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What a fantastic episode! In my previous review I had labeled last week’s episode as the funniest of the season, but the writers have definitely stepped up their game and delivered an episode that surpassed the previous installment. If this is any indication of how it is going to be for the rest of the season, then we are in for some great television. With six episodes left to go, hopefully the writers don’t lose their momentum and are able to keep improving episode to episode.
This is by far my favorite episode of the season and might end up being one of my favorites of all time. I do admit, I am a big fan of Anthony Bourdain as well as an avid watcher of various food-centric shows (Top Chef, Chopped, No Reservations, etc.), so the reality food show premise was straight up my alley and enthusiastically welcomed. So, there probably was a predisposition to love the episode from my part because I love the genre of television the episode was riffing off of.
The story focused on the ISIS undercover team posing as a restaurant staff for a high-end eatery run by a Gordon Ramsey-esque head chef. Anthony Bourdain voiced the chef, Lance Casteau, a role that allowed him to exploit his public persona and gleefully portray an exaggerated version of the ‘asshole chef’ stereotype. Chef Lance Casteau has his own reality show, Bastard Chef, in which cameras follow the restaurant’s employees on their job and Casteau takes way too much pleasure in ‘ABBAB-ing’ his subordinates. The show did an excellent job parodying the ‘inside the kitchen, behind the scenes’ reality genre, and was very reminiscent of programs like Hell’s Kitchen where the poor employees suffered the wrath of the intimidating head chef as they tried to carry on a day’s work. Casteau knows exactly what he has to do in order to deliver the necessary sensationalistic conflict of a reality series; he is joyfully smug in fulfilling his role as hateful curmudgeon. He is totally working the reality angle as he comes up for inappropriately hilarious lines for the “bumper” and plays up his personality for the camera. That “bumper” running gag was hilariously sprinkled throughout the episode and had a pretty funny pay off towards the end.
Casteau is serving an Albanian diplomat and since a vague threat against the ambassador’s well being has ben made, the ISIS team is in the restaurant providing security. Over at ISIS headquarters Malory is desperately trying to get a dinner reservation over at Seize, Casteau’s restaurant. Soon enough, we learn that Malory faked the threat and the entire mission is just a selfish ruse on her part in order to dine at the famed eatery. This narrative element is certainly reminiscent of a past season one episode, “Skytanic”, in which Malory poses a fake threat to a luxury airship just to gain access to the ship and treat herself to a cost free vacation. It is especially familiar when there turns out to be an actual threat that the ISIS team was entirely unaware of and then later have to deal with. Some fans might feel this is too close of a similarity and accuse the writers of recycling storylines.
There is no denying that the episode does indeed have the exact same structure, essentially telling the same story, but the differences is premise and character situations make up for the familiar narrative. It is like the writers used a story template and then filled in the necessary parts with hilariously crafted jokes and gags. While the two episodes have many similar plot points, they are successful in different ways because of the unique situations the characters find themselves in. So the broader narrative serves like a skeleton, a blueprint on which the writers add whatever silly and entertaining premise they desire. Also, it could be said that the repetition in plot could be a way in which the writers are asserting or emphasizing Malory’s selfish personality and behaviour.
She is a self-centered woman with means to indulge her own whims and selfish desires and she will continue to abuse her power over at ISIS to get what she wants, even if it is a ploy that she has already utilized. Hey, it kind of worked the first time. Malory’s characterization could be seen as a nod to the way characters behave in this universe, they never grow or change regardless of whatever trauma they go through. Archer will forever be a self-centered man-boy no matter what happens, it is just who he is; similarly Malory will always remain the same woman and maintain her self indulgent ways. So this can be seen as an example of how characters just don’t change in the Archer world and keep finding themselves in similar situations.
Still, potential critics of this week’s episode have no fault in pointing out the similarities and accusing the writers in lazy writing. The seasons are just thirteen episodes long and it seems a bit too soon to recycle such an identifiable storyline. Some will be bothered more than others; it ultimately comes down to how enjoyable the reality show premise was to certain people and if it was good enough to forgive the story repetition.
I honestly wasn’t too bothered by it, especially when watching the episode for the first time. The jokes and gags were coming so fast and were so funny that I didn’t have time to think about past episodes or concern myself with anything else. The episode as a whole worked wonderfully, the way the writers incorporated the non-agent employees of ISIS was expertly done and comically written. It was positively a thoroughly entertaining and enjoyable episode, on of the best this season and certainly a favorite of mine.
Notes & Quotes:
-This seemed like a much shorter episode than what we have gotten before. Without commercials it came to just twenty minutes, I could have definitely a couple more minutes of Archer this week.
- Cheryl’s “I’ll have what he’s having… Then I don’t want what he’s having,” as the ambassador dies at the dinner table was pure perfection, Judy Greer’s delivery was perfect. Best moment of the night.
- Hearing the bowl fall and tumble off-screen to be followed by Archer’s “Whoops” was just great. It was a pretty common joke, but the length of time it took for the bowl to stop rattling and the delivery of that simple “whoops” made it amazing.
- “I thought he was just your food.” Oh, Pam we’ve grown so accustomed to seeing her carrying around bizarre food items, I also thought it was her afternoon snack.
- “Always be berating and belittling.” My new motto.
- “Cruella de Ville’s mom…”
- “What is this Spain? In the thirties…”
- Ron and his crackers was so great, again I like how the writers emphasize his “normal-ness”, such a great character detail. Also Pam going crazy on that cracker wrapper.
- “You look like a dinosaur’s tampon.”
- “I coated the glass with cyanide, you idiots…”