Archives for posts with tag: Mail Robot

PORTIONS PREVIOUSLY APPEARING ON WTOP.COM–

How well do we really know each other?  How many of our secrets to we share with those who we consider close friends, neighbors and co-workers?  How much of each of us is an iceberg to others–and what steps do we take to make sure the 90% stays underwater?

It’s easy to be all-in on FX’s “The Americans”.  The spy show takes place in Washington, D.C. during the Reagan administration and unlike the movie “No Way Out” did not have anyone boarding the Metro in Georgetown.  There was plenty of violence and sex…with plenty of 80’s cultural references in the mix (David Copperfield really DID make the Statue of Liberty disappear!).  Over six seasons the show was equal parts up-tempo and slow-burn…led by Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys (two actors that wound up getting married during the series run) as a pair of travel agents who might just be working for the KGB (okay, SPOILER ALERT, they are).  The seemingly normal couple with two kids and a nice house in Falls Church (I swear a buddy of mine used to mow lawns in that neighborhood) were doing their darnedest to undermine the good old United States of America.  And this was no “Boris & Natasha”–they were chillingly effective at what they did (the suitcase from season three).  But the show became just as much about an evolving marriage as it was about the two spies in it.

Deception lurked around every corner for six strong seasons– from the semi-convincing wigs to having a teenage daughter swipe pages of her minister’s diary.  In the midst of all of the deception, targets (poor Martha) and multiple handlers (Frank Langella as Gabriel remains my favorite), the characters of Philip and Elizabeth (or Mischa and Nadezhda in their home country) went from spies pretending to be married to a married couple pretending to not be spies.  A parent always wants a better world for their children, and after they brought Paige into their world of spycraft one saw both parents push back from condemning their daughter to their world of deception.  Elizabeth wanted a safe job as a State Department mole while Philip wanted Paige to be completely out of the family business (I know what you’re thinking as we head to the finale:  poor Henry Jennings was going to be captain of his prep school hockey team as a senior–as they say in the mother country, Не больше).

And as fate would have it (aren’t TV coincidences crazy?!?), “The Americans” added the wrinkle of having an FBI Agent move next door.  Unlike most sit-coms where the wacky neighbor provides welcome comic relief, Noah Emmerich as Stan Beeman was akin to having missiles in Cuba (or Turkey, depending on whose perspective you prefer)-danger on the doorstep.  Naturally, Stan and Philip became best friends.  And while we saw Philip evolve in his marriage and work we saw Stan’s marriage crumble (due to deception) and work go sideways to a point where he left counter-intelligence.  But in the final episodes, he can’t stop thinking that the Jennings might not be all what they seem.  And what has made the show work is you want to root for Stan and his FBI co-workers to win (it doesn’t hurt that Emmerich played assistant coach Craig Patrick in the movie “Miracle”)…while still be caught up in rooting for Philip and Elizabeth in some way (but not too much).

What also helped “The Americans” maintain a high standard was the devotion to the process of spying:  more than simply car chases and gadgets, the nuts and bolts of espionage was handled deftly from day one.  Philip, Elizabeth, Stan and everyone in the spy game were dogged grinders with not every play paying off.  The show also boasted quite an assembly-line of quality actors in minor roles and bit-parts, from Costa Ronin’s Oleg to Dylan Baker’s turn as a bio-chemist in Season 4.  The show was rich in characters, capers and possibilities.  The biggest one facing fans now is whether Stan’s new wife Renee is KGB, CIA or simply a red herring? In the true spirit of the show, I have a feeling we will never know.

The final run of episodes take place in 1987, during the INF Treaty talks.  Elizabeth has turned against her handler who is trying to overthrow Gorbachev and ruin the summit. Philip is on the run after being spotted with a Russian Orthodox Priest in DC (which amazingly looks like Brooklyn).  Stan is getting closer.  And everybody’s favorite machine, the Mail Robot, continues to hum efficiently.

Every car needs a jumpstart once in a while.  Last week Nats manager Davey Martinez with three strokes was able to give a banged-up batting order the needed juice to recover from its early season slumber.  Bryce Harper going to the leadoff spot made plenty of sense–as he’s walking more than once per game and almost forgot what a good pitch to hit looked like.  Matt Adams to Bryce’s #3 spot made sense as the veteran has been solid  this spring.  But Wilmer Difo to the 9th spot has created a little electricity at the bottom of the order.  Batting behind the pitcher but before Bryce, Difo’s been a difference maker and wrapped up the week with a walk-off single that helped the Nats win their series with Philadelphia.  There will be more moves (Rendon taking over the #3 spot now that he’s off the DL) regarding this lineup–but in a division that is suddenly coming back to .500, a little juice might be all they need to retake the lead by Memorial Day.

Healthy and Hitting- Anthony Rendon not only returned to the lineup…but the third baseman delivered a two-run single in the eighth inning Sunday that began the rally.  The Nats are still missing Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy…and now that it’s May one wonders when the two will return and how effective they’ll be.

Dissecting the Division- don’t look now, but the New York Mets are in free-fall with eight losses in their last ten games.   Atlanta now leads the NL East with a 19-14 mark (despite getting swept at home by San Francisco) thanks to the #3 offense in the majors led by Nick Markakis (.344 with 6 HR and 25 RBI- on pace for his best season since 2008).  Philadelphia at 18-15 are in second while the Mets are in third at 17-15.  The Nats (18-17)after seven wins in eight games have moved within two of the lead.  They may be in fourth, but the rest of the division is chasing the Nats right now.

O’s Woes- wow.  Yeah.  Did anyone see an 0-6 roadtrip happening with the Birds getting outscored 35-17?  At 8-26 they’re not only 17 games out of first place but also tied for the worst record in the majors.  Manny Machado is having a decent season  (.346 with 9 HR and 27 RBI)–and the watch begins on when or if they send their best player packing for a bunch of prospects.  Right now they’re on pace to lose more than 120 games–and while teams always regress (or progress) to the mean, one wonders if this is the end of the current management structure and core on the field nucleus.  For those scoring at home, the Orioles need to finish 55-73 to avoid a 100-loss campaign…almost double their current winning percentage.

Last Week’s Heroes- Wilmer Difo hit .524 with 2 HR and 5 RBI…culminating in the game-winning hit Sunday.  Matt Adams batted .360 with 5 homers…and Bryce Harper went deep 4 times last week.  Max Scherzer was masterful in his 15-strikeout performance on Sunday–and had 8 in his other start.  Sean Doolittle notched a win and a save while Gio Gonzalez tossed 5 scoreless innings in the series opener with Philly.

Last Week’s Humbled- Trevor Gott coughed up 3 earned runs while getting one out Friday against the Phillies–and twisted his ankle in the process.  Michael A. Taylor hit .087 while Ryan Zimmerman has yet to eclipse the .200 mark for the season and missed two games over the weekend with a “side” injury.  Nobody expected the veteran to duplicate last year’s career resurgence (.303 with 36 HR and 108 RBI) but nobody expected this sort of prolonged start from a guy whose bat figured to be relied upon early and often (especially with the injuries).

Game to Watch- Let’s be honest, every Max Scherzer start is must-watch.  This one more so because Friday night he’ll be facing the team that drafted him in Arizona…while squaring off against Zack Grienke.  The 2009 Cy Young winner may own an ERA of 4.10, but he’s 2-0 at home with a 1.85 ERA.  Did we mention the Diamondbacks lead the NL West?  I’ll be watching after my appearance on News Channel 8’s Sports Talk.

Game to Miss- Wednesday there may very well be a Game Seven at Capital One Arena between the Caps and Penguins.  If there isn’t, The Americans final season continues with the most clueless FBI Agent potentially finally realizing his neighbors in Falls Church are really KGB agents and not just Travel Agents.  So far this season has given us a pair of appearances by the Mail Robot as well as bad country music line dancing.  Sorry, Gio Gonzalez as you pitch against a San Diego team that’s 13-22.