I have missed Archer’s group missions so, so much.

This is the sentence that loops in my head throughout “Pocket Listing,” which keeps the entire cast under the same literal roof for the first time in a long while. Archer: Vice had its pacing issues, but it found success by setting the characters together versus the world, or even stranding them all in the very mansion in which “Pocket Listing” takes place. Meanwhile, this sixth season has more typically separated the bored office drones from Archer, Lana, and whichever sporadic spy they need for that week’s mission. Yes, there was the episode in which the cast got stuck together in an elevator, but that seemed destined to be an outlier in a season that has otherwise focused on Archer and Lana struggling to balance parenthood with freelance spying for the CIA while the rest of the cast plays poker, goes bowling, and passes out in hot tubs. (Also, trying to get out of an elevator only barely qualifies as a mission.) I said last week that I would be happy to see this pattern continue as long as the storylines remained fresh and weird, so it figures that “Pocket Listing” has to go and remind me how good these characters are when they are banding together for a mission (i.e. total chaos).

“Pocket Listing” kicks off with “just” Slater (Christian Slater) assigning everyone to a mission: to separate the Durhani prince from his security and overbearing mother so Slater can grab his prints. The C.I.A. freelancing angle has been tenuous at best this season, but this mission uses it better than ever, even if only for Slater’s initial explanation. He describes the “how” of the mission and doesn’t even pretend to care about filling them in on the “why.” When Lana asks why they are going after royalty from an allied country, Slater spits, “because I said so.” When she pushes back, you can practically hear his eyes roll as he refers her back to “Mission Said So.” The CIA freelancing has been all over the map this season, so it’s refreshing to have Slater just come right out and say it: he doesn’t give a shit about these people. He just wants the job done—and probably to screw over a vaguely Middle Eastern country for oil-related reasons. The United States government, everybody!

Now, while the episode is stronger for giving solid runners to just about the entire cast, Slater choosing to assign tasks to everyone is just misguided from a logistical standpoint. For one, it is not the smartest to entrust Cheryl Tunt to be a covert operative or even just a functional human being for a prolonged period of time. Lest there be any confusion, I am not in any way complaining about Cheryl getting more screen time. In fact, playacting as real estate agent Ms. Escrow (she’s heard all the jokes) is Cheryl’s best showcase in quite a while. She fully throws herself into her character, which to no one’s surprise leads to her blurring the lines between this new fiction and reality. Still, there are several points when the storied Tunt mansion jerks Cheryl out of her alter ego. The moments when she solemnly intones Tunt lore—grandfather used secret passageways to “look upon the children” while grandmamma severely punished servants for spilling turtle soup—stop the action dead in a hilariously jarring way. There are very few moments when Judy Greer doesn’t sound like she is having the time of her life as Cheryl, but it is always a joy to hear her let as loose as she does in “Pocket Listing.”

Cheryl’s fellow secret hot tub dwellers also have their own worthy adventures. Pam not only gets to see Lana in (and out of) a French maid’s uniform, but she has a fondly disgusting back and forth with Archer that ends with him realizing she is his best friend. Krieger (and/or his clone) spends the entire episode in and out of consciousness as the unfortunate target practice for Slater’s tranquilizer gun. His abbreviated attempts to get involved before falling to the ground with dart in his neck and a heavy thud become expected, but no less hilarious, as the mission keeps unraveling.

Advertisement

After unleashing Krieger’s “brown note” ray on the target’s security detail, Ray gets stuck in the greenhouse with a carnivorous plant of mammoth proportions. There is so much else happening that we don’t end up seeing much of their battle to the death, but it is even more effective when the episode just cuts to Ray, bloodied and wild-eyed, slashing at the last of the beast. It has become customary for him to retain a serious injury every season, but it is still a shock when the usually polished Ray throws back his head and cackles while the place where his hand used to be spurts blood. In an episode that otherwise leans on more typical spy bait and switches, Ray’s man versus wild adventure stands out even more. The only castmember whose part in the mission goes basically nowhere is—in a continuing pattern—Cyril Figgis. It was inevitable that he would have a problem with Lana and Archer having a kid and creeping towards reconciliation, but his entire arc this season has been to lurk behind doors for Lana, and none of it has been particularly memorable.

As much as this episode succeeds for its strength in numbers, though, it still belongs to Archer and Lana. Their slow and steady march toward getting back together finally reaches a head here (are we still doing phrasing?), and while it sometimes waned as a point of interest, their reunion in “Pocket Listing” is a solid payoff. Even the animation steps up its game; has there ever been an animated kiss that hot (or a sex scene that explicit)? It’s especially good as a follow-up to “The Kanes,” when Lana formally lets Archer into her family and comes clean about her job. Maybe that’s why this episode succeeds where so much of Archer: Vice and this season failed, because it lets Lana have fun. It has been a long time since we saw Lana—not to mention Aisha Tyler—embrace the sexier parts of her job, so it’s a rare treat to see Lana entice a young mark, lead Archer away for bathroom sex with a laugh, and most importantly, dismiss Cyril with, “gotta go—got a pussy to break.”

Stray observations:

  • Pretty excited about this new runner of just hearing a dude’s pants tighten as he gets an erection, even if it’s going to make me about 24 percent more aware/wary of my surroundings at all times.
  • Another week, another devastating lack of Malory. At this point I have to assume Jessica Walter had a scheduling issue, which is fair, but again: devastating.
  • Love ya, Archer, but “Lana Cougar Mellencamp” is weak and you know it.
  • Ray, on his new nemesis Audrey Jr.: “easy, boy…or girl…or however you self-identify…”
  • Archer to the tranquilizer gun, probably because Babou was nowhere to be found: “Oh yes. You just became my new favorite thing.”
  • “Well slapped, sir.”

Advertisement