One of the great things about the Moonlighting or—if you prefer—Sam and Diane rapport between Archer and Lana is that there’s plenty of extra room for them to continue with their antagonistic relationship. It’s one of the things Archer does best. Credit the characters’ comically outsized egos and the near-constant deadly peril in which they find themselves embroiled. (Mainly, though, credit Adam Reed, H. Jon Benjamin and Aisha Tyler, who are all just so damn good at writing and performing it, respectively.) But in the end, almost any excuse to keep those two at each others’ throats, even after the breathless, ahh, reconciliation, is welcomed. “Achub Y Morfilod” begins by literally (do I mean, “literally?” Yes.) having Lana at Archer’s throat. This week’s episode is a terrific showcase of how the series can function by keeping one of its stronger elements, even after a dramatic sea level change within that element. It’s too bad, though, that succeeding in the more difficult story challenge is seemingly at the expense of the office B-plot which—sadly typical of this season—stammers intensely before flat-lining entirely.
Anyway, back to the business of throats, of which Archer’s is being choked by Lana. Following Lana’s mood-killing discovery of Katya’s robotic vajayjay in the sink, Archer enacts one of his most foolhardy solutions (which really speaks to the desperation circling the state of events) by drugging an hysterical Lana, throwing her on a CIA plane, and driving out to the countryside in Wales for a romantic getaway with him. Luckily, Lana’s assault at least causes Archer to crash the car right outside of the quaint cottage he’s “booked” for them. But seeing as this is Archer, that’s not the entire story. The reason they flew to Wales courtesy of the CIA is because they’ve actually been contracted to aid a couple terrorists looking to strike a blow against England in the name of an independent Wales. (“Welsh terrorists? Is there even such a thing?” Lana wonders.)
The timing of the “freedom fighters” Lloyd and Devin was pretty bad. Archer had just begun to get Lana calmed down before their arrival at the cottage forces him to admit there’s “sort of a work contingent” to their little vacation. After Lana storms out to cool off, Sterling regales the Welshmen with the circumstances that brought them to Wales, including a detailed description of Katya’s hot cyborg body and her nearly successful attempt at seducing him. Lana spots an English MI5 agent approaching and hastily returns, only to overhear Archer bragging about his former-fiancé. (“You were eavesdropping!” accuses Archer. “I’M A SPY!” counters Lana.)
Classic farce setup in place: Lana and Archer try to hide Lloyd and his giant brother (Archer: “If you stay very quiet, I swear I’ll buy you a puppy that you will probably end up accidentally strangling.”), from the MI5 agent and getting their aliases scrambled (Archer is still clearly in love with the idea of being a chef, bringing back his Randy Randerson identity and having quite an elaborate backstory of what he’s been up to since his time as a Bastard Chef. The jig is officially up when Lana deliberately over-sells the MI5 agent on the “romantic getaway” ruse, with Lloyd standing in as Randy, making out with him in front of the agent, and making sure Archer can see her infidelity revenge. The mission is a huge failure, of course, ending with the MI5 agent unconscious, and Lloyd and Devin likely dead, and the best Sterling and Lana can agree on is to disagree who handled the jealousy worse. They’re still trying to make it work, but hell if they don’t let their respective prides do most of the steering.
As funny as the Lana/Archer farce is, the B-plot with Krieger, Pam, Cyril and Cheryl is equivalently un-funny. Not content with the range of mildly amusing to just killing time that this season has demonstrated in abundance, this week’s office antics are almost grating. The gang are assisting with the attachment of Ray’s new prosthetic hand, while Krieger incessantly impersonates Alan Alda from M.A.S.H. The scenes essentially become a version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon,” but only with actors from M.A.S.H. While Krieger is a weird enough character to be almost anything a joke requires, the material is so lifeless, the Alda impression feels like a desperate grasp for anything that might be humorous. As a sort-of non-punchline, Ray’s new hand is revealed to be black (probably one Krieger had ready for either Conrad Stern or Lana which—sadly—means he may now come up short for jazz hands) as their bit limps to a close.
It’s by the strength of the chemistry between Sterling and Lana alone that “Achub Y Morfilod” largely succeeds. I can’t help imagining that H. Jon Benjamin and Aisha Tyler must have felt a phantom back pain after completing this episode, having carried the whole damn thing for 20 minutes. We’re grateful, guys, but you can’t keep bailing the rest of them out forever.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter, if you must.