Of all the wild and crazy adventures Archer has embarked upon—cocaine dealing, submarine base infiltrating, space station saving, ocelot taming—the most dangerous just might be Archer and Lana deciding to be in an actual relationship. For Lana, it means deciding to take a leap of faith and trust someone who has both let her down and kept her afloat so many times over the years. For Archer, it means closing the door on so many aspects of his previous life to commit fully to both Lana and his daughter. For Archer the series, it means cashing in six seasons worth of Lana and Archer’s back and forth for a whole new dynamic that could create intriguing new possibilities and/or weigh the show down. After all, we have never seen Archer and Lana as a couple before. They were freshly broken up by the time we met them in the pilot episode, and while they have flirted and come close over the years, this is the first time we have seen them make solid commitments to the other throughout Archer’s run. As evidenced by its title, “Reignition Sequence” is the first step towards establishing what Lana and Archer as a couple is going to mean for the show going forward, and it ends up being largely encouraging.
But if you pull at the threads of this episode, the entire thing falls spectacularly to pieces. First of all, nothing particularly unexpected or interesting happens. I wouldn’t even be surprised if it turned out that Three’s Company had pulled the same exact relationship sabotage plot the office drones cook up here at least a dozen times. At a certain point, the predictability of the honeypot scenario is so cliché it almost becomes a joke in and of itself, but it is never obvious whether Adam Reed’s script is aware how much it adheres to the routine. There is never a doubt that Archer will be tempted by Katya before ultimately turning her down, or that the gang will try to take back their plot once they realize Archer and Lana have come to actually mean something to each other. Even the beats of Katya’s attempted seduction seem tired. Champagne popping aside, Archer takes entirely too long to ward Katya off; at one point he just half-heartedly scoots away from her on the bed like a lazy dog. The moment when Katya tells him he’s on fire—no, literally—is so basic that it is just groan-inducing.
Then, when Katya turns up to seduce Archer away from “that giant Negress,” there is no attempt to explain why she is doing it in the first place. Since we don’t get to hear Cyril’s side of the conversation, we have no idea why the incredibly powerful head of the KGB would travel halfway across the world just to strew rose petals on Archer’s bed. I know Archer is a supernaturally attractive dude, but her motivation here is completely muddled. There is just no sort of indication as to why Katya would care about him when she previously had no problem writing him off. Don’t get me wrong: rappelling off the very balcony that caused her death with a smirk and a kiss is hardly a bad sendoff for Archer’s cyborg ex-girlfriend. I just hope this isn’t the last we see of Katya, if only because this iteration of her makes absolutely zero sense.
So if this episode is disappointing on paper, why did I say this episode is “largely encouraging”? In short: this episode is hilarious.
“Reignition Sequence” provides a stellar showcase for just about every character in the cast (the exceptions being a mysteriously absent Woodhouse and Malory, who has sadly been a stray observation all season). This holds true even just in the cold open, when Lana and Archer’s orgasmic reactions to feeding each other breakfast burritos escalates to the point where neither can stand it anymore, and they run off to the broom closet (“it’s filthier”) right past their coworkers, who have been there the entire time. There’s a single, horrified beat—and then Pam hurls into her crockpot of “breakfast chili.” It’s perfectly timed, and could have easily led to the traditional smash to credits, but Reed isn’t done by a long shot. Instead, they banter hard about what counts as breakfast, Cyril lying to himself about being over Lana (and his sweaters), Ray’s new lack of hand, and best of all, Cheryl’s flipbook, which details an elaborate plan to kidnap baby A.J. and send her off to a monastery to become an assassin in the vein. The flipbook is done in an entirely different style of animation, with crude black and white approximations of all the characters in an almost Rocky and Bullwinkle style chasing each other past newspapers and signs that call both Lana and baby A.J. “ugly,” “fat,” and “gross.” Archer has so many runners going at this point that adding more almost feels like adding another spinning plate to an already precarious stack, but between Cheryl plotting to make baby A.J. into Thalia Al Ghul and calling Lana “Groot,” I’m perfectly happy to throw in “Cheryl Tunt: Secret Comics Fan.”
From then on, the non-Lana and Archer members of the office keep bouncing off each other in several sharp scenes. First, they brainstorm which woman they should enlist to tempt Archer away from Lana. They quickly shoot down Pam’s suggestion that they each kick in two grand for a higher price point prostitute, wrinkle their noses at the idea of throwing Malory into the mix (“even for us…”), and finally, take up Krieger’s suggestion that they lure Archer into cheating with someone he actually cares about. In one of the clearer cut arguments for Krieger splitting time with his clone, he is the only one not to immediately think of Katya for the job. They then stay holed up in Krieger’s ice cream truck (sure), watching their nefarious plan unfold on the monitors Krieger surely did not set up in everyone’s homes with his hologram bride and enough beer to get Cheryl well and truly trashed. Cyril’s role has been greatly reduced this season, but his grim determination to get Archer back for years of inferiority complexes at least gives Chris Parnell more to do than in recent weeks; when Cyril finally tries to keep Lana from seeing Katya as planned, he confesses that he still has feelings for her with one of Parnell’s classic impatient sighs.
The real reason why “Reignition Sequence” stays afloat, though, is that Lana and Archer are completely convincing as a couple. They bounce off each other in an entirely new and very fun way now that they are in a relationship, and yet they still manage to retain some of the bite that has so often characterized their dynamic. As I said last week, Lana has had very little in the way of fun for the last couple seasons, so it is always a relief when the script lets the very funny Aisha Tyler rip into some juicier material than Lana’s standard lectures. From the second Lana encourages the dirty breakfast burrito talk, it is clear that her renewed lust for Archer from last week is going nowhere, and what a relief. Horny Lana brings out the best in Tyler’s performance. She commands attention, whether she’s spouting coy euphemisms, grabbing Archer by the collar with a smirk, or disrobing with a click of her fingers and a purred promise that she’s going to burn him down. When Lana goes into the bathroom to freshen up for her next sex marathon with Archer, there’s no question that she’s about to find Katya’s cyborg vagina in the sink, but that doesn’t take anything away from her furious yowl of, “ WHY is there a VAGINA in the SINK?!” I can’t even remember the last time I could hear Tyler having this much fun with the material, and it makes a world of difference.
Crucially, H. Jon Benjamin and Aisha Tyler also sell the moments when Archer and Lana stop their foreplay long enough to acknowledge that they have real feelings for each other. If the entire episode were just Archer and Lana having increasingly dirty sex, they would be having a relationship they could have stumbled into back in the very first season. Showing some real heart amidst the dirty talk is entirely uncharted territory for Archer and Lana, which in turn provides entirely new opportunities for the show even towards the end of its sixth season.
Again, I don’t know what may or may not have been up with Jessica Walter while recording, but Malory’s reduction grumbling her way offscreen is depressing and I do not care for it.
Archer’s speech to Katya about committing to Lana is heartwarming and beautifully delivered, even if there’s a part of me that bristled on Pam’s behalf when he said that Lana has always been his best friend.
Ray protesting that Pam should know about the crappy healthcare plans because she’s head of HR is startling. They’re still working?!
I didn’t love the fire joke, but have to admit that the animation while Archer was running back and forth with his arm on fire was excellent.
Pam, on Krieger’s hologram wife: “How do you not kill her every day?!” Krieger, perfectly timed: “…I do.”