TV Update

Quick hits to play catch up!

Face Off- Terrific season. With an All Star cast the talent pool was really high right from the start and that left a killer final 3. Probably the best finale in terms of quality of work from each team. Tough choice to pick the winner, but I think the judges got it right.

Gotham- After a monstrous break, Gotham is back for the last leg of episodes. Nigma made some big moves the last we saw and we return to see him essentially turn into the Riddler. We got to see him actively use riddles (Fox got a lot of screen time this week), mark a clue with a green question mark and he has an awesome green suit. The Court of Owls has made its move to replace Bruce Wayne and Alfred’s first interaction with the clone seems to have given him a moment’s pause. We’ll see how fast Alfred sniffs out the fraud. The show is doing a lot of weird and fun things, I’m happy it’s back even if it’s only for a few more episodes.

Archer- The show has made a major setting change, similar to the cocaine season a few years ago. This time its 1950’s-ish Los Angeles. The main cast is split up into different jobs (Pam and Cyril are cop partners, Cheryl is on her own as the one who hires PI Archer to help her do something crazy stupid) so the group dynamic is different. The shows looks exceptionally gorgeous this year and the change to the formula has opened up a lot of options for the writers. I dig it.

The Detour- This season flew by but it was great. Pretty brilliant ideas to move it on from what happened last year. Got way more detail about the family’s past and it was consistently funny (these might be the best child actors on TV). My only complaint is the super weird and preachy reach into refugees coming into the US. It was so out of place and heavy handed it came off as bizarre more than anything.

 

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Round 2

Fight!

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The Americans S5E08

Immersion

Each piece on the chessboard moved a space this week.

First, the kids. A very quick check in with Henry. We see him play Atari with two friends. The girl is most likely the one he has a crush on (Elizabeth asks Stan if Henry has told him anything about this girl and Stan says he’s been sworn to secrecy so he doesn’t give an answer). Paige, as usual, has much more going on. We get to see her in a garage training session with her mother and she’s come a long way. Elizabeth has clearly taught her some moves and Paige is able to keep up with what is being thrown at her. She’s much less timid and has a decent mastery of strikes and evasion.  While Paige seems more confident, she’s down on breaking up with Matt and confides that she’s tired of being scared. The progress is good but there’s still a long way to go. Seeing this, Elizabeth opens up to Paige, telling her many years ago that she was raped. She understands how Paige feels and tells her that through her determination and training she has been able to overcome it and move on. The mental fortitude to know that no one will be able to hurt her again is what keeps her strong and confident. Later one when Paige is bumming around the house, Elizabeth gets her to go on a walk with her. Again, she opens up to her daughter even more. I think what we see them discuss during the walk is the longest and the most meaningful conversation they’ve had on the entire series. Elizabeth is making great strides to connect with and teach her daughter.

In the Soviet Union, the KGB gets suspicious of Oleg and come sniffing around his (parents) home. They don’t find anything because he destroyed the evidence from the FBI. That could have been a disaster.

Stan and Dennis meet up with their new mark. After being largely spooked by the last conversation they had with her, she’s now very open to helping the FBI. The rewards they have offered her seem to best the risks she will be taking to get them information. Interesting stuff watching them teach her how to observe without raising suspicions.

Claudia has taken over Gabriel’s position, much to the chagrin of Elizabeth and Philip. Especially Elizabeth. They’re very short with her, making it clear that it’s going to be strictly business. Claudia will update them on what The Center is doing and wants them to do. They will handle things as they see fit with no input from her.

Now for the mission. Alexei’s wife, Evgheniya, has begun teaching. She updates Elizabeth on how it’s going and mentions some of her students and that she’s going to go to one of their houses to teach the group in a less formal setting. This is great news for Elizabeth and Philip, they’ll be able to get all of her students on film to get ID. They follow her around and discover that she’s having an affair with a man named Bruce. The Center pegs him as a likely important transplant to Moscow when he’s ready to go and they want Evgheniya to be with him when he does. An easier flip if his mistress is with him. So the mission hits a pivot point: how do they get the Morozov’s to go back to the Soviet Union? Tuan comes up with a plan that might work.

Finally, The Center still wants Philip and Elizabeth to work their marks to keep up their connection to the wheat samples until they hear back about the sample Gabriel took home with him. Elizabeth’s mark, Ben, says he’s upset he won’t be able to see her that week (she’s got to work the Morozov angle with Philip). It seems sincere (remember, he isn’t keeping an exclusive relationship) as does Elizabeth when she says she looks up to him for the work he’s doing. Philip’s mark, Deirdre, has been a shaky connection from the start. When he calls her to tell her about not being able to see her for awhile, she’s cool with it. So cool, that she breaks up with him. Apparently, he’s not assertive enough. Philip is visible knocked down a peg. When he tells Elizabeth she wonders if he deliberately scuttled the relationship by not committing. He says no and gets down on himself, “Not everyone is as good looking as you are.” Quick to react to his self-doubt and crumbling self-confidence she rebuilds her partner. “If you want to get her back, you can.” Philip takes those words to heart and calls Deirdre to get her back. Using the “assertive” angle on her, he reels Deirdre back in quickly. With Philip being a pale imitation of himself for awhile, it’s something to see him get back on point.

 

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Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

The draw to go back to the world of Harry Potter is a strong one. I’ve always thought author JK Rowling would produce more Potter material for movies, I just never thought she’d open that door using a character that is more or less mentioned in passing.

Fantastic Beasts is about writer and magic zoologist Newt Scamander’s (Eddie Redmayne) trip to New York City in the 1920’s. Newt is an eccentric man with a love and respect for every kind of animal you can imagine. His life mission is to study and share his findings of the magical animal kingdom.

He enters New York during a trying time for the magical community. A magical creature is terrorizing the locals and threatens to expose the magic citizens in a largely No-Maj (the American term for Muggle) city. The magic government officials are up to their eyeballs trying to fix the problem and here comes a guy with a broken suitcase that lets out more trouble. While Newt scrambles to gather his escaped critters, he finds himself on the frontlines of identifying and stopping the creature that is running amok in the city.

Fantastic Beasts is classic JK Rowling. She goes back in time to let more creative and loveable characters loose to make friends and get into trouble with a twist or two at the end for good measure. A strong central character with morals, the comic relief sidekick, the strong-willed but often dismissed hero in training, the monster in the dark and the red herring are all here.

There’s a lot of Harry Potter canon at play. Rowling uses the rise of the wizard Grindelwald (Voldemort’s precursor of evil) as the immediate backdrop. This places the story in a time of great interest and possible expansion of the Potter universe.  The Halfblood Prince (and some of Deathly Hollows) gave fans the biggest insight into how Potter history started, how Albus Dumbledore got to where he was when Harry got to Hogwarts. Grindelwald was a major part of Dumbledore’s life and set the path for Tom Riddle to become Lord Voldemort and try to take over the Wizard world with his own dark agenda. Aside from the obvious ties to the franchise, there’s quite a few easter eggs for sharp-eyed fans to find.

One thing I appreciated on this new Potterverse tale is that everyone is an adult. There’s no learning to be done. The rules of magic are well established and they’re all accomplished wizards so its spells galore. The final act had a really impressive action sequence that only the later Potter movies made it to.

Overall, I think Fantastic Beasts is a successful movie. Really well cast, characters to care about, good special effects and direction, excellent soundtrack and a great heart that comes through at the end. Newt is very easy to dismiss as simply a weird guy at the start but as Kowalski (our gateway character to this world) spends time with him he opens up as a complex and endearing character. As the movie went on I felt like I was getting to know Newt well. He’s someone who I would honestly want to meet in real life. It’s these kinds of characters that Rowling is so adept at making.

With this new base established, I’m curious and excited to see where Rowling takes it. This could bring us to the point where we get to see Voldemort’s ascension to power, see the original Order of the Phoenix fight back, and get to the fateful night of Harry and his parents. Out of anything Rowling could write, I want this more than anything else.

Exciting stuff for those, like myself, that are inclined to the Potterverse.

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Fargo S3E01

It’s hard to believe 16 months have passed since Season 2 ended, but here we are. The all-new true crime story that involves Fargo, ND brings us closer to present day. The dumb criminal rub this season:  sibling rivalry takes a twisted turn to mistaken identity murder.

The star of the show this year, playing brothers Emmit and Ray Stussy, is Ewan McGregor. One episode in and Mr. McGregor impresses (props on his make-up, very realistic). On the surface, Emmit looks to have been doing better in life. Emmit has a job that requires a suit and Ray doesn’t look too committed to his job as a parole officer. His side job of professional/amateur bridge player with his parolee girlfriend, Nikki (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), may payout, but we’ll see how that goes. I’m leaning to not so well as we see the “oops and whoops” crime occur when Roy tries to get “his” collectible stamp from his brother with the help of a not too with it parolee, Maurice (Scoot McNairy).

While Roy’s lean toward being shady are more readily apparent, it takes some time for Emmit’s problem to come to light. In Fargo, there’s always more than one guilty party. He’s taken out a loan some time ago and he’s ready to pay it back. He’s having trouble doing so and when he gets visited by super creep Varga (David Thewlis) he finds out his loan had some serious strings attached.

Our link to the law is Gloria Burgle (Carrie Coon), a single mom of a teenage son. Roy’s plan swings into her life with terrible results and now we’ll follow her to see how big this web of insanity gets.

The stage is set for another great story in the bitter cold. We’re off to an intense start with two people killed in the premiere so there’s no telling how high this year’s stack will get. David Thewlis as Varga stole the show for me and he was only in one or two scenes. In just a few minutes of dialog he’s established a character that will make your skin crawl. I’m really excited to see where this goes.

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The Expanse <> Season 2

Great season!

There was a lot to love this year. Great pacing on a story arc that remained interesting and constantly moving through the 13 episodes.

The protomolecule remained the focal point as Earth and Mars power clash with the Belters stuck in between. Part political gamesmanship and sci-fi actioner, The Expanse covers a lot of aspects of mankind stretching past its home planet. There were a lot of factions at play this year so the cast this year was varied. People come in and out as necessary and once a character reaches an end they go off with purpose and meaning. The show makes a large pivot around the half way point, offering more extensive looks of off planet locals (ships and stations mostly). As the protomolecule turns into more than just glowing blue stuff, the stakes and interest are raised at each step.

I really liked the story arc of Holden and Naomi this season. Holden getting more reckless and justifying more and more extreme acts in the name of doing it for the greater good. He gets tunnel vision and Naomi reacts to it, going as far as separating from their group to make a difference in her own way when she sees people in need. The crew of the Roci aren’t nobodies flying around the galaxy. What they do and how they do it has great repercussions. That all comes together in the finale in great ways, one of the most effective season finales this year.

The cast goes a long way in making this show so great with my only outlier being Cas Anwar who plays Alex. Whether he’s playing the character like he is in the book or his own take on him I don’t know, but they let him ham it up in every scene. While he can work as the comic relief it often comes off as being phony and at worst, inappropriate to the point where it’s distracting. Near the end, he has a reaction to seeing something on a monitor that is delivered so poorly it mars the scene. While everyone is selling realism, Alex often comes off like he’s from a different show.

Otherwise, The Expanse is amazingly well made. Great cast, I think Thomas Jane as Miller is great (yes, he’s playing a clear character type like Alex, but he keeps it together much better) and the new characters of Bobbie Draper and Dr. Meng are very well done and great additions. I don’t know who does the CGI on this show but they put every dime they get on screen. Some truley impressive work for a cable show, I think it sets the standard for sci-fi visuals on TV. Miller’s opus scene is stunning and the full scale reveal of the protomolecule project is phenominal. With such quality work from the special effects, the set designers and the sound work, it makes believing what’s going on screen very easy.

Great storytelling this year. I’m looking forward to what happens next season.

 

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NHL Playoffs Round 1

Gad zooks is there anything more intense than playoff hockey?

The New York Rangers took down the Montreal Canadians 4-2 in the first round of the playoffs. Every game was riveting except for the third when the Rangers laid down and died on the ice for no good reason.

Coming in as a wild card, the Rangers’ got the ideal matchup in the East division. They struggled to win against Montreal in the regular season but they’d be a challenge and not a wall like Pittsburg and Washington.

With this challenge met, the next match will be against Ottowa or Boston. Both teams are ripe for the Rangers to knockout so there are some good vibes going into Round 2 which may not start until the 27th.

The big surprise in the first round has been Nashville sweeping Chicago. No one saw that happening. Chicago has been a monster team for years so going out like that is stunning. Nashville v St. Louis is the next matchup and that should be an absolute war.

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The Americans S5E07

The Committee on Human Rights

With Gabriel giving the signal that he’s retiring, The Center works quickly to bring him home. Elizabeth and Philip bring Paige to meet him. It’s a sort of humanizing, fill in the gaps, meet and greet of someone very close to her parents (of which there are very few). She gets a certain comfort from talking with Gabriel and he gets to finally meet the daughter he’s essentially only heard about for years. Being trained as well as he has, Gabriel deftly navigates her questions.

Mission wise, Elizabeth gets the list from the psych office with no problems. Elizabeth passes off the info and Philip asks her what was in the documents. She tells him she doesn’t really know, it was a list of names. Philip has to go to Gabriel to find out.

Philip’s mark is more or less treading water. He’s working the Lotus 1-2-3 software angle to get the info he wants from her but it’s like pushing a boulder up a cliffside. Being with her is a clear struggle for him and at the rate things are going, she’s fine with a slightly elevated friend with benefits relationship with him.

Elizabeth has been having much more success with her mark and while following him around, she gets a surprise. He’s seeing other women. It’s a strange mix of shock and jealousy that gets revealed on her face when she sees it. She’s worked to keep herself emotionally detached after the ordeal she went through with Young last season, but part of her does look hurt over what would normally be a betrayal. The other part is that she’s totally caught off guard by this move. Elizabeth thought she had this guy pegged and seeing him do something so out of character has thrown her. She’s not as good at reading people as she thought she was.

Stan and Dennis continue to work on getting informants. They get some traction with a woman, but Stan is honest with her about the type of protection they can give her and without any guarantees of safety, she isn’t going for it. Stan gets called into a meeting with his boss for a private discussion. The suits above didn’t like his stunt to get them off of Oleg and want him gone. His boss bought him some time, convincing them that Stan is essential to the recruitment work he’s doing right now. Once this job is over, Stan’s career might be as well.

This weighs on Stan heavily. Renee immediately notices that he’s bothered by something and gets to vaguely tell her what happened at work. In this scene, Renee gets into some deep conversations about what they’re watching and about things in her past. If she’s a spy, this woman did an amazing amount of training and preparation to put up an intricate false identity.

After meeting Gabriel, Paige decides to pull the trigger on Matt. She breaks up with him without giving him much of a reason. “I have a lot going on” is about the gist of it and Matt tries to stay with her. “I’m not my father” and that he’ll change anything she thinks he did wrong. It’s a rough breakup and Elizabeth is the first to help her navigate her feelings. While talking with Gabriel might have pushed her into the breakup, it looks like the general fact that she has to lie to Matt all the time was too much for her to handle. While it seems like Paige is picking up on techniques, deep down it doesn’t look like she has the fortitude for her parent’s profession.

Gabriel talks to Elizbeth and Philip for the final time, separately. Elizabeth is first and when she asks him again about why he is leaving, Gabriel admits that the weight of the work is pulling him down. Years of being in the grinder have taken their toll and he wants to stop. He never mentions Mischa.  When Philip meets him, Gabriel goes over his final mission in the United States. He’s got to get the sample of wheat that Philip and Elizabeth dug up, now arranged like a 1-800-FLOWERS purchase, to the Soviet Union. Philip, stuck feeling like he’s being lied to and kept out of the loop, can’t help but ask him some more questions. First, the list that Elizabeth stole. He receives a rather vague answer: names of a growing oppositional force back home. Then, the big one bouncing around his head, is Renee one of them? Gabriel scoffs at the idea, “You’re losing it.” He’s quick to cut off Philip’s paranoia but then steps on that by continuing with this nugget: if The Center really wanted Philip not to know, they’d keep Gabriel in the dark too. As far as Philip is concerned, Gabriel’s denial holds no meaning. Then, in another shot to the head, Gabriel leaves with a final thought. He thinks Philip was right, Paige should’ve been kept outside of their world. The main worry that Philip has had with his daughter gets validation from his father figure. Thanks for your support now, dude. Could have used it a few months ago, Paige is a freaking mess now.

 

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Better Call Saul Season 3 Premiere

Saul snuck up on me this year. It’s great to go back to New Mexico.

After Jimmy’s full scale switcheroo to get Kim back in the good graces of Mesa Verde by making his brother Chuck look senile last season, we pick up right where we left off. Chuck is pissed and tricks Jimmy into confessing with a recorder hidden in the room. His confession gets Chuck to agree to go back to work (Howard needed him back). So Jimmy blurts it out basially to make amends with his brother. He thinks admitting that he did it for Kim makes it a water under the bridge moment and tries to get things back to normal. While pulling the tin foil off of Chuck’s walls, Jimmy gets into some brotherly banter. Chuck shuts him down with a curt, “I’ll never forget what you did. You will get yours, eventually.” It’s a chilling threat that Jimmy has to know Chuck intends to follow through with. He doesn’t say anything back.

Things are going well at Jimmy and Kim’s practice. A lot of will work, working with the elderly who love taking up your time like you don’t have a room of other clients waiting for you. Jimmy is spooked by what Chuck told him and carefully navigates himself around Kim. He broke some serious laws in the name of helping Kim and the blowback for it would be immense. So she’s on eggshells too when she visits Mesa Verde and listens to a peer talk shit about Chuck’s mistake knowing what really happened. It makes her feel uncomfortable and second guess her work.

Chuck brings Howard the tape of Jimmy and Howard basically says, that’s insane but you can’t do anything with the tape legally. Being an exceptional lawyer, Chuck knew this. He brought the tape to ensure that he has Howard on his side. It’ll forever expose Jimmy to never be believed by Howard. Plus, he has a plan that has nothing to do with the law. He doesn’t say what it is and the only thing I can think of is to use it to turn Kim. At least brak them up. He knows Jimmy can live without the work, the career is kinda secondary to him. Kim is far and away the most important thing in Jimmy’s life. He must not think Kim knows but having Jimmy on tape is still serious personal leverage.

When we last left Mike, he was about to pull off an assassination when his car horn started blaring. A stick on the horn and a note on the windshield (“Don’t”) sends Mike into a panic. He’s being watch and has no idea who it is. He spends most of the episode trying to find a tracker in his car and when he does, it takes measures to turn the tables. He gets the people watching him to take a bug of his own so he can follow them and find out who and what he’s dealing with.

The moral shadiness of Jimmy continues to feed the madness and Chuck’s threat adds that family karma threat. Kim is totally going to get caught in the middle of this which is going to be hard to watch. Watching Mike work his magic, on the other hand, is nothing but a treat. Safe bet that the trail is going to lead him to Breaking Bad great, Gus Fring.

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Homeland <> Season 6

Season 6 proves to be a winner. Moving locations and bringing in a brand new plot about the time after the POTUS is voted and sworn in brought in a rgreatfresh story arc to the show that pulled in a lot of what’s going on in the real world today.

Of course, these current events are filtered through the established players of Homeland. The show operates best with a great conspiracy plot and this season had one of the best. Carrie is working in Washington as an advocate for Muslim Americans. On the defense team for a young Muslim man with some eyebrow-raising views he puts online, his case takes a crazy turn in a threat to national security kind of way. This puts Carrie onto the path of a runaway plot against the President-Elect.

The staples of the show are all woven together. Dar, Saul, Peter and Max work on different ends of the conspiracy and they all converge in really creative ways. While the cast is always solid this season’s stand out is far and away Rupert Friend as Peter Quinn. He was put through the ringer last year and his performance in Season 6 is some award winning stuff. Peter has always been one of my favorites and where he goes this year is some of his most harrowing and touching material. I wasn’t sure how they’d top Season 5 for him, but here we are (and I found it very believable).

I don’t think there was a bad episode this year. Always entertaining, often nerve-wracking, they paced it out well. Big events and big character moves from beginning to end, gotta love it. By the time the final credits roll, the fallout is massive. I hope the writers have been cooking and fine tuning worthy ideas for next year. They’ve put themselves in brand new territory to continue on from, so we’ll see. Really looking forward to Season 7.

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The Americans S5E06

Crossbreed

With the revelation of being wrong about the wheat, a pivot is made to salvage something from the mission. The wheat is valuable, if they can get it home then the Soviet Union won’t be reliant on buying from others.

The mission and the stress aren’t over. The center wants Philip and Elizabeth to stay on their Topeka marks. Elizabeth is also given the task of getting intel from a psychologist’s office. She does some recon and comes away from it that his security to get files won’t be difficult to get by.

The eyes on Alexei’s wife have expanded. Knowing that she’s teaching Russian to FBI agents his a huge lead so that mission has expanded to others figuring out her schedule and who she meets. Tuan will continue to work on Pasha to get more inside info from home.

This episode spent a lot of time with Philip. He’s recalling much more about his childhood. Remembering things about his father coming home from work with “things.” Clothes and boots that he’d give to his wife to clean off blood. Philip’s mother never told him what he did and the concept of the other kids bullying him “for no reason” was because of what his father did for work. Philip never had a relationship with his father and times were really tough for his family. His current position, living as a spy in America with everything he needs makes him reflect a lot on his passed. Then, when Gabriel tells them he is going back home, that he’s done, Philip is essentially losing his father figure. They’ve known and worked with Gabriel for a long time so this is a deep cut to them. With time running out to talk to Gabriel, Philip asks him about his father. He tells him he was a guard at a prison camp but didn’t know what he did specifically. There were good guards and there were cruel guards but it was work. He was just a nobody working with the other nobodies. Gabriel tries to ease him down a bit saying it was so long ago, it’s fading into the past.

So now Philip comes to see that he is more like his father than he ever imagined. Both worked for the government and did terrible things (his father likely, Philip definitely with the lab worker’s death fresh in his mind). He didn’t know his father and Henry doesn’t know him. With finding out Henry is gifted at math from his teacher, Philip doesn’t know his own son. And for the audience, who watched Gabriel send Mischa away, Philip also doesn’t know his other son, whom he has never met, came looking for him.

Elizabeth and Philip are very isolated. They do have each other (as they confide in each other more, Philip especially)  but they are certainly floating around their own heads dragging around a crushing amount of weight.

It shows up on the kids. Henry leaves the (once again) empty house and brings leftovers to eat with Stan. They have what could only be described as a father and son scene when Henry tells him about a new girl he likes (and Stan even knew about a crush he has had on a teacher). Henry is way more open to a neighbor than he is his own parents. Paige answers the door to get a sales pitch from a Mary Kay sales rep and Elizabeth shuts it down quick. She is in no mood to have a walking, talking embodiment of capitalism (which comes up when she sees Paige reading about Karl Marx) at her doorstep. Paige is put off with how her mother wasn’t “very nice” to the rep. Elizabeth  Elizabeth’s mark can feel her anxiety and in one of the season’s most humanizing and grounding scenes, he teaches her Tai Chi.

Also, Elizabeth’s mark can feel her anxiety. In one of the season’s most humanizing and grounding scenes, he teaches her Tai Chi. Philip is haunted by his father and Martha. Elizabeth has her guilt with destroying Young Hee’s family last season.

It was a pretty dreary episode as a whole. Oleg might have had the better moments depending on how you weigh his day. It made rather big moves on his work, getting to a distributor in the food corruption scene. When he and his partner squeeze him for more information, he refuses and they take him into custody. He looks down (literally) at the man in his cell. Whether his work will amount to anything is debatable, but it is progress. When he goes home he destroys the evidence the FBI dropped on him in order to turn. Oleg has firmly made his decision on the matter.

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The Americans S5E05

Lotus-1-2-3

The saying goes “and the plot thickens” but this week I think it’s more apt to say “the plot takes an unexpected turn.”

The thread for this episode was relationships and I’ll follow the flow starting with Stan this week.

His threat to his boss about leaving Oleg alone worked. The FBI (with Stan and his partner’s involvement) start working on generating new sources. In the Soviet Union, Oleg works with his partner and figuring out the food trade system for the grocery stores in the area. Afterwards, Oleg folds to the pressure of the threat from the FBI and goes to the meeting place where no one shows up (because of Stan, which he doesn’t know). When he goes home, he finds a matchmaking effort. Three single women invited by a family friend (I didn’t recognize the man), something probably put into motion by Oleg’s mother. Oleg is in some murky water, both in his investigation that could turn dangerous and the specter of the FBI near him, so he’s in no position or mental state to get into a relationship. He tells the guy to butt out.

Stan, on the other hand, is all in with his relationship. He’s spending a lot of time with Renee, Matt knows her, Stan’s partner has met her socially and theJennings’ have as well. Stan is feeling good. Philip finds this perfect match to be suspicious. He clues Elizabeth in, remarking that they’ve been telling The Center a lot about Stan. How he’s alone, his vulnerabilities…he thinks Renee is actually a co-worker. The thought never occurred to Elizabeth but she doesn’t deny the possibility.

On to Stan’s kid Matt, he’s getting the cold shoulder from Paige. They don’t spend much time alone anymore and she’s very distant in general. He asks her about it, wondering if she’s bored with him and wants to break up. Paige doesn’t know what to say and fumbles through the conversation.

She opens up to Philip when they’re alone at home after talking about Henry (she’s a little jealous and surprised at him, which I’ll get to next). Her inner turmoil about Matt is getting worse, if anything and it’s making her question her own self-worth and future. Matt is her first relationship and she can’t be honest with him. She has so much to hide she’s afraid of saying anything. She’s becoming afraid of intimacy and tells Philip that she wonders if she’s meant to be alone. It’s a shot to Philip’s heart to hear his daughter say that.

Now, what’s going with Henry? Well, he isn’t in trouble at school. His math teacher says he’s doing so well he wants to move him up to a more advanced class. Elizabeth and Philip are stunned. They never see him do any studying, video games seem to be his things. Turns out he’s naturally gifted, in math at least. His parents try to tone down their shock and he throws some shade at them, essentially saying he knows they’re surprised because the success didn’t come from their golden child, Paige. They don’t know what to say to the son they now realize they barely know and fumble the rest of the conversation. The Jenners’ have a daughter who feels isolated from knowing the truth about her parents and a son who feels ignored because he’s the runner up in the family. The Jenners’ household is not in order, which leads us to end this with Mr. and Mrs.

Philip’s mission in Topeka is torture. The woman has the personality of a chalkboard. He manages to get close to her in an attempt to get information from her. He looks like he’s trying to crawl out of his own skin while they’re having sex and it leads to….being shown Lotus 1-2-3.

Elizabeth finds out Alexei’s wife is applying for a job as a Russian language instructor where her husband works. That leads to Tuan finding out (through Pasha) that she got the job. It’s a major opening for them as it’s now possible for them to get a list of all the potential agents that could be sent to the Soviet Union.

That’s the extent of the good news. Elizabeth isn’t keen on her similar Topeka relationship mission, but the man is actually a functioning human being. She hams it up, they have what you could call real dates and she distances her mind when they have sex, going through the motions to keep up the front. Then she finds out what he does at work.

The Center had it all wrong about the bugs in the wheat and in the lab. They aren’t trying to start a famine by messing with the food. The company is working on a new breed of wheat to sell to impoverished nations. The bugs were to test and see if they had made a wheat that the bugs don’t like. It’s to eliminate world hunger, not push it further along.

That means they killed that lab technician for nothing. He was more than an innocent man, he was part of trying to make the world better. Philip is beside himself. He’s been struggling for months with their missions and this just rips at Philip’s soul even more. He’s done more evil with no justification. Elizabeth says they’ll be more careful and that maybe he should take a backseat in some of their missions from here on out. He thinks that’s nonsense, whatever she does he’s involved with. There is no separation. I’m not sure if Philip can feel any lower. This has major implications for him and the pushback he’s going to give Gabriel has got to be the beginning of the end for him. Philip is going to object to everything The Center says and Gabriel isn’t going to be able to temper him anymore.

Finally, Misha calls the spy hotline to meet with Philip. The communication gets to Gabriel and Claudia for consideration. Claudia says absolutely not. Before knowing about what happened with the wheat, she thinks Philip is far too sensitive to meet the son he never met and just recently found out existed. Gabriel pushes back, but Claudia’s logic wins out. Gabriel meets with Misha instead of Philip and tells him it isn’t safe to meet his father. Not now and not here.  Maybe in the future, back at home. Misha is crushed.

Not sure what’s going to happen with Misha now but the plates are spinning like crazy and we’re only 5 episodes in. The fallout from the wheat mission is going to be a game changer and what’s going to happen when/if they find out The Center sent Renee to Stan? Till next week…

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