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This episode opens with Archer, Cyril and Ray out on a mission in Turkmenistan. Of course Archer manages to compromise the success of the assignment in his own special way. Somehow he ends up getting bit by a cobra in a particularly delicate area, which indeed leads to a hilarious discussion on the proper methods of treatment for such an ailment. Ray and Cyril's refusal to suck on Archer’s injured taint were funny enough, but Archers suggestion that they tourniquet him and Ray’s exclamation, “You can’t tourniquet the taint,” was just ridiculously amusing. Hearing Ray’s fantasy about Bonanza’s Lorne Green was awesomely weird and random. Their conversations seamlessly transition from one topic to another until finally ending in another hilarious exchange about Ray’s bionic legs. Archer’s astonishment at Ray’s forgetfulness was played perfectly and amusingly rebuffed by Ray’s response, “You know, are you constantly aware you have regular leg bones? No.”
The rambling exchanges these three partake in are littered with great jokes and gags; from Ray’s inability to lift the jeep with his bionic legs instead of his back, to Archer’s growing frustration with his partners and his revelation of his number one bucket list item. This all occurs within the first ten minutes of the episode. We have yet to see any of the other characters and already the episode has delivered more laughs than it has in a long time showing the kind of fast paced, rapid-fire joke execution utilized through the entire episode. “Once Bitten” is definitely the funniest episode of the season; therefore making it the most entertaining half-hour we have gotten from the show in a while.
The entire scene with Cyril trying to communicate with the Turkmenistan men was just perfection. “How’s that the same word for bread and snake and Friday and that damn dog?” Cyril’s drawing of the cobra looking like a loaf of bread with googly eyes and the man then offering him a loaf of bread with two olives attached to it was priceless. Cyril is still developing his field agent skills and has a lot to catch up on. His amazement of the realities of their mission and his subsequent realization that maybe they’re “kinda not always 100 percent of the time doing the right thing,” showed his persistent naiveté about the entire profession. Though after Ray’s suggestion that he, “shut up and give than man-bear twenty-five grand so you and I can split the other seventy,” Cyril sure was quick to dismiss his qualms about any wrongdoing in order to take away some cash.
Over at ISIS Malory has to deal with Lana’s complaints for not being assigned the Turkmenistan mission. Lana’s grievances are just comprised of annoying, self-centered pettiness but they become a great vehicle for some solid comic dialogue. Having Malory, Pam and Cheryl making fun of Lana’s “clomping ass” (especially Cheryl’s wordless pantomime) was great and reminiscent of the running joke about Lana’s man hands. This is another extension or iteration of that familiar gag, but it is done so well that it is sufficiently funny and doesn’t feel tired or overused. Plus Lana’s heavy footedness juxtaposed with Pam being “almost impossibly light on her feet,“ and Malory’s comparison to Jackie Gleason made the entire joke worth it.
There was also some random Cheryl comedy (my favorite kind) from her knowing the name of the dictator of Turkmenistan’s dog, to her rant about Lana’s personal motivations. Cheryl’s oblivious intuition is fascinating to me. She has such an accurate reading of Lana’s character, and possibly of every other person that works at ISIS and is so acutely aware of interpersonal goings-on that surround her while also being a complete nut-job. She is a fantastic dichotomy that allows for awesome comedic moments like these.
For a part of the episode Archer was under the influence of the cobra’s venom and experienced some pretty vivid hallucinations. A “cut rate” James Mason takes him on a Christmas Carol-esque look into his past in order to get to know, “who Sterling Archer really is.” It quickly devolves into a parody of the baseball movie The Natural showing Archer getting shot by a deranged woman and ending his lacrosse career. We get to see how Archer’s life has been shaped by the women in his life, as another look into the past shows us Malory’s neglect of her son and a tiny glimpse of his real father. Just as we think we might get to know the real identity of Archer’s dad he gets injected with the anti-venom and pulled out of his hallucination. Archer’s resignation to forgetting who it was that he saw in his lost memory was pathetically comical. This was the least successful part of the episode, but these scenes of the hallucination were expertly edited and intercut with the scenes of Cyril talking to the Turkmenistans so it really didn’t take away from the overall quality of the episode.
This was a solid installment of Archer, everything was executed expertly. The story, the great writing and the performances all came together to create one great half hour of television.