Tag Archives: The Americans

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.


‘The Americans’ Final Season Teasers and Key Art: Spying on the Spy

13 Feb

Everything looks set to fall apart for Philip and Elizabeth in the final season of The Americans, if these two new teasers are anything to go by. Philip quit the spy biz at the end of season five, but that doesn’t mean wigs and fake mustaches are no longer in his life.

A time jump means we’re also missing out on that transition period and ramping up toward the end of the Cold War. It also means seeing just how much the solo spy mission life has taken its toll on Elizabeth. Teaching Paige the ways of the spy world is one thing, frantically scrubbing blood off her hands a la Lady Macbeth is another.

Oh yeah it also looks like Philip is now meeting up with a beardy Oleg to discuss Elizabeth’s work.

All is probably not quite as the teaser makes it seem, but this is not going to go down well with our now officially married spy couple if Philip is indeed reporting on his wife.  Just like riding a bike, Philip still those casually eating, when actually spying skills ready to utilize when needed.

Both teasers are incredibly ominous, but it wouldn’t be the show I love if there wasn’t a feeling of dread in my stomach.

Season 6 Key Art Update! 

The Americans artwork is always a visual treat (the season two all red affair is still my iPad lock screen all these years later) and this year is no different. But unlike last year’s disarming stare toward camera, this is all suspicious side eye. Hinting at the dischord between the pair (and the factions within the Soviet Union) that is featured in the teasers.

The dominating use of blue in the background suggests the peace that is about to come (kinda) between these two countries. But it all feels very ominous to me. 

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

Best of 2017 – Work in Other Places

30 Dec

Welcome to the Best of 2017! Today I am going to do a Greatest Hits rundown of my work in other places.

2017 is the year I decided to spread my pitching wings. It has been a year of ups and downs. Articles that have been percolating that were fully realized. Figuring out how to not take rejection too personally. Sometimes ideas are not great. Sometimes they need more work. I’m in a better position than I have ever been in before in my writing career, there is still a long way to go. But my confidence level when it comes to pitching is higher. I’m no longer terrified when I hit ‘send.’ Well, not always. I also expanded beyond just TV; below you will also find fashion history and essays on film.

Here are the pieces I am most proud of from this year. As always I am thankful to the editors that make me a better writer and to friends and family that are there for me through the triumphs and tears. And everyone reading, you make it all worth it.

How Wonder Woman Subverts the Makeover Montage

I have been reading Elle magazine since I was 13-years-old. I am a subscriber to both the UK and US editions. This was by far the coolest thing that happened to me writing wise. Getting to talk about Wonder Woman and the makeover montage trope was a dream come true. This was also one of my favorite movies of the year. Lindy Hemming’s costume design from both the actual Wonder Woman costume to the London garb is incredible and deserves celebrating. Plus I got to talk CluelessShe’s All ThatNot Another Teen Movie and The Americans.

How the Henley Shirt Went From Workman’s Undershirt to CW Staple 

My relationship with Racked does not go back as far as my one with Elle, but I have been a big fan of this site for a long time; I love the mix of historical pieces, fashion industry deep dives and shopping advice. Often I’ll remark when a dude is wearing a henley on Twitter and after semi-jokingly mentioning that I should write an article looking into why, I decided to put my money where my mouth is. And it turned into one of my favorite pieces of the year.

The Bloody Consequences of Wearing a Straw Hat After Summer

Fashion history with an unexpected twist is what this straw hat essay is all about. After reading about the Straw Hat Riots of 1922 in Neil Steinberg’s “Hatless Jack” I knew I had to find out more. This led to one of many New York Times archive deep dives—the access to the archives is worth the subscription fee alone—and this article for Racked.

Is The Americans Setting Paige Up as a Classic “Final Girl”?

For Collider I got to write one of my most out there theories this year, where I explored the idea of Paige from The Americans through the lens of the horror movie “Final Girl” trope. It will make sense when you read it.

Why Game of Thrones Is Stuck in the Past with a Manufactured Stark Sibling Rivalry

The season 7 finale of Game of Thrones redeemed some of the Sansa/Arya issues with a moment that made me scream “fuck yes!” at my TV. But it doesn’t make up for how sloppy their plot trajectory was before this point. At Collider I vented about why this storyline missed the mark by a long way.

‘Halt and Catch Fire’ Series Finale: Legacy, Hope, and Getting Us to the People

Something that definitely did not miss the mark was the final season of Halt and Catch Fire. I wept my way through the finale and somehow turned those emotions into this goodbye to Cam, Donna, Gordon and Joe.

The Power of Love and White Costuming on The Leftovers

Another finale that broke me into a million pieces was The Leftovers. My weekly column at The Observer gave me the chance to deep dive into the use of white costuming and the overall love story aspect of my favorite show of 2017.

The Handmaid’s Tale Costume Designer on the Series’ Wardrobe Influences

This was also a year that involved a lot of interviews with a variety of costume designers covering both film and TV. Also a learning curve, including grappling with technology. This is now the third time I have interviewed Ane Crabtree (previously for Westworld and Masters of Sex). I am so glad I got to discuss the iconic costumes from The Handmaid’s Tale and the way this look has been adopted by political resistance movements IRL.

Disguises to Adidas: The Americans Costume Designer Shares Tricks of the Spy Trade

Another repeat interview subject for me is Katie Irish, The Americans costume designer. This time we discussed retro sports apparel, using high school year books for research and her personal connection to one particular disguise from season 5.

TV For All Seasons: Costumes Across Climates on The Americans and Girls

The idea of summer and winter shows is something I have been obsessing about for a long time. I wrote about it for The Observer.

How Call Me By Your Name Dispels the “Beard” Stereotype By Portraying Sexuality As Fluid

I haven’t stopped thinking about Call Me By Your Name, it is my favorite film of 2017. So I am very pleased that in my first piece for Bustle, I explored the portrayal of different forms of desire and how this film didn’t lean into ‘beard’ stereotypes.

What Princess Margaret’s Love Story on The Crown Can Teach Us About Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s Relationship

Another piece that allowed me to fall down a New York Times archive hole while looking at the parallels between a romance on The Crown and the recent Prince Harry/Meghan Markle courtship (going old school). Things haven’t really changed a great deal since 1960 when it comes to the way tabloids discuss Royal romance.

For all Best of 2017 pieces including my personal essay on The Americans head here.

Happy New Year! And thanks for reading.

Best of TV 2017: ‘The Americans’ and the Meaning of Marriage  

20 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s Best of 2017 Coverage. As with previous years I am looking at the last 12 months through the lens of costume design. The below essay is a little different to the usual costume focused essays, this one goes deep on the personal angle. It is also become an annual tradition to deep dive into The Americans at this time of year. One of my favorite episodes of 2017 was “Darkroom” which brought together so many compelling elements. Out of all the headwear, I never quite expected this Philip and Elizabeth to wear crowns, but they did and it was delightful.Two months before my wedding day, my dad died. It wasn’t out of the blue, but it was a shock nonetheless. He’d been in hospital for a couple of months and despite the cheery assertions that he would still walk me down the aisle by my mother, I think I already knew this wouldn’t be the case. When he was first admitted and it didn’t seem like there was too much cause for concern the calls and texts were constant, at all times of the day and night. He was bored. But I was busy; writing during the day and an evening job. Plus wedding prep.

I was impatient and quick to get him off the phone because I didn’t want to hear his overly detailed descriptions of the way his body was betraying him or that his neighbor was really loud—my dad wasn’t wrong as I could hear his roommate over the phone. When we were at the local register office giving notice—equivalent to a marriage license—prior to the wedding, I had to step out to take a call from him. Standing on a loud street with cars whizzing by made it near-impossible to hear him, when I told him what we were doing he got teary. It was in this moment that it became clear he wasn’t getting better. And the lure of giving his youngest daughter away wasn’t a motivator, but an emotional burden. Continuing to pretend that he would make it was probably something my mother needed, she cheerfully told me he would be there. The lies our parents tell to reassure. The promises they make that are outside of their control.

Giving notice in the UK involves answering a few questions about your betrothed—name, occupation, parents occupation, date of birth—all things that shouldn’t trip you up. All the details that will appear on your legal binding marriage certificate. On The Americans, Philip and Elizabeth are married. They have the paperwork. But up until the season five episode “Darkroom” this union is based on a lie. There was no wedding ceremony, their real names aren’t Philip and Elizabeth Jennings. Only revealing their real names to each other after almost twenty years together because their instructions upon meeting was to discount anything and everything from their previous lives. They are Russian spies on a deep cover long-term operation infiltrating various governmental organizations on behalf of the motherland. A previously unaired flashback shows them getting this paperwork sans ceremony. You don’t need the pomp and flair if it is a work arrangement and not the real deal.

Lines between truth and fiction blur at every turn on The Americans and ultimately this fake marriage is the very foundation of this show. The penultimate season went deep on the introspective side as the consequences of the spy business continue to take their emotional toll. It wasn’t as revered critically and it suffered from the preamble to the big final season, as Breaking Bad did before it. And yet there are moments I haven’t stopped thinking about since it aired; Elizabeth passing down self-defense lessons to her daughter, a showdown with someone who had committed war crimes under the most complicated circumstance and the ultimate marriage/work compromise. Big explosive moments haven’t included a gunfight for some time, but the sense of dread lingers. The body count continues to rise and it is hard to imagine a happy ending for many of these characters when the series ends in 2018.But there was a brief glimmer of joy and a moment that so unexpected it took my breath away. Weddings come in all shapes and sizes; I’ve been to one with only seven guests, another with over two hundred—mine was down the middle of these two extremes. In season one Philip married Martha, the secretary he had seduced under the guise of an Internal Affairs agent called Clark. Vows were exchanged in front of their nearest and dearest, but Clark Westerfeld doesn’t really exist. And not in the same way Philip Jennings doesn’t really exist. Martha meant every word, unaware that this ceremony was a means to an end. One person present was Elizabeth, and at this point they had recently separated after a lie so devastating pushed them apart. While dressed as Clark’s sister Jenny, she asked Philip if these marital words would have kept them together. A point that becomes moot soon after when she asks him to come home in the season one finale. And using their mother-tongue. One of the handful of times Elizabeth or Philip revert to their first language.

One of the smartest decisions The Americans showrunners Joe Weisberg and Joel Fields made after this request from Elizabeth was to refrain from using breaking up as a Philip and Elizabeth plot point. Television often makes the mistake of thinking friction can only come in shades of relationship disintegration and getting back together. Conflict still swirls around them in the extremes; their daughter is targeted to become a next-gen spy and ideological differences still threaten this unit. Both of them sleep with other people as part of the job, little jealousies niggle. In season four Elizabeth wondered if circumstances were different, then would Philip leave with Martha as a means to escape “this whole life.” His emphatic “I love you” was a resounding answer to this rare moment of visible emotional vulnerability from a character that is often mislabeled as ‘cold.’ A promise made only to Elizabeth.

Marriage vows come in many forms; some write their own, others repeat the words said before them. My husband is Catholic, I am not. His uncle is a Bishop, we were married in a cathedral. I am not particularly religious—I was raised very relaxed Church of England—but I knew how important it was to my then-fiancé that we got married in a Catholic ceremony. The Pinterest quote business is full of declarations on marriage and compromise, so while I’m not going to frame one in my kitchen or cross-stitch a pillow with this sentiment, I do endorse this notion. The ceremony that took place on The Americans this season also includes a big religious compromise due to limitations regarding their real identities.

A Russian Orthodox ceremony isn’t what you would expect a Soviet KGB Agent to participate in, but wedding planners, the dream dress and a room filled with their friends and family is not an option. Instead, wearing light disguise—hats/glasses and no wigs—Philip drives Elizabeth to secluded warehouse location. Elizabeth “doesn’t like surprises” because what spy does, this nighttime drive to a sketchy looking building isn’t exactly top of her list of ways to relax after a long day of espionage.

Romantic overtures don’t just fall by the wayside because Elizabeth isn’t a fan of spontaneity  and a half-giddy smile from Philip at this complaint is enough to prove this isn’t work related peril. A lot of the best work on The Americans is done in the silent moments; reading people’s faces is part of their job and wordless exchanges between the pair often say so much more than a page of dialogue ever could. Often it feels like Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys have entire conversations without uttering a word, it is a testament to their acting that this never feels labored or like we’re missing the big picture. An oath can be made with a look of the eye. Producing their fake marriage license and asking “You want to make it official?” is The Americans version of holding a boombox over Philip’s head and we don’t need to hear Elizabeth’s response to know it is a yes. It’s not a cathedral, but the basement of this abandoned warehouse looks romantic and intimate because candlelight will do that. There’s no change into a surprise gown; the pleather jacket and jeans will do. There’s no one to walk Elizabeth down the aisle or friends in pews to witness this exchange. Everything they have been and done as adults has been for country and cause—including their children—this is wholly theirs. A secret that no one can steal or use against them. Philip mentions his lack of options, hence the priest, but notes “he’s from home” as an extra selling point. Adding in a whisper, “I know it’s not perfect, with God and everything” but being met with the kind of smile that shows this doesn’t matter.

The rings they have been wearing for two decades are removed and what follows is five minutes of a Russian Orthodox ceremony using their birth names of Mikhail and Nadezhda. Phrases such as “servant of God” and “handmaiden of God” don’t fit with their staunch atheist backgrounds, switch this out for country and it sounds like their vows to the cause they are fighting for. Subtitles reveal the meaning behind the words spoken including the phrase “indestructible union of love,” the notion of free will, not being promised to another. There is no one to object even if someone like Martha would lay claim to Philip’s heart. It only belongs to one person.

Matrimonial ceremonies differ in the words they use, but ultimately they all contain the same platitudes; honor, a promise to this one person. Not all ceremonies include crowns to mark the bond. After years of witnessing these two characters in endless hats and wigs, it is fitting to see elaborate headwear. And after years of witnessing bloody weddings on a show where crowns feature prominently, it is nice to experience one that doesn’t come with a body count or threats of sexual violence.

Music swirls, more smiles are exchanged, they return home and their new rings are placed in a hiding place in the laundry room. An embrace that looks like the kind you could live in happens before the light gets turned out on their secret stash of things of great importance—this is also where Elizabeth stored cassette tapes from her mother. There’s no honeymoon period as they get back to work; first doing some travel agency business at home. It might be a cover job, but it still requires actual work. Followed by showing their daughter Paige, the home darkroom they can set up when photographs of a sensitive nature need developing. Marriage is the foundation of The Americans, family is its heart. The impact of this world on their children is something that has been troubling Philip as he explores his own childhood experiences with the help of est—a pop-psychology program that focused on self actualization—and tries to work through the awful things he has done in service to his country. The awful things his father did in service to his country. If the wedding ceremony was a brief respite from the problems that have been plaguing Philip, then the revelation in Paige’s photographs is another in a series of chipping away at Philip’s ability to do his job effectively. What these pictures reveal are the thoughts of Pastor Tim in his private journal; he wonders if they are monsters, the damage they have done to Paige mentally. As this family unit is bathed in red light and the words flash up on screen, Philip’s worst fears have been verbalized by an outsider.

Sitcoms and soaps often use a wedding as a way to add conflict and as a cliffhanger; someone objects, another couple gets together, an unexpected pregnancy is revealed, wrong names are spoken. A wedding is often a culmination of a multi episode story arc, in a way The Americans has been leading to this moment from the pilot. From fake married to an unbreakable bond.

My wedding took place just over six months prior to this episode, but I have been thinking a lot about the way this social construct is discussed in relation to these characters and their motivations. Whenever Matthew Rhys or Keri Russell are asked about what drew them to this project or what they relish about working on this show the central marriage is always the answer. It is a marriage show that also happens to be about KGB spies. Now, I’m not a spy, nor is my husband (that I know of) and the real triumph of The Americans is how it navigates the relationship waters. We were together for ten years before he proposed, twelve before we were married. As with Philip and Elizabeth, the reason we got married was for us and not because of external pressure.

Again weddings and reasons for getting married or not vary from couple to couple. This exchange between Philip and Elizabeth is an act of defiance, a declaration that this union is more than a tie to their homeland. Earlier in the penultimate season after an innocent man is killed, Elizabeth offers to do these operations alone, but Philip responds with “It’s us.” There’s no way he can picture this scenario despite how much it is tearing him up; they have sworn to do this together. But circumstances change and compromises are made. It is what leads to the season five climax as Philip doesn’t destroy the tape that could set them free, if only he didn’t tell Elizabeth its contents. This action allows her to say she’ll go alone as a spy, to save him from breaking into a million pieces. All while staying true to the country she loves.

Parents can’t always protect their children from harsh realities, sometimes things don’t work out the way you hoped. A promise isn’t always an unbroken pact. It is hard to ignore the many forces working against them and the final season is likely to shatter any illusion that they’ll all make it out unscathed. But in that basement wearing crowns in candlelight, speaking their native tongue an incandescent glow briefly takes them out of the spy world and back to where they came from.

Scott Speedman Was a Disaster of a Boyfriend and Other Important Felicity Things

31 May

Yesterday Keri Russell received her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, it was season 5 finale of The Americans and she appeared on Jimmy Kimmel Live! with former co-star and ex-boyfriend Scott Speedman. The two are still pretty tight, along with other Felicity co-star and former onscreen roommate Amanda Foreman aka Meghan and this pretty much ticks so many boxes. Not Meghan’s magical box, but those ones I talk about often on here (see the recent Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants reunion) about former co-stars still hanging out.

The back and forth banter between Russell and Speedman includes the fact that he was a disaster of a boyfriend with no real specifics, which considering how squirmy Speedman gets is probably a good thing for him.

Although he couldn’t have been too bad considering how tight they clearly still are. A Felicity reunion is quickly nixed and even though I’m a huge fan of the show I don’t need to see that unless Twilight Zone homages or time travel is at play.

The infamous haircut comes up (of course) and Russell also reveals that Speedman had no idea what ceremony he was actually attending.

The whole interview with both of them is delightful and earlier in the episode Keri Russell also reveals that she is going to appear on Running Wild with Bear Grylls and that IRL boyfriend (and on-screen husband) Matthew Rhys got an adorable gift for her that included some strong advice from her oldest son.

Rhys was also present at the Walk of Fame ceremony along with Americans co-stars Holly Taylor, Noah Emmerich and co-showrunner Joel Fields. Felicity co-creators JJ Abrams and Matt Reeves also spoke at the ceremony.
This might be the first time that I’ve really liked a deconstructed shirt and Keri Russell looks fabulous in this striped Johanna Ortiz number and pairing it with flared Chloe pants works like a charm. The Rag & Bone full suit is great on Matthew Rhys and for the occasion. Expect to see more from The Americans pair with Emmy FYC events in the works.

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 5.11 “Dyatkovo” Review: Paying for the Past

17 May

You can’t escape the past and season 5 of The Americans has constantly been looking back to explain the present. History repeats and this impact is felt on both a micro and macro level; individuals and organizations are at risk and real change is hard to implement. Especially when authorities have a different face/name and yet continue with their shady shit. Corruption seeps down to every level.

Post-WWII turmoil in Russia has been alluded to with Philip learning the truth about his father’s profession, Oleg finding out about his mother’s imprisonment and Gabriel discussing the work he did. You can make a new life, get a new name and yet the scars run deep. Memories threaten to bubble to the surface and ruin the facade of perfection that has been constructed.A seemingly unconnected operation to everything Philip and Elizabeth have been doing brings everything to a head in an unexpected way. In a sequence that is reminiscent of the equally brilliant “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Philip and Elizabeth interrogate someone the KGB believes killed their people for the Nazis in the occupied town of Dyatkovo. As this is The Americans this is not a simple case of good versus evil and first they must determine whether they have the right person.

Philip has to be sure that this isn’t a case of mistaken identity and early on the evidence they have isn’t particularly conclusive. The photo could be her, but this isn’t enough and Philip reinforces his point by mentioning the conversation they had earlier this season. He can no longer shoot first only to find out that they were wrong. It seems like a good marker, to be honest and Elizabeth is aware that he is close to breaking point; which is why she does what she does later on.Paying for the past is a complicated business and after some back and forth with Natalie about whether she is really Anna, she confesses. At first I thought this was a fake confession as a way to save her husband, but it turns out that she really did all the things she was accused of. But these were far from the actions of someone who took pleasure in committing these atrocities. This is one of Irina Dubova’s first acting credits and she is incredible in this role delivering pain, guilt and fear.

Natalie’s confession takes place in front of her husband with horrific details such as watching her family get shot and being forced to dig their graves. She was saved and she doesn’t know why, “nothing made sense.” And after this she did what she had to in order to survive – echoing what Oleg’s mother told him about prison – which included killing her own people. The first time she did it she was so drunk she could barely stand and all of this began when she was just 16. Elizabeth was 17 when she joined the KGB. And now Paige is at this age too. Too young to be embroiled in all of this.

This is The Americans doing what it does best; hitting us in the gut with the lack of options available. Before this moment Elizabeth calls Natalie a monster throwing back the word that Pastor Tim questioned whether they are. As I already mentioned this episode is reminiscent of “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” particularly the conversations Elizabeth has with Lois Smith’s Betty as she coerces her into taking too many pills. Betty also brings up this notion of Elizabeth being a bad person. In fact she calls her out on her “to make the world a better place” reasoning by saying that’s “what evil people tell themselves when they do evil things.”

This is the most Elizabeth has previously been effected by an on the job kill – I got super teary rewatching these scenes – and the whole thing with Natalie is enough for Elizabeth to make a huge decision; she wants to go home.When Philip hesitates in pulling the trigger, Elizabeth steps up as she said she would. It is an awful moment and even though it was clear they were never going to let them live – they’d seen their faces after all – there was part of me that hoped otherwise. It doesn’t matter that Natalie had made this new life where she was doing good, those actions of the past sealed her fate in the present. Even if she committed these war crimes in order to survive.

So what makes Elizabeth think they can just go home? Everything has been building to this point of quitting the spy biz in one way or another; it is getting too much for both of them. Philip is the one who has been showing the obvious signs of reaching his breaking point and despite his fractured psyche he’s in it for as long as Elizabeth is.

They don’t know the Soviet regime is also crumbling, but the misinformation regarding missions and how they keep pivoting away from doing good is having an impact. The virus sample they extracted, the sample that effectively killed both William and Hans has been weaponized and William’s legacy is having this version named after him. The exact opposite of what he would’ve wanted. They’re both fed up the honey traps and Pastor Tim’s scribblings have had an impact.Thankfully The Americans has never been concerned with the prestige TV trope of “we’re good people that did a bad thing” instead they are people who have done very bad things in the name of duty/country and feel conflict about it. It is why the wordless interactions between Philip and Elizabeth hold so much weight; everything is etched on their faces. Cue my “give Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys all the awards” broken record.

Philip right now is a giant exhale of sadness in human form and seemingly happy childhood memories are doing nothing to free him from the increasing worry lines on his face as they are tainted with the truth. Even something as mundane as watching TV and eating McDonalds with Tuan is far from freeing. He leaves his real son all preoccupied and happy to join his fake son only to have the past eat away at him. To him his father brought some light into his life and likely a lot of darkness and pain into others; is he getting a glimpse of how Henry will view memories of Philip in the future?

Processing other photos gives Philip reason to bring up Paige’s* motivation behind the whole diary reveal. They don’t come up with a definite answer, but Philip wonders if she wanted to see their reactions to reading what Pastor Tim had said about them.

*A Paige-less week, but you can read my thoughts on Paige and the use of horror on The Americans over at Collider

The lasting damage they are having on their children is hard to ignore and Philip has conceded in letting Henry go to boarding school if he gets in. This of course is all academic, if they do indeed decide to go home to Russia and there is no telling how either Paige or Henry will react to this bombshell. Because Paige sure as hell was not chill about the suggestion last season.Ah, Henry. Sweet, smart, oblivious Henry. Listening to his Walkman while doing homework, having a girlfriend and getting a guided tour at the FBI. The latter brings up another interesting point in Philip and Elizabeth’s basement convo about how Stan or the FBI is not getting Henry. They’re also pretty disparaging about Matthew. Way harsh, guys.

Henry does seem very interested in what Stan does at work and is fully delighted when he gets to meet Mail Robot. This is the appropriate reaction. Later on Henry reads Stan his paper that pretty and exclaims that working at the FBI sounds like the “best job in the world” and Stan is quick to inform him that this is far from the case. Way to crush young enthusiasm Stan, but he does his best to explain the big drawbacks and one of those is never being able to truly trust anyone. Not even your wife and kids. Across the street this is not the case and because Philip and Elizabeth have each other it makes this difficult world a tiny bit better. If only they could all retire to a secret island and live happily ever after.

Everyone is feeling the strain of their jobs, but Philip and Elizabeth have never been more in sync. Even when they don’t quite agree they have been finding middle ground recently. The secret wedding last week doubled down on their commitment to one another and maybe it really is time for this part of their life to be over. However, I can’t see the KGB agreeing to let some of their best deep cover operatives go without a fight. Especially when you factor in just how many operations they have in play right now.

And if they go on the run they could be the ones starring down the barrel of a gun in a few years time for being traitors. Talking of in sync and how they enter Natalie’s home ensnaring her in a terrifyingly efficient way; they catch their prey without a sound.Over in Russia, Oleg continues with his investigation and even though they find evidence against Lydia that could put her away for fifteen years she is steely as fuck when facing their questions. She notes that this is how their country runs and it is not going to change. She calls the KGB “high and mighty” and it is hard to have a good comeback when Oleg has his own fancy supermarket he gets to shop at because of who his father is.

Two episodes remain this season, twelve in total and with Elizabeth’s “I want to get out of here. We should just go. I mean it. Let’s go home” everything suddenly feels very much near the end. The sound you just heard was my stomach churning from dread and anticipation of what’s going to happen next.

Fun Spy Equipment The camera in the bag is a classic and I’m glad we got to see Elizabeth toting this tote.

Family Photos and Owl Lamps

Family pictures act of reminders and the Jennings house is littered with these happy memories. Once again I am so pleased they use photos that are neither photoshopped or production stills. Also that owl lamp always catches my eye in how perfect and pretty ugly it is. And thanks to Twin Peaks all I can think is this lamp is not what it seems.

Be sure to check out my essay over at Collider discussing the use of horror on The Americans including a deep dive into the Jennings House of Horrors and whether Paige is the ‘Final Girl.’

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”
“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 5.09 “IHOP” Review: Secrets and Spies

3 May

Keeping secrets is a big part of being a spy and on The Americans there is always a thin line between someone speaking the truth while wearing a wig and hiding everything in plain sight. Secrets have power and the ability to destroy as well as protect and the person who knows the most tends to be the one in control. Our parents keep things from us even if they aren’t international super spies and I think we can all relate to finding out something later in life about our families that is surprising.

No, not all of us will learn our mother was in a Soviet prison camp or that both parents were born in a different country and are only part time travel agents. And yet there is a time when we find out something from the past that will open our eyes to why our parents are the way they are; suddenly they become people and not just your parents. Season 5 continues to take note of how much of a toll this life is taking on everyone and “IHOP” took a break from Paige to shift focus onto the other teens that know varying degrees of what a covert life entails. Kicking off with a returning face and Kimmy is back to emphasize just how much Philip has on his plate and he is still maintaining this relationship so he get the tapes from her father’s briefcase.

When Kimmy was introduced she was acting out against her father’s emotional neglect in a way that would be considered pretty typical; drinking, drugs and hooking up with older guys. This could also just be explained as typical teen behavior, but the death of her mother when she was younger and her father always being at work definitely contributed to her desire to connect and this was something Philip could exploit.Luckily for Philip he came up with an excuse to not sleep with a story about religion and a made up son; ah yes the made up son that was based on the real son that Philip still hasn’t met. It is hard to keep track of the different incarnations of sons on this show and Mischa Jr. provided the backstory for Philip’s lack of sexual interest in Kimmy. This story is of course born out of real feelings and when Kimmy talks to Philip (as Jim) about how he wishes he could do the family stuff gain, but right this time she astutely says “I don’t think anybody does it right.”

And in fact if it wasn’t for the KGB then Philip wouldn’t have the family/house he does, which on the outside looks like picture perfect suburban living and yet there is a strong undercurrent of wanting the spy part of his life to be over. He rectifies his original statement changing it to ‘not wanting to screw things up’ and this wistful tone applies to his real life. As with most interactions Philip and Elizabeth have when in disguise reality and fiction blend.

What about Henry? The neglected Jennings child who is thriving without any help from his parents. It is a smart and unexpected move by the writers to have Henry excel at school rather than bottoming out; it would be far easier to have him lean into delinquency. As with Paige and her religious rebellion it makes for far more interesting storytelling and now they have to decide whether to send Henry to the boarding school he has already applied for. In another great move they set up Henry’s pitch in the same way Paige asked for the truth in “Stingers.” He stands waiting for them to come home in the same position at the kitchen island all nervous and when Philip and Elizabeth initially walk in they can be forgiven for thinking “Oh fuck. Not this again.” Instead Henry has a whole speech planned about his future and again Philip and Elizabeth can’t hide their confusion (and initial waves of nausea this time) when it comes to Henry’s education.

Time for my weekly “give all the Emmys to Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell” comments and again they are very good in their lack of poker faces here. They just can’t quite understand what is going on or why he might want to study away from home.

Circling back to this discussion later when it is just the two of them and perhaps surprisingly Elizabeth takes the pro boarding school stance. And it would be good for Henry to get him out of this environment so he doesn’t get sucked into this business or just further neglected.

You would think Philip would be for this as he’s all about getting people out of this spy orbit and yet it bothers him how this boarding school looks quipping that it is a “fancy orphanage” while pointing to how much they already have in comparison to what they did have when they were Henry’s age. As with all discussions like this they get interrupted by the phone and no decision is made about Henry’s education. They have their other son to go check in on.After noting that Tuan seemed lonely last week, Elizabeth has also picked up on this vibe and decided to make a surprise visit with a fast food care parcel. Except Tuan isn’t home and Tuan doesn’t come home prompting a strong amount of concern from Philip and Elizabeth. Getting the team on Tuan’s trail they track him out of the state and see him going into an IHOP. Confronting him in the dark of their house in the middle of night they are very much not in parental mood with Philip shoving him up against the wall as Elizabeth holds a gun on him. Tuan explains that his adopted brother from the family who took him in has leukemia and he’s been going out of state to check in on him. So while he answered the call to work for his country he still cares about those he is effectively working again. They all have attachments.

In a heartbreaking moment he begs Philip and Elizabeth not to write any of this in his report. Elizabeth believes his story and Philip thinks that maybe he wants to get sent back so he can escape this shit. “That’s not who he is” responds Elizabeth and once again we are presented with how they are ultimately diametrically opposed when it comes to how they see the work. It doesn’t matter how in sync or united they are as a couple as this factor always has the power of coming between them. This also mirrors what Philip was about to say about Henry while discussing boarding school as he got cut off saying “He’s not the kind of kid…” But do they even know what kind of kid he really is. Over in Moscow there is another discussion between father and son that informs the arc of this entire season as Oleg confronts his father with what he knows about the past. When he asks why they didn’t tell him sooner Igor responds that every family has a story like this one and they did it so Oleg could have the life he has. It is a heartbreaking scene as Igor explains how Yelena was a changed woman after she came out of the camp after everything she did to survive inferring that she had to sleep with other men as part of this. Again the specter of the past comes back to haunt the present and the fear of history repeating. It isn’t like how it was, but there are figures just as imposing and dangerous that threaten this family and others like them. No matter how powerful a person thinks there father is.

Keeping this secret from Oleg and his brother ensured they didn’t suffer and this mirrors the secret that is being kept from Henry Jennings. It is not like Paige is better off knowing even if it has brought her closer emotionally to her parents; the burden far outweighs the benefits.Also for Oleg there is the matter of the investigation he is leading and the one that is happening on him. He has some success in working his source giving over an apple and healthy dose of emotional manipulation as he talks about his brother being nothing more than a photo on the wall. Saving a son in place of putting yourself in danger is good enough reason for Dimitri to talk. Even if he is clearly incredibly scared of the consequences.

It is unclear what Major Kuznetsov has on Oleg, but they are very keen on hearing all about Stan Beeman. Again Oleg and Stan’s story runs in parallel and now revenge for Gaad is being used to get Stan to consent to the CIA using the tape against Oleg.Picking up the pieces isn’t just a family matter and in Moscow we also get to see a little more from Martha. Her sad looking dinner (I do love a baked potato though) in her sad looking apartment, wearing her sad ensemble is interrupted by a familiar face. This whole apartment is devoid of bright color and neutrals reign.

Martha is not pleased to see Gabriel and her lack of enthusiasm extends to when he takes his coat off implying this will be an extended visit. Not even the mention of Clark can lift her spirits and instead she lets Gabriel know that time has allowed her to process her situation and understand just how much her services are appreciated. She doesn’t want to see Gabriel again and I don’t blame her as he is another reminder of why she is here. Maybe Gabriel will have better luck finding a friend in Mischa Jr.

There are consequences for all their actions and so many lives have been left in ruins because of this work. And now it turns out that maybe the virus William and Hans gave their life for is being used not for protection in case of a nuclear attack, but as a weapon in the war in Afghanistan. Elizabeth doesn’t believe that, but Philip thinks it is too much of a coincidence to not be. If this is the lie they have been told it will be hard for Philip to look beyond this; it is only really his wife that is keeping him tethered to the cause at this point.

In Praise of the Production Team The production team on The Americans continues to give great family photos that don’t look a) badly photoshopped or b) like a production still from an episode. Ivan Mok who plays Tuan mentioned on Instagram that this is a real photo of his as a kid and that family portrait is a delight.

Disguise of the Week 

This is quite possibly the most basic disguise Philip has ever worn that involves fake facial hair; flat cap, mustache, big glasses and a turtleneck. It would only be more Spy 101 if he had a trench coat on and was talking behind a newspaper. And that’s kind of the point. He doesn’t have time to deal with another person to meet with and he gives Gabriel’s source the exact kind of effort with his disguise that he has the energy for. They are stretched too thin and with the return of Kimmy we are reminded just how much they have on. No time for baby sitting someone else.

The comment about praying is an interesting one as a way to deal with this kind of life and at the moment Philip looks willing to try anything for some peace.


For more style highlights from Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys check out their fabulous custom Rag & Bone outfits from the Met Gala.

The Americans 5.08 “Immersion” Review: What Do You Want to Be?

26 Apr

Elizabeth Jennings, international super spy has been many things over the years including a Mary Kay sales rep, fashion buyer, flight attendant, housewife, travel agent and countless other professions that have provided the details of the disguises required to complete the work of her actual job. That of KGB agent.

Even her role as a wife and mother is part of the bigger picture; the main difference here is that she’s not faking her way through most of these things as she really is a mother to two children and her relationship with Philip has evolved from doing the necessary to becoming the thing they were projecting.At its heart The Americans is a marriage/family show wrapped up in spy packaging and with the recent Paige developments home and work have become even harder to separate. Philip and Elizabeth have a lot on their plates right now with several operations running in tandem and now they’re most trusted adviser has upped and left them.

For Philip, Gabriel’s departure is more complicated because of how contentious their relationship was at times and because of his parting words about Paige being kept out of all of this. In fact Philip even questions Gabriel’s motives and whether it was simply because it was his job. Elizabeth believes otherwise and is certain he cared about them – caring was something she said she couldn’t do with their targets last week – and she’s stunned when Philip tells her he’s glad Gabriel has gone. A world where none of them have to do things like this is a repeated theme this week and Elizabeth is the first one to head down a wishful thinking channel. Bookending the episode with talk of a world without spying and Elizabeth seems genuinely surprised by this question of what she would’ve done as an alternative career. After a beat she says she would’ve been a doctor. Something that Paige finds amusing as her mother has terrible bedside manner. Much like Keri Russell’s other most famous TV role there is a push pull between two vocations; for Felicity it was between art and medicine and this is a far cry from Elizabeth’s two job opportunities. Ben Stobert has a whole Scott Speedman vibe and everything keeps coming up Felicity.

Placing focus on doing the things you wish you didn’t have to is something that this season keeps circling back on; in this career conversation Paige asks if Elizabeth likes what she does and Elizabeth sings the party line about being proud of her work,. She wishes she didn’t have to do the things she does, but there is a purpose. I wonder what Paige’s father would say if he was posed with the same question. Philip is of course going to do what he has to even through gritted teeth and the Topeka operation is indicative of this. So even when he kind of tanks his relationship with Deidre he finds a way to win her back; she wants someone who is more assertive so he tells her that he’s married.

It is interesting watching both Philip and Elizabeth cancel their Topeka plans on the phone. First because their both kind of going against the Centre by canceling with both claiming it is not because of the other, but the quick sideways glances in the office suggests otherwise. They both have their game faces on even though it is all through the phone and it is odd to see them as Brenda and Gus when they are not wigged up. Discussing their respective days in the Jennings bedroom is unlike most other marriages as Elizabeth shows off her new fondness for tai chi – “looks like slow kung-fu” quips Philip – as it is relaxing. There is a broad smile across her face until Philip mentions that he has been dumped. Elizabeth thinks that EST is to blame and that it has softened Philip; something he very much disagrees with and yet this conversation doesn’t end in an argument showing just how good things are between them right now. They’re sharing everything with each other and this includes what Elizabeth told Paige about her past.Keri Russell should probably use this episode as her Emmy submission for the training scene in the garage alone as she goes from badass fighting mom to revealing her deepest secret in a bid to show Paige how it is possible to move beyond being scared.

Elizabeth was raped when she was 18 by a superior officer – the superior officer who turned traitor in the pilot – and after that moment she trained hard so no one would hurt her like that again. She’s no longer afraid nor does she ever really think about it and by revealing this part of herself she is giving Paige something to cling to while she scrambles in the dark. For a long time this was something Elizabeth kept as her secret to bear the weight of by herself and by telling Philip this opened the door to where they are now. The power gets shifted from her attacker and what it did to her; by telling Paige about this she shows how fear doesn’t have to rule you. When Paige goes to hug her mother, Elizabeth stops her and reinforces the idea that she trained hard to combat being afraid. Elizabeth is never going to be a touchy feely mom, but this level of emotional intimacy is her way of being open with her daughter. Later when it comes up again Elizabeth lists the things that allowed her to focus; her job/her kids. Of course in this truth telling session she doesn’t tell Paige what became of her rapist and the time he spent in the trunk of their car in close proximity to them while they slept. And also in the location where this fight training is now taking place.

Claudia remarks that Paige is her mother’s daughter and asks some catch up questions now she is back to being their handler. This is met with reservations from Philip and Elizabeth, with Philip particularly having no time for her bullshit. She is the woman who split up his marriage back in season 1 after all. No need for polite chit chat and Philip pretty much wants to get whatever information she has to give them and get out.

Later on Elizabeth indulges in a drink and conversation and despite almost beating her to death there is an understanding between these two women beyond animosity. Unlike Philip, I am sad to see Gabriel go and yet I am thrilled Margo Martindale will get more screen time particularly as this dynamic is a lot more prickly. And because she’s Margo fucking Martindale. All hail the return of the squirrel pins.The last time they saw her would’ve been at the end of season 2 when Claudia informed them of the Centre’s plans for Paige. Plans that are very much in motion and Claudia asks for an update from Elizabeth and not for work reasons. Claudia it turns out has been back home in-between sessions with Gabriel spending time with her daughter and grandchildren and she sounds genuinely sad when she mentions that they didn’t remember her. Claudia asks what Elizabeth wants for Paige and it is all rather abstract as she just wants her to care about things that matter. This also echoes her conversation with Stobert as she references how much his work matters in comparison to what she does; flattering his ego to keep him on the line or showing respect for what he does?

She also mentions to Claudia that with Philip they will never see eye to eye on this Paige stuff, but despite that things have been good between them. She seems reluctant to go into detail and I wonder if this is in part related to the time Claudia drove a wedge between them. Philip still has his mind in the long ago past after learning about what Gabriel did in the bad times back home and he wonders what Claudia was up to during this period. We have seen how deadly she can be and I have a feeling she was doing something similar. Fear related to the past is something we see in Oleg’s story as his mother is terrified that her only surviving son is going to get taken away. When his room is searched she thinks they will find something even if there is nothing as that is how things used to operate.

More information is given regarding her time spent in the gulag as she was accused of sabotage, which back then could have been for something as innocuous as taking a pencil home from work. She was eventually pardoned and Oleg wonders if his trip to the archive brought on this home visit. His boss doesn’t think so and in a regime ruled by paranoia it could be anything. The surprise here is that because of his father’s position this search even happened and it is troubling. Also tipping into troubling territory is Tuan and so far this operation has been chugging along nicely in the background. Evgheniya has been a surprising source of opportunity for them with her job teaching Russian and the affair she is now having. Now they just need to get her to go back to Russia so they can utilize this to maximum effect. This will require Tuan to turn on his friend as they need Pascha to want to go home and Tuan thinks this should be easy.

The concern here should be their adopted son as this is the second time he has asked them to spend more time at this home and unlike their actual son he is showing signs of wanting their attention. Because they have so much going on I have a feeling this is the operation that will end up causing them the most bother in the long run. Meanwhile, Stan and Aderholt are gently coaxing their new source Sofia into feeling more comfortable. She is incredibly jumpy and they are using monetary incentives and her son’s future as a way to get her more on board. She talks about all the different things her young son wants to become and it once again points to this notion of growing up to be something and the hopes we have for our children.

Stan also has some good quality time at the Jennings house in which Renee’s name comes up and she wants to get him to go sky diving. He quips that he wants to be alive to see Matthew graduate college and cue raised eyebrows from everyone watching. They touch on the recent teen breakup while also quipping about Henry’s current girl situation and if he wasn’t so neglected I would say that Henry has it best out of anyone on The Americans.A sense of dread permeates all and there’s nothing to suggest that is all going to collapse as everything is moving along rather nicely. However we are entering the last third of the season and this implies that something is going to give soon; what this season has been doing a lot of is exploring the internal while moving the pieces for the final act.

It is a slow burn and it definitely feels like we’re heading toward something, but who is going to break first? My money for what it is worth is on the trifecta of sons being what leads to the dam breaking; Henry, Tuan and Mischa.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2017Another fabulous disguise and this season has been the gift that keeps on giving with Elizabeth. This jacket alone is on my covet list as I am always partial to vintage ski style and if I could also get Henry’s sweatshirt (that you can see near the top) then that would be great. Those glasses are fabulous and I’m looking forward to seeing Katie Irish’s inspiration board behind this one.

Updated to add the bio board for this disguise. Interesting to see what changes during this process. 


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