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Another hilariously marvelous outing for Archer Vice, “A Debt of Honor” begins with a fairly simple dilemma for our favorite gang of weirdoes (what to do with the counterfeit bills and ton of cocaine) that quickly snowballs into a ridiculously absurd scenario involving the Yakuza. Every attempt to handle a certain problem, leads to an even bigger and more hilarious complication. The narrative is thus considerably loaded, for an episode spanning just twenty-one minutes, there is a lot that happens, but the installment doesn’t feel oversaturated or overwhelmed by the action. This kind of storytelling is what the show strives on and what it does best; it certainly encourages and supports the entertaining, signature rapid-fire gags and jokes that Archer viewers have become accustomed to.
“A Debt of Honor” certainly benefited from the more ensemble-y approach to the storyline. Unlike most episodes, which usually feature an A-story and a B-story in which the cast is broken off into disparate groups, this is essentially a one-story installment. Aside from very brief cutaways to Ray and Woodhouse, the narrative is composed of the rest of the group interacting with one another. Having six or seven of the characters in the same room for most of the episode allows for the build up of really great banter and dialogue riffs, as well as fun reactions and interactions. Like Lana trying to discreetly communicate the gravity of Ron’s injury to an oblivious Cheryl/Carol, or Pam’s “Talk about a floor model,” gag, which builds on an earlier joke. There is always something happening, never a dull moment and the action simply flows.
Once again the storyline feels like a very natural and organic progression and/or continuation from last week’s trip to Miami. The team now has to deal with the fake cash, the ton of cocaine and the fact that they have no weapons to defend themselves with (which could/should have been an issue in last week’s episode since it was the FBI that confiscated all their weaponry when they shut ISIS down, but we can forgive that), which are problems that provide for some great fodder throughout the episode. Pam continues her ridiculous cocaine consumption making a tiny dent on their stock, spends the counterfeit money on a shitload of amphetamines (because, of course), and they have to resolve to using crafty maneuvering and old-timey pistols an rifles, courtesy of Cheryl/Carol’s Granpapa to go against the Yakuza.
Archer gets to redeem himself from last week’s pointed lack of judgment when he manages to reach Mr. Moto and arrange a truce between the opposing forces. Sure, they lost five million dollars worth of cocaine, but at least Pam is not dead. Also, he, surprisingly, isn’t the one who makes the Yakuza go after them. The blame falls entirely on Pam his week, who, with her superhuman ability to consume narcotics, has become an even greater liability. Her already over the top personality is pushed to the max and we get to enjoy some very amusing moments on her behalf. That note on her apartment door is absolute perfection.
One thing that has been really great about the series’ overhaul is the way the characters behave in these new extreme and unpredictable conditions. Forced to restructure their lives in a substantial way, these characters have to adapt to these new situations and evaluate their priorities. But it is in these extreme situations in which we get to see the characters’ true natures and personalities. It is almost as if they have gone back to their base personalities. Archer is particularly mischievous and juvenile (he always has been, but it seems quite pointed in this episode) and Malory’s role as a mother is heightened. She choses to stay with Archer instead of going with Ron to the hospital, revealing her instincts regarding both relationships. My favorite of these character revelations (you could call them) is Chery/Carol, who has quite generously offered her home as refuge to her coworkers. It is in a way surprising of her to be this selfless, she even offers to pay millions for Pam’s debt, but at the same time it definitely goes along with her general sense of empty-headedness as well as the fact that (growing up insanely rich) money probably has no meaning to her whatsoever. Also, masochistic tendencies on display, once again. Never has a person reacted so gleefully to the word “chokepoint” before. Gotta love Cheryl/Carol.
Some might have been skeptical about such an extreme overhaul of their beloved show, but I think that Adam Reed has created such strong characters that, no matter the situation, they are going to deliver. And while their lives might have been drastically changed and the obstacles they face and their goals are now significantly different it is still, fundamentally the same great show. Archer Vice is only getting better with each passing episode.