Season 13, Episode 4, “Laws of Attraction”

Cyril and Pam

Cyril and Pam
Image: FXX

It’s hardly a coincidence that it takes up about half of its 20-minute runtime for “Laws Of Attraction” – tonight’s most enjoyable episode of Archer– to recover from a dysfunctional spy adventureby numbers into something really fun. After all, that’s when the episode flips the script and reveals it’s A Pam One, which is, at this point, one of the best things about an episode of Archer perhaps.

I have already written on the utility value of Pam Poovey. In an office full of cynics, burnouts, and broken people, Pam is the only person on the Agency’s payroll who is truly enthusiastic. About everything: partying, flirting with Swiss spy goddesses, babysitting; whatever you’ve got, she’ll throw herself at it with swinging fists, while Amber Nash throws herself into each of her lines with similar gusto. As such, a Pam-centric evening will always be a bit more fun than seeing Cyril or Lana sigh through another mission, complaining about how dickish Sterling Archer is. Tonight is no exception; Pam is so fun and so invested in what she does that it really makes you care. Archerthe latest adventure to “get the MacGuffin back”, despite herself.

To wit: Fabian tasked the IIA’s “boutique” secret agents to recover one of Krieger’s devices (which Fabian himself first stole and, we later discovered, sold) to Swiss super-secret agents, “The Invisible Hand”, who hope to use the large magnet to erase Cayman Islands bank records. (They hope to take out key competition from the Swiss in the “hiding the rich bastards’ money” market.) For unclear, probably sexist reasons, Fabian puts Cyril in charge of the operation, resulting in the first half of the mission, set up on an abandoned oil rig, only to literally shut down, as Agent Figgis hesitates, Lana goes through the stages, and Archer operates at parodic levels of drunken self, carefree and “too obsessed with exotic animals”….

(Expensive Archer writers: you have obtained to start reducing the “Archer loses his shit to animals” stuff; it’s cute once a season or so, but when you do it every couple of episodes, it seems like an excuse to demonstrate that your animators know what a tapir looks like.)

After the band get their asses handed by Alison Pill and her Chocolate Swiss Super, Pam decides to step in and take matters into her own hands, and “Laws Of Attraction” gets a whole lot more energetic. In part, it just helps to have someone to support: we may not care about Fabian’s latest machinations – although Kayvan Novak can have fun tonight, dragging himself into the mission and getting plenty of time quality Krieger – but Archer manages to get some of those stakes that the show always pokes fun at, because it’s not just about picking up what anyone needs: it’s Pam, front and center, proving herself to the world . It’s a well we’ve been to before, sure, but at least it’s a place where we’re encouraged to care a bit about how the mission is going.

    Algiersnop

Algiersnop
Image: FXX

Adding to that feeling of movement is the fact that writer Brittany Miller has come up with a really fun and quirky action set for the climax of tonight’s episode: once Krieger’s device s ‘active (after a drunken Archer misses the defuse), he begins riding waves of magnetic attraction and repulsion amidst a debris-filled junkyard. The resulting fight scene is one of the coolest Archer has ever done, as metal flies across the battlefield, the characters make inventive use of magnetic fields and, in the biggest laugh of all the episode, a “more thinking!” Cyril accidentally puts a hole in one of the Swiss guys. It is rare for Archer to put so much thought into the mechanics of its action scenes, and the result is a battle that is visually dynamic, tactically interesting, and Pretty amusing.

The only shame, really, is that we don’t end on Pam and Pill’s “Valkyrie,” Alessia giving each other small stab wounds. Instead, we end with another gag about Archer’s base invulnerability. (Another plot element you’d think might have exhausted his three-season gunshot coma about.) I would never say that Archer could really exist without Archer—H. Jon Benjamin’s vocal performance is just too good, even when the character himself is coasting. But “Laws Of Attraction” inadvertently argues that it’s become almost entirely narratively redundant at this point, while making it clear who its perfect successor might be at the center of the entire series.

Spurious observations

  • The IIA’s bureaucracy has struck again: the Agency’s snack bar is now stocked with delicious black licorice beans, but also “Folberg’s Crystals” instant coffee and “snail paella, Dutch onion” flavored crisps. and menthol”.
  • I really like these low resolution images produced by The IIA’s graphics department; very PlayStation One aesthetic.
  • Ray is still in the hospital after the events of “Operation: Fang.
  • Carol/Cheryl storms out early in the episode and never storms back; it sounds like something we might end up picking up in another episode.
  • Fabian normally likes to “isolate [himself] peasant work”, but chooses this mission because he needs it to go well, otherwise they will all be “dismissed”. (Or, more likely, poisoned.)
  • Archer, mentally immersed in the mission: “Good job, Cyril, they got away.”
    “Who?”
    “The one we capture, slaughter and/or save.”
  • “I am baffled by the complete absence of pornographic scribbles on these diagrams. Are you sure these IIA people are real scientists?”
  • Cyril, defending his leadership: “It didn’t go so badly.”
    “Cue… the sharks.
  • “Hey Lana, have you noticed there’s a leadership vacuum now with Cyril being a little bitch and all?” Without wanting to offend you.”
    “It is not possible.”
  • Bible study, Archer style: “Hey, hey, hey, David was a musician with 8 wives who killed a guy with a stone. Does that scream “sober” to you? »
  • “Do you think you could stop dunking yourself in piña coladas?”
    “Who am I, Jimmy Buffett’s rug?
  • Fabian spends the entire episode talking about how he and everyone else are “rigged” if the mission fails. Then he has a giant nail in his hand and Novak can drop a few F-bombs: “Ouch! Shit! My fucking hand!
  • Archer, so catastrophically drunk in the middle of the fight that he actually regrets having drunk: “There were like six different rums in there. And now they are fighting!
  • Historical reference alert: The Battle of Grauholz was fought in 1798, between the Wars of the First and Second Coalitions, after Francophobic forces in Switzerland invited the newly triumphant Republic to invade. As Archer alludes to, it didn’t go over well for the anti-Republican Swiss!
  • Episode line: It’s a very light half hour, but if things go well, I’ll catch Fabian disguising Cyril and that, “the silly production plant you call a mouth”. Actually, no: on second thought, that was Jimmy Buffett’s line. Apologies, “idiocy production plant”; better luck next year.

Keith P. Plain