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The Americans “A Little Night Music” Review (2×04)

19 Mar

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When you play a part, it’s only natural that you relate to it and get caught up in the words and the actions and the beliefs, perhaps actually taking on some of those traits you’ve been asked to act out. Oftentimes, the person you play is merely an extension of yourself, the other side to a curtain you attempt to open and shut.

What Philip and Elizabeth are doing is, most bluntly put, acting. However, because their worlds are built off of a bed of lies, it’s sometimes hard to tell apart their different personas; they certainly would like to keep their familial life out of their spy life, but the bleeding through the lines is inevitable. Note, for example, Clark and Martha’s argument, one facilitated by Philip in order to get out to the Anton job. The intent is entirely manipulative, but the emotions experienced seem like those of a regular married couple, with the annoyance and the anger and the twinge of regret that seeps into Philip’s face as he leaves.

As for Elizabeth, although we continue to see how cold and ruthless she can be in her manipulation of Brad, we also see the conflicting emotions playing out across her face. When she breaks down in the hotel room and when she gives him the handjob, the expressions on her face are the result of 1. good acting, and 2. genuine discomfort with the sexual manipulation. She’s ridiculously good at playing people–I mean, it doesn’t hurt to look like Keri Russell, too–but understandably, she’s also caught in a vulnerable state that’s been compounded upon every day following Emmett and Leanne’s murders. Spies die if they allow too much of that vulnerability to seep through, so just like last week, Elizabeth makes a decision that works to her advantage, both professionally and psychologically. She tells Brad about a rape story taken from her own past, taking something she needed to talk about and talking about it; yet, it’s also to get the poor guy to get the files for her.

Elizabeth isn’t necessarily going “soft”, but rather continuing to second-guess herself and lose focus; it’s all the result of that growing sense of paranoia I’ve mentioned quite a bit. When, for example, Claudia expresses genuine relief about the Jennings family being alive, Elizabeth is still skeptical, eventually getting so caught up in one task that she doesn’t notice, until too late, that their car is being driven away.

In fact, only minutes before, she’s getting pissed off about Paige and religion; this blurring of American and Soviet identities is also present with the comment made about Oleg’s western ways, as well as the subject of the attempted kidnapping at the end: Baklanov. Sometimes, you’ll be so afraid of losing the part that you overcompensate, throwing yourself at that one person, that one role, while your true target drives away.

GRADE: B+

OTHER THOUGHTS:

-“Would you stop being so reasonable?!” I love everything about Elizabeth’s rant in the car.

-That final fight scene is brilliantly choreographed, and Keri Russell is a badass there.

-“We’re doomed.” Little nuggets of truth are starting to arise, and this scene is full of some great subtext that’s beautifully conveyed by Noah Emmerich and Matthew Rhys. Stan’s fallen head over heels, and he can’t do anything but wait for the chips to fall where they may.

-“YOU don’t have a messed up family!” *Ahem*

-I really hope we get some more Margo Martindale. She’s excellent, and I lament the fact that she’s not a regular here due to “We’re the Millers”. Both her and Arnett deserve better.

-Religion, according to Elizabeth, is the “opiate of the masses”.

-I might actually give up national security secrets to Keri Russell, if she asked. And if I knew any national security secrets (does “We will all die eventually” count?).

Photo credit: FX, The Americans

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