Archer Review: "El Contador" (Episode 3.5)
It’s an old tried and true formula for Archer, but it continues to work so well: Archer and Lana get sent on a mission, one where they are perturbed by each other, while the remaining staff of ISIS stays behind to have their own twisted adventures. In their third season, we’ve seen this set-up time and time again, yet creator and writer Adam Reed continually finds new ways to make this simple premise never get old after all these episodes.
This time, Malory sends Archer and Lana to catch Roman Calzado, a drug kingpin with a million dollar prize on his head. The operation is a three-person operation, and since they can only use the now-crippled Ray if they need someone to impersonate a shopping cart, they rely on their next option: accountant Cyril. Meanwhile, the office is given notice that they will soon have to take part in a drug test. Pam casually smokes pot in her office, Ray drops ecstasy and goes clubbing and Cheryl eats something called groovy bears, so of course these main three are worried about failing. Thankfully they have ISIS madman/possible Nazi-clone Krieger to supply them with his own special tea, Krieger Kleanse, to help them pass. Even though it tastes worse than it smells, something Pam has heard several times, they take a chance to not lose their jobs.
Archer, Lana and Cyril are dropped into the jungle, with Cyril dressed like the ghost of Teddy Roosevelt and confused by terms like “six-o’clock” and “click.” Archer and Lana soon lose Cyril and are captured. As it turns out Cyril is quite good at thinking on his feet and has become close to Calzado. He uses his position to help Lana and Archer when Calzado decides to start hunting humans. Cyril uses Archer as bait and after becoming increasingly cocky, Cyril, with the help of Lana, takes out Calzado. At the office however, the tea demonstrates its negative side effects, proving no one should ever do anything Krieger tells them to do. Cheryl strips naked and thinks the bathroom has turned to lava, Ray thinks Pam is melting, and best of all, Pam thinks that Ray is now a Decepticon. While the tea knocks out Cheryl and Ray, Krieger has to hunt down the strong and unstoppable Pam running through the office.
In the end, the group realizes that Cyril is much better at the position of spy than expected, even if he did get too proud, and since they didn’t get a receipt when turning in Calzado, they are now short a million dollars. A naked Ray and Cheryl bring their clean pee to Malory while Krieger continues to try to hunt Pam, who has already taken several tranquilizers to the back and still can’t be stopped.
It’s surprising that Reed is still able to basically take the same idea and recreate it, tweaking little elements and giving us small elements of character development, yet always making it seem fresh. The Archer and Lana dynamic is still a fun one to explore, especially when after losing Cyril, Archer looks around the jungle silently, leaving Lana to ask him if he is looking for Predator. Of course he is. It also never gets old watching those four at the office interact and wondering exactly how much creepier Krieger can get. In fact the darker his different experiments and trials get, the more hilarious they are.
This is a testament to the great writing and voice acting on Archer. While some moments can almost be too predictable, it’s hard to not enjoy thinking through the minds of these twisted characters that Reed has fleshed out over these three seasons. “El Contador” has everyone at the top of their game; even if it all is very familiar, things change ever so slightly to always make it feel like a great new idea.