B+

Archer: “Baby Shower”

The golden hour meets the danger zone

B+

Archer

"Baby Shower"

Season 5, Episode 6
B+

Archer

"Baby Shower"

Season 5, Episode 6

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“Baby Shower” is a looser episode of Archer, and as a result, it feels a little like the show is off its game. Partly, that’s because “Baby Shower” largely exists to introduce Kenny Loggins into the plot somehow. But aside from Loggins’ duet with Cherlene—which is actually magical—the great K-Log is mostly squandered, in so far as anyone is squandered in the already pointless world of Archer.

More than most, this is an episode that breaks down into the three-act structure almost perfectly: Act one is the protracted conversation over breakfast, which introduces the major stakes of the episode; act two follows both Archer and Pam searching for Loggins and Kreiger corralling the remaining team members into his “sell drugs online” scheme; act three is the baby shower itself, where all the introduced elements are resolved. It’s a sitcom classic—even the funny-but-irrelevant cold open feels like it came out of sitcom storage to briefly see the light of day. The cold open kicks off the tone for the next three acts, which fall into place like carefully stacked dominoes.

Normally, I like an episode that has carefully calibrated mechanics. And some of Archer’s best episodes are also its best-constructed—“Lo Scandolo” is so tightly put together that it could turn on a dime, for example. But “Baby Shower” sags in the middle, and I think that’s because the Archer: Vice main story has gotten a little lost in the weeds. Turning the agents into a drug cartel was a genius idea—so, falling back on an isolated adventure to fuel an episode doesn’t feel nearly as innovative as the show can get. The drug plotline gets relegated to what is essentially the C-plot—Lana’s baby shower starts out as the A-plot but then drops to B, as Archer and Pam get sidetracked by the Quest For Kenny Loggins. 

Don’t get me wrong—I love a good foray into the world of celebrity cameos, and Loggins makes for a really hilarious character. In addition to his musical capabilities and hippie fashion sense, he’s got martial-arts moves and apparently has made some sort of Faustian pact with the devil. There’s a briefcase with something pink and glowing inside it. It’s all quite interesting.

But as to why Archer’s there? That’s less clear. Archer is the type of guy who would follow a random lead about his favorite singer to its logical (or illogical) conclusion: a shootout in the penthouse suite of Cheryl’s hotel. But the Loggins storyline is a sort of replacement for a much more complicated narrative thread—that of Archer trying to prove to Lana that he’s in love with her, or at least wants to be an important person in her life when she has her baby. Obviously, because it’s Archer, he’s going to express affection in an oblique, selfish way—Lana doesn’t even know who Kenny Loggins is, so it’s not like she’s going to be moved by this present—but he still is moved to do something, and that’s the essence of what makes Archer such a frustrating, sweet, and watchable character.

It’s a great idea, in theory, playing Archer’s feelings for Lana against his friendship with Pam, which is slowly turning into something real and dependable. Occasionally, though, I wish Archer would pull some of its pent-up drama into the actual text of the episode, instead of letting it all rest in subtext and innuendo. A little too much of this episode trades in pretty light slapstick around getting Loggins to listen to the baby shower pitch, and though that’s punctuated with some great moments—like the flashback to Cheryl telling her board at the Tuntmore that the glass pool is “the absolute worst idea I have ever heard in my entire life”—it’s not as good as the character-heavy humor that crops in the other scenes. This is also an episode with a reference to a wet nurse Archer had feelings for; an aside where Woodhouse buys heroin and saves Archer’s relationship with Lana; a brief shoutout to Cornelius Tunt, Cheryl’s dad; and Archer slapping Cyril for calling Lana’s baby a bastard. (That last one was especially satisfying.) That’s the stuff that really sings.

I wouldn’t hold Archer to such a high standard if it weren’t so good, and honestly, getting Kenny Loggins onto the Cherlene album is more important than one act of one episode of this season. All that “Baby Shower” does for me, besides making me want to download the tie-in album, is to whet my appetite for an episode that is willing to do a little more.

Stray observations:

  • So Pam plays the guitar? Nice.
  • All in all, the whole story with Lana and Archer (who, I think, would be super-cute together) reminds me of a lecture I had to sit through about Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. It’s a classic, naturally, and a portrait of Woolf’s parents’ complicated marriage. There’s a seen where Mrs. Ramsay shows her husband new flowers he has planted. He doesn’t care about flowers at all, but he still dutifully kneels down and stares at the flowers, while thinking about other things entirely. My teacher pointed out that though it was a little disappointing that they didn’t quite connect, the true beauty in the moment was that they both tried. Lana trying to understand why Archer brought her Kenny Loggins has about the same tenor.
  • “Are you bothering them?” “I am. And also, happy opposite day.”
  • The moment where Kreiger’s hologram wife and Malory face off was my biggest laugh of the episode.
  • “Wait, that was a hootenanny?”
  • Malory putting so much (for her) energy into Lana’s baby shower is weirdly sweet. I’m worrying she might have an ulterior motive.
  • This has already gotten very long, so I need to put my Pam thoughts on hold for this week. But there’s a lot for Pam this week, including an offer to have sex for money, a potential love interest, and a killer look with some cats-eye glasses.
  • “So, why are we in our underwear?” “Eh, don’t worry about it.”
  • Loggins has some incredible one-liners, which I’ll let you all put together. But my favorite, for whatever reason, was: “Ricky, bad touch!” He’s a great voice actor, in addition to a great singer. 
  • Aisha Tyler’s line-reading of “Aw, of course it is,” in response to Pam’s gift of cocaine, is brilliant. Perfect combination of deadpan, touched, and disappointed.
  • The dirty diaper game: worst, or worst?

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