The Americans

Performer of the Week: Keri Russell

THE PERFORMER | Keri Russell

THE SHOW | The Americans

THE EPISODE | “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears” (May 4)

THE PERFORMANCE | Good lord, we never want to get on Elizabeth Jennings’ bad side. Because in the heated moments when the pragmatic spy loses control and says what she’s actually thinking, portrayer Russell is a scary force of nature. In Wednesday’s episode, the Jennings’ halfhearted argument about EST quickly escalated into a stinging discussion of past lovers, with Russell pointedly staring down Matthew Rhys’ Philip as Elizabeth reminded him she’d endured loss, too.

While an already crestfallen Philip looked the worse for wear, Russell made Elizabeth stand taller, doubling down on her anger, brazenly dredging up her husband’s past infidelity and lies and loudly reminding him that only her good graces had allowed him back in the house.

When their fight was interrupted, you could feel Russell simmering with Elizabeth’s rage, which eventually was directed at a sulky Paige. We’re sure Russell spoke words during the exchange when Elizabeth reminds her daughter how much she’s screwed things up for the family, but all we could focus on was Russell’s intensity, how she used her entire body (that vein in her forehead!) to express the covert operative’s frustration of never quite knowing whether their cover is about to be blown. Russell usually plays Elizabeth so pragmatic and reined-in, it’s easy to forget that the spy is a woman given to violence. Every once in a while, it’s nice to see the actress let the reins slip a little.

ScandalHONORABLE MENTION | Scandal‘s Susan Ross may have dropped out of the White House race this week, but Artemis Pebdani won us over with her layered performance as a woman — and, more importantly, a vice president — scorned. Susan’s scathing words for David (“I know I’m amazing! I’m witty and cute and funny and smarter than you! I’m incredible, David. I’m going to change the damn world, and that’s why this is over”) were long overdue, and Pebdani delivered Susan’s fury with all the smug satisfaction her speech deserved. That emotional breakdown in the scene’s final moments, a refreshing turn for a character so often relied upon to keep things light, was the cherry on top of an already delicious performance.

Penny DreadfulHONORABLE MENTION | From the moment that Christian Camargo uttered his first line in the third season premiere of Penny Dreadful, making the most of that delicious John Logan dialogue, we were putty in his hands. The sincere enthusiasm that the actor put into the way that his zoologist character, Alexander Sweet, marveled at the wonders of the animal kingdom — including the underrated sheep — was not only disarming but contagious. And, by the time “Noah in his ark” confessed to natural history museum guest Vanessa (Eva Green, sublime as ever) that his favorite exhibits were “mostly the unloved ones, the unvisited ones, the cases that get dusty and ignored,” even she couldn’t help but be taken in.

The PathHONORABLE MENTION | In the course of just seven episodes, Hugh Dancy has made his last TV alter ego, Hannibal’s Will Graham, seem downright chipper in comparison to the tormented cult leader he’s currently playing on Hulu’s The Path. As Wednesday’s installment drew to a close, Cal was informed that he is not destined to take over as leader of the Meyerist Movement, after all — and, what’s more, Meyerism might not even be real. In a matter of seconds, Dancy took Cal from stunned sadness to blind rage, as he murdered the man who had delivered such infuriating news. Then, as Cal cleaned up the grisly scene and washed off Silas’ blood in the shower, he reverted back to a scared man who seemed to recognize he’d lost all control. Sure, Dancy does an excellent job of making us fear Cal, but he’s even better at making us pity the man — and we applaud him for making such a messed-up character seem worthy of sympathy.

Which performances knocked your socks off this week? Hit the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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32 Comments
  1. Murica! says:

    Well deserved!! Keri Russell was outstanding!!

  2. Elizabeth finally read the Riot Act. They are Soviet spies, not an actual American family. ‘Get your heads out of your backsides’! Good job Keri Russell.

  3. NM says:

    Though the episode could have been more powerful, I felt Jessica Capshaw on Grey’s Anatomy earned a mention.

  4. lululimon says:

    Love Keri Russell. I thought Freddie Highmore would get some notice this week.

  5. bj says:

    Keri was fantastic. I was especially happy to see her give sulky Paige a solid dose of reality.

    And I gave Susan a little cheer too.

    Great choices.

    • Shell says:

      Keri is a fantastic actress, and deserving of this mention. As far as “sulky Paige,” she’s a teenager, put in a horrible position by her adult parents. Yeah, she shouldn’t have told the pastor, and she knows it now, but her parents should’ve known she wasn’t emotionally ready to handle their secret. As Phillip told Elizabeth, paraphrasing here “everything we’ve done concerning Paige, has been wrong.” I actually really disliked Elizabeth in that scene with Paige.

      • Murica! says:

        Wrong. That scene was a long time coming and it was glorious!! All paige has done since the beginning is whine about everything. Her whole sick obsession with that creepy Pastor Tim is the reason she betrayed her parents. They should have let the center deal with Tim and his wife.

        • Hb says:

          Because she’s a teenager.

          It’s normal behavior.

          At least she didn’t murder her family like that other teenage spy did.

  6. Sam says:

    Keri Russell was SPECTACULAR. Loved every bit of her in this episode!!!!

  7. George H. says:

    Didn’t watch the show. Just came in to say that the main thing I think of when I see Keri was the time she cut her hair on the tv show Felicity, lol. Never seen such an uproar over someone cutting her hair before that. If I remember right, the show actually lost a lot of viewers over it. Anyway, Keri is a great actress. She definitely can pull off the dramatic scenes, makes it look easy.

  8. Mike C says:

    TV Line very disappointed that Obba Babatundé was nit at least on the honorable mention list. He gave the best performance in daytime in years as Julius Avant. Amazing scenes all week!!

  9. Cate53 says:

    Good call on Keri Russell, who is always great on The Americans. Elizabeth is a fascinating character and unlike any female on tv in her relentless iciness. She always seems to controlled and single minded but we rarely see the rage simmering under the surface, she really was terrifying this week and fully convincing as a killer! I love that this show has a couple where the man is the softer one emotionally (although not adverse to the odd cold blooded murder!)

  10. Spence says:

    EVERY single actor on The Americans needs to win an Emmy, seriously such an amazing season. Also, Freddie Highmore on Bates Motel has consistently been knocking it out of the park, he better be nominated for an Emmy this year.

  11. Spence says:

    Not sure where else to put this, but I also think Anna Camp on Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt was a huge standout and I’m praying she’s nominated for guest actress Emmy.

  12. LAwoman says:

    Keri Russell deserves it. The show overall is so impressive. And I’m looking forward to seeing more of Christian Camargo on Penny Dreadful.

  13. DarkDefender says:

    Chris Coy has been pretty amazing on Banshee.

  14. Viviana says:

    Charles Michael Davis deserves a shoutout! He was insanely good in this week’s episode of The Originals definitely goes unnoticed!

  15. Mollytanner says:

    Well Keri did play Freddie’s mom in August Rush so congrats to both!

  16. Dude says:

    As soon as I watched The Americans, I knew Keri would be named performer of the week. She was phenomenal.

  17. Artemis Pebdani was amazing… I loved it. It was a total BO$$ moment and so heartbreaking at the same time.

  18. Phil says:

    The fact Scandal allowed the story to reach a point where Susan Ross would speak those words to David is evidence of how badly it has become and handling its characters. The last couple seasons completely destroyed David’s character (not to mention further derailing already shakily written characters), what for I don’t know. Scandal nowadays only cares about building up situations where a character would go on a speech like that (I’m looking at you Rowan), no matter how inconsistent it has to be to get there. There are still a few characters I like, not necessarily nice characters, but it gets more difficult to enjoy it every episode. More and more, it’s like when you slow down when you see a car accident, you need to look at the wreckage. Hopefully season six with its reduced episode order will be the last, and allow Scandal to end instead of taking convoluted messes to new heights.

  19. Patrick Maloney says:

    Scott Glenn should’ve been recognized… This is true every week, but specifically for his performance in Daredevil Season 2 in this case!

  20. Karina Horan says:

    Yes! I agree that Keri’s performance was outstanding this week. This is the best show on TV!!! I love all the characters and the actors who play them, the storylines etc.