I wasn’t really feeling “Un Chien Tangerine”—in spite of the fact that the character with the third-most dialogue in it is a giant, surprisingly adorable dog and in spite of the fact that it sets up a good plot for my favorite character, Pam. I think the answer to why is in that first descriptor: Yeah, the dog’s adorable, but at a certain point, having Archer and occasionally Lana talk to a dog loses its novelty value. Still, there were some good moments throughout, and if nothing else, the action this season continues to be a cut above what the show was doing before, both in terms of production and in terms of inventiveness, so I mostly had a good time. It just felt like a step down from the last handful, which have all been great.
The reason Archer and Lana are on their mission this week has to do with that dog, a giant, hulking brute named Kazak. At first, they’re under the impression that Kazak is a field agent they need to remove from Morocco and bring back to ISIS headquarters, because it makes so much sense that Malory wouldn’t tell them that Kazak was a dog with microfilm on his collar for some reason. (Maybe she just really wanted to recreate Turner & Hooch and/or K-9.) Anyway, once Archer and Lana discover that Kazak’s a dog, they pile into a VW Bug with the beast, then tool around Morocco while Kazak farts and throws up because Archer fed him kebabs. Somewhere along the line, Archer pushes Lana’s buttons too much, and she quits, wandering off into the desert without a bunch of stuff she’d almost certainly check to see if she had before she left the car. So it’s up to Archer and Kazak to head back and grab her before the unarmed Lana can be taken by suspicious-looking Moroccans on a truck (possibly Moroccan secret agents).
Now, normally I’m not the world’s biggest fan of fart jokes, which often just consist of somebody farting and that being assumed to be the height of comedy. (Blame one of my best friends in junior high, who really did think this was the height of comedy and went to that well—in real life—over and over and over again. Maybe he had dietary issues?) But I found the farting dog here to be surprisingly entertaining, largely because H. Jon Benjamin and Aisha Tyler’s reactions to that farting dog were so pitch perfect. The geography of that little car is also perfectly suited to some good stinky fart gags. Seeing Kazak’s giant head bouncing around between Archer and Lana up front makes the proximity of all of the characters to each other that much more claustrophobia-inducing, and increasing the discomfort of the two humans in the car makes for some good reactions and gags.
No, my bigger problem with this storyline—as you’ve probably already sussed out—is that it just takes too many leaps of logic to get through. I’m normally the biggest proponent of the idea of “fridge logic,” the old TV writer idea that if the story doesn’t make sense 30 minutes after the episode is over, when you’re going to the fridge for a drink, then said TV writer has fooled you well enough for that week and has done her job. But the plot holes in “Un Chien Tangerine” are large enough for that climactic car chase to barrel through, and they left me wondering exactly why stuff was happening when everything was going on on screen. Now, I’m sure you could find plot holes in every episode of this show if you tried hard enough, and saying everything should be strictly believable is a bad standard to hold an animated spy comedy to. But I really do feel as if the plot holes I described above are things that make the characters feel slightly too stupid, particularly Lana, who’s just not somebody who would do this. The show tries to hang a lantern on this—by having her rant at herself about how stupid she is—but it doesn’t really work. In the other case, I suppose you could make the argument that Malory is intentionally withholding of information to her agents from time to time, but I just don’t understand why she would be in this particular case. It all feels a little strained.
What’s impressive is that all of this isn’t enough to capsize the Morocco half of the episode. Hell, I didn’t even find that half of the episode all that funny, outside of a few jokes here and there (like Archer berating himself for being racist or how both Lana and Archer fall in love with Kazak almost instantly). I guess we can pin all of this on the dog, who really is a great addition to the show’s recurring cast and I hope will survive for seasons to come (though I could probably do without more scenes where Archer’s only conversational partner is said dog). In addition, the episode’s action sequences look really great and are fun to watch. It was just a few seasons ago that I was complaining about the action on this show sometimes feeling perfunctory, but this season has absolutely stepped up the series’ efforts in those regards, and I often find myself anticipating the action sequences as much as the humor—maybe even more so when the jokes aren’t landing.
The plot back at ISIS is slim but has some good laughs in it. Pam has taken the IFAB—the ISIS field agent aptitude test—and she’s completely aced it. What’s more, some sort of readiness simulation—conducted with most of the men in the office—has resulted in all of them being beaten and bruised. It seems Pam would make the best field agent ever (or at least better than Cyril), and she sees this as her chance to get the job. Nothing much comes of this, outside of a chance for Pam and Malory to banter, which is always welcomed, but it’s worth it for cutaways to Pam just not giving a fuck, which are always among the strongest jokes on the show. When Lana briefly “quit,” I had thoughts of an arc where Archer and Pam are partners, while Lana, I don’t know, flirted with other employment opportunities, but alas.
Some of you were talking in comments last week about how this season has been lacking in episodes where the whole cast of characters gets involved in the same situation, and that’s true. For some reason, there seem to have been more episodes this year that involve the characters splitting off into a variety of storylines. I haven’t actually checked with previous seasons’ episode lists to see if this is actually the case, but have there been episodes where everybody’s involved in the same plot other than “Legs” and “The Honeymooners”? (The restaurant reality show episode comes close but doesn’t quite pass muster, because it keeps the two halves of the cast separate for most of the running time.) If I were trying to pinpoint a reason this season of Archer feels a bit… off (while still being reliably funny and entertaining), I would start there, and I hope the last three episodes of the season provide good reasons to get the whole gang together.
- Pam’s recollections of her life growing up on a farm always seem to come from a particularly horrifying children’s book, and the episode makes these connections more explicit by talking about a pet pig she had that was cooked up for Easter ham and rendered into soap. Next we’ll learn that the farm was populated with magic spiders.
- I am also generally down with flashbacks to Archer’s terrible childhood, but I thought the first one here (with Malory and the dog sharing a wordless, tender carriage ride) is better than the second (with Archer scrubbing out a stove).
- Krieger only lasts about three minutes against Pam. Sounds about right.
- It’s a super dumb gag, but I laughed a lot at Cheryl hearing Malory say “I’m not here” (in response to Lana and Archer calling for her), then freaking out because she took it literally.
- Lana wants to know if Archer can get this dog off her tits. Good advice for us all.