FX’s Archer goes for the bottle story with this week’s “Lo Scandalo.” Meaning, all of the principal characters gather in one location and stay there for the duration of the episode. Malory (Jessica Walter) calls Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) to help her dispose of the body of the prime minister of Italy, which is in her living room. She tells Archer that armed men came in and did the deed, and shows her son that she, herself, is shot. Soon, the other ISIS employees join them in this scheme to cover up the crime, helping a guilty-looking Malory escape the law, while Archer becomes obsessed with having spaghetti and meatballs. But is the yarn that Malory is spinning them really the truth? And can they get the body out quietly without the police, who show up at the door, finding out?
Bottle stories are a convention that only the best sitcoms can use successfully. Archer meets that criteria. It has wonderful, well-defined characters, whose interactions with each other provide plenty of entertainment, and are always welcome. From the dinner party ruse to fool the detective, to discussions in the kitchen over what to do, “Lo Scandalo” is packed full of fun ensemble moments, allowing each of the principal cast members to shoot off some great one-liners.
What’s more, when such immense talent is gathered together in this manner, and they are allowed to play off of each other, it makes for the best stories of the series. In animation, the actors often are not able to gather, making the task of a fluid interchange even more daunting and difficult. Whether Archer records separately or together isn’t clear, but what is is that the dialogue flows seamlessly into a true art form. That may sound like high praise for a silly cartoon, but if any such show deserves it, it’s Archer.
Archer can do this because its cast is excellent. From Judy Greer’s Carol/Cheryl, to Chris Parnell as Cyril, and especially Amber Nash’s Pam, each brings some unique talents to bare. Could other actors do this as well as this particular group? Possibly, but it’s hard to imagine how. Each has become so ingrained in the fabric of the series, that losing any one of them would be a shame. While Archer does have the spy angle working for it, the workplace comedy group is the heart and soul that makes things work on a level above the norm.
“Lo Scandalo” certainly brings the funny, as well. The continued query of “Doesn’t Italy use a King?” is more amusing each time it is uttered. Krieger (Lucky Yates) insisting that the others drop off the body pieces he has packaged for them in a smiley face pattern is great, but Archer and Lana (Aisha Tyler) both dropping theirs into the trash can in front of Malory’s building, a moment done without mentioning the joke, is even better. And it’s hard to top everyone wanting to know why the prime minister is in a rubber suit with a dildo up his butt, and their sometimes clueless questions to try to get to that answer.
This week’s Archer is also a bit of a mystery. While Malory’s words are quickly taken at face value, it becomes clear as Lana and Archer discuss the situation at the end that things don’t quite add up. In flashes, viewers get the treat of Malory perfectly constructing the entire thing, including calling the police on herself, to make her seem as innocent as possible. She gives herself an alibi, and a way to rise above suspicion. It’s very clever, and the long game of revenge is trademark Malory.
Archer, who often seems a little dense, and appears especially distracted through this episode, is the one who figures this out, cementing the idea that perhaps he isn’t as dumb as he looks, and is quite an effective spy. It justifies his role on the series, and his character’s reputation. He refrains from calling his mother out in front of everyone because, well, she’s his mother, and he doesn’t want her to get in trouble. Archer trusts Lana, so she is told, and that’s it. But the details do not escape him, and that’s extremely rewarding.
FX has a bona fide gem in Archer, in that it’s smart, hilarious, and enjoyable week after week. It also has that special, ineffable something that really makes it shine, and sets it above the pack. Watch Archer Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX.