Ever since Lana announced she was pregnant, I’ve been anticipating—and kind of dreading—an episode like “Sitting.” It was inevitable that Lana would leave the baby in the hands of someone less competent, like…well, literally anyone else on this show. (Wait…yes, “literally.”) Lana would be worried, as anyone in her right mind would be, and whoever got charge of the baby would prove her right. Once she finally admitted that the baby is Archer’s, the beats became even clearer.
There is just not a lot of interest in this A-story. Is there ever any doubt how Archer babysitting A.J. is going to go, even if it is—as he suspected and is finally revealed—Lana testing him? Archer drinks, finds himself awesome, and when the time calls for it, finds that part buried deep underneath his crisp suits and pointed barbs that actually feels things. The problem isn’t that this happens frequently, since Archer is defined by its characters’ stunted growth and love of callbacks. The problem with “Sitting” is that what should be a high stakes mission to keep A.J. out of harm ends up being…well, kind of boring. Archer has so consistently raised the bar on its missions of the week, both in production and story, that this fairly cut and dry episode is more disappointing than it might have been in an earlier season.
The best part of this A-story by far is Archer’s back-and-forth the “Pakistani cyber spy” who turns out to be a daytime improv enthusiast. As played by comedian Kumail Nanjiani, Farouk manages to be both dry and enthusiastic. Once Slater has left him in Archer’s apartment, Farouk clarifies several times that Archer is unarmed and unprepared before he whips out his (very real) gun and gets the test rolling. In retrospect, Archer laughing and calling Farouk out as a plant from Lana is an obvious way to keep us off the trail of that actually being the case, but hey, I still fell for it. And so Farouk forces Archer to drive him to the headquarters formerly known as ISIS to break into the mainframe (a mission so boilerplate Archer probably should have called it out again as a fake), calling Archer a “gaping dickhole” all the way.
The one real point of character interest here is Archer’s total surrender when there’s a possibility that something might happen to A.J. “You’re nothing like your file. Do you seriously not care about what I’m going to do with your mainframe?” Farouk asks, and even while he is playing a part, it’s clear he’s actually surprised. H Jon Benjamin imbues Archer’s voice with a heavy resignation as he replies without a second thought, “I honestly don’t.” The unspoken there is, “if it’s going to end up with A.J. hurt, who cares what happens to anything or anyone else?” There was never a question that Archer—immature though he is—would do anything other than love the crap out of his kid. He did go all in with the wee baby Seamus even when he couldn’t be sure he was Archer’s. So however bored I might have been by the rest of the mission, it’s hard to beat the moment when Archer gets the upper hand over Farouk and verbally wreaks his furious parental revenge:
“My default setting has been ‘half-assed.’ But now I have a child…Imagine as I literally beat you to death – wait. Yes, literally, that a giant hand has turned my dial from half-assed to quadruple ass.”
Farouk then notes with not a little terror that “that’s a lot of ass” (Archer: “yeah, like eight times the ass”), and we’re off. Archer’s switch from parental concern to icy fury is startling, but intriguing. Archer pulling a stone cold rampage over a tiny infant girl is the kind of contrast that would freshen up the baby storylines that tend towards the stale side.
What further saves “Sitting” from being more of a drag is poker night with the drones. As a caveat, we’re about halfway through the season and most of the storylines outside of Archer and Lana have been following the secret and increasingly weird exploits of these very, very bored people. One of the things missing from this season is any real sense of drive. Being C.I.A. freelancers hardly makes anyone feel badass or necessary in the grand scheme of things, and Malory has spent much of this season holding A.J. or going M.I.A. While Lana, Archer, and occasionally Ray get to go out on missions from time to time, there really is no need for people like Cheryl to be around or involved in the action at all—ergo, hot tub birthdays and card games.
When an episode needs a shot of adrenaline, though, I just can’t get mad at Pam, Cheryl, Cyril, Ray, and Krieger (or his clone) trying not to commit hate and/or regular crimes at even just one poker night. The flashback to Cheryl screaming and pointing a gun down Pam’s throat is a perfectly deployed piece of lunacy, and the poker table banter is a welcome distraction from the life or death scenario playing out elsewhere. It’s no coincidence that the action gets more entertaining the second everyone else finds out that Archer’s at gunpoint and joins in the fight to get A.J. back. This is an ensemble comedy, after all, and if we can get a shot of Pam grabbing a kid and leaping away in her underwear all King Kong, all the better.
- Meanwhile, armory lackey Rodney apparently took all the weapons under his care and became a bonafide arms dealer, complete with silent arm candy and a gator pool on a yacht. Good for Rodney, I guess?
- Tequila and coffee liquor (“The Black Mexican”) feels like a very real end of the bar situation. Also, “The Rusty Krieger” (tequila and breast milk).
- “What about Cheryl?” “Who cares?! I’m seriously asking.” (Me. I care about Cheryl.)
- “So the only thing that keeps you from murdering each other is keeping your firearms locked up?” “Works for Canada.” “Nothing works for Canada.”
- Archer’s night went from “pretty bad to much worse” courtesy of the only Urdu he knows: “no shit, you goat-raping pig devil.”
- Malory vs. Milton: Malory was present for approximately three seconds and Milton was nowhere to be seen. Point: Draw.
- Krieger vs. Clone!Krieger: “God, I love poker night.” Point: Krieger.