“The Honeymooners” S4 / E9
- B+ Community Grade
The Lana/Archer/Cyril love triangle seems like a strange story point for Archer to return to at this point in its run, but here we are again, watching as Lana climbs her way up the side of the Tuntmore Towers, as part of a mission to spy on a group of North Koreans attempting to buy some enriched uranium. She’s having this conversation with herself as she climbs—occasionally interrupted by Archer screaming into the headset in her ear—and at first, because of where the conversation is situated in the episode, it seems as if she might be talking herself into finally just admitting whatever feelings she has for Archer and saying to hell with it. Instead, it later seems, she’s decided to just talk herself into being with Cyril for the foreseeable. He’s dependable, after all, and he’s a good accountant. But, man, he can’t dive off the side of a building and save her from certain death, now can he?
“The Honeymooners” sort of feels like it’s building to something more than it actually does—or maybe that’s because FX sent out the screener with the world’s weirdest spoiler warning, which I’ll deal with in the Strays—but it’s hard to complain about an episode that features this much Lana and Archer interplay, Krieger wandering around with an irradiated pig (named Piggley 3, naturally), and one of the more exciting action sequences the show has ever done. The action elements aren’t the reason I enjoy Archer as much as I do, but they can be a lot of fun when done well, and Archer’s dive to save Lana is a legitimately exciting moment. Since Lana’s such an important character, you know he’s going to save her, but it’s still fun to see how he comes up with this solution when she’s rocketing toward the ground. He even gets in time for a “phrasing!” joke.
I’ve spoken often about how I love episodes of this show that get all of the characters into the same place, and “The Honeymooners” offers a slight variation on this form, with Archer and Lana at the hotel to pretend to be a newlywed couple in order to spy on the North Koreans, while Cheryl, Pam, and Cyril check into a suite across the way that Cyril might spy on his girlfriend and the other two might enjoy the amenities. There are some great gags, particularly in the cross-cutting between the two storylines, and checking Archer into a five-star hotel on his mother’s dime (unbeknownst to her) is a great way to have him detract from the mission but still have him hanging around. The scenes where Lana is trying to get shit done while Archer is lounging around, getting a manicure, are more or less the thousandth repetition of this dynamic, yet it’s a dynamic that always works.
Here’s a thing, though: I can’t help but wonder if reversing the dynamic between the two on a more permanent basis might have made for an interesting arc. It’s entirely possible it would have been awful—it’s rarely advisable to mess with this sort of stuff all that much—but this is also a show that’s fallen into certain patterns of behavior, and shaking those patterns up certainly isn’t going to hurt. Plus, it’s unlikely that Lana would outrank Archer for all that long, because if she could actually put him in his place, it would ultimately damage the character. But giving the two this shifted dynamic makes the middle of the episode a lot of fun—particularly once Archer finds out that his bonus has been transferred into Lana’s bank account. It reminded me of how NewsRadio got some mileage out of switching Dave and Lisa’s positions in the fourth season. There’s no saying that making the switch-up last longer wouldn’t have been a disaster, but shifting the dynamic even slightly makes the middle of this episode a lot of fun.
And wasn’t the middle portion of this episode just insanely fun? I’m not trying to say that the beginning and end were sucktastic or anything—far from it—but it seems like isolating Archer and Lana together, then having the other three provide a kind of running commentary is a great way to get out a bunch of jokes but always have somewhere to cut to when more jokes need to keep coming. I’ve praised the editing of the show this season, but in some of the weaker episodes, the scripts themselves have felt a touch flabby, as if the show didn’t know when to enter and exit scenes for maximum impact. (I’m thinking, in particular, of “Midnight Ron,” an episode I enjoyed but one that very much suffered from having minimal chance to cut anywhere else.) The setup in the dual hotel rooms allows the show a way to have everybody in on the action, but also keep everybody in separate spaces, so their experience of what’s happening is very different. I’m always amazed at how this show is able to raid the sitcom spare plot drawer to find ways to make stories it’s done time and again keep working, and this is yet another example of that. This also plays into why the reversal between Archer and Lana plays so well. Because we’re so used to the way these plots play out, even the slightest disruption will be that much more entertaining, and that’s the case here.
I realize that this all sounds like far too serious analysis of what’s, ultimately, an episode of a comedy that concludes with an irradiated pig apparently heading into a hotel room to gobble up a bunch of dead North Koreans. I also realize that, at some point, all of this falls away in the face of the fact that Pam and Cheryl eating mousse or Pam filling in dialogue for Lana while watching her from afar are just really funny scenes. And, furthermore, this is also an episode that has a larger than usual number of fun and exciting action sequences, not just that early one where Archer dives from the tower to save Lana, but also the one where he fights the North Koreans after getting the handcuffs off, or the one where he lets out a gleeful shout of, “Smoke fight!” I get that so long as the show is working at the level of these simple pleasures—which I enjoy, too—it doesn’t matter what’s going on beneath the hood. But Archer has always succeeded best when the surface and interior are working in harmony, and it feels as if it’s gotten back into the groove of that these last few weeks.
But! I still have some questions! Krieger was the bagman? Who was the shadowy woman Malory was having lunch with? And just what was the decision Lana made while climbing the building? Will we ever really know? This is all building to something, I hope, and I’m intrigued to see what it is.
- So! The FX screener for this said that we were supposed to be sure not to let people know before air something that strongly suggested a fairly major shakeup to the Archer status quo, as in one of the cast members possibly being eliminated or seriously endangered. Unless I missed something, that didn’t happen, so I’m going to just leave things vague unless the wrong promo text somehow got sent out for half of this but not the other half. (My best guess was that it was just a joke. I hope!)
- There were a lot of big laughs in this episode, but I think one of my favorites was Archer telling Lana that she should be able to check her bank account on her phone from the side of the building because she should have five bars up there. I also really liked Pam’s “Lana” voice, and how she concluded her dialogue with, “I’m Lana!” which is how all good impressionists conclude their impressions.
- Pam wasn’t born in a barn, but she definitely slept out there a lot.
- So I still think the ending was a bit of a weak one, which is why I’m knocking this one down a couple of places. It felt as if this was building to something more substantial, and then it just concluded with Malory being upset or whatever. (Well, and the adventures of Piggley 3, which suggested the ultimate Deadwood crossover.)
- Why didn’t Isis just pay for the hotel room? I know they don’t always have the most money, but that seems like something the organization would do.
- The Tunt fortune runner has paid surprisingly awesome dividends all these years. I love Cheryl saying she’ll get in trouble with her board, then laughing to Pam about how she totally won’t.
- I miss Ray after all this time. Hopefully, his robot legs have some bearing on whatever’s going on. Or he just gets an episode to show off their awesome power. He’s in this episode, but barely.
- Some of you have been pointing out the fact that many of these episodes have been switched around this season and in incredibly distracting ways. I’ve noticed that, too (though I didn’t notice any continuity errors in this one after a couple of watches), and I wonder what’s behind that.
- I always like when Archer gets a chance to be really, really good at his job, and this episode qualifies. It reminds you why he has yet to be fired, even if he's the son of the ISIS director.
- Just in case you missed it, Krieger was fuckin’ that pig.