“Skin Game” is Archer at its absolute weirdest. When you think about how weird this show can get, that’s pretty darn weird, but it’s still an episode in which Woodhouse buffs and polishes a robot’s vagina, a robot can be awakened by “flicking her tittie,” and two cyborgs run off together in a parody of the last shot of The Graduate. There are times when these weird episodes can feel a little centerless, but this wasn’t one of those times. This was just a long barrage of awesome jokes, most about robots (and their vaginas), and even the obligatory action sequence was a lot of fun, with Barry and Katya throwing each other around the office, only to inevitably end up having sex on a desk. There are a couple of small quibbles here and there, but this is mostly just a lot of big, goofy Archer fun.
The episode opens—as all good things must—in the midst of Krieger’s apartment, where Archer has arrived for a big surprise. As it turns out, that big surprise isn’t that Krieger has finally mastered the drum part of Rush’s “YYZ” (Krieger irately saying “Y-Y-ZED” was one of my favorite jokes in the episode). It’s that he’s resurrected Katya, Archer’s long-dead wife, as a cyborg. Katya’s not just someone with newly super-strength and speed. She’s also got an amazing vagina that’s apparently rather like a vacuum cleaner (as well as one that vibrates), and she’s got glowing red eyes that look like taillights. Even Cheryl seems impressed with her raw strength (just like the gypsy woman said).
One of the things I like about this episode is that it starts out as almost completely disconnected from the events of last week, then slowly turns into the back half of a two-parter. Archer and Pam’s relationship is over before it’s even begun, of course, but we hear about Jakov’s death, and we also get the return of Bionic Barry, who storms in during the wedding between Archer and Katya to take his final revenge. He’s still the head of the KGB, and he’s used the fact that Krieger bought the hard drive powering Katya from the KGB to track her down. (I like how he’s become even more delightfully assholish this season.) Last week’s episode ended in such a surprisingly dark place that I was briefly disheartened by the idea that we were going to get back to business as usual. I should have known that wouldn’t be the case.
My main problem with the episode is that the ending feels a little abrupt. I love Barry and Katya racing off together in the bus in the Graduate parody, but I think the fact that ISIS basically just gives up trying to stop them because Archer asks Ray to turn on the lights is a little silly. (You’d think Lana might have had something to say about this.) The show needs Barry and Katya to exit stage right so they can live to fight another day, and it doesn’t really bother with a good reason for them to do so. There’s just hot robot sex, everybody decides to let the head of the KGB go, and Archer is uncharacteristically forgiving (at least for now) of the fact that his cyborg almost-wife was having sex with his arch-nemesis.
I get that Archer doesn’t have to be the most logical show in the world. But endings like this at least need to adhere to the show’s world as it’s been set up so far. It’s all leavened somewhat by the fact that that final gag is so awesome, and I’m not going to sit here and say that none of it worked or anything like that, but everything from Archer catching Barry and Katya to the moment where the two ran off to get on the bus felt a little abrupt and out of character. (Okay, Malory laying into her son didn’t feel abrupt or out of character, but, then, how could it?) Again, I’m harping on something that took up less than two minutes of screentime (if that), but in an episode that was practically perfect up until that point, it was just a little deflating.
That said, everything up until that point was, as mentioned, practically perfect. Whether it was Lana firing a cursive L into a target while trying to help Katya figure out how to deal with her Archer crisis or Archer drinking the entire bottle of scotch Cyril’s grandfather had gotten from Frank Sinatra, the characters were in fine form tonight, behaving almost exactly as you’d expect them to, with plenty of great laughs along the way. (I thought Cheryl, especially, had a lot of great lines tonight.) Hell, we even got to see Pam enjoy bear claws again, and that’s always a sign of a good episode to me. These last few episodes have been using the ensemble of the show really well, and this was no exception. Even minor characters, like Woodhouse, got one or two big moments to laugh at here.
Plus, and I don’t know if I can emphasize this enough, this episode was just so fucking weird. Complaints about strained endings sort of evaporate when you think about all of the crazy shit that happened here and how it mostly hung together. There’s no way that any of this should make sense, but the series has somehow created a world where two cyborgs can tackle each other in a fight that nearly destroys the ISIS offices, but they can be stopped by turning off the lights, and when they end up fighting long enough, it turns into something more like dancing. And then it turns into sex. I talk a lot in this space about the rather classical sitcom construction of Archer, and, yes, there are some great ideas underpinning the show, ideas that keep it from disappearing up its own asshole. But sometimes, you have to sit there and just marvel at the way the show takes completely insane ideas and makes them seem like the sort of thing any other show on TV would be doing if it only had to deal with an animation budget. Long may you live, Katya! And long may your robo-gina live, too!
- I definitely hope we get to see more of Krieger’s place. There was some real potential for some sort of torture-porn-esque storyline in that apartment. Hilarious torture-porn, I mean.
- I do like the way this show is doing retcons this season. All Archer and Pam’s fling gets is Pam starting to ask Archer if that means they’re through, and Archer yelling, “PAM!”
- I do wish we’d gotten a few episodes of Katya, the super-cyborg ISIS agent. But that’s probably just because I like the sound of “super-cyborg.”
- “I had Korean barbecue for lunch. I cannot look at a Dr. Moreau pig-baby.” Archer, though how much do you want to bet Krieger HAS a Dr. Moreau pig-baby?
- “It's bear claw Monday!” Pam, of course. I also love Malory starting to bitch about how terrible bear claw Monday is.
- “Just like the gypsy woman said.” Cheryl yelling this never failed to make me laugh.
- “RoboCop: Pro or con?” “Neither!” I love the way that dialogue from one scene will seem to answer a question posed in the scene immediately preceding. Pam, talking to Katya, leading into Malory, talking to Lana, was my favorite tonight.
- “… I assume some hinges.” Archer doesn’t know what’s in a cyborg.
- “I kind of feel like I'm banging taillights on a country road.” I can see why Archer feels this way.
- “I call them cranbaisins.” I’m going to start.
- “I don't really have a roadmap for my ex finding your robo-gina in the sink.” This might have been Aisha Tyler’s best delivery all season.
- “Bone… dancing.” Barry cracked me up here. The guy might just win me over after all!
- “Just like that ElectroLux all over again.” It’s not an Archer quotes section if Malory’s not berating her son.