In an early episode of Aisha Tyler’s podcast Girl on Guy, she interviewed show creator Adam Reed, who revealed that one of the rules of Archer is never to “lay pipe.” In other words, every line of dialogue should either advance the plot or be a joke – no backstory, no recapping, no foreshadowing; a policy that arguably came to a head in season 7, a veritable Chekov’s Armory of planted clues that don’t pay off, with mixed results. While this episode is a minor step down from last week’s stellar entry, I’m delighted to see that Archer: Danger Island is still sticking to a simple MacGuffin-based story, keeping implied or offscreen intrigue to a minimum, and keeping its pacing on a tight leash.
Last week I was wrong to mistrust Crackers, who really did go to find help… if that’s what we’re calling the usual crew of misanthropes and lushes. Of all the cast, drunk Charlotte really should be the least adept at navigating a jungle, but she suddenly proves to be an uncannily gifted tracker, not only finding footprints, but even noting how “muscular” they are and diagnosing a tribesman’s ringworm. (Wow, she’d be a real asset in the detective agency Archer suggests later.) But then we remember that she’s only really looking for oysters (by heading inland?), a motive about as cretinous as the Germans’ obsession with shooting monkeys.
Pam also takes a moment to inhabit a different character, openly fantasizing about her own death the way Cheryl used to. (It’s pretty rich of her to take a pop at Archer for being aroused when she’s so lasciviously excited about what she tastes like, and what sides they’ll serve her with.) But all of that falls by the wayside when she learns that Archer thinks of her as his sidekick. She has a good point. She’s the one who fixed his plane and would have saved him from the quicksand if it weren’t for the cannibals. And Archer isn’t even a very good pilot: he’s terrible at watching his six, has trashed at least half a dozen planes and doesn’t even know his own call sign. While he seems like less of an overt jerk than before, he keeps calling Pam “Lenny”… without ever wondering what that makes him. George isn’t exactly a hero.
Having praised the pacing of the plot, Archer is normally also very disciplined at rationing out its catchphrases, but this week they’ve all been let out into the yard, bringing back “ka-kow,” “et tu, Dudu?” (recalling both “où, Dudu, où?” from last week and Boris and Jakov’s sorrowful “et me, buddy” exchange from season 3), subverting Archer’s exasperated “eat a dick” (Noah’s right, the testicles would be much better; we all know dicks are just gristle), and even “Master Coconut,” which nobody gets. And while we’re calling back to earlier seasons, Noah, returning from the Heart of Archness arc, just seems like another waste of David Cross. On the one hand, the show does need an English speaker who understands the locals to fill out the relevant details and give Archer and Pam someone to play against now that Crackers is out of the picture, but would the obvious choice not have been Lanaluakalani?
Speaking of which, let’s talk about Lanaluakalani.
Danger Island takes a new angle on the regular characters, and it’s a great move that keeps the show fresh, even overriding any perceived mistakes from Archer: Dreamland. But it’s still hard not to be disappointed by the loss of Lana and her unceremonious replacement with the kind of spunky idiot Sterling used to be. Having originally presented as an arch and capable woman of action, trekking through the jungle with a makeshift spear, we now get to see her true colors: a spoiled princess who not only doesn’t understand her own country, but travelled the world and still came home thinking the Dutch Masters were a kind of cigar. Much though she hates the French for colonizing her island, and earlier scolded Fuchs for being ethnocentric, she has no problems siding with the Germans (or indeed, apparently, the British: those jodhpurs might be Indian but the riding cap sure isn’t). Just as Archer has become less of a jerk and Cyril’s somehow morphed into a competent villain, Lana has turned into a feckless Tunt: only a few hours ago she was ordering Fuchs into the jungle without her, and has to have it pointed out to her that a Nazi just might stiff a black woman who, to him, is just another of those “natives” she casually disparages. (And somehow imagines that the Nazis will liberate Mitimotu after they overthrow France. Oh, honey.)
I think there’s limited value in trying to parse what Danger Island’s events say about comatose Archer’s thoughts, but this spoiled, air-headed colonialist sympathizer is such a far cry from the sharp, woke, responsible, sanguine Lana Kane, I do have to start wondering how Archer really feels about the mother of his child. Especially since… look, I’m not ready to start shipping Archer and Pam after all these years, but Danger Island posits – all too convincingly – that they make a better couple. They trade in the same brand of assholery, Archer has told her secrets he’d never tell Crackers or Malory, and both couples end up naked, outnumbered and ticked off either way. Is the show backpedaling? Is Archer? Am I?
- I confess, I had to look up the “Master Coconut” joke. It’s a reference to the “Master Cylinder” running gag from Frisky Dingo. (I don’t know how anyone remembers anything from that rambling, random-ass show, especially given how stoned most of us were.)
- Inevitable German dialogue: “Schmidt, what’s taking so long?” “Haha, because my cock is so long!” And after Schmidt’s Mortal Kombat-style fatality: “What, did you piss on your shoes?” I guess they’re just the same kind of sour snark-merchants as everyone else on this show, except without the wit.
- “Code for white” – Charlotte can recognize a racist dogwhistle, but has no idea how they work. Yeah, that scans.
- Having said that Archer doesn’t really do foreshadowing, I do hope that poor bereaved monkey comes back later on. Otherwise that’s just mean.