Tag Archives: wigs

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

19 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shot of the Week

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

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

Outfit I Would Wear in 2016

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

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

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

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

7 Apr

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Disguise of the Week

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

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

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

The Americans 4.01 “Glanders” Review: “You’re Safe. We’re Together”

17 Mar

The concept of truth on The Americans is ever changing; lies mask the reality and confessions come pouring out in the strangest of settings. Season 4 delves even deeper into this blurring of the lines as a result of revealing real identities to Paige and half identities to Martha. When Paige asks Elizabeth where Philip has gone in the middle of the night Elizabeth tells her the kid friendly version that doesn’t include information about her father’s other wife or the man he has just killed; it is part truth, part sugar coated lies.

Kicking off where we left these characters at the end of last year and so many precarious situations need to be handled. First up Martha and the last time we saw her Philip dewigged and showed his real face. Philip also killed Martha’s co-worker staging it as a suicide and placing the blame for the bug in Gaad’s office on him all in an effort to protect her and ultimately protect the whole mission. Getting woken up in the middle of the night to be told by your husband with his new face and different hair that he’s killed someone and not just a random person, but a co-worker/friend is not the best wake up call and Martha doesn’t take it so well. She doesn’t go for the gun she keeps in her apartment so that is an automatic win for Philip. The Americans 4.01 Martha and ClarkIt is a delicate situation and he can’t push her too hard; he has to trust his persuasive techniques that have so far worked like a charm, but this is next level emotional manipulation that must come into play. Ultimately it works and the face reveal, while incredibly disorientating has strengthened their relationship and as Elizabeth explained to Paige in the most PG version of what they do it is all about getting people to trust you. Philip’s other confession to Martha about the childhood incident that plagues him is part unburdening of his soul, part pealing back the layers to give Martha the feeling that she really knows him. It is also interesting that he tells Martha the same anecdote about the toys in Gene’s apartment that he told Elizabeth in “March 8, 1983” and he can’t quite get out the reason why this struck a chord with him.

Elizabeth may come across as the more inaccessible one of the pair, but we know far more about her past and childhood experiences than we do Philip so it makes sense at this point to visit his origin story especially as his soul continues to be eroded by the things he has done. Season 2 saw his kill count go up by a great deal and it almost broke him; last year he got a respite and it was left to Elizabeth to drop cars on innocent dude’s heads until the finale when Philip offed Gene. The burden returns. I don’t think it is a coincidence that the turning point for childhood Philip or rather Mischa is a story that he half shared with Elizabeth back in the season 2 finale and one he didn’t get to finish because their asset had just been shot. All we got to hear back then was that some older boys would jump him as he walked home with his families milk and he made the decision to not let it happen again; it turns out he certainly did just that in a moment of explosive violence.The Americans 4.01 ESTThis moment that haunts Philip throughout the episode is one that he discusses in front of a whole bunch of strangers at EST leaving out certain important details, but giving just enough that he can unload in this form of very public therapy. The one person who he could reveal the unedited story to is the one person he keeps telling he is fine when clearly he is the opposite. EST gives Philip an outlet of sharing he doesn’t feel comfortable with doing at home and there is definitely this worry that Elizabeth will judge him; as Paige points out to Pastor Tim her parents aren’t really big talkers. Philip isn’t alone in using other outlets to share his secrets and worries as we have seen Elizabeth do this with plenty of assets in disguise; from how she talked about her rape to discussing relationship quandaries. They both talk far more to other people than they do to each other and this stoicism with each other is the one habit they find hard to break. Maybe Philip needs to get stoned again.

Part of this is down to the many years that they inhabited the same space, but were not in the kind of relationship they now are with each other. Trust is not something that needs to be won here and yet there is still a wall between them when it comes to sharing thoughts, feelings and painful memories that might read as a weakness. It is this aspect of The Americans that makes the show sing; the spy stuff is great, but the depiction of marriage is exceptional and hats must go off to Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell and Alison Wright who deliver such incredible performances in this season opener in a variety of ways. Wright has the most overtly emotional material and yet she also has shades of subtly while at work doing Clark’s bidding that Philip made seem as if it was her idea all along. After all while I think that Philip does care for Martha and feels the weight of responsibility he still also needs her for information otherwise this operation is pointless. Subtly is an art for both Russell and Rhys and the reason why these characters don’t always say too much to each other is because their expressions can say so much more.The Americans 4.01 Philip and ElizabethWhat Philip should do is take the lessons from his conversations with Martha and the advice of Sandy Beeman and tell Elizabeth what is plaguing him and I expect she will be far less judgmental than he is expecting (maybe not about EST). Plus it would be much better than the very obvious lie of “I’m fine.” The problem of course is finding a time to have this chat as they’ve got a laundry list of problems including Gabriel being pissed at them for lying about the Germany trip, keeping an eye on Paige (not doing a great job there, guys), Martha and now biological weapons! This latter issue is and the meeting they are meant to have involves a number of dangers such as coming into contact with said weapon and getting caught be a surveillance team. Plus there is also this new asset to deal with and William sure is sassy; I am so happy to see that Dylan Baker is a regular this season in this role. The strain William gives them isn’t even the thing they’ve been inoculated against and there is the added bonus of having to store it in their freezer. Plus a surprise visit from Stan.

Stan is hooking up with Tori the woman he met at an EST meeting last season and Tori also happens to see Philip with Sandy Beeman post EST meeting enjoying some dessert, which she infers as an intimate moment. I would go with friendly, but whatever. Of course Stan is furious and decides to confront Philip while he happens to have an incredibly dangerous chemical agent in his pocket (and one the episode is named after). Let’s just say there won’t be any Philip and Stan hangouts in the near future. We can add this to Philip’s already very long list of shit he has to sort out.The Americans 4.01 PhilipMeanwhile back in Russia, Nina and Anton’s relationship continues to develop and she is playing the role we have seen her inhabit before; one where we can’t be certain how much she is playing each side. The conversations she has with Anton forever circle around his son and the many regrets he has about the manner in which he was taken leaving his family with no answers. There is something incredibly haunting about his fears that he will be sent to a camp and they will never know where he went or what he did. He doesn’t want to disappear and become just dust with “no one ever knowing.” At least for Philip and Elizabeth one of their children knows who they are even if it is just the surface details. It is also interesting that Anton has such warm and fuzzy feelings towards Russia from when he was a kid and his religion was not an issue whereas Philip’s own childhood recollections are filled with such horror. One is serving his country by choice whereas the other has been forced to do so.

Nina also has demands and she wants to see her husband; is this so someone remembers her or is there an ulterior motive?

At the Rezidentura Arkady is having his own power play problems including be kept way out of the loop on the whole bio-weapon situation as it turns out that Tatiana works for Department 12 (suddenly this sounds very Alias) and he is not happy about it. But he does have Oleg on his team and while he suggests that this environment would work better with everyone getting along he is not above getting someone to spy for him. Spies within spies within spies.

Shot(s) of the WeekThe Americans 4.01 costume caveThe wig cave! Or at least one of them was unveiled this week as I suspect they have several locations at their disposal and while I was hoping for a fabulous Cher from Clueless style revolving closet what we actually got is the exact level of grime and on the fly that it should be.
The Americans 4.01 Elizabeth and PhilipThis location gives off a Sydney meeting Vaughn on Alias vibe as well as putting a physical barrier between Philip and Elizabeth as he continues the pretense that he is okay. And this shot does a good job of adding to how disconnected they are at the moment from his getting spooked into pulling out of the meeting (it turns out his bad feeling was just a feeling whereas Elizabeth does spot a real surveillance team later on). If only he could get his words out.

Disguise of the WeekThe Americans 4.01 disguiseA new disguise for season 4 and they get to break out this new blonde couple on three occasions over the premiere including a fake belly for Philip and a whole lot of skeptical face at Philip’s beard for Elizabeth. In one of the lighter moments this week the pair discuss Henry’s new disgusting cologne and there’s nothing more I enjoy about this show than when they have conversations like this while in heavy disguise. I have a feeling we will be seeing a lot more of this pair throughout the season with William coming into play and I am looking forward to seeing what other disguise treats costume designer Katie Irish will deliver this season.

Outfit(s) I Would Wear in 2016The Americans 4.01 ElizabethIt doesn’t matter if it is 1983 or 2016 – a plaid shirt is always a win. This basement conversation is all about Paige and how she is complicated, which could pretty much describe everyone on The Americans and as tends to be the case they don’t get a chance to deep dive into this situation as they have other more pressing issues.The Americans 4.01 Paige and ElizabethAdding to my list of clothing obsessions the robe has now been added and scenes that take place in the heart of the Jennings home are always a favorite. Especially when they are over something so familiar as discussing jet lag mixed in with where Philip goes in the middle of the night. This is Elizabeth in full on mother mode and I believe that she believes what they are doing is for peace.

Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys Talk Disguises and Season 4 of The Americans

12 Jan

The Americans is returning slightly later than its usual end of January/early February slot, but they are still doing the preview rounds including an Entertainment Weekly first look and now this discussion with Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys from Variety’s “Contenders” series (if only the people who voted for these awards would realize that).

I should imagine they will also be part of the FX TCA panel line-up this weekend, where they may or may not confirm IRL spy baby news and how it may or may not impact the storyline this season. One thing that is clear is that family will once again be the focus and that this central relationship is what drives The Americans overall with the spy shenanigans as the dangerous backdrop. The Americans 3.13 Philip and ElizabethIt is something Russell has discussed before, but it is worth repeating that this type of role is a gift for an actress in a sea of girlfriend/wife roles which have very little substance to them (Russell’s role in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes is indicative of this). She goes on to say:

“Being a woman and just the type of parts that are available right now, to me it is such a great job because it’s kind of the best way to explore a marriage or personal relationship dynamics because it’s not like Thirtysomething or you know a show that’s just basically talking about marriage. All the jealousy, all the danger, all of those elements and trust that you would be exploring in a regular marriage show are there, but they’re so heightened.”

Disguise wise the hair and shoulder pads are going to get bigger and there’s promise of teal glitter eyeliner – which sounds pretty ideal for 2016 tbh. In terms of this being an 80s show Matthew Rhys points out how the showrunners have been “shrewd enough to not want the 80s be the other character” as it is a decade which can pull the viewer out of the story because of how ridiculous everything looks. Although they do point out that there is one actor – Keidrich Sellati, who plays Henry Jennings – who is constantly astounded by the tech of the time.

Other disguise aspects to look out for in the future include oversized teeth, which have yet to make an appearance so far as dialogue heavy scenes make it impossible to talk properly while wearing them. They also both point out how helpful the physical aspect of the costuming is when informing how they play these parts. And it is definitely something that is very fun to write about.

Watch the interview below and stay tuned for more Americans season 4 news.

Best of TV Costuming 2015: Removing Disguisies and Revealing the Truth on The Americans

11 Dec

Welcome to TV Ate My Wardrobe’s “Best of 2015” costuming 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.

So while there won’t be a Top 10 there is a show that would take the top spot without too much deliberation needed and The Americans takes that title; it is only right then to kick off our end of year coverage with this. The Americans is a repeat player in the “Best of” costume discussion with wigs (of course) and the ‘marriage disguise.’

Both detailed the key attributes in how Elizabeth and Philip mask their identities; one protects their overall cover while the other makes it possible for them to serve their country in the long term and costume designer Jenny Gering’s work is a vital piece of the spy life versus family puzzle. What season 3 did was take this and spin it on its head with the Paige problem; what do you do when your bosses want your daughter to become part of the program?

The Americans 3.10 Philip and Elizabeth - CopyThe threat of Paige finding out permeates its way throughout most of the season until it reaches a head when Paige directly asks what the deal is with their strange behavior. They may look like regular parents – okay maybe not regular parents – in their turtlenecks and office wear as they run their small business and they are anything but. They’ve still got almost everyone else fooled including their FBI neighbor and aside from a couple of close calls the spy biz is ticking along. Philip only had to kill one person this season and that is already an improvement on his high body count last year. I mean he has had to seduce a high school girl who is pretty much the same age as his own daughter so it hasn’t been obstacle free. Oh yeah and then there is the difference in opinion about what to do regarding Paige.

Elizabeth and Philip are both dedicated to the cause, but Philip is the one who often looks like he is on the edge of the abyss and could be persuaded to defect if the conditions were right (ie Elizabeth would have to agree, which ha). Elizabeth is more inclined to follow orders and so when they were dropped with the Paige bombshell at the end of last season she was the one who didn’t think it was so bad. For Philip all he can see are the bad things they have to do whether it is what they do to someone else – breaking up a body and putting it in a suitcase – or the lengths they go to get information. It’s not just about committing acts of violence and there is so much more they inevitably give away in the name of the cause.

The Americans 3.10 StingersIn fact the night Paige confronts her parents they have been out for work scoping out a hotel and working out which one of them is going to be on seduction duty. It falls to Elizabeth wearing a revealing white suit and black bob to perform this duplicitous task. A far cry from their travel agency office where Paige has visited earlier that day. When Philip and Elizabeth return home they are blindsided by Paige’s questions about who they really are as she begs them to stop lying. The conversation takes places in the heart of their family home; in the kitchen and at the table they share every morning. What makes this moment so spectacular other than the fact that the writers go THERE three episodes before the season finale is that Paige has agency in a storyline that has been all about her parents. She is the one that makes her parents finally figure out what the fuck they are going to do about telling her.

There is no separation of family and spy life in this case because they are so intrinsically linked and by having this conversation in such a communal space it hammers home this point. The time has come to reveal who they are and the decision to tell the whole truth (well a general overview) doesn’t involve dramatic wig removal (more on this later), but instead comes after a series of looks between Philip and Elizabeth followed by the smallest indicator of a nod. They still look like mom and dad and she didn’t have another experience where she should have knocked; however EVERYTHING about who they are from their names to their place of birth has been a lie and it is hard to get over this level of deceit. It’s why I can’t be too mad at Paige when she spills the part about their nationality in the finale and why for me she is exempt from the scorn that is normally poured over teen characters who meddle in dramas such as Homeland and Masters of Sex.

Paige is not the only one who is gets to find out who her nearest and dearest really are this season and she gets off easy in the how of this discovery. I mentioned how there is no dramatic wig removal when Paige learns the truth; for Martha she gets to finally see the person she is married to and he looks like a very different person to the one in the photographs. The shit has really hit the fan in the Martha assignment thanks to Agent Gaad finding out he has a bug in his office and oh yeah his secretary was the one who put it there. No one else knows this yet and Philip desperately tries to keep Martha on side pulling the ‘this is who I am really am and you can trust me’ card right at the end.

The Paige reveal was a full on HOLY SHIT moment in what it means to the entire show and yet I don’t think I felt more tense than when Philip slowly took off his Clark disguise; starting with his glasses, the wig pins and then removing his hair piece. He doesn’t utter a word as removes everything that makes him look like Clark and it feels like a horror movie. For Martha she is now looking at a man she doesn’t recognize and all she can do is react with teary eyed confusion.

The Americans 3.12 Clark The Americans 2.12 de-wigging The Americans 3.12 MarthaThe one major misstep The Americans made this year was by ending the penultimate episode with this scene and then giving no follow up in the season finale. It is so big that it needed addressing; is this the end of ‘Clark?’ Or is this a onetime only de-wigging and those glasses will never leave his face ever again when he is in her company?

Lack of dialogue can be just as effective as a passionate monologue and The Americans excels in the non-verbal. Martha can’t get any words out here because there aren’t any that can explain just what the fuck is going on and one of the best scenes of this season tells us everything we need to know through a series of looks. Philip and Elizabeth have come a long way from when we first met them; they’re still not all that great at sharing their feelings, but there is a deeper understanding and commitment. Trust is fundamental here and despite the conflict caused by the Paige problem it didn’t break them up as it might have done in the past.

No scene better demonstrates just how in deep they are with each other than the wordless tooth removal. It plays out like a sex scene and it is incredibly tender even if it involves pliers and some sounds I never want to hear ever again. Especially as I have a scheduled tooth removal next month. At least I will have something more effective than a shot of whiskey for the pain.

The Americans 3.03 The Americans 3.03 Elizabeth's eye The Americans 3.03 Philip's eye The Americans 3.03 Elizabeth eye afterPhilip and Elizabeth don’t need to tell each other who they really are because they already know (well some stories from their youth might still be required), but it is moments like this that really lay it all out there. It one reason why The Americans is so fascinating and the exploration of marriage and identity is consistently just as thrilling (if not more so) as the spy missions and disguises they wear.

The Americans 3.13 “March 8, 1983” Review: “Why Are You Here?”

23 Apr

There is no denying that Philip and Elizabeth have done plenty of bad things on The Americans as we have seen them engage in activities which compromise them in a variety of ways. The very idea of good and evil can be rather abstract, particularly when dealing with opposing ideologies so the Reagan rhetoric which plays over this season’s final moments not only shows how precarious relations are at this point in the Cold War, but also taps into the state of mind of the three central players.

The Paige Problem which shifted into the Paige Revelation altered the balance and somehow raised the stakes further; the kitchen scene in “Stingers” is the defining moment not just of this season, but the entire run so far and everything that has come after feels even more fraught. Doubling down on fragile mental states in the Jennings household is Philip who has been teetering on the edge of the abyss and this talk of good/evil is pretty on point when it comes to his current status (‘Philip is feeling broken’).

The Americans 3.13 Philip and ElizabethElizabeth has never really wavered when it comes to duty to country; a few weeks ago Betty, the old woman who Elizabeth pretty much forced to kill herself used the word evil when Elizabeth justified her actions with the usual ‘making things better’ line. While Elizabeth is not simply a stone cold killer allowing herself a few tears shed in the darkness, the ends still justified the means. When it comes to killing for the cause Elizabeth is much better at shutting off her emotions, in the same way she told Philip that she doesn’t think about the sex training she also appears to do the same when it comes to the most brutal acts they commit.

It has been notable that Philip has not actually killed anyone this season, until this episode that is. Yes he could be considered complicit in the death of Annelise and he has certainly been present when someone else has pulled the trigger (or set the fire). Yousaf is the constant reminder of what happened to Annelise and he is under the impression that Philip has no real feelings about this; instead Philip tells him “I feel like shit all the time” and while Philip claims Elizabeth is the person who really knows him he tends to reveal more of himself in moments like this when he is in disguise. Pressure has been piling on Philip from a variety of sources including the relationships he is cultivating all in the name of the cause with Kimmy and Martha. Neither appears in the finale and the absence of Martha looms large after the huge de-wigging moment. About 25 minutes in I did write in huge block letters “WHERE IS MARTHA?” and while it is somewhat disappointing she didn’t make an appearance after such a jaw-dropping reveal, the finale is already overflowing and so it makes sense to imagine her squirreled away somewhere (I’m imagining with Hans) as she tries to process exactly what is going on.

The Americans 3.13 PhilipWhen Philip showed his true face to Martha I figured it was an act of ‘kindness’ before he has to kill her and while I can’t see how Martha is going to make it for yet another season, Philip’s desire to avoid any more collateral damage is strong. Instead he frames Gene, the computer dude and stages his suicide. No need for a forced handwritten note when a computer sits in the center of the room. Philip’s typed words of “I had no choice… I’m sorry” double as his own apology for this and Matthew Rhys giving a masterclass in playing self-loathing and quiet desperation throughout the finale. When he comes home to an empty house towards the end of the episode it is one of the lowest points we have seen him at as he rotates from listening to the radio to lying on his bed in silence. He enthusiastically bounds down the stairs when Elizabeth and Paige get back from their trip reads as an attempt to cover up his melancholy; it is only later on when he is alone with his wife that he tries to explain how he is feeling. I’m pretty sure if Philip started crying he would never stop and so far he has been pretty incredible at only hitting pre-glassy eyes.

EST has played in the background in a seemingly inconsequential manner as a failed attempt for Stan to win back Susan. Instead it has tapped into a part of Philip and he returns to the meetings alone bumping into Susan in the process. These are two characters that have barely spent anytime onscreen together and at first it is jarring seeing them sharing such an intimate discussion. Susan suggests being honesty friends, which would be fine except Philip, can only really share a small part of who he is with her. It is also interesting that Philip has chosen the seminar on sex as his refuge as honesty is such a big part of the EST philosophy and so many of his sexual interactions involve the notion of ‘making it real.’ Sex with Elizabeth is also complicated as while they have a strong intimate bond, Philip has told his wife that in the past he has used this technique with her too. I would very much like to see Elizabeth’s reaction to one of these seminars as I’m pretty sure she would be as open to this as she is to church.

The Americans 3.13 Philip and ElizabethPhilip is looking for an emotional tether in the same way Paige has been when it comes to religion; father and daughter have this in common and by the end of the episode they reach out to the person who they believe they can trust the most. Finding it hard to formulate his feelings, Philip struggles to tell Elizabeth exactly what is going on in his mind. She thinks he isn’t necessarily seeing things clearly and yet she is also distracted by the big Reagan speech playing on their bedroom television. This is Philip really opening up about the emotional toll of all this as he awkwardly explains how he needs to know what he’s doing better. It is not entirely clear what he means by this but with the moral terms being used by Reagan, I think he needs to know that what they are doing is positive and not just destroying multiple lives. Elizabeth doesn’t register his pain, or doesn’t want to acknowledge that yes there are flaws in their organization. It is the same way she brushes off Paige’s discomfort at lying and tells Philip how the trip has been really beneficial.

The Americans 3.13 PaigeInstead Paige is having her own moral quandary as she lies on her bed sobbing and boy is Holly Taylor destroying my soul in every way possible. Really they should have take that phone out of her room the instant they told her the truth, but they are both convinced she won’t spill their big dark secret. Spill she does and the tension is almost too much to take as we cut between Philip and Elizabeth’s missed connection talk with Stan and Henry happily playing a board game oblivious to what is taking place across the street. Paige can’t take the lying and in her mind her parents are trying to infect her with their lies. Seeing Elizabeth with her mother could have been a bonding moment and in Elizabeth’s mind it was, but she is only seeing it from her own POV. Paige questions how Elizabeth’s mother let her go like that and Elizabeth reassures her that nothing like that will happen to her. I’m not sure this is the answer Paige is seeking as she tries to reconcile everything she knows now. Seeing her mother ‘at work’ as she checks to see if they are being followed is an eye opener and even though nothing comes of it, seeing her mom in full spy mode has got to be unnerving. Paige has not had to live in the moral grey area before; this is all Philip and Elizabeth know and because they see family loyalty as being stronger than Paige’s feelings of what is right and wrong I don’t think they even consider Paige uttering this

“I’ve been having a really hard time and I’m hurting a lot. And I don’t know what to do. I’ve tried praying and it doesn’t help. Please, please help me. I can’t take it, they’re just, they’re liars. They’re liars and they’re trying to turn me into one. They’re not who they say are. They’re not Americans. I’m not supposed to say it, you can’t tell anyone. They’re, they’re Russians.”

And that sound you just heard is my screaming “Whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?” at the length of time it is going to be until we find out the resolution of this HOLY SHIT confession. Oh, Paige. That speech is heartbreaking on its own but intercut with Philip’s own attempt at revealing his pain it takes on the level of brutal soul crushing The Americans excels at. Elizabeth is so focused on the cause that she can’t see her husband and child are not exactly feeling it. This is not to say Elizabeth doesn’t feel anything as demonstrated by the scene with her mother and this is some extraordinary stuff from Keri Russell (this review could quite simply be two thousand words on how great all the face parts acting is from Russell, Rhys and Taylor). The Elizabeth we have seen this season has been far more connected to emotions including flashes of jealousy towards Philip’s other women to the tears we saw not just with Lois, but post the very close call early on this year.

The Americans 3.13 ElizabethElizabeth has known her mother has been sick since Gabriel’s return and while their handler has been using this connection to keep Elizabeth on side, Philip has seen it as an opportunity to assert his power. The plan Philip came up with was to get Elizabeth and Paige into West Germany and go from there with Gabriel calling this move childish; Philip said he was going to look out for his family and this is him doing just that. The tension between Philip and Gabriel is far from resolved and it is one of the many storylines which looks set to explode next season with Elizabeth placed in the middle of this rumble. This isn’t about the cause though and Philip was simply trying to do what he could to help his wife see her dying mother, a woman she hasn’t seen in over 20 years. The scene itself is rather brief, but manages to do a lot connecting three generations in this space and time, inviting Paige in but holding her at a distance as she remains standing. As Elizabeth clings onto those last glimpses, Paige is in the bathroom praying once again emphasizing how different Elizabeth and Paige are. Elizabeth can’t bring herself to pray with her daughter, but she does join her in this moment of reflection.

The Americans 3.13 prayingThe use of space in this hotel location helps demonstrate how alone Paige feels whereas for Elizabeth this experience is all about coming together. She gets to see her mother when she didn’t think that was ever going to happen again and if Elizabeth believed in miracles then she would probably call this one. For Paige it simply overwhelms and adds to her feeling of discomfort at who her parents really are. When she asked them for their real names or to speak Russian it was a test to see if they were telling the truth, being in this room in West Germany seeing her real grandmother and hearing Russian spoken so freely is an entirely new level of comprehension. It is also worth noting that Paige is not only wearing her cross, but she is also wearing a t-shirt with footprints in the sand, which has strong religious connotations. Paige is very much holding onto her beliefs.

The Americans 3.13 footprints teeOne person who is through with compromising herself is Nina and she can’t keep buying back her life. Nina isn’t going to get saved by Stan and Oleg’s partnership, a partnership which Stan is using to get leverage so he can flip him or expose his treason (more on this to come) and she also doesn’t want to sell Anton out. Anton is actually doing a lot more work since Nina’s arrival so she might inadvertently get her freedom if he comes through with something. It is all about asserting control where they can and the opportunity to explore this technology through the photos Lisa got is too exciting for Anton to ignore and there is always some hope that one day he will see his son again. Something romantic might take place between this pair, but they share a connection on a much more intimate level as their fates are entwined and they both know what it feels like to be used as a bargaining chip. Nina having some amount of agency makes me very happy and even though this story has been on the periphery it is one of many that I am looking forward to returning to.

The tension at the FBI is ever increasing as Agent Gaad is still smarting from the pen incident so Stan’s off books work means he gets the brunt of Gaad’s frustration and anger. If it was up to Gaad, Stan would be dunzo, but red tape doesn’t stop everything and his work has been recognized from higher up. Getting the go ahead to continue with this operation but without Nina’s freedom as leverage means he is going to have to find a new way to get to Oleg.

What we are left with at the end of this season is a lot of questions and unresolved storylines; this could be considered anti-climatic in one respect, but that doozy of a final sequence coupled with how strong the narrative has been throughout means I am so close to curling up in the fetal position under my desk thankful for a bleak break. Not every plot has been entirely successful this year and at times there has been too much going on with Stan’s marriage/divorce being something that could easily have been trimmed down this year. Overall this has been one incredible season without a single weak episode and even though it is only April it is going to be hard for any other show to top this one for me this year.

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 3.13 GabrielDirector Dan Sackheim delivers plenty of amazing shots that could be included (and a lot of them appear in this review) and this scene at Gabriel’s uses space in the way I have discussed further up. There is so much distance between them with Gabriel only coming close to Philip when he wants to lay down some father like words of warning/disappointment.

The Americans 3.13 hotelThe light from the large windows in both shots helps frame those within the room and even though Elizabeth is standing she looks childlike before her mother in her blue nightdress (the blue dress links back to the one Elizabeth mentions to Philip in “Baggage.” Even though we hear about her tough her mother is, there is nothing but love in this scene.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.13 Philip disguisePhilip has definitely borrowed one of Elizabeth’s wigs with this blonde number when staging Gene’s suicide. Maybe he thinks he can channel her ability to compartmentalize (he can’t).

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.13 NinaNina’s attire has been a whole lot of beige, grey and brown but her knitwear game is strong. Probably a must for how cold it is where she is.

The Americans 3.12 “I Am Abassin Zadran” Review: All in the Family

16 Apr

Family on The Americans blurs the line between truth and lies starting as one and becoming the other and Paige continues to struggle with what she was told a couple of episodes ago. Last week Elizabeth divulged more about her mother than ever before, which to us as the viewers is of great emotional significance, but to Paige it is another part of this web of deception. It doesn’t matter that her parents are now revealing the real parts of themselves when they have been lying for her entire existence. Paige isn’t Philip and Elizabeth’s only concern as the multiple operations they are running hit a critical juncture; the human element means that no matter how well they plan something there is the potential for things to go awry, which is what tends to happen on this show.

The Americans 3.12 Elizabeth CIAIn fact the operation with Abassin Zadran goes without a hitch (at this juncture) as Philip and Elizabeth successfully plant the seeds of doubt while having to hear a cheerful tale about how much satisfaction he gets from killing communists. Both remain composed while he talks about gutting and Elizabeth even takes a moment to massage his ego by calling him loyal and brave. As with most assets it is all about saying what the person wants to hear to get them to comply without even realizing it. This is the operation we have been following all season and it’s why Philip has been hanging out with a fifteen year old girl who isn’t his daughter and it is good to see them get a relatively straightforward win even if it comes with such brutal execution.

Teen girls and specifically Paige and Kimmy are at the heart of yesterday’s Americans post and one matter discussed was how Paige might act out. Instead of going for the traditional act of teen rebellion, Paige instead hits her parents where it hurts; with religion and her relationship with Pastor Tim as she left a note saying she was going to stay over after a lecture. A big hell no moment from Philip and Elizabeth mostly out of fear she might spill their secret and also partly because they are angry at her insubordination. So they once again leave Henry alone with just the company of TV and his beloved computer game; is this Henry neglect going to come back to bite them? It’s not like he will Jared them or anything but I do think they need to start paying some attention to child number two, well besides how much he might be able to hear when Paige is yelling about this family not being real.

“Don’t jump all over her.”
“You know what I mean.”
“No, maybe I don’t. You wanna teach me how to handle my own daughter?!”

First of all this exchange between Philip and Elizabeth is a great example of what makes this show so special; it is a typical parental debate about how to handle a wayward child with a strong hint of implied knowledge that they will react unfavorably. Elizabeth proves that she can remain relatively calm in this instance and while nothing is really resolved they manage to get their point across that Paige can’t act like this. This is where The Americans deviates from the family drama as with this knowledge Paige now holds the key to their downfall and as they are high level operatives it will be a huge loss for the KGB. When they return home, the garage acts as a kind of holding cell as they block Paige in and reinforce how much they need to be able to trust her and because the space is so small it adds to the tension. The way they use this house and the familiar settings heightens the drama because everywhere is tinged with the family life that also feels pretty alien to Paige at the moment.

The Americans 3.12 Philip and ElizabethLater on Paige interrupts her parents who are discussing the Martha problem in the confines of their bedroom with Elizabeth and Philip remaining seated when she enters. Armed with a family photo album Paige questions the so-called relatives who feature and whether they are really their blood. Of course they aren’t; Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell do a stellar job of managing the awkward acceptance that this going to be just one in a long line of having to admit to things which they faked with quick glances at each other. There is also a strong sense of agitation from Paige as her voice gets louder and Elizabeth as she tries to remain calm.

The Americans 3.12 bedroomAnd then it all gets too much for Elizabeth and she does the thing that Philip warned her against doing as she literally jumps all over her trying to stifle Paige’s speech by putting her hand over her mouth. This of course goes horribly and Paige utters a very familiar “Don’t touch me” giving me flashbacks to fifteen and some dumb fight about whatever. If Philip was an asshole he might point out to his wife this is what he was referring to earlier, but Elizabeth is quick to register regret at how this escalated.

Philip remains seated and we get to see him framed in the center of the two most important women in his life trying to calm the situation and failing. It once again ends with Paige departing and at this point they haven’t really ended any conversations with Paige as she always exits first.

The Americans 3.12 PhilipGiving Paige space is wise, but this needs to be resolved so Philip goes to see Paige on her own turf. Like Paige did earlier, he uses photos as a way to reach her and when he enters he sits on the floor with her maintaining an equal level rather than going for a superior position. Philip is better at reasoning with Paige because at this point Elizabeth is incapable of completely controlling her emotions. Elizabeth tends to be the colder one of the pair but since she actually fell in love with Philip when it comes to their family her feelings are more intense and harder to dismiss. Photos are Paige’s tool to point out everything is fake and Philip uses this same tool to show her how real things are. Yes Cousin Roger and Aunt Helen are points of fiction – Philip mentions Elizabeth being unwell, not that she got shot – but everything in this house is real.

The Americans 3.12 baby photoAnother fantastic job by the props/art department as they continue to kill it with the Jennings family photo collection. There is nothing more irritating than being taken out of a highly emotional scene by bad photoshop or personal pictures which are clearly from the promo department. We get an instant connection to this moment because it looks like a real family photo celebrating a very important arrival. It brings everything back to their family and the experiences which are not fake. A family camping holiday is the other reminder Philip brings and Paige mentions how Henry was afraid a bear would eat him, something Philip didn’t know because Henry had made Paige promise she wouldn’t tell (we all keep secrets). It is a really lovely scene between father and daughter without the level of fraught tension from their recent scenes. Photographs can create an illusion as a smile doesn’t always mean a person is happy and yet they also freeze a specific time/place allowing us to experience it again and see the truth.

Despite Gabriel saying no last week to Philip’s request for Elizabeth to see her mother, Philip is pushing forward with this plan and even goes so far as suggesting Elizabeth takes Paige with her. As before Elizabeth hesitates when it comes to this conversation and it’s like his chat with Gabriel lit a fire under him as he pulls the ‘if you don’t take her, I will’ card. A hard card to argue with and Elizabeth tells Paige about the trip idea (accompanied by Ultravox “Vienna”) making sure Paige knows that it is her choice if she wants to come or not. It’s like Philip and Elizabeth are finally on the same page (boom boom).

The Americans 3.12 Claudia and GabrielGabriel has an interesting conversation about the state of everything with Claudia (!) and it is so good to see Margo Martindale share a scene with Frank Langella discussing their long history, the amount of menu choice and what to do about the Jennings family. Jared is referenced and how this disaster caused a huge rift in the Centre and yet they still want to progress with Paige. Claudia thinks Philip is the problem and yet Gabriel also has doubts that relate to Elizabeth and her ability to deal with Philip since this plan has been set in motion. As with how Gabriel manipulates his agents, Claudia does the same to Gabriel telling him how much faith the Centre has in him. This is right down to how Gabriel reaches for Elizabeth’s hand, so does Claudia do the same to him. Oh Claudia, do you not remember what Elizabeth did to you when you tried to interfere with her family last time?

Doubt is creeping in all over the place and another photograph prompts questions. Stan makes a surprise visit to Martha’s and luckily Hans is watching the building as he tips Philip off that someone from the government is inside. Hans is not the loose cannon I thought he might be, but I guess there is still time for that to change. Martha’s wedding photo with Clark is safely hidden in her drawer and when she went to look at it, I figured she was going for her gun. This picture is the perfect example of the lies Paige was talking about and while their marriage is technically real (although not at the same time as Clark is an assumed identity); it means something far greater to Martha than it does to the person behind Clark.

The Americans 3.12 Martha bedMartha is beginning to fall apart and being driven out to the middle of nowhere to have secret chats with your husband is not reassuring. Alison Wright delivers a heartbreaking performance of monumental proportions first when she tries to pretend that everything is fine on the phone to her parents followed by her confrontation with Clark. She tells her parents she is staying there and Clark that she is going to her parents so what is she really packed for? If she leaves in this way the FBI are going to figure it was her who planted the pen and this trip has finality to it. Philip tries everything he can to convince her that it will be fine and none of his words help so he goes for the extreme option revealing not only his true face but pulling off the wig. We’ve only seen Philip’s wig removed twice; first during a fight, the second time he ripped it off in anger and this reveal is huge. There is something sinister about the slow, measured way he removes the pins slowly showing who he is and I can’t see Philip letting Martha out of this alive, not now he has revealed his true face. Yes I think he genuinely cares for her, but there is only one family he will protect and that is his real one. It is worth pointing out Philip has not had to kill anyone yet this season and this looks like it might change. Oh, Martha.

In other operations Arkady is already fed up of the chit chat they have to sift through with Operation Mail Robot/Zephyr and it takes Oleg and Tatiana to reinforce how important it might be. Tatiana is an intriguing character as she appears to be invested in Arkady keeping this position and she is worried if he pulls the plug this quick then it will look bad on him. Personal conversations can be used to exploit the agents who are having them; affairs can equate to blackmail potential. Also Stan and Agent Aderholt had a very heated chat about Nina and the distinctive beeping of ol’ mail robot can be heard in the background so I wonder if this back and forth will cross their desks. It’s not just Nina they talk about as Elizabeth is also referenced as the illegal Stan shot and who he thinks maybe beat up Gaad and Aderholt way back in the season premiere.

With just one episode to go of this exceptional season it is hard to see how they are going to tie everything up and I expect a lot of this will continue next year including the Lisa storyline which is briefly covered this week; Maurice continues to be a huge thorn in Elizabeth’s side and if looks could kill he would have been eviscerated by now.

Shot of the Week

The Americans 3.12 kitchenThe reading of Paige’s note and I love how despite Elizabeth being slightly out of focus you can see the anger on her face and tension in her shoulders. Henry is the ultimate latchkey kid and his back is turned away from the source of contention with Philip puling concerned dad face. He hasn’t even taken his coat off yet.

The Americans 3.12 MarthaThe Martha/Clark chat of attempted ‘everything will be fine’ is framed in this wonderful light/dark way and I think it is safe to say it will not be.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.12 big blue phoneElizabeth wears her CIA disguise for her phone maintenance worker hotel trip and there is no way Neil will suspect this is the woman he hooked up with last week. This is my favorite of the Elizabeth wig collection and this giant blue phone just adds a whole extra something to the shot.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.12 PaigeIn the wide shot the jeans are a little unflattering when the shirt is tucked in this much, but I dig Paige’s plaid shirt.

The Americans 3.11 “One Day in the Life of Anton Baklanov” Review: “We Do Hard Things”

9 Apr

Questions come in many forms on The Americans this week including the emotional fallout from last week’s huge revelation and trust is not something that comes easily across various storylines. Philip and Elizabeth continue to juggle multiple operations while dealing with their fraught situation at home and the scrutiny they are under has increased. In an episode with Anton Baklanov’s name in the title he remains on the periphery with the Jennings still very much at the heart of the story, especially after that bombshell last week and Paige has something Anton’s son Jacob does not have; answers.

These answers don’t completely satisfy Paige with half snatched conversations and the inability to fully believe what they are telling her. The foundation of her entire world has been destroyed and we are entering uncharted waters.

The Americans 3.11 Snow!Philip and Elizabeth have spent the season at odds over this decision with Gabriel acting as the master manipulator. Tension has been simmering between Philip and Gabriel with Philip telling him exactly how he feels about his methods a couple of episodes ago over a not so friendly game of Scrabble. This continues this week in both their solo conversation and when Elizabeth is present. Gabriel keeps asking how they are and it seems less out of personal concern and more to do with their positions as highly valued agents. Later Gabriel questions whether Philip is falling apart and all I have to say to Gabriel on this one is you should have seen him last season because right now Philip is incredibly stable. In fact Philip is doing a better job of compartmentalizing his emotions than Elizabeth is right now, maybe he is doing it too well and he should concerned with his mental state.

With Elizabeth, Gabriel holds a certain level of control with his access to the tapes from her mother and he informs her there might not be too many more. There is something about the way he takes her hand that really puts my back up and I am very much on Team Philip on this one. Prompting Philip to suggest once again that Elizabeth has one last face to face meeting with her mother before she dies and both Gabriel and Elizabeth think it is impossible. This request from Philip is not out of character and much like Elizabeth’s desire to get Philip’s son home from Afghanistan it shows a deep level of love between the pair that goes beyond their inability to always share how they are feeling with each other. The difference here comes in Gabriel’s response as when Elizabeth asked he left it open and managed to come through; with Philip it is a straight no. By pushing Philip like this it unleashes the sassy strop off which is more than fair as Philip points out how much he has done for the Centre and he’s getting nothing in return. This includes a detailed description of what happened with Annelise – “I had an agent I slept with for three years and then I got her killed. I broke her bones and I shoved her in a suitcase” – the Paige problem and the Afghanistan issue.

In a way it feels like they are having two conversations which comes back to the repeated use of the word fine; Philip says “we’ll be fine” when Gabriel asks how he is specifically and then this switches to how this whole situation is not fine followed by Philip barely containing his disdain when he snarks “I’m fine.” Basically Philip wants Gabriel to stay out of anything to do with his family and he also wants him to do something in return to make up for this clusterfuck of a life they are living. Earlier on when they tell Gabriel that Paige knows, it is Elizabeth who emphasizes how fine they are and they are less convincing the more they say it.

Philip sells it much better with Yousaf as they have a heart to heart about the aforementioned suitcase incident with the party line being that what they do doesn’t get any easier but the thought of what the world could be like is what gets him through. This sounds a lot like the version of their job description they told Paige about last week, which was a highly edited and unspecific description. They can only tell Paige a certain amount about what they do and I doubt they will be sharing recent activities with her such as sleeping with hotel managers or the other wife that Philip has.

The Americans 3.11 pancakesThere is some transparency and instead they focus on personal details which means we get far more information about Elizabeth’s childhood (still Philip is pretty much a blank slate) and the discussion in the car between Paige and her mother is heartbreaking. Elizabeth essentially monologues with her daughter sitting there listening to this tale of hardship; what appears to be a potential bonding moment ends with Paige explaining that she doesn’t know how she can believe anything they say anymore. Elizabeth does not have a sharing disposition, but as we see here and in the past when she is talking about her mother it taps into a reservoir of emotion. Paige starts the episode with a series of questions and she is quick to find out they are not willing to talk about this when Henry could come in at any moment. Luckily Henry is too busy practicing his Eddie Murphy impression that while he is aware there is tension he is also not that bothered by it.

At the end of the episode Paige knocks on her parents’ door – after last time she has definitely learned that knocking is key – and asks what they are talking about. Philip is honest and mentions how her grandmother is sick; Paige is overwhelmed and leaves without saying much as if she still can’t process all of this information (she has a grandmother now), which is more than understandable. Initially leaving the door open we are left with a shot of Philip and Elizabeth in bed, but she comes back to shut the door and we are left with Paige on one side and her parents on the other. The divide in the Jennings house continues to grow.

The Americans 3.11 ElizabethIn the past we have seen Philip and Elizabeth reconnect through sex and Elizabeth uses this tried and tested move with different results. This season has featured several occasions where Philip comes in late at night followed by either stoned confessions or shared sparking up sessions. The intimacy level has been high but in different forms from what we see this week; when Elizabeth comes home from the hotel (where she made her excuses with Neil) she strips and wakes Philip with a passionate kiss. As Elizabeth drops out of the frame we stay on Philip’s face which remains impassive and this attempt at connecting falls short. This is the first time in an age where Elizabeth has been used as a honeytrap and the earlier encounter with Neil is all about him giving her pleasure and it feels like this is her way of making it up to Philip. Elizabeth has been experiencing jealousy for the first time this season and while I wouldn’t necessarily suggest that Philip is projecting similar feelings he is concerned about the hotel operation.

Going back to Philip’s conversation about ‘making it real’ when it comes to sex and despite the sexiness of Elizabeth’s underwear and Neil’s “I want you wet” there is an awareness in these scenes of how fake it is as Elizabeth takes a moment to sell it and sell it she does when she experiences a real moment of pleasure. However when Elizabeth comes home from her sexual encounter with Neil she looks so fucking depressed as the consequences are far higher now her daughter knows who she is and there’s a lot more feelings to be considered beyond just Philip.

Anton talks to Nina about how he was traded like a slave and he is fed up of being used in this way. Nina connects with him by using his son and her own experience of being traded back and forth. Everyone on this show is being used in some way and it is all about controlling how this is done; Philip is attempting to limit this with his conversations with Gabriel, Martha is being used and Paige doesn’t have a clue what could be in store for her. And what of Nina? She is so good at getting people to trust her and as with last season it is hard to tell exactly what is for show and what is real. They have tried to get to Anton with a series of women for him to sleep with and I am thrilled that Nina is using charm of another kind to obtain her freedom.

What The Americans also teaches us this week is how to look like you’re making eye contact with someone as Philip preps Martha. He tells her to stare at the end of Taffet’s nose as this will create the illusion of looking into someone’s eyes. Martha passes this test with Taffet as she confidently answers his questions although I am concerned for her safety now that Hans knows where she lives.

Speaking of unstable entities and Maurice wants in on Michelle’s money making plan. Lisa hasn’t made an appearance for a few episodes and this reminds us just how many missions they’ve got going at the moment. There are plenty of ways for any of these plans to go wrong and there is a strong look of concern (and loathing) when Maurice is upfront about knowing Elizabeth is the mastermind of this plan.

One story that continues to tick over is at the rezidentura and the bug they put in the mail robot is up and running. Arkady has given Oleg and Tatiana the task of going through the transcripts and I have a feeling the beeping which causes them to crack up is going to be very important.

This episode was very much a table setter after last week’s major shift with Philip and Elizabeth attempting to keep control of their inseparable home and work life. It feels like it is only going to get harder for the pair as they are now in deep in every facet of their life and there still remains some distance between them emotionally; is there couples therapy for spies?

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 3.11 Philip and ElizabethElizabeth and Philip are poised waiting for Gabriel to tell him about the big development and this shot represents how fine they are trying to pretend they are while both looking like they want to throw up. When Gabriel enters, Elizabeth pulls up a seat close to Philip putting on a show of unity.

The Americans 3.11 Anton and NinaThis looks like an Edward Hopper painting.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.11 ClarkPhilip causes extra confusion as Clark by wearing a turtleneck AND a sweater; perhaps this is his way to distract Martha from asking any other questions. Although unlike Paige, she hasn’t shown any desire to delve any further.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.11 Elizabeth kitchenSpeaking of sweater game and Elizabeth gives good serious face while wearing this purple number. I would probably leave the high waisted polyester slacks for another occasion.

The Americans 3.10 “Stingers” Review: “If You Really Love Me”

2 Apr

For all the facades and lies that have been told on The Americans there are some truths that can’t be shaken; the family that was started as part of their cover is very real despite the double life they lead. Paige has been at the heart of much of the discord between Philip and Elizabeth this season as they vehemently disagree about the Centre’s interest in their daughter as a future asset. Elizabeth has been itching to tell Paige who they really are all with Philip firmly in the keep her in the dark camp (a camp of one).

The Americans 3.10 Philip and Elizabeth - CopyThis season has been building towards Paige finding out inching forward a tiny amount at a time with the nearest Elizabeth has got involved talking about their activist past. Rather than going all in at once Paige has lingered in the background as the constant elephant in the room with Philip questioning his wife about her projected time frame; would he come home one day to find a now all knowing Paige? For all Elizabeth’s desires to go ahead and tell Paige, she has also been concerned about Philip because they are now very much husband and wife. This love is very real and she is considering his feelings in the matter whereas in the past she wouldn’t have given him a second thought if it meant defying Centre’s orders. Things are different now and Elizabeth even apologizes for her trip down memory lane with Paige and Elizabeth Jennings is not one for apologizing.

In the end it isn’t a decision made by either Elizabeth or Philip to tell or not to tell as Paige confronts them of her own volition. It isn’t out of the blue as Paige has been questioning what her parents have been up to since the end of season 1 when she made the trip down to the basement to check the laundry. With the counsel of Pastor Tim she asks them what their big dark secret is opening with an emotional kicker of “Do you love me?” Paige pivots on this and uses it as a reason for them to tell her what their deal is and doubles down on this by using love as a reason for them to be completely honest. If they really love her then they would tell her the truth and she’s backing her parents into a corner. Yeah they could lie their way out of this situation, but the question is out there now and this is actually the perfect time to do the thing one of them has been aching to do all season.

What makes this scene so incredible is how all the pieces move; from shock at Paige’s forthright question to how they decide to tell her. Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell are so good at the face parts acting, it sounds like such a simple notion but I can’t think of two other actors at the moment who can convey so much through the smallest gesture or reaction. After Paige lists off all the possible reasons there can be for their behavior/lack of family – witness protection, they killed someone, drug dealers, she’s adopted, they’re aliens – and turns her back on her parents there is a long beat and Philip nods at Elizabeth giving her the go ahead to reveal who they are. So for all their fighting it ends up being a joint decision.

The Americans 3.10 StingersEven the telling process is in sync as Elizabeth starts the confession with Philip actually being the first one to explain they weren’t born in the US after Elizabeth stumbles on her words. This back and forth of finishing each other’s sentences shows their united front in this and while Elizabeth has wanted to do this, it still doesn’t make the actual telling any easier. I’ve watched this scene a couple of times now and it is incredibly powerful seeing them share the burden and highlighting how important it is that Paige doesn’t tell anyone; not Pastor Tim, not Henry. The moment after with Elizabeth and Philip left alone in the kitchen deconstructing what happened includes Elizabeth asking Philip if he hates her (he doesn’t) and Philip pointing out how Elizabeth thought the kids finding out would “kill them.” Everything has changed since then as this was a line uttered in the pilot when Philip suggested defecting and that time seems worlds away now. This season they have been talking about Paige a lot as “my daughter” and now they are back to using “our” and “we” showing this all important unity. In this they are very much a team once again.

The morning after is just as impressive for everyone involved as they tiptoe around their daughter; asking her what she needs, whether they should stay home and it is all about not pushing her no matter how much they want to. This isn’t just about finding out your parents have a different job and it is entirely world changing. Nothing is what it seems and praise should be heaped on Holly Taylor for how she conveys Paige’s confusion towards this monumental news. She doesn’t scream, shout or burst into hysterical tears (all of which would be perfectly understandable in this situation) and she plays it with the right level of incredulity. This is earth shattering and changes her perception of her entire upbringing; her parents are nothing like the idea she had of them and spies wasn’t even a consideration on her list of possible reasons why they behave so strangely.

In the final scene she sits transfixed by how her parents are with Stan. Stan who is an FBI agent and who they are technically at war with. It’s like she is seeing them for the first time and now everything teeters on a knife edge even more than it already did. The balancing act just got a lot harder and this is one which includes seducing teens, a huge forthcoming mission and another marriage which is in a precarious position. Henry is of course oblivious to all of this and he barely takes his nose out of the electronic computer game to register what is going on. That’s not completely fair to the younger Jennings sibling as he watches a pirate copy of Tron courtesy of Stan and when returning the VHS he chats to Stan about his forthcoming divorce. The Stan/Henry relationship is rather sweet even if Henry has a photo of Sandra Beeman in her bikini stashed in a box with other illicit pictures beneath his floorboards – showing signs of being a good spy. Henry also does impressions which Philip and Elizabeth have no time for even pretending they are the least bit interested in. Oh, Henry.

The Americans 3.10 Elizabeth and HenrySo if Philip has been so strongly opposed to telling Paige why did he give his blessing in this moment? Early in the episode he has to leave before dinner is even served to go get a drunk Kimmy from a house party. When he takes her home there is no one there and she drunkenly mumbles “I think you’re the only one who really cares about me” as her friends were a no show. This alone is so tragic because he is using her for the intel which he goes to get while she is probably puking in the bathroom; this girl has no one and the sad family shot of Kimmy, her dad and step-mom in her dad’s office further highlights this. A few episodes ago Kimmy laid out how desperately alone she feels at home and I think Philip can’t bear to have Paige feel like this. So when Paige gives her ‘if you really loved me you would tell me the truth’ ultimatum it really hits Philip and revealing all is the only option even if it pushes her away initially.

Gabriel informs Philip that Mischa has been secured an early return from Afghanistan (thanks to Elizabeth) and it is one he has refused; they can force him to if Philip wishes and it is something Philip turns down. How can he make a decision this huge for a child he has never met and I believe that Philip doesn’t want to exert this power even if it might save his life. And he probably doesn’t want to be in debt to Gabriel in anyway. It will be interesting to see how Gabriel reacts to this Paige news and particularly the united front from Philip and Elizabeth. Philip has already told Gabriel that he can see through his manipulation and the tension is simmering away.

The Americans 3.10 Philip and ElizabethHeavy exasperated sighs puncture several interactions in this episode as everything continues to stack up against them from Philip’s audible groan on the phone when he has to leave to deal with Kimmy to Elizabeth not being able to hide her anxiety before they sit down and tell Paige. There is even talk of sleep at one point and when Philip returns with the tape from Kimmy’s – note how quick he is telling Elizabeth what happened, or rather what didn’t – Elizabeth offers to send the signal because she has had sleep. Philip insists as he knows the Yousaf protocol and later on she mentions how Yousaf only has eyes for Philip. Elizabeth meanwhile has the hotel plan on lockdown as she uses her charms with Neil the concierge, securing him for when they will need him later on. Elizabeth hasn’t had to seduce anyone all season and I think it is worth pointing out that Philip hasn’t had to kill anyone so far this year either. Soon it feels like both of these things will change.

More is at stake now and while one burden has been lifted, they also appear deflated because they are going to have to watch what Paige does in an entirely different way now. We see Paige calling Pastor Tim and for a moment it looks like she might spill all, but she hesitates ultimately heading her parent’s words about ending up in jail for life. I’m so excited as to where this story might go now that Paige knows and I figured this was going to be a season finale kinda bombshell. Instead there are three episodes left to play with and I cannot wait to see what happens next. This episode has made me so giddy.

Other storylines are simmering away in the background with the revelation that Zinaida is indeed a double agent and not really a defector. Good instincts Stan. Arkady is worried that because the mission is so secret someone from their own side is going to fuck things up not realizing it is part Oleg and the reason is Nina. Speaking of Nina she is slowly earning Anton’s trust first by speaking in English and then mentioning living in America. In the bug in Gaad’s pen investigation Stan is interviewed and has a moment where it looks like he is starting to suspect Martha, dude has a good gut for this kind of thing. Well except for the neighbors across the road (and he was originally suspicious of them, they are just very good at deception).

Shot(s) of the Week

The Americans 3.10 Paige bedroomI could easily have gone for far more than two shots this week but otherwise this would just be an endless page of photos. First up Paige the morning after; wearing the same clothes and she’s still in a state of disbelief. If you looked at this image and didn’t know it could be from a different kind of drama that would lead to a teenage daughter turning her back on her parents and refusing food. It also highlights the amazing production design and the Jennings house feels so lived in. This is also the scene where Paige asks them to say something in Russian as some sort of proof that she didn’t dream up their story. Philip can’t quite bring himself to do so, he tries but he looks like he is gagging on the words. Elizabeth does so for them both with Philip translating that they love her very much.

The Americans 3.10 StingersElizabeth stands and watches Paige when they get home from work with suspicion and fear, which makes such a striking image. The truth has set them free but at what cost? And it’s like she is looking at the spot where everything changed and the way they use the different rooms in this house is so good.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.10 Elizabeth disguiseA new disguise! Sexy white suit (well sexy for 1982) with bobbed hair business lady. All the better for seduction needs.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.10 star earringThe morning after and Elizabeth’s earrings are rather whimsical large star shapes. What this says to me is that Elizabeth wasn’t necessarily thinking about what she was putting on in the morning, but also that she has subconsciously gone for something inviting/silly. I don’t even have my ears pierced but for these I might.

The Americans 3.09 “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?” Review: “Loving, Devoted, Adoring”

26 Mar

Faith on The Americans is about far more than Paige’s recent religious discovery and Elizabeth and Philip have a strong belief that what they are doing is for good even if it causes them to act in horrifying ways. They honestly believe their actions will make the world better and it’s all very utilitarian viewing the big picture rather than the smaller collateral damage along the way. Not that this means they aren’t emotionally affected by what they do as we saw from Philip’s erosion of his soul last season as his body count piled up and Elizabeth has a very strong reaction – well strong in comparison to what we have previously witnessed – to the encounter she has in “Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric Sheep?”

The Americans 3.09 Do Mail Robots Dream of Electric SheepMarriage and trust are two topics which come up on multiple occasions in this episode and considering where our starting point was with Elizabeth and Philip way back in season 1 the pair has progressed in leaps and bounds. They are still incredibly stunted when it comes to talking through their feelings as Elizabeth showed when she clumsily tries to sympathize with Philip regarding the Martha situation. She is very much on the outside of this one as he has a strong belief that Martha won’t betray Clark with Martha showing just this by preparing a very regular meal and feeding him information regarding the mail robot repair schedule.

Elizabeth has her own Martha in some respects with Hans as he shows just how far he is willing to go to carry on serving the cause and by extension her. Todd doesn’t get the second chance Elizabeth and Philip gifted him last week and this isn’t the first time where they have tried to let someone go only to have them end up dead anyway. Hans puts equal weight on doing things for the cause and Elizabeth; Hans has pledged he will do anything for her but I worry his infatuation will become a liability. Killing Todd isn’t as simple as shooting him and he notes how it didn’t go exactly as planned. Elizabeth is quick to point out that it seldom does and it is very rare for something to go without a hitch or someone dead by the end of it on The Americans.

Case in point is the trip to the factory which is fixing the mail robot, a factory which by all accounts should be empty at this time of night but this doesn’t take into account the many unknown whims of people. Philip coldly brushes off this hiccup as “she picked a bad time” while Elizabeth develops a connection with the woman who will become collateral damage. It is unclear if the positions were reversed what Philip would do in Elizabeth’s place, but I don’t think he would have a long conversation about marriage with Betty in the same way Elizabeth does. Betty hits a nerve with Elizabeth on several levels; first as a woman who is probably around the same age as her own dying mother and also as a wife/mother herself. Playing comforter and executioner Elizabeth gets to be there for Betty in a way that she can’t be for her own mother. She is also the reason this is happening to Betty in the first place so it’s not all kind words but also being forced to acknowledge the why of her actions.

The Americans 3.09 Elizabeth and BettyThe wise old woman chat includes some anecdotes which might be considered a tad convenient considering what is going on between Philip and Elizabeth including their conversation just prior about Martha; it also gives us the chance to see a softer more compassionate Elizabeth than we have maybe seen in the past when dealing with a witness who needs to be silenced. A couple of questions to be addressed first including why are they only in the lightest of disguises? The answer here is covered by the fact that a) they believed the place would be empty and b) if anyone did stumble upon this operation they would have to kill them so the FBI remained clueless about this new bug setup. The other question is why did Elizabeth prolong killing Betty? In part Elizabeth had to come up with a plan to make it look as natural as possible and simply because Elizabeth isn’t as stone cold as she sometimes comes across in these scenarios.

Elizabeth also gets to bare her soul to Betty in a way she can’t do with her mother back home or Philip or even Gabriel. I’ve talked on multiple occasions about how they both use their cover identities as a way to filter the noise of their actual lives so they will both use real experiences and work through them when they are Michelle or Jim or whoever they are playing. On this occasion Elizabeth gets to be as much as herself as possible because Betty is not going to live to tell the tale. So this includes showing her real face, talking about her real parents, her husband and where she is really from. As soon as Elizabeth mentions Russia, Betty knows there is no getting out of this for her and the conversation weaves between talk of the personal and the why behind Elizabeth’s actions. War, religion and family are all on the table and while Betty’s experience is from the conflict which preceded the Cold War there are parallels between the two.

The biggest mirroring comes when Betty mentions she had two goes at marriage with her husband Gil as they divorced then remarried after his second wife dies in an accident. They no longer had “sugar in our eyes” and the latter attempt was far more joyful than the first. The same could be said for Philip and Elizabeth though with perhaps less joy and more stressful spy related deeds, but they too have been apart and then come back together. Far different circumstances of course and yet they are different to how they were before. Philip’s discussion with Gabriel later on about marriage is contentious because of what is going on between them and yet Philip’s notion that his reaction to Elizabeth was like a bolt of lightning he hasn’t experienced with anyone else still rings true.

The Americans 3.09 Philip scrabbleFor her it has taken longer to get to this position but it is clear that she has fallen hard for him over the past few years; there is a jealous streak and her actions this season despite their Paige conflict show just how strong her feelings are. Philip might not necessarily see this and he is wary when talking to Gabriel about her saying that he doesn’t believe Elizabeth felt this way when they first met. Gabriel reveals how Elizabeth rejected the first officer who was presented to her and therefore she also chose Philip, but like Philip I find it hard to trust anything that comes out of Gabriel’s mouth as everything presents itself as emotional manipulation. This game of Scrabble is educational when it comes to the origins and meanings of certain words such as ‘amatory’ – loving, devoted, adoring – while also giving Philip an opportunity to tell Gabriel how he really feels. He is tired of his bullshit and he no longer trusts Gabriel; he knows Elizabeth is lapping it up still but he will do what it takes to look out for his family and this feels like a not so veiled warning to back the fuck away.

Going back to Betty and Elizabeth and Elizabeth’s justification that what she is doing by killing her is the right thing. The two-handed scene between Keri Russell and Lois Smith is brutal in a very different way to the many harsh actions we have witnessed this season. It is rare for The Americans to hit me in this way, normally it stabs my soul while leaving my eyes dry; not on this occasion and misty eyes took full effect. Both Russell and Smith let their characters teeter on the edge and it is far more effective revealing fear and sorrow in this subtle way without landing into hysterics. The stillness of Elizabeth combined with the inevitable end which is prolonged due to the method in which Elizabeth has opted to dispatch of Betty is heartbreaking and as Betty’s breath becomes labored Elizabeth gets to feel the weight of actions even if she ultimately thinks it will make the world a better place. It is not quick and easy and Elizabeth doesn’t usually react with tears when she kills people who happen to get in their way.

Elizabeth doesn’t suddenly unleash a torrent of tears, her wet cheeks are hidden in by the shadows and instead of answering Philip’s question of concern she instead points out they have to get out of there. We don’t see the pair discuss this matter any further instead the aftermath is between Philip and Gabriel with Philip laying down how he really feels. This is in part why Philip and Elizabeth are so dysfunctional as they find it so hard to share with each other at times. Maybe they need to get stoned together again.

The pressure is piling on both of them from multiple angles and as we enter the last third of the season the tension is only going to increase as Kimberly and Paige have both been pushed to the side, they are sure to come back to the forefront and I have a feeling Philip might regret telling Gabriel exactly how he feels about him as everything is still very much at stake. Yes, I think Philip can trust Elizabeth and at a push she would have his back but Gabriel is very good at manipulating Elizabeth particularly as he can dangle news of her mother as a way to reach her emotionally.

Oleg and Stan have to put their trust in each other in their attempt to save Nina and Oleg is now convinced there is something off about Zinaida. This plan involves fake ambushes with very real head blows and a debrief session over beer. This pairing has been unexpected and despite their animosity I think we might have the BFF equivalent of Romeo and Juliet. It is probably not going to end well knowing this show.

Shot of the Week

The Americans 3.09 snowSnow! Oleg meeting up with Stan post phase one of their plan is made all the more covert seeming by the everything grey and cold location. I do want to see what the sunny warm weather version of this show looks like but for now I love what the snowy conditions add to the look of The Americans.

Disguise of the Week

So there isn’t a photo to accompany this as Oleg was in the shadow as he threatened Zinaida, but let it be known that he had the whole menacing thing down with slicked back and glasses.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.09 ElizabethNot much on offer this week but I am always partial to Elizabeth’s sweater tees.

Julie Hammerle

Nerds Need Love Too

Sofa and Remote

I love talking about TV as much as I love watching it

Ellie Writes Stuff

About this and that

Twitter Music Club

A rotation curation music club, based on Twitter, mainly for Kiwis


If you enjoy a challenge, like Claude Makélélé, read my blog. Its about sport.

lost somewhere in new york city

We rock a lot of polka dots


We rock a lot of polka dots


Just another WordPress.com site

Cultural Learnings

Television Reviews and Analysis

judgmental observer

film, tv, popular culture, higher ed, unicorns


We rock a lot of polka dots

The Frisky

We rock a lot of polka dots

Tell Us a Story

stories about true things