TV Review: The Americans 4.5 “Clark’s Place”

The Americans
Season 4, Episode 5 – “Clark’s Place”
Directed by Noah Emmerich
Written by Peter Ackerman
Starring: Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Lev Gorn, Annet Mahendru, Susan Misner, Costa Ronin, Keidrich Sellati, Holly Taylor, Richard Thomas, Dylan Baker, Alison Wright, Noah Emmerich, and Frank Langella
Air date: Wednesday, April 13, 2016, 10pm

The Noah Emmerich-directed “Clark’s Place” quickly moves Martha (Alison Wright) and the Jennings (Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys) from out of frying pan and into the fire.

Our full review, after the jump.

Reconciliation is very much the name of the game throughout “Clark’s Place,” as Elizabeth and Philip spend time repairing broken relationships. The Pastor Tim situation seems to be on ice for the immediate future – thanks to an assist from Father Revis – but it’s tenuous at best, as another betrayal to Paige (Holly Taylor) could cause significant damage. Also on ice is Paige, as Elizabeth makes a concerted decision not to tell her any further details about their work – a decision that should have come earlier, despite good intentions from all involved. How long this holds remains to be seen, especially since Gabriel (Frank Langella) has made it clear there will be more of an effort to recruit Paige. Further bridge-building is conducted as Philip makes amends with Stan, in a scene that’s a good reminder of the strong friendship between the two men. However, if Stan’s reaction to finding out Philip was spending time with Sandra was as intense as it was, I’m dreading to see what happens when he finds out the truth about Philip and Elizabeth.

I spoke a few weeks ago about how The Americans is show where the ending is predetermined, but journey to get to that outcome still has plenty of unknowns. However, the show has conveyed that Martha was doomed from the start. “Clark’s Place” shows just how quickly we’re getting an answer to the question surrounding her future – or lack thereof – on the show.

Increased suspicions at work, combined with a shockingly MIA Clark, is enough to send Martha in panic-attack frenzy that proves just how much pressure she’s under, without her even knowing that Aderholt and Stan are committed to keeping eyes on her. Alison Wright sells every minute of Martha beginning to crack, especially as she finds herself increasingly isolated at point in time where she needs the more reassurance than ever – it’s gutting to watch Philip have to isolate himself in order to keep the two of them protected, especially because he does care so much about her (something that Gabriel touches on during their meeting in the parking garage).

If last week’s episode served to operatically call adult swim on some of the characters in the show’s metaphorical dead pool – a basin that’s already got a fair amount of bodies floating around in it – “Clark’s Place” tosses back Elizabeth, Philip, and Martha right back, but in the deep end this time. As “Under Pressure” floats through the air – great music once again serving as the Greek Chorus for the show – the only response that befits the Jennings is to have sex. It’s a distraction, fleeting and temporary. And if David Bowie is to be believed, it could be their last chance.

Quick Thoughts:

– Speaking of Bowie – like many – I was deeply saddened about this death earlier this year, but even more so when I read that he was a fan of the show. Fields and Wiesberg said that the show would make use of “Under Pressure” – they’d secured the rights to the song a few weeks before his death – but I didn’t anticipate it arriving in the show so soon and being put to use so aptly. I think Bowie would approve the fact his part, which is arguably the climax of the song, was set to the Jennings’ own…well…you know. The overall editing and song combination here is easily one of the show’s best use of a needle drop, in a series that full of memorable ones.

– Vox published a piece taking a look behind the scenes on the production of this episode, very much worth a read if you’re a fan or if you have a passing interest in how the sausage is made.

– Didn’t touch much on Oleg (Costa Ronin) here, who’s visibly put through the ringer by the emotional fallout of both his father and his surrogate father.

– Emmerich’s second time behind the camera marks another strong outing after last year’s remarkable “Walter Taffet.” I know that Rhys is directing an episode later in the season and I’m curious to see what he’ll bring to the proceedings. Additionally, Stan’s reaction to the news about Nina is tremendous. Kudos to Emmerich for nailing his double duties this week.

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