So: That was kind of gross, huh? (And I’m not talking about all the bird shit.)
Last week, I pretty much glossed over the B-plot that saw hotel owner/would-be madame Malory Archer coerce Judy Greer’s Charlotte into the world of poorly paid, largely non-voluntary sex work, both because there was other, more enjoyable stuff to talk about, and also because I’d already watched this week’s episode, and knew that we’d have a lot to talk about it here. The entire arc of Charlotte’s Danger Island plotline so far has been one of powerlessness, as her whole life swiftly unravels in response to a one-night stand with Archer and his sexy empty eye socket. She’s been yelled at, imprisoned, and—barring a few bursts of welcome Cheryl madness—just generally been sort of pushed around, a tendency that reaches its nadir tonight, when Fuchs takes her up to a hotel room and very nearly rapes her.
And while I can already hear the rising cries of “Why are you taking this 30-second scene from the cartoon comedy show where everybody’s an amoral asshole so seriously?” it’s worth noting that the show takes the moment seriously, too; Charlotte’s unconscious body is positioned in the scene to show extreme vulnerability, and Malory makes it clear when she busts in that letting Fuchs have his way with an unconscious woman is something not even she can let slide. Indeed, that’s at least one of the reasons the scene is in the episode, presumably: It tells us something fundamental about both Malory and Fuchs, and where they stand in Danger Island’s moral hierarchy; it doesn’t tell us a damn thing about Charlotte, though, because the whole thing happens at her expense.
(“And hey,” that same strawman, who hopefully exists mostly only in my head, asks, “Didn’t Ray and Pam—a character you profess to love—do the exact same thing to Cyril way back in ‘Blood Test’?” Which, yes, they did, but I’d argue that those episodes take place at a time when the show was more invested in consequence-free comedic sociopathy than it is now; because we’re more used to Charlotte being treated as an actual person by this point, the attempted violation carries a lot more weight.)
It’s a bummer, too, because that particular scene—and a few others, which mine more discomfort than laughs from Fuchs’ status as an actual, no-fooling Nazi—exist in the middle of one of the show’s best buddy outings to date. It’s never been more starkly clear that the Archer-Pam-Crackers trio is the driving engine keeping Danger Island in the air, and, unlike poor old Lucille Goosille and her smashed-up wings, it’s managing to just barely keep the show above C-level. This week, the team is trying to figure out ways to make enough money to get back in the air, which—after some digressions into the world of pun-based Mexican rat-cooking, and the show’s acknowledgement of how obviously it’s cribbing from Tales Of The Gold Monkey—leads to a conversation about that idol Fuchs accidentally mentioned last week.
From there, we get a fantastic little sequence as the trio tries to break into Fuchs’ bungalow, with Archer and Pam both rocking a variant on the tactical turtleneck, and Crackers just sort of shitting on everything. I feel like it’s been a while since Archer tossed out a scene like this, with everybody talking past and insulting each other at a quickfire pace, and it’s incredibly welcome to hear H.Jon Benjamin, Amber Nash, and Lucky Yates slip back into the rhythm. As ever, all the careful planning eventually goes out (and through) the window, and the whole thing ends in a lot of screaming, yelling, shitting, and an extremely crudely drawn map.
This is the stuff I want from—and feel like I was promised by—Danger Island, a lighter story about a bunch of morons gleefully smashing into things in the race for riches and gold. (Or even something quieter, like the scenes of Pam and Archer spitballing bad money-making ideas on the beach.) Dark comedy is fine (although I don’t know how a TV show in 2018 would be able to mine the Charlotte-Fuchs scenario for actual laughs); it’s the whiplash, more than anything, that I object to, the sense that I’m watching two different shows. One’s a lighthearted adventure story that I think I kind of love. The other’s a lot grubbier, and to no real effect except pulling that other story down.
- Malory, complaining about fixing the plane: “And god knows how much it will cost.”
Pam, keeping an eye on the prize: “Well, and the airplane factory, presumably…would know.”
- “What the hell’s la rue?”
“I think it’s like a base for sauces? You know, like for gravy, or whatever?” Hooray, bilingual puns!
- “Yeah, it’s a real Catch-22.”
“Uh, I don’t think that’s a thing yet.”
- Good: Pam and Crackers in chef’s costumes.
Better: Pulling out to reveal Archer dressed as a giant rat.
- “How was that?”
“Mink-y.” And the joke of Pam eating tasty rodents—presumably a callback to last year’s cuy runner—continues.
- “I packed for a honeymoon, not a descent into profound and lasting shame!” I’ll take my Judy Greer indignation where I can get it.
- “That’s your number one concern?”
“I haven’t ranked them!”
- “What are we talking about?”
“Why you’re not a dog.”
“Shut up, dodos.”
- “Shh, pretending I’m on the phone.” I may not love these Lana-Fuchs scenes, which seem to be working to pull some dramatic irony about how bad this deal is going to go for her and her people, but at least Aisha Tyler’s getting a few good lines again. See also: “I always found it ironic that if you really want to get bent over, just ask a missionary.”
- Maybe I’m just a prude (I’m probably just a prude), but was anyone demanding the return of the “Cyril’s got a huge penis” joke?
- Best non-verbal moment of the night: Pam and Charlotte growling at each other about bearclaws and continental breakfast. I’ve missed those two together.
- Archer and Pam on Crackers: “I swear to god.”
“And you know they live to be like 80.”
“How old’s he?”
“Racist! All birds have bumps.”
- Aw, poor Luigi.
- Obscure reference alert: Catch-22 was first published in 1961, so while it’s not exactly obscure, it’s definitely anachronistic. Tales Of The Gold Monkey, meanwhile, was an early TV show from legendary producer Donald Bellisario; it centered on a devil-may-care pilot living on a South Pacific island, accompanied by a burly mechanic sidekick and an animal companion, and frequently getting caught up in the hunt for a mysterious jungle idol that’s also of interest to Nazi spies. (Stop me if you’ve heard this one. Also stop me if seeing Stephen Collins as the show’s smiling star puts an unhappy pit in your stomach.) Meanwhile, I finally got curious enough to Google the episode titles of all of this season’s offerings; it turns out, they’re all chapter subheadings from Herman Melville’s first book, Typee. about the young author getting stranded in the Marquesas in the mid-1800s. Welcome back, obscure reference alert: I’ve missed you.
- Line of the episode: This one’s mostly in the read, but Lucky Yates scores it for this exchange with Archer:
“Why’d you shit on the sofa?”
“I was scared!”
“How mad you’d be that I shit on the sofa!”
- And hey, I get that it can be a bummer when these recaps focus so strongly on one brief unpleasant moment, rather than the many funny lines—including those directly around that particular scene—that were all over the episode. But my job as a reviewer is, in part, to dive into the parts of a show that I react most strongly too, and in this case, that was the Charlotte-Fuchs encounter. I also think it’s worth exploring how intentionally trapped and miserable the show is making Charlotte/Cheryl, who’s such a bright, crazy presence in the “real” world. I hope that’s building to some kind of payoff, but this is Archer; those kinds of hopes end up feeling pretty futile more often than not.