It’s a testament to just how good the first few seasons of Archer were that the later seasons feel so obliged to bring back characters and jokes from them. It’s also a testament to just how much comedy can be derived from pure repetition. Archer is the rare comedy that recognizes this (Trailer Park Boys is another favorite example of mine) and doesn’t mind that its audience is likely to mouth “phrasing” or “I had something for this” along with the characters.
Of course, there is always the risk of running a joke into the ground, but there’s also the less considered risk of not repeating something enough to generate any humor. Conway Stern’s appearance in “Three to Tango” is more of the latter. The suave Black-Jewish agent was a big hit back in season one. Since then he’s scarcely been mentioned. “Three to Tango” operates under the mistaken impression that Conway Stern’s importance in the Archer mythology is enough to make his appearance meaningful. In reality, Conway could just be any other weird Archer villain.
But ultimately that doesn’t really matter as “Three to Tango,” is really, really funny.
CIA Agent Slater (that’s not Mr. Slater, just Slater) stops by Mallory’s office* with a mission and an insufferable pronunciation of “Buenos Aires.” Their agent, Conway Stern is stuck in Argentina and Lana and Sterling must go rescue him, a fact that Archer is not happy with. After all the man literally stabbed him in the back. “I’m worried my entire life I’ve been misusing the word literally,” he says when no one is sufficiently terrified by this fact.
*It occurs to me that we still don’t know the name of the crew’s spy organization. We just know it’s wisely not “ISIS” any longer.
Once in Argentina, it’s not long before Archer has declared a “Revenge Rampage” on Conway, kicking down his door to assault him. The action sequences are frequently surprisingly good on this show and Archer and Conway’s mano a mano brawl, while Lana pours herself some tea is no exception. The Revenge Rampage settled Conway informs Lana and Archer that he can’t leave the city until he’s finished his mission and recovered a file with the names of every C.I.A. agent in Central America. More importantly, Conway has a Krieger-original robotic hand with the awesome power to steal what would have been a stellar punchline for Archer “Luke Skywalkhurt.”
In the midst of all this robotic arm-punching and mission-planning , Archer realizes that if both he and Lana are killed during this mission, there will be no one around to parent Baby A.J. Archer is adamant that his mother is up to the job but she proves him spectacularly wrong by losing the baby to Krieger, who just wants to build a believable frame for Baby Nedly Tedly.
Archer’s sudden interest in raising Baby AJ is as close as the show will ever get to some sort of a character arc. We’ve already been here before with the Wee Baby Seamus and season six seems to be suggesting that Archer is taking his parental duties a touch more seriously now. Archer’s paternal streak has not added much to the season so far, nor has it taken anything away – it’s just the barest structure possible for our emotional investment in the world’s most selfish spy. And eh, it’ll do – especially if each episode contains a scene as flat-out hilarious as Conway’s eventual plan.
Archer is adamant that his disguise as Coronel Lando Calrissimo will work. It’s so satisfying to watch it fall apart spectacularly from the first guard they come across. A plan designed to get them to a control room untouched obviously devolves into a brutal multi-person battle – a battle Archer wagers alone due to not understanding that limos can lock from the inside.
Naturally, the trio makes it through because as Archer said last week: he just kind of always does. This time, however, Conway literally shoots him in the back, which doesn’t as effective a rhetorical impact as a physical impact. Lana slices off Conway’s other hand with a sliding door, which both seems impossible and is not as creative as Archer is capable of being with its dismemberments.
Slater picks Lana and a bleeding Archer up and suggests that the CIA knew Conway was a turncoat and this mission was merely a test of Archer and Lana’s skills. If that means for Christian Slater as Slater in season 6, then I’m down.
“Three to Tango” is in the strange position of honoring Archer’s past with a re-introduction of a needless character and trying to build for the show’s future by humanizing its main character. Neither attempt is particularly successful but the episode succeeds anyway thanks to the show’s still brilliant sense of humor and a hero by the name of Lando Calrissimo.
“…by a lying little country music wannabe!” – Jessica Walter’s other famous show also once avoided using some particularly powerful profanity by turning it into “country music.”
Ray smoking that whole cigarette in three seconds was spectacular.
“Where is it?!?” “I flushed it!”
Be real: we all knew “swearsies-realsies” is like sacred to Pam and Cheryl.
“Prestentando el Presidente del Brasil y su esposa grande.” This show knew exactly just how much Spanish it needed for most of its audience to get a joke.
Related: “Por que no te callas?”
“I’m Archerizing this plan. I’m a verb now, Lana. Deal with it!”
I bet Baby Nedly Tedly will be Krieger’s object of fascination this whole season.
The one-liners were flying way too fast in Conway and Archer’s confrontation to list or even comprehend them all but come on, the best one is “BASE…jumping” anyway.