Will Stan equate this to the couple who have been on their radar since season 1?

For now they are safe from arrest as Elizabeth notes the lack of FBI cars when Stan finally comes home after days at work and all is as it was and yet this sleepy suburb is no longer the refuge it once was and their house looms like a warning as Philip marches Paige back home after finding out she has been smooching Matthew while Henry has been left to watch the Super Bowl by himself (making this January 22, 1984). Poor Henry.The Americans 4.13 StanIn a very awkward dad to dad moment Stan is kinda giddy about Matthew hooking up with Paige. Ew, Stan. But this shows the difference between a dad of a son and a daughter in this situation and also everything else that Philip knows so good job laughing off the father of the bride joke that Stan makes. Philip is angry at Paige because of just how complicated this whole situation is already as he forbids her from seeing Matthew. When she starts to sass back he simply tells her “you have no idea” and let’s just see what happens if he mentions the move to Russia considering the shit fit she threw last time.

Relationship wise beyond the one they have with each other Philip, Elizabeth and now to some extent Paige are likely to understand exactly what William means by the barrier he felt when he tried to reach out to people. Paige asks Elizabeth how long it was after she gave birth before she wanted people to come visit and she answers that she didn’t really have any friends. Bleak.

The same can be said for now and even the friend she made this season was built on a foundation of lies and torn down by deception. I’m still super bummed out about Young Hee. The same goes for Philip as Stan might be his BFF on the surface, but he is always holding back and withholding and he sure does not want Stan’s son to date his daughter. For reasons. Paige talks to Matthew about trust and this idea that parents are just people and here she is also unable to completely be herself. The same goes for when she held Pastor Tim and Alice’s baby as her smile soon shifted to sadness as the strains of Leonard Cohen’s “Who by Fire?” plays.The Americans 4.13 Paige and babyThe season ends not so much on a cliffhanger, but with this feeling that everything is somehow going to get harder. There is no vacation coming the Jennings way and even if they keep up appearances the net is closing in. Dealing with consequences both on a grand scale and the personal toll has made this season the best The Americans has done yet and with every move the knots in my stomach get even tighter; the following of William in tandem with Philip going to his drop location involved very little action, but it is sequences like that that elevate this from other spy shows.

Everything that has gone on in the core relationships this season including Paige’s evolution which has led to junior spy like actions – this week she also asks her mom for some self-defense lessons – has strengthened what was already incredible. Philip and Elizabeth continue to grow as a couple even when they disagree and it has been the emotional changes in Elizabeth that is the true standout for me this year. The bold moves with Martha and her devastating arc has been another high point in a season of highs.

Performances have been incredible across the board with Holly Taylor delivering wide eyed horror and confrontation in equal measure and Alison Wright giving off far than just Poor Martha as she took her fate with strength and resolve. Come Emmy nomination day I would love to hear both Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys’ names getting called out for the acting masterclass they have delivered on a weekly basis and there is so much they say even when there is no dialogue.

There are two more seasons to follow this one and it definitely feels like we are approaching the final act. And I cannot wait.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.13 Arkady Going for three shots this week; first up is Arkady contemplating his return home while looking up at the bust of Lenin.

Last week I mentioned how well the painting of Lenin is utilized in the Rezidentura for dramatic effect and I’m glad to see them playing on this theme with this different imposing version of Lenin.The Americans 4.13 Philip and Elizabeth bedroomMirroring the end of season 3, but Elizabeth is in the seated position and instead of contemplating a murder she has just committed as Philip did at that point they are instead weighing up their running options.

They are very much on the same page rather than at a distance with Ronald Reagan delivering a grand speech.The Americans 4.13 houseThis looks straight from a horror movie.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.13 Philip ESTA repeat of the Philip disguise which reminds me of my dad has led me to a non-disguise disguise with Philip wearing his travel agent hat and a giant name badge at EST. It was also fun hearing Elizabeth describe EST to Paige as she attempted to be non-judgmental (and failing) of her husband’s outlet.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.13 kitchen tableOne final shout out to the Coach trench Elizabeth has been sporting all season and the ultimate in the roll call of coats from this year. Also shout out to Keri Russell for wearing stiletto boots while this pregnant or any time really because while they look amazing this would be incredibly perilous if I was to wear them in any condition.

 

Thanks for joining me on this season 4 Americans adventure and I will be back to talk about the show later in the year.

The Americans 4.11 “Dinner for Seven” Review: No Control

26 May

An FBI Agent moving in across the street from a pair of deep cover KGB spies posing as Americans was one of the initial setups in The Americans pilot. That FBI Agent went from suspicious to best friend, dinnertime crasher and video provider (well he can’t give them to Nina anymore). Stan is having a sort of crisis at the moment relating to those he has killed (Vlad) and those friends who have been killed by the KGB (Amador, Gaad) or because of the KGB and the FBI combined (Nina). Plus there is the matter of his co-worker who turned out to be a spy and his non-existent personal life.

Everything is spinning out of control for all the major players on The Americans and because events can’t be fully predicted or sketched out there is a lot of doubt seeping through the cracks.The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth and PhilipTake Elizabeth and the Young Hee operation, which ultimately was the Don operation. When Elizabeth started out with Young Hee she commented that it felt different, but she had no idea of the strong emotional impact that would come. It could’ve been Lisa who she bonded with in this way or Elizabeth could have stayed completely neutral on the whole thing. Instead Young Hee has left her mark in a big way. There are several reasons for this including Elizabeth’s state of mind after finding out her mother had died and Young Hee filled a very big hole in Elizabeth’s life. Also Young Hee is several levels of charming and fun so it is hard not to want to be her BFF. I’m going to miss Ruthie Ann Miles, but I am not going to miss those teary phone calls about why Don is behaving so strangely. Every scene post fake hookup has been soul crushing and I can’t bear to see Don’s confused/sad face anymore.

Gabriel gave Elizabeth the chance to ask for another way into Level 4 and while Gabriel could have done this prior to her seducing and drugging Don, it didn’t really matter in the end as the Centre turned down this request. It is important for us to see Elizabeth contemplate her feelings in all of this even if she thinks they don’t matter as it shows her humanity. All goes to plan from Elizabeth telling Don she is pregnant to Philip and Gabriel (with their new asset) gaining access to Don’s office by pretending Patty has killed herself (RIP Patty and all those fabulous clothes) and they need money to pay for her funeral. Here’s the kicker as they don’t find the codes, but they have copied all his floppy disc files so hopefully something will turn up otherwise all of this emotional turmoil and family destruction would be for naught.The Americans 4.11 Pastor Tim*A quick production design note about the above shot because I want to point out once again how much of a family home this is right down to the photographs that are pinned onto the kitchen phone.

Even something as straightforward as planning dinner can meet an unexpected turn. When Alice asks Elizabeth if she makes a big spread like this every night Elizabeth says she tries to but it doesn’t always go according to plan. This is what the grilled cheese and Sloppy Joe nights are for; for when you feel so shit after a mission and you just can’t be bothered to cook. Elizabeth invites Pastor Tim and Alice over for dinner as a way to maintain the position of power they now have over this couple after Alice accused them last week of having something to do with Tim’s disappearance in Ethiopia. As Elizabeth later explains it works to their advantage because both Tim and Alice feel bad about accusing them and making them worry about their safety. Whether the tape exists or not (I suspect that Elizabeth suspects the latter) they’re not going to do anything about it yet because of their new advantage.

The dynamics have shifted in favor of the Jennings, but there is something that Elizabeth can’t quite shift in terms of her current feelings and there is something inviting about Pastor Tim’s counsel even though she does not believe in God. Three separate conversations all with the convenient excuse of picking Paige up has Elizabeth talking to Tim about some deep and meaningful things. You can chalk it up to working an asset and sometimes it is hard to tell what is real and what part is the spy talking, but there is definitely an element of trying to work through Elizabeth’s current crisis. Not a crisis of faith (toward her country) specifically, but a crisis in letting her emotions impact her ability to complete a mission. One of these conversations focuses on this idea of control or the lack of and that faith helps Tim in these moments; what does Elizabeth have as her version of this?The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth, Stan and HenryFamily is probably the nearest thing along with duty to country and in a later discussion she asks what he does when he has something on his mind that he can’t stop thinking about. Tim’s answer is prayer and not one for the Elizabeth Jennings playbook; Tim responds that none of these things matter and it is how we treat each other is all that is important.

Well that’s a whole lot of awkward because Elizabeth has done some very terrible things to a lot of people. Whereas Philip has found EST as a way of walking through his anguish at the very terrible things he has done, Elizabeth has yet to find her outlet, but I think her just talking about it is a big step.The Americans 4.11 Philip and StanBack to the serendipity of having a neighbor who is an FBI Agent and Stan is also feeling adrift much like his KGB pals. Stan tells Philip about Gaad’s murder and how he doesn’t buy the ‘robbery gone wrong’ theory and he suspects it was the Russians who did it. He doesn’t know why they would target him, but he is certain those ‘animals’ played a part. Philip’s face stays impassive throughout as it does at dinner when Stan’s occupation comes up with Henry enthusiastically telling Pastor Tim and Alice what Stan does – Tim questions the happenstance of this and Elizabeth points out that they lived there long before the Beemans – and Stan is at a low ebb. Philip for his part is concerned that by mentioning Gaad’s trip in one of his Stan reports he might have accidentally planted the seed of this operation and this is another example of a lack of control; Philip simply thought of it as a throwaway remark and Gaad wasn’t even supposed to end up dead. It was just bad luck.

Rather than go all in on the Oleg plan as I suspected Stan might he instead calls a meeting to tell him about the original plan to blackmail him using Nina or his brother. Stan has a lot of guilt with what happened to Nina and how he killed Vlad in retaliation to what happened to Chris Amador (another wrong place, wrong time death). This also goes a long way in showing how deep The Americans storytelling well is as names like Gregory, Irina and Chris are all important long after their last appearance on the show. Consequences stretch back and Stan is feeling the weight of the conscience that Gaad warned him about. The Americans 4.11 mail robotThere is what you would call a lucky break at the FBI and the return of Mail Robot both hanging out in the background as if on cue and in one of the Martha reports gives them a new lead. Aderholt notes a curious note as when Mail Robot was being repaired a 911 call was made from that building and a woman was found dead of ‘natural causes.’ Aderholt is rightly suspicious of this cause of death and this is another case of a past event coming back to the forefront.

Stan told Philip that he couldn’t tell him stories because they are classified, but he has far looser lips with his son Matthew who in turn told Paige some things last week. Paige tells Elizabeth about the spy secretary as they are walking back to the car in a notably sketchy and deserted looking neighborhood. In a bit of foreshadowing Elizabeth tells Paige that they will “do anything to keep this family together” and she doesn’t just mean with the Pastor Tim situation. As they approach the parking lot it is clear something is going to happen as very little of the episode remains and no amount of driving lesson talk can subdue the tension. What does happen is Paige gets to see who Elizabeth really is as a spy way beyond the ‘social action and making the world a better place’ party line; she gets front seats at the Elizabeth is a deadly and badass spy up show.The Americans 4.11 Paige and ElizabethYou can see Elizabeth assessing the situation straight away going for tempering with handing her wallet over so they can get away without having to resort to violence. Unfortunately one of the would be muggers makes a would be rapist suggestion and there is no way Elizabeth is letting that happen to her daughter so she pulls out some swift self-defense moves that turn deadly when one of the guys pulls a knife. Big mistake there buddy and the end results are what you would expect, except Paige did not expect this and has wide eyed horror all over her face. Now she’s getting a look at who her mom really is and I’m not sure Philip and Elizabeth will be able to talk their way out of this one. Time for Paige to step up once again and the question of trust will come into play once again. Also this is a good time to point you in the direction of my essay over at Collider where I discuss in detail the teenagers on The Americans and how this is one drama that gets this age demographic right.

Everything keeps on spinning and with just two more episodes left of this season there is a chance that some of this will come crashing down; in good news it was announced yesterday that The Americans has been renewed for two more seasons with the 10-episode sixth season as its last. While I am sad that my favorite show has an end date, I am also happy my favorite show has an end date and 23 more episodes to complete the story after this year. This means the writers can carefully plot the conclusion and there is nothing better than a show that can control its own destiny.

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth, Alice, Tim and PaigeStarting with one that made me laugh for a number of reasons; first of all because Stan made a very terrible ‘roast in the oven joke’ which everyone is politely reacting in good humor to. Second because of the biggest salad bowl in the world as an IRL pregnancy bump cover up, when Alice is holding a tiny bowl over the actresses’ fake but very large bump. There’s several references to pregnancy throughout with Patty pretending she is pregnant and it all gets a bit meta as we know Keri Russell is really pregnant. For those who listen to the Slate Americans podcast I am assuming this episode is the one they referenced a few weeks ago when pointing out that Keri Russell was still doing stunts this late in the game.The Americans 4.11 Philip and ElizabethAnd to the heartbreaking as Philip tells Elizabeth they didn’t find the Level 4 codes in Don’s office and she asks him whether he thinks Don will tell Patty. He doesn’t think so, but it is hard to really know. The Jennings bathroom mirror has been put to good use this season and this is another great shot of the pair.

Disguise of the Week The Americans 4.11 Philip and GabrielThis is a disguise we first saw way back in season 1:

 The slightly rough around the edges blonde hair/glasses dude is making a reappearance as Patty’s brother. Also along for the ride is Gabriel as Patty’s father and new recruit Kathy Geiss (she doesn’t have a character name yet so I’m going with her 30 Rock name).

The Elizabeth Jennings Coat Parade The Americans 4.11 Elizabeth coat 1It’s winter so it makes sense that Elizabeth is wearing a lot of coats and there is a secondary reason for this garment particularly in the second half of the season to cover up Keri Russell’s bump and like myself Elizabeth is a woman of many coats. All of which I would probably wear in 2016.The Americans 4.11 PattyThe saddest coat of them all and this Patty stuff is such a heartbreaker that I’m gonna leave it there.The Americans 4.11 Elizabth purple coatThis purple number is one Elizabeth has worn for quite a few seasons now and I am always fond of a bit of wardrobe repeating.The Americans 4.11 Coach coatAnd to the coat of the season and the tan Coach trench which I am coveting hardest of all.

The Americans 4.10 “Munchkins” Review: How To Earn Someone’s Trust

19 May

It was at this point on The Americans last year when Paige found out the truth about who her parents really are, but it has taken this amount of time for Paige to finally feel like she can trust them again and they have Pastor Tim to thank for this. Trust is a fundamental part of a spy’s job; getting someone to open up to extract the information needed without looking like that is all they are after and there are many ways of achieving this.

Building up relationships is important and sex is one method. The other is friendship and as we have seen with both Philip and Elizabeth they have to really commit to make a convincing agent. With Paige they have used some of the same somewhat emotionally manipulative techniques to try and get her on side, but faking it with feelings is much harder when it is your own daughter.The Americans 4.10 Elizabeth, Philip, PaigeOne of the points of entry and really one of the reasons why Paige initially started to question everything was the lack of extended family. Taking her to Germany to see Elizabeth’s mother was meant to bring them together; instead it caused her to spiral further and confess to Pastor Tim about their Russian nationality. Paige didn’t think she could convincingly lie and yet we have seen her gradually get much better at faking her way through things. Elizabeth going all tough parent on her a few weeks ago certainly helped underscore exactly what is at stake and the disappearance of Pastor Tim coupled with the suggestion of having to leave if things did go south have further cemented this notion.

In terms of parenting Elizabeth is the tougher of the two and has been since the pilot episode; her relationship to her own mother is something I discussed in detail over at Collider and it provides the foundation for everything Elizabeth feels about duty to country. With Philip, details about his childhood have been sparse with the odd comment about icicles and the fully fleshed out version of his milk story that we saw at the start of this season. In “Munchkins” we finally get to hear about Philip’s relationship with his parents after Paige asks whether his mom was a good cook. We find out that like Elizabeth’s mother, Philip’s was also tough and so was his dad. This is not unusual for post-war Russia and Philip explains it wasn’t about what you liked; instead hard work and protecting your family was what mattered. Both are values Philip and Elizabeth adhere to now. The Americans 4.10 Philip kitchenThis bonding session is much like last week’s Philip and Paige scenes; intercut with Elizabeth and her soul crushing Young Hee operation. It goes a long way to explaining exactly why they do the terrible things they do and a word like ‘tough’ could easily be assigned to Elizabeth when thinking about what kind of mother she is. Philip mentions his dad was often tired and this again could describe his state when returning home from work at all hours of the day.

It is pretty magical seeing how Philip’s face lights up when he thinks about his childhood and this in stark contrast to his other most recent memory from his past; Paige’s curiosity opens up this part of him that has been sealed off for over twenty years. These father/daughter moments are lovely and the chemistry between Holly Taylor and Matthew Rhys gives off these nurturing warm and fuzzy feelings. Philip was the one who appealed to Paige last season based on their family history with photos from her childhood and his relationship with his daughter is much warmer than Elizabeth’s is.The Americans 4.10 Young HeeWithout the KGB the Jennings family would not exist because Philip and Elizabeth are only together because of this assignment. Paige and Henry are part of their cover as Americans, but unlike a lot of the relationships they fake their way through the bonds here are very real. “Feelings matter” as Gabriel later tells Elizabeth and this certainly became the case when they committed to each other at the start of season 1. Now these feelings are seeping into every crack like a warm and gooey poison. Elizabeth is no longer the stone cold agent and this is most likely not down to one thing, but an accumulation of everything that has taken place over the last four seasons.

There is nothing fake about Young Hee and her family; they are loud and love each other very much. Elizabeth is about to destroy all of this. If the seduction scene was hard enough to watch last week, well then this family dinner with a super awkward Don is even more excruciating as he can barely look at Patty. It gets even worse when Elizabeth listens to Young Hee’s tear filled phone message and her instance at completing this mission only wavers when Gabriel pushes her.The Americans 4.10 kitchenDiscussions between children and parents or about children and parents run throughout the episode and as the father figure in her life Gabriel holds a lot of sway. He has changed his handler tactics and instead of admonishing or simply pushing her to complete the mission he offers the chance of a way out. There are no guarantees, but they can always ask. Elizabeth pauses for what feels like an age as she contemplates this suggestion and you know there is a big part of her that feels like a failure for letting her feelings get in the way; her feelings don’t or shouldn’t matter. But they do and Gabriel now has a much better read on who his agents are and how to work with them. It is a really touching scene and watching Elizabeth peel away her cold exterior continues to be one of the highlights of this season. Insert my weekly Keri Russell is amazing comment here. Same with Matthew Rhys.

The core parent/children conversations take place between Philip, Elizabeth and Paige over three scenes. First comes Alice’s surprise arrival after family dinner and before her bombshell we see they are now at a place where they can joke about getting Paige to mop the kitchen floor. The news that Pastor Tim has disappeared in a country which is a Soviet client state does not go down well and Alice has a whole contingency plan if anything happens. Paige also questions her parents and doesn’t think she can believe anything they say on the matter and storms out of the kitchen once again mirroring that big reveal from last season. In a hilarious moment Philip waits a beat and then ponders whether they did have anything to do with it.The Americans 4.10 AliceElizabeth has zero time for this line of thought pointing out that they would have been told if a plan like this was going ahead. It would also be incredibly sloppy if this is how the Centre decide to deal with the Pastor Tim problem months after the Epcot aborted plan. Paige doesn’t know anything about that though and so this version seems plausible.

Later on when Paige returns from seeing Alice a tense conversation in the kitchen is peppered by the sound of Henry banging a tennis ball against the garage door, which adds an unsettling tone to proceedings. It is pretty funny that both Paige and Elizabeth make the same ‘break the garage door’ comment independent of each other; like mother, like daughter. This is where Paige gets to act like her most teen as she flips out when she finds out that a move to Russia will be on the cards if things go south. Paige tells them that everything they say is crazy and then lands a blow asking them who they are going to lie to and kidnap? This might be a good moment to sing the praises of Holly Taylor who shows the conflict Paige is feeling in numerous ways including wide eyed confusion, anger and fear at what might happen to both Tim and her family.The Americans 4.10 Elizabeth and PhilipWhen Pastor Tim shows up unhurt – they ran out of petrol and got lost, way to go Tim – Paige realizes her parents have been telling the truth all along. Well about this anyway. Getting to a place of trust is hard and sometimes it needs something big like this to earn it. Closing ranks is important and Elizabeth explains that “the one thing dad and I have is we tell each other the truth.” The one time Philip didn’t was when he slept with Irina and as the blowup argument proved a few weeks ago this is still a deep burn. But other than that they are golden and now Paige is also part of this. They can’t tell her everything, but they promise not to lie to her. This is what Philip did with Martha too and that definitely made her more willing to go along with things like the Moscow move. Martha did not have a shit fit like Paige threw.

What they also find out is Paige is starting to think like them as she explains the reason why she didn’t ask for the tape straight away was to make sure Alicia knew that she cared about Tim being found and not just to save her parents. There is now an immense amount of trust between Alice and Paige; their plan is working. The girl who didn’t think she could lie is now becoming quite the little spy.The Americans 4.10 Paige and MatthewWithout even knowing it Paige has also gathered some vital information from Matthew as he tells her that Stan has been opening up a lot more about his work at the FBI. My first thought when he told her about the Martha stuff was for her to run and tell her parents, but at this point Paige doesn’t know the goldmine she has stumbled upon. This conversation is also important for another reason as Matthew is the other side of the Paige coin; Matthew wasn’t privy to Stan’s work life and had a strained relationship. Now Stan is being more open with him things are a lot better. I also love that Paige used to be super nervous around Matthew as she had a crush on him. Now she has so much other shit going on these nerves have gone and she isn’t concerned with looking super cool going so far as asking him for a lift and taking him into her church. They can be like the KGB/FBI version of Romeo and Juliet except both houses are seemingly friends right now.

There is another teen in this equation (not you Henry – go back to listening to your Walkman) and this week marks the return of Kimmy! Julia Garner it is so good to see you again especially now that Kimmy has a boyfriend and Philip is much more of a surrogate father/big brother type rather than someone Kimmy is launching herself at. Thanks show for making this a lot less uncomfortable. Kimmy tells Philip that her dad told her who he really works for and suddenly everything to do with her dad makes so much more sense. The Kimmy storyline ran parallel with Paige’s last season and it does so once again here. Philip tells her she shouldn’t have told him this big secret as it breaks her father’s trust (much like Paige did) and it will bring her closer to her father if she does keep his trust (also see Paige). We also find out that Kimmy thinks Philip has the best pot and that he is a pot connoisseur. Maybe it is time for Philip and Elizabeth to get stoned together again.The Americans 4.10 Stan, Aderholt, Martha's dadOne more father/daughter relationship makes an impact this week and that is the one between Martha and her dad. We know Martha was super tight with her parents and it makes it all the more heartbreaking that they still don’t know where she is. Her dad has traveled to DC to meet up with Stan (who drags Aderholt along for this beer and awkward chat) and he tries to convince them how good his daughter is. In the most polite way Stan explains that they target people like Martha and they assure him they won’t give up on looking for her, but probably not for the reasons he hopes for.

The new boss at the FBI is no Gaad and is what Stan would refer to as a “Munchkin” (like the episode title) and is someone who is a carbon copy of the director with no out of the box thinking. A rule follower if you will. Gaad is on vacation with his wife in Thailand and nothing bad could happen to him there, right? I thought we had seen the last of Gaad, but now we definitely have. A visit from some shady looking Russians who want to talk ends with Gaad impaling himself of the glass pane door and bleeding out. This all made me pretty sad. Why they wanted to talk is unclear, but Arkady had something to do with this mission. Stan takes the news as you would expect it and at the moment he doesn’t know the how/why. When he does I think he might be more inclined to step up his Oleg op.

Oleg meanwhile is still enjoying some out of office time with Tatiana and she tells him what department she works for. I still don’t trust her in the slightest and this opening up seems pretty calculated to me.

Shot of the Week

The Americans 4.10 Elizabeth side eyeThe side eye from Elizabeth coupled with the excellent use of counter top props to cover Keri Russell’s IRL pregnancy bump is pretty wonderful. And just think if they had written her pregnancy into the show then she would have got to wear the Princess Di inspired (costume designer Katie Irish confirmed this) maternity wear. Cute collars make a tent dress almost bearable.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.10 Kimmy and JimThe return of Jim Baxter and his leather jacket definitely warrants a mention here. Also Patty is making me too sad.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016

The Americans 4.10 Philip tneckA black turtleneck is a classic for a reason and Philip always wears it well.

The Americans 4.10 PaigePaige takes after her dad in the fashion stakes this week, but pairs her tneck with a sweater and even though the weather is getting warmer (although not as warm as May usually is by this point) I am getting a hankering for knitwear.

Next week we have the ominously titled “Dinner for Seven” and it sounds like we are in for a culinary accompanied hoot.

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