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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Archer: "Pipeline Fever"

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There maybe aren’t as many instantly quotable lines in “Pipeline Fever” as there were in the last couple of episodes, but it still might be my favorite episode of Archer yet. (Don’t quote me on that; I’m still deciding.) Both plots were humming along perfectly, and the episode had ample time for some great comic stretches of dialogue, stretches where nothing Lana and Archer were saying might have read as all that funny just typed out but became hysterically funny in the mouths of the actors. It took us for a quick trip through Lana’s past, revealing who she was before ISIS and what she cared about (and continues to care about). And it offered an office plot that wasn’t as much of a storyline as it was an opportunity for a bunch of disturbing jokes—about Pam’s bathroom habits and Krieger’s attempts to, uh, breed another Krieger in a tank—but they were damn funny jokes.


Last week, I was talking about how my favorite episodes of the show are usually the ones where everybody just sits around the office and shoots the shit about some topic or another. And yet here’s an episode where basically none of that happens, and it’s one of my favorites the show has ever done. I think the reasons for this are twofold. Where the episodes featuring Archer and Lana going out on a mission often strain to include some action sequences (which often aren’t as thrilling or as funny as they probably could be), this one doesn’t bother doing any of that. The bit action moments all play perfectly off of the relationship between these two characters, as Archer runs the engine on the airboat so hard that it blows up, then proceeds to reveal all of his shitty planning skills, which get Lana further and further into trouble. And the big confrontation with the eco-terrorist Gandalf isn’t much of a confrontation at all. They just talk to him, and he agrees not to blow up the pipeline. I can see where that might disappoint some, but I found it wonderfully unexpected.

The other thing I thought set this storyline apart from previous ones like it was the fact that it focused almost to a fault on the relationship between Archer and Lana, which is one of the best pairings on the show. H. Jon Benjamin and Aisha Tyler have such great comic chemistry—even when they record their dialogue entirely separately—that it’s just fun to hear each of them bounce off of each other. (I think their ability to have such great chemistry while not ever sharing a room comes from the fact that both understand their characters completely and thoroughly and have brought so much to Archer and Lana respectively, which has allowed the writers to push both characters into stranger and stranger places over the show’s run.) After Archer strands the two of them in the middle of the swamp—not just blowing the engine on their boat but also enraging an alligator by shooting it through the snout with an arrow—the script gives them plenty of opportunity to just let loose with the fast-paced comic repartee, something that almost always works on the show. (My favorite exchange tonight? The long talk about making a bomb out of dry ice, water, and a beer bottle, concluding with Archer deciding they “both” need to work harder. Either that or the dialogue about The African Queen, which Archer has obviously never seen.)


The stuff at the office was less of a plot in and of itself and more of a series of gags, but they were such great gags. The ISIS offices are going to go environmentally friendly, so Mallory can collect tax breaks from a hippie Congress, but the process of doing so proves to be more than anyone can handle. The low-wattage bulbs mean that no one can see what they’re doing, and the eco-friendly toilets don’t flush nearly as well as the old ones, meaning that everyone learns a few unpleasant truths about Pam. (Namely that she uses the men’s bathroom and apparently has such disgusting things coming out of her body that the women long ago tricked her into using it somehow.) But the best jokes here might involve all of the lives that will be lost if Krieger’s lab loses a mere watt of power. The joke leads you to believe he’s building some sort of doomsday device until there’s a cut to the lab, and mournful music plays as the camera pans across a number of tanks including half-formed Kriegers in suspended animation, until the final one, full-grown, opens a third eye on its forehead. It’s a great, ridiculous joke, and it might have made me laugh harder than anything else in the episode.

If there’s a complaint to mention here, it’s the fact that the episode just kinda ends (and for that reason, I’m sure few will enjoy it as much as I did). But when a show is rolling along as steadily and successfully as Archer is this season, all it needs to do to come up with an episode this solid, this funny, and this good is do everything well and not drop any of the balls hanging in the air. For a half hour this week, at least, Archer managed this impressive juggling feat, and that made for an episode that maybe didn’t stand out in any way in particular, other than the simple fact that it just did it was trying to do everything very, very well.


Stray observations:

  • Archer’s three fears: 1.) Alligators (far and away the biggest fear he has). 2.) Crocodiles. 3.) A brain aneurysm. Good to know.
  • Best obscure Archer literary reference of the week: The guy renting out the airboats realizes his dog Annie is dead. Quick pullback to reveal the grave of “Old Dan.” This is, of course, referring to the popular Dave Matthews-starring film Where The Red Fern Grows.
  • Nice touch: Both Mallory and Archer chip away at ice to prepare their drinks.
  • Another nice touch: Both Lana and Krieger answer, “Also, yes,” to awkward questions in rapid succession.
  • I’ve enjoyed little drops into the pasts of the characters on this show in previous episodes, but I really liked this look into Lana’s work with a group of radical environmentalists. We really don’t know a lot about Lana beyond her hatred of Archer (and the fact that she says “Yup!” hilariously every time), and this was a welcome look into her head.
  • "Whaling ships? What? He's against clean burning lamp oil?"
  • "An airboat, Lana. Just like Burt Reynolds in White Lightning!"
  • "For the love of God, woman, go make me a fresh batch of hurricanes!"
  • "Ummm … pretty much."
  • "Maybe. If you use that money to buy a time machine go back in time and be the first person to reserve that boat."
  • "I've waited my entire life to use this exact phrase: I'm commandeering this airboat!"
  • "It really is an emergency!" "Of an awesome and ass-kicking nature!"
  • "Now both my dogs is dead!"
  • "With the old ones, you could flush a Dachshund puppy. I mean, not that I would."
  • "Next time use the women's restroom." "The what?" "Thanks, Cyril."
  • "If you don't slow down…" "I'll keep feeling this incredibly vibrant and alive?"
  • "The white queen of Africa?"
  • "Pretty sure Tonto was a Jew."
  • "Look at me, chopping ice for a Tom Collins like a fieldhand."
  • "A rainbow should shoot out every time you open it."
  • "One lousy Lorax. Since when are you such a radical environmentalist?"
  • "You looked like Angela Davis had a love child with sweet Lou Dunbar."
  • "Burt Reynolds is my spirit guide."
  • "He has an arrow sticking out of his head!" "Yeah, I think that's what enraged him."
  • "Yes, ruiner of explanations, I was building to that, but yes."
  • "Alligators, by far the biggest."
  • "They only live here and China. Two different species. Chinese alligators are smaller, but their bellies are fully armored so it kind of equals out in … can we change the subject?!"
  • "It can happen anywhere at any time. That's what's so disturbing."
  • "I hope an alligator attacks you at the exact moment you get a brain aneurysm."
  • "Because of the things that come out of your body."
  • "What is it?" "Shattered dreams." "Smells like rotten meat." "Also, yes."
  • "I would have been here earlier, but you stole my boat. Do you not understand how reservations work?"
  • "Suck it, Samwise."
  • "If you like the collar, you're gonna love the cuffs."