At this point, Archer is well into its fourth season, and hasn’t yet indicated that it has any interest in being anything other than a great television show. Anyone who watched Frisky Dingo (the previous show that was written and conceived by Adam Reed and Matt Thompson) was probably a little wary of how long Archer would actually last. Sure, FX is interested in some pretty bold programming, and Archer seriously toned down some of the qualities that made Frisky Dingo as insane (and admittedly tough to watch for some audiences) as it was. Now, it’s all but become clear that Archer isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. The show’s doing just fine in terms of ratings and an impressive amount of industry goodwill. This is a pretty awesome thing when you consider the fact that Archer is a combination spy spoof and office comedy that’s set in a bizarrely anachronistic alternate reality and relies on references to things like Herman Melville and Guy Own’s The Ballad of the Flim-Flam Man. People fucking love this show. And they should; it’s an increasingly great show. This week’s episode, “Viscous Coupling” does a lot to remind us of exactly why, too. It’s been a little bit since we’ve really pulled back and had a look at the wide-angle view of the Archer universe, but it’s always a great time when we do. The last few episodes have given us a look at what kinds of things happened between the end of season 3 and the beginning of season 4, but now that we’ve spent a good amount of time with Ron Cadillac and have made sure that Gillette can walk again, we’re ready for something that involves all the major players. (By the way, the fact that Gillette’s injury was serialized, while Brett’s repeated injuries seem to have relatively mild consequences, is brilliant.)
This episode starts off inconspicuously enough, with Archer (of course) being the only person in the office who doesn’t have a date for Valentine’s Day. Despite the fact that he’s like, “the best at dates.” Even Krieger and his holographic girlfriend have a date that’s geared around sushi and Japanese tentacle porn (the evening’s selections include The Fisherman’s Wife and Fisherman’s Wife 2: The Retentacling, which....gah). All of this leaves Archer feeling a little anxious, so he busts into Cyril’s office to interrupt some sex and find some scotch. The former was happening between Cyril and Lana (who are seem to be “back together” for no reason other than to highlight Archer’s datelenessness), while the latter, we find out, was already consumed by Archer and then puked into a wastebasket some time ago.
All this, of course, is quickly forgotten as soon as Archer gets a call from Katya asking him to “come for [her].” (Boom. Phrasing.) This means we get to catch up with the two craziest and/or most evil characters this show’s got on its roster, which is always a great time. Katya gets in touch with Archer to try and figure out where Barry is, so Archer sets in motion a plan to first simply bring Barry back to Earth, but then to convince Katya that Barry has been cheating on her so he doesn't come back at all.
Everybody gets something to do in this episode, even if that means getting tranquilized whilst masturbating to a Japanese tentacle porn magazine. There’s a great energy to enjoy, and while it really doesn’t quite capture the sense of kinesis that some of this show’s best half-hours have delivered (last week’s “Midnight Ron” was a great example of this, and featured a great reference to “Fat Mike” from Frisky Dingo), it’s still a lot of fun to pull back and enjoy everyone’s dynamics flying around.
We get just enough of Mallory being locked in a vault and drinking out of a paper clip dispenser, just enough of Cyril getting emasculated by Lana, and just enough of Cheryl giggling hilariously while she legitimately pretends that it’s Opposite Day (seriously, Judy Greer’s squeals and giggles in this episode are some of my favorite examples of voice acting to be featured on this show).
We also get to learn at the end that, no shit, Katya and Barry are totally working together. This was something that any viewer of Archer would have been able to see coming from a mile away. As something of a rule, nothing ever really works out for Archer the way he wants it to, and if you’re familiar with the show, you know that it really loves its dramatic irony. For exactly this reason, it’s really not a surprise when we learn that Katya and Barry are in league at the end of the episode. Adam Reed is a super smart guy, though, and he totally knows this. That’s why he gives us a little bit at the end that makes it clear there’s going to be something of a power struggle over at the KGB when Barry comes back. Looks like Krieger might get his robot fight, after all.
Oh, and also...
• I love that I’m not the only person who does Periodic Stroke Updates.
• It really took me like, four or five rewinds to figure out what exactly was happening in that bathroom scene. Yet another example of Reed putting a lot of faith in his audience.
• Any idea where that octopus comes from?
• Archer, in response to Katya mentioning her bionics: “Oh, right. Because you...have those.”