Margo Martindale (#110 of 13)

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 11, "Dyatkovo"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Dyatkovo”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 11, “Dyatkovo”

Did I underestimate Paige last week? At the end of “Darkroom,” after handing her camera to her parents so they could process the photographs she took of Pastor Tim’s diary, it was as if she was showing them the proof of his hysteria—the essence of everything she wants to fight against. But in retrospect, there was enough confusion in the teenager’s face to suggest that Philip (Matthew Rhys), whose eyes were glued to the photographs, may be on to something when he tells Elizabeth (Keri Russell) in tonight’s episode of The Americans, “Dyatkovo,” that “maybe she wanted to see us read them right in front of her.” Paige gave her parents the permission to send Pastor Tim away, while at the same time instilling in them a sense of guilt. Does she want them to know that she thinks they’re actually hurting her?

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 10, "Darkroom"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Darkroom”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 10, “Darkroom”

Last week I bemoaned the absence of Paige (Holly Taylor) from “IHOP.” But in tonight’s episode of The Americans, “Darkroom,” what happened during that absence is purposefully charted as a governing principle. Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) arrive home from a day of spywork and find their daughter obsessively mopping the kitchen floor. She reveals to them that she pried again into Pastor Tim’s (Kelly AuCoin) diary, learning that he thinks she’s screwed up in the head. What follows is a negotiation that serves, like most things in this series, dual purposes: a loving father and mother talking their daughter off the ledge with assurances that they know her better than anyone else, and Russian spies trying to communicate to a potential recruit that allegiance to the Soviet Union is an imperative.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 8, "Immersion"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 8, “Immersion”

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 8, “Immersion”

Another week, another episode of The Americans that’s notable for its pervasive lack of hurry. Philip (Matthew Rhys) slowly drives home from his meeting with Gabriel, the camera hanging back to give us one of the widest-ever views to date of the exterior of the Jennings home, and fills Elizabeth (Keri Russell) in about their now-former handler’s thoughts on Renee and Paige (Holly Taylor). They speak of Gabriel almost as if he’s a ghost, and with an understanding that they will one day become every bit as haunted as he was when he walked out of the safe house for what was probably the last time. Unsurprisingly, then, they put up walls when they go to meet Claudia (Margo Martindale) and discuss their latest plan of attack, because to stave off a human connection with their new handler is to stand back from that precipice of moral oblivion they’ve been inching toward for so long.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 6, "Crossbreed"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, “Crossbreed”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 6, “Crossbreed”

Can you imagine The Americans without Frank Langella’s Gabriel, who’s emerged this season as the shoulder angel to Margo Martindale’s devil-like Claudia? This much is clear: Levity will be in shorter supply. In the opening of this week’s episode, “Crossbreed,” Elizabeth (Keri Russell) informs Gabriel of her almost certain belief that Alexei Morozov is trying to feed the world’s hungry, to which he replies: “Just like Miss America.” Gabriel, in the moment, seems completely unperturbed by the news, concerned less with the next stage of Elizabeth’s sleuthing than he is with Philip’s (Matthew Rhys) mental well-being in the wake of the lab director’s death. Gabriel may make room here and there for a good joke, but like the series itself for the last few episodes, he’s obviously burdened by the emotional collateral damage caused by spywork. “The same as me, it’s upsetting,” Elizabeth tells her handler after he asks her about Philip, and by the end of this finely detailed episode, she arrives at a place where those words come to actually feel true.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 5, “Lotus 1-2-3”

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Lotus 1-2-3”

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 5, “Lotus 1-2-3”

In my “What’s the Matter with Kansas?” recap, I refrained from describing one important yuk that played out in the Jennings’ kitchen that receives a very pointed rejoinder in “Lotus 1-2-3,” tonight’s episode of The Americans. Last week, upon sensing that Henry (Keidrich Sellati) was getting sassy with her, Elizabeth (Keri Russell) admonished him: “Don’t be smart, Henry.” To which a frazzled Henry blurted out: “I’m not!” This week, in a meeting with Henry’s math teacher (Don Guillory), Elizabeth and Philip (Matthew Rhys) learn that their son is so good at math that his school is considering placing him in Algebra II. The parents’ joy is the son’s sadness in a subsequent scene, which very casually brings to the fore how Elizabeth and Philip’s grooming of Paige (Holly Taylor) into a next-generation spy has unconsciously done a number on Henry, a wallflower of his parents’ creation who deflects the praise heaped on him by retreating into the world of his video game.

The Americans Recap Season 5, Episode 1, "Amber Waves"

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The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “Amber Waves”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 5, Episode 1, “Amber Waves”

The season-five premiere of The Americans is an insant reminder that the series is an edifice brilliantly constructed of contrasts. “Amber Waves” begins with the setting up of the pieces of Phillip and Elizabeth Jennings’s (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell) latest spy game, as a young cohort, Tuan (Ivan Mok), pretending to be their adopted son ingratiates himself with a Russian-born teen, Pasha Morozov (Zack Gafin), at school. Blaring on the soundtrack is Devo’s “That’s Good,” anthemically attesting to the ease with which Tuan exploits his own difference to bait Pasha: “Everybody wants a good thing/Everybody ain’t it true that/Everybody’s looking for the same thing.”

The Americans Recap Season 4, Episode 8, "The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears"

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The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears”

Patrick Harbron/FX

The Americans Recap: Season 4, Episode 8, “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears”

Behind the blue curtain, the lady vanishes—Lady Liberty, that is. As David Copperfield explains in the TV special that gives tonight’s episode of The Americans its title, the illusion is meant to remind viewers to cherish their rights and freedoms, to appreciate the opportunities of which their immigrant ancestors dreamed. It is, as Elizabeth (Keri Russell) might say, “very American”: a manipulation, an elaborate trick, mistaking the profit motive for much higher ideals. In “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears,” after all, another lady vanishes, and in her wake what might have seemed like liberty turns out to be a prison, one of the characters’ own design.

The Americans Recap Season 3, Episode 12, "I Am Abassin Zadran"

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The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, “I Am Abassin Zadran”
The Americans Recap: Season 3, Episode 12, “I Am Abassin Zadran”

After weeks of preparations, including a tap on the hotel switchboard, tonight's episode of The Americans witnesses Philip (Matthew Rhys) and Elizabeth (Keri Russell) intercept one of the three mujahedeen commanders brought to the United States to discuss the ongoing war in Afghanistan. Posing as C.I.A. officers, Philip and Elizabeth propose that the man (George Georgiou) betray his compatriots to secure a more favorable agreement, but it's the freedom fighter wary of both Soviet and American motives who sets the consequences of the Cold War in starkest relief. “I am Abassin Zadran,” he says, describing his brutal killing of young Soviet soldiers, probably no older than Philip's long lost son. “I am the one who cuts the throats of the communists.”

Oscar Prospects August: Osage County, Or That Time Julia Roberts Stole Meryl Streep’s Show

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Oscar Prospects: August: Osage County, Or That Time Julia Roberts Stole Meryl Streep’s Show
Oscar Prospects: August: Osage County, Or That Time Julia Roberts Stole Meryl Streep’s Show

A funny thing happens during the course of August: Osage County, a film many would label as this year's Meryl Streep awards vehicle. Though Streep, who plays the story's drug-addled matriarch, Violet Weston, has ample moments of alternating grief, delusion, vileness, and humor, all delivered in a swirl of characteristically calculated theatrics, it's Julia Roberts who walks away with this thing. Playing Barbara, the one of Violet's three daughters who's most distanced from, yet most similar to, her warts-and-all, “truth-telling” mom, Roberts is gifted some of the greatest language in this adaptation of the play by Tracy Letts, who won a Pulitzer and Tony Award for his efforts before shaping his work into a screenplay. In the rare role that actually demands she exude more fire than glee or grace, Roberts brings just the right amount of harsh, poetic cynicism to lines like, “Thank God we can't predict the future; we'd never get out of bed.” The key bit of dialogue, though, comes just after the film's resentment-baring emotional peak. Gathered around her mother's table with her sisters, her aunt, her uncle, her cousins, her daughter, and her two-timing husband to commemorate the death of her father, Beverly (Sam Shepard), Barbara finally tackles Violet to the ground, fed up with the woman's rant-fueling pill abuse, which may well have prompted Beverly's apparent suicide. “I'm running things now!” Barbara barks at Violet while snatching a bottle of painkillers, and the sentiment couldn't be truer here in regard to Roberts and Streep.

Poster Lab: August: Osage County

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Poster Lab: <em>August: Osage County</em>
Poster Lab: <em>August: Osage County</em>

Since the film is so anticipated as both adaptation and buzzy ensemble piece, the poster for August: Osage County would have been an event no matter what it looked like. Directed by TV vet John Wells, who made his feature film debut with The Company Men, this dark comedy marks the first-ever onscreen pairing of Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, who play Violet and Barbara Watson, the mother and daughter who lead the clan in Tracy Letts's Pulitzer Prize-winning tale. All who know the play know the importance of the work's vast cast, and such is the major selling point here.

Stacked high like an actorly steeple are names both established and up-and-coming: Streep, Roberts, Ewan McGregor, Chris Cooper, Juliette Lewis, (the great) Margo Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Benedict Cumberbatch, Misty Upham, and more. It's a very tempting mix, and despite the overly genial, all's-well-that-end's-well nature of the trailer, it helps to know that Letts has penned the screenplay too, and hopefully hasn't watered his work down to Hollywoodized dysfunction (lord knows no one needs another The Family Stone). Presumably, Letts's script also holds the promise of avoiding the trap of multi-character dramedies, which serially fail to develop individual personalities amid the crowd. It's a grating trend that couldn't be better visualized here, and let's hope the packed-house symbolism reflects the film's ability to overcome it.