Characters getting trapped in an elevator is such a common device on television that it has its own TV Tropes page. It’s a quick and easy way for TV writers to gather two or more characters together to hash out their differences without any outside interference so that they can come to understand each other or grow as people.
The beauty of Archer’s “Vision Quest” is that it uses the elevator trope to teach its characters absolutely nothing. Archer and his co-workers begin the episode bickering with one another and end the episode physically attacking one another. If anything, they devolve, which is keeping with the wonderfully nihilistic humor of the show.
If Archer season 6 has any theme thus far, it’s establishing well-worn dramatic formats or locations (introduction of a baby, murder mystery on a mountain, etc.) and then almost completely ignoring them in favor of rapid-face dialogue – like the world’s most foul-mouthed radio play. “Vision Quest” uses this model better than any season 6 episode before it. The elevator is a merely deliberate cliché and weak set up for a symphony of hateful dialogue. It’s great.
It’s also an opportunity for the entire main cast (save for Mallory) to interact for the first time since Archer Vice. Mallory has summoned the entire office for an unspeakably early 7 a.m. team-building exercise. Improbably, everyone arrives on time, with Archer just squeaking past the closing Laundromat elevator doors with seconds to spare. The elevator makes it up to the top floor before stalling out. With the help of Lana’s man-hands, the crew is able to pry open the elevator doors to discover mostly concrete shaft with a little sliver of the office at the bottom. And thanks to Cyril’s creepily thorough knowledge of elevators, they know that they cannot open the top panel from the inside. Oh, and Krieger installed an RF Jammer on the roof so their phones won’t work because even a Hitler clone knows that people need to stop staring at their phones and talk to each other.
That’s it. That’s the set-up. And from there “Vision Quest” utilizes its one environment to delve deeper into its characters’ psyches. Well, that’s not quite accurate, as it implies a search for depth. “Vision Quest” is more of a celebration of these people’s various insanities and vices. Or as Cheryl so succinctly puts it, “Krieger is a clone, Cyril wants to masturbate, Lana wants to lecture people, Archer wants to drink, and Ray wants to smoke.” She’s absolutely right, and it’s fun instead of limiting that these characters have such limited motivations and quirks. When combined into one sweaty, Pam-pee-soaked elevator mass they somehow work.
Their personalities are apparent even in the food they bring to work. Archer brought booze to work, Pam brought a 40 (“It’s a Fawty Shawty”) and a bearclaw and a sandwich. Krieger brought god knows what. Archer proposes being the watcher of the food, which is an awful idea. But in reality, he really just wants to make fun of Cyril for his sweater vest…until of course he finds out it’s cashmere. “It’s cashmere, there are rules.”
They come close to rescue via Milton, the toast robot and Ray getting limited cell service, which he uses to call the world’s most unhelpful 911 operator. After those failures they resign themselves to their fate. And that’s how Mallory finds them (in what could only have been hours later), with Cyril masturbating, Pam riding Ray and Archer and Lana fist-fighting.
The office crew assumes that this was the elaborate team-building exercise Mallory had set up for them. But it’s not. Mallory just wanted to watch Vision Quest. The beauty of Archer is that even if they had ended up watching Vision Quest, the final product would have been the same: with everyone in various states of undress and at one another’s throats.
Reminder: Ray is also a cyborg. But cannot “R2-D2” with the elevator.
Oh, Ray’s colorblind too! What an onion.
We find out that no one else actually works at the office anymore because of that whole “drug thing” they did last year.
“I think we need to have a serious talk about getting phrases back in the mix.” I do too.