Airtime: Wednesdays at 10PM on FX
Episode: Season 4, Episode 5 (S04E05)
Tweetable Takeaway: Elizabeth steps up when Philip feels under pressure on #TheAmericans
“Clark’s Place” is the saddest, loneliest space for THE AMERICANS. Now that Nina is gone, the full dramatic heat is beating down on Martha. Like Nina, Martha is a woman full of qualities; moral, virtuous, loyal, courageous, and loving. These people seem to get crushed on the show by slow, uncaring, political machines.
The cold war of Martha’s bed
Philip, known to her as Clark, never responds to her phone call about her date with Aderholt, though it isn’t from lack of concern. She’s an emotional mess by the time he finally meets with her. Martha called her therapist and he prescribed Valium for her nerves. Philip gives her his contact number in case there is another emergency and tells her how it works. When he misses another one of their Tuesday hook-ups, she calls his answering service. This time, he gets back to her but they still miss Tuesday at Clark’s.
It would be difficult to characterize Philip as being weighed down by his emotions, they don’t seem to stop him from doing anything, but he does agonize over the consequences of his actions. Using Martha is one thing, using her up and discarding her is a whole other unacceptable thing. Elizabeth keeps an eye him. She’s aware of his emotional turmoil but only as concerned as she needs to be; more empathic than empathetic. This week when she sees him really struggling with Martha’s safety, she soothe-sexes Philip while Martha lays awake in bed with agents Aderholt and Beeman watching form a car outside her apartment.
I always mention the great writers of The Americans and rarely talk about the other great filmmakers on the show. This week, I’m reminded of their fantastic work too. During the whole Philip hot-bed/Martha cold-bed sequence, Queen’s “Under Pressure” is playing. Sometimes, even on this show, music is added as an extra ingredient. Since The Americans is period, it’s one of the elements that make the show fun. Here, they use the Queen love anthem with great respect. It blankets the montage of Philip’s fractured life in dramatic warmth. The filmmakers show incredible respect for the music-maker’s art. It’s practically its own short.
Nina’s Men, The United States and The U.S.S.R.
Oleg hears the news of Nina’s execution from his father. They have an interesting family dynamic that extends beyond generational gaps and not getting along. The B-side to The Americans is the extraordinary story world of the Russians. There’s plenty of talent on the Russian side to take over the heavy lifting anytime Philip and Elizabeth need to take that vacation to EPCOT. First off, Costa Ronin plays the full symphony of the complicated Oleg in “Clark’s Place.” He shows the crushing blow of Nina’s execution and 180’s into anger with his father, loss of his brother, and disillusionment with his country.
Oleg returns to the Rezidentura where he shares a great scene with Arkady, who seems shocked to learn of Nina’s execution. He tells Oleg she must of done something wrong, they don’t execute prisoners for nothing, but the words are heavily shaded with doubt. Then, there is another great scene with Oleg and Stan, played by Noah Emmerich who also directed the episode. The two men sit in a car, together in despair, Nina is mentioned but little is said, and they have a full subtext dialog about both their failures to keep her safe. Which I’m sure is some sort of cold war allegory about how neither side really won. This is true of any fight; they’re only about winning where pay-per-view is concerned. In the real world, there all about what you lose or stand to lose. I’ve been saving the “A+” for something really special. Emmerich crushed it, if only for supporting Freddie Mercury’s immortality.
Eric lives in a world where the television is great, the smiles are warm, the pizza is hot, the puppies are playful, and the zombies are slow and meander while he reloads.
Eric Rodriguez | Contributor