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TV Korner: Archer 4.9 – “The Honeymooners”

Archer and Lana go undercover to gain intel on a North Korean weapons smuggling ring, while the rest of ISIS does what they do best… infighting and offending, mostly.

“The Honeymooners” is by far the best field mission episode of Archer this season.  As Sterling and Lana go undercover as a newlywed couple on their honeymoon, a cover for their surveillance operation following a group of North Koreans who may be selling nuclear warheads, their fictional tryst leads to all kinds of interpersonal drama between them, and back at ISIS headquarters as Cyril, Pam and Cherly stage a petty surveillance mission of their own.  The result is a true classic of an episode, one that manages to pack in some show-stopping, cinematic action beats alongside plenty of the character-driven humor that makes Archer a show to be noticed.

Archer and Lana are quickly becoming one of my favorite “will they, won’t they” couples on TV.  Their personalities are so completely at odds, and they’re clearly wrong for each other in so many ways– Sterling’s narcissism and Mommy issues drive Lana up the wall, while her martyrdom complex and authoritative attitude are things that Sterling loves to poke holes in.  But there’s a real chemistry between the two agents all the same, which tends to come up when they’re put together as a couple in the field (which, for the records, happens a lot)… and even more so when there’s a rivalry between them.

Complicating this is Cyril, who’s supposed to be desk-bound this week as he manages the annual bonuses.  The spy/ comptroller quickly gets embroiled in his own stakeout as gossip queen Pam enlists him and Cheryl to spy on Archer and Lana, since she is convinced the agents’ latest mission will land them both in bed as soon as possible.  Neurotic Cyril, once again dating Lana, definitely wants to check in on his girlfriend’s status, even before Pam’s graphic sexual demonstration of her and Archer, using a sandwich as a prop.

While Lana and Sterling’s mission at the Tuntmore hotel just called for quiet spying to gather intel, that plan goes out the window as Archer discovers the ISIS bonus structure has been changed to merit-based rewards, leaving Lana with a small fortune and him with nothing.  Sterling’s outrage drives him to switch into super-agent mode, as he confronts Lana (while both are dangling via suction cups on the side of the hotel), before he decides to dispatch the North Korean weapons traffickers himself.

Archer’s self-absorbed, buffoonish behavior often makes us forget that he’s actually a legitimate badass when he wants to be, and his high-flying, over the top spy heroics this week save Lana’s life twice, while also leaving every one of the villains dead on the floor of the hotel, their threat neutralized.  Despite his faults, Sterling is incredibly capable and deadly efficient, even if he’s only doing it to prove a point to Lana… he gets that point across, almost too well, as like the audience, his fellow agent is so impressed with his tactical skills that she’s completely caught off guard.

The Sterling/ Lana stuff is fantastic this week, as Archer steamrolls the mission to fit his personal agenda.  The action beats, including Sterling’s high-dive rescue of Lana and of course the big, epic shootout, are perfect, and like the best Archer moments they convey a feel of classic spy/ action movies without aping any specific scene.  But what really makes “The Honeymooners” stand tall is the great work from the supporting cast.  I’ve been missing nosy, trashy Pam and creepy, crazy Cheryl for the past few weeks, and their “sting of the sting” operation gave both of them, and wonderfully meek and angry Cyril, plenty of screen time, even if it seems like Lana is the only character to really get any real forward development.

With a great mission plot, and the welcome return of the ISIS support team, “The Honeymooners” was a totally solid and classic episode.  There’s lots of easter eggs for the die hard fans this week (a first on-screen appearance for Trudy Beakman! Krieger’s radioactive “Piggy 3!!”), plenty of nonsequiturs and Pam’s blissfully offensive humor to be had, but at its core this week shines most because of the chemistry between the ISIS team.  This feels like the episode I’d use to give newcomers their first taste of Archer‘s insane world– it’s big and funny and action-packed, but always spins right back to the love/ hate relationships between this weird group of dysfunctional super spies.

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