The more I think of this week’s episode of Archer, I realize it is somewhat of an anomaly for the series. Usually with Archer the show builds to a third act that is an excellent combination of action and comedy that has been put together perfectly. But with this episode, “Drift Problem,” the show starts off with a bang and a fun first act, and then quickly dissolves into the weakest episode of the third season so far.
The set-up for “Drift Problem” is a fun idea that isn’t pulled off particularly well. Sterling arrives at the office on his birthday, which has already been a bit sullied after Woodhouse brings him breakfast in bed, then proceeds to accidentally drop celebratory confetti onto his breakfast. At ISIS, no one seems to remember his birthday, not even his mother. But after a fire alarm test, the whole gang gathers outside to present Sterling with his birthday present: a Dodge Challenger. Special Agent Edition. This cold open was pretty funny and even had a surprising bit of sweetness to it.
Archer acts like a teenager getting his first car as a rundown is given of all the special features, prompting him to scream “THANKS DODGE!” and scream like a child. Excited Archer is by far the best Archer. Like every parent would, Malory tells Archer to take care of the car and to make sure it doesn’t get stolen. As soon as she says it, everyone knows that car is getting stolen.
Which is where the episode takes a turn for the worse. Archer must track down his car before Malory finds out he lost it. Pam convinces them the Yakuza must have taken it, and since she is an undergound drift racer with the Yakuza (of course), Pam is their in. Archer goes in rampage mode, shooting off guns near the Yakuza, and then they engage in a chase. In the end, it turns out the Yakuza never had his car, but Malory had taken the car to teach him a lesson, something she had done before with young Archer and his bicycle. In easily the weirdest and weakest ending to an episode of Archer, we find out that Malory has sold the Dodge Challenger to a character I am told is from one of Adam Reed’s earlier shows, Adult Swim’s Frisky Dingo.
At the beginning, “Drift Problem” is a great start to the episode. Archer’s bantering with Woodhouse is always entertaining, hearing Archer praise the Carvel cake comapny and the sheer joy of Archer and his new car are all hilarious moments. It also never hurts to have H. Jon Benjamin talking to himself for an exorbitant amount of time. The man makes talking to animals and inanimate objects a highlight. First an ocelot, now a car; it’s hard to not find it funny. There’s even enough references to previous episodes to make Archer fans happy, such as consistently injured Fred getting shot and comparing himself to a magnet.
But the episode fizzles once the expected happens. As soon as Archer gets the car, it is evident it will be stolen and that will be the basis for the action in this week’s episode. The episode really struggles for direction in the last two-thirds and doesn’t seem to know what to do with its characters. Cyril and Cheryl just sort of pop up for no reason and it just seems like making Pam as crazy as possible and putting Archer in anger mode are just the expected things to do here.
It seems to me that “Drift Problem” could have stretched out its first act for an entire episode and made it more exciting than what we do get. Seeing Archer grow increasingly more frustrated throughout the episode and then ending the episode with him getting his present stolen after only a few minutes after all that build up could have made for some great comedy. But instead we get an episode that flounders to the end and concludes with an odd joke for fans of a different show. I personally have never watched Frisky Dingo, but after talking to people who did and watched this episode, it didn’t even work for them. Archer’s birthday episode could have been something special, but instead it’s just one big disappointment.