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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Archer: “Drastic Voyage: Pt. I”

Gary Cole, Christian Slater, TV's Michael Gray, Carrie Brownstein
Gary Cole, Christian Slater, TV's Michael Gray, Carrie Brownstein
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After diving to the bottom of the ocean and crashing a space station, Archer’s third two-part finale takes the cast into the human body—which, when I put it like that, makes some kind of sense. The “Space Race” double shot was so sharp, featuring so many magnificently deluded sides of Archer and Barry (and Other Barry), that the first question after it ended was, “how in the hell are they going to top outer freakin’ space?!” The submarine and space finales were impressive not only for their outsized humor, but for the sheer magnitude of their concepts—which is why injecting the microscopic crew into a person’s body manages to feel like just the next logical step for Archer.

“The Drastic Voyage” is not only a play on The Fantastic Voyage, but “The Craptastic Voyage” from Sealab 2021, one of Adam Reed’s previous forays into cartoon lunacy. Both episodes pay homage to the 1966 science fiction classic, though where “The Craptastic Voyage” accidentally injected the cast into the body’s ass, “Drastic Voyage” sends them even further afield from the target brain clot: the toe. There is an obvious affection for the source material here, which is why it’s a little surprising that “Part I” barely touches the actual voyage, choosing to hash out the mission and the CIA’s beef with Malory’s misfit spies rather than devote more time to Pam gawking at the pancreas or whatever. As a result, “Drastic Voyage: Pt. 1” suffers from the weight of expectations; it’s just a little too easy to relate when Archer groans that he just wants to get shrunk already. In a clever move, though, the script wrings humor out of this exposition heavy episode by making several different people point out several different times that the Agency Formerly Known As ISIS isn’t getting nearly enough training to go into a human body. Lana asks with growing horror if they should be getting more information about the mission, only to get a chirped, “Oh, you absolutely should. But we’re running behind.” Once they are in the body, Slater practically spits on Cyril when he asks, “Should we be steering, or…?”


While we’re at it: Slater is on point this episode. In fact, all the guest stars come to play for “Drastic Voyage,” both in the sense that they have fun with every line and that they crush it. Christian Slater’s “Just Slater” has been omnipresent all season, but he has rarely left an impact. “Drastic Voyage” uses Gary Cole’s return as Special Agent Hawley to offset Slater’s more rough-edged approach. Cole’s Hawley drawls at the room with the driest of disdain (“As much as I’d love to spend the day murdering all of you, we have to press on”). Meanwhile, Slater’s…Slater grabs Archer by the collar and spits disgust at every turn. Slater has never been impressed with Archer and his “particular brand of bullshit,” but he has never outright hated him as much as he does in “Drastic Voyage,” and it immediately makes him ten times more fun. Watching Slater trade literal dick measuring barbs with Archer made me realized he could have filled the void Barry left all season long:

Slater: “Ready to begin the miniaturization process.”
Archer: “Says your dick.”
Slater: “That would mean my dick’s too big, and is ready to be made smaller.”
Archer: “……..dammit.”

Elswhere, Carrie Brownstein’s Dr. Sklodowska is so clipped and to the point in this first appearance that it seems inevitable that Part II will feature her letting loose, if not revealing herself as the evil mastermind behind whichever nefarious plot rears its head as the tiny ship nears Dr. Kovacs’ head. (If that is shocking to you, so be it.) TV’s Michael Gray, however, surely gets his shining moment in Part I as he preens for the crowd (read: Archer) in his skinless unitard. (Archer: “Are you kidding?!” Lana: “Are you?”)

Just like with “Pocket Listing,” this episode is only stronger for uniting the cast under one umbrella mission. It’s always a treat to hear the cast riffing off each other in the same room—even when just debriefing in Malory’s office—especially when a script like Adam Reed and Casey Willis’ is so dense with layered outbursts. Take everyone’s protests at the possibility of never working in espionage tagged with Cheryl’s stray “I’m just an assistant,” or the classroom of disgraced agents debating whether you can be weightless on a submarine tagged with Pam’s “is that a fat joke?”


Just about everyone gets a standout moment at some point in this episode. Krieger has the breakdown we probably all should have seen coming from day one after his outdated talk on phrenology, bleeding, cupping, and testing for humors gets him ejected from the operating room. Lucky Yates rips into Krieger’s rant with all the indignation he can muster, and for the brief moment before the CIA points out that he’s ruined everything, it is glorious. Ray, ostensibly afraid of change, is very obviously ashamed of his new black hand, leading to some of Lana’s best outrage in ages. Cheryl gets a lovely monologue about the miracle of scientific endeavor that nonetheless ends with her casually declaring that she’s going to use her share of the profits to “buy an orphanage and bulldoze it.” As she cackles off into the distance—one of Judy Greer’s best voice acting moments on the show to date—Pam sighs, “well, maybe she’ll die.” Jessica Walter snarls harder than she has in practically an entire season, and Chris Parnell finally gets to chew some scenery with Cyril’s chilling monologue about getting stuck with a serial killer’s hand. The CIA’s justification for bringing everyone on board this particular high risk mission is paper thin at best—“they’re just going to stow away anyway”—but it’s hard to argue the results.

Stray observations:

  • Krieger: “You maniacs! You stole it! You stole my idea! I’ve been working on miniaturization for years.” Cyril: “Krieger. Those were shrinky-dinks.”
  • It’s so silly, but my biggest laugh all episode is Krieger slapping the doctor’s bald head for no good goddamn reason.
  • “Remember, I was always kind to you.” “Not always.”
  • Lana and Archer, reenacting a scene from my living room: “You were saying?” “I don’t know. Probably something about bears.”
  • “You know: The Freshmaker.”

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