Call him Poor Stan or Sad Sack Stan, but one thing Noah Emmerich is not is lazy. Stepping back into the director’s chair for the second time in this series, “Clark’s Place” finds Emmerich continuing to shine in his efforts to build a controlled atmosphere that utilizes the entire cast and continues weaving a tangled web for the Jennings to have to navigate. Oh, and you can also call Emmerich the trivia king, because Stan knows his stuff when it comes to Trivial Pursuit.
Let’s put focus on Emmerich and what it means to see so much of Stan’s house this week. While Stan may have been asking some questions about the Jennings, Elizabeth finally starts to ask about her son’s consistent presence at Stan’s place. Does Henry have other friends? Apparently that Doug kid is not a great friend, but we are seeing Henry spend a lot of time with Stan, even without Stan’s son Matthew not being around until this episode.
It’s funny, because as much as the drama has focused around Paige finding religion last season and having the relationship with her parents tested, the lack of much focus on Henry that has led to many jokes in these reviews has actually started to build a quiet tension. Henry may not be secretly trying to run away from home, but were something to happen that exposes his parents, it may be interesting to see what kind of allegiance American-born Henry may have when push comes to shove.
I may be jumping too far ahead in thoughts on where things could go down the line, but given all the time with Stan this week, I can’t help but speculate. More in the now though, with all the new suspicions taking place, it was nice to see Philip patch things up with his buddy. Maybe that keeps Stan’s eyebrows from raising around his neighbors for a little bit, but it could at least help round out his emotions, knowing that he seemingly still has a friend in the world.
Okay, so enough Stan talk, let’s get to Martha. This is another big Martha episode. The plot is already wrapping around how to bring her closer to the main plotlines and we find Agent Aderholt taking an active presence in her private life this week. Sure, the date may have actually been an attempt to find out more, which has now led to surveillance, but it will never stop being interesting to see these emotionally-in-check characters reveal their subtle feelings towards others in the midst of investigation.
Sadly, Martha is not emotionally-in-check, as you can read all over her face how distraught she is. Clark must have really won her over, because every chance she has to get away or reveal something is pushed aside in favor of doing what she can to keep quiet. Of course, Martha is nearing her wits end, as she is now lying awake at night and growing more concerned over the situation she is in. Poor Martha had a panic attack last week for goodness sake.
Elsewhere, while cooling the possible fire going on with Martha and her surveillance issue, there is still the Pastor Tim and Alice situation. Thanks to some clever work involving a fake story involving death squads and work in El Salvador, it looks like Elizabeth and Philip have bought themselves some good faith. They double down by getting Paige to act as if she can reluctantly start to trust Tim and in return have his trust as well. It is a tricky game that is being played, but one that is allowing Holly Taylor to show her capabilities as a young version of Paige the spy.
It will only be taken so far for now though, as Elizabeth is correctly calling out that introducing Paige to this life has not exactly gone over so great. It happens before Paige confronts Pastor Tim, but being told to take a break from all of this still won’t stop Paige from wanting to know more about everything her parents are doing.
What are her parents doing by the way? Elizabeth is learning recipes for Asian cuisine with her new friend from Mary Kaye and Philip is doing a lot to deal with Martha, but what else is brewing? With all that is going on that is not completely focused in slick spy missions, the Jennings no doubt have their work cut out for them. I guess it only makes sense that we get to hear ‘Under Pressure’ at a point where some pressure can surely be alleviated. It certainly works as a good substitute for getting into violent physical action our Americans would be happy to avoid.
The Americans is doing just fine in keeping us invested in all the players and keeping the timeline relatively succinct. I mean, we’re not too far away from the 36-hour quarantine from last week and that still allows us to address where these characters are in explaining themselves and trying to solve certain predicaments. It’s fun to know that the children are now wildcards in all of this, but we will still need to learn what to do about these others who are a bit too close to knowing what the Jennings really do. ‘Clark’s Place’ really does put ‘Clark’ in his place and Emmerich hits the right beats gently enough to keep the tensions raised, while keeping the emotions in play as well.
Other Things Behind The Red Curtain:
- Plenty of opening credits shakeups lately. Annet Mahendru was dropped right away and Brandon J. Dirden (Agent Aderholt) is now a regular, which I may have been missing since the beginning of this season.
- Oleg got a subplot this week where he is broken up over the news of Nina’s death. It doesn’t amount to much, but I still remain curious how he will continue to factor into this series.
- “Double Duty” – Despite disbelief from Henry and Matthew, Stan was not an FBI Agent at 8 years old.
- Paige was not amused by Elizabeth laughing at President’s Reagan’s very red cheeks.
- “She can’t be the only one” – Gabriel and Elizabeth are very much in sync on news about Marth and the copies she’s been making.
- Philip and Elizabeth, Stan and Aderholt, and Poor Martha make for three very different perspectives we observe in the closing Bowie montage.