Archer dipped its toes in sci-fi beginning all the way back in its first season, but until recently, it had been confined to Earth and its orbit. But in terms of truly out there superscience, even Rusty Venture might have to relinquish the Holy Grail, because not only has Archer resurrected its titular character’s dead fiancé, it now gets to add “shrink ray” to its resume. This week, it’s out of the spy agency, and into some kind of, oh, I don’t know, Fantastic Voyage: Piloting a ship inside the brain of a top CIA scientist to blast away a blood clot.
The setup is damn near perfect—even if the entire episode exists only to tee up Part Two. The CIA (Welcome back, Agent Hawley!), furious over Malory and the gang screwing up every assignment handed down to them, gives them a “carrot or stick” ultimatum: a million dollars each, or get run out of the spying business permanently (but likely imprisoned or killed outright). Addressing an obvious question first, Hawley insists the whole team participate, as Pam usually finds a way to stow herself and the others along for the mission. (That’s well-observed on Hawley’s part, but it doesn’t explain why he’d still pay all them for it.) Cyril poses the most obvious question, asking if they really want to inject a miniaturized ship and crew into the patient’s bloodstream instead of performing brain surgery, to which Hawley only affirms with “Yes,” either intentionally not elaborating, or because he’s cut off by Archer screwing around with the Operation board game. (Cue further aggravation from Slater, which Archer’s more than happy to indulge: “Know what this is?!” demands Slater, holding his fist up to Archer’s face. Archer: “Uhh, your best gal?” Archer’s transference of antagonism onto Slater has been one of this season’s highlights; it’s just funnier when he’s picking away at his superior, rather than a peer or subordinate.)
After being rushed through “training” the gang (minus Krieger, who will be assisting the medical staff) are packed off to the ship to be shrunk. This week’s episode resembles those from seasons one through four, in that the joke remains high, and the characters don’t behave inconsistently with their history, but the gags aren’t merely painting over old ones. In one of this week’s biggest laughs, Cheryl launches into one of her prescient monologues, showing a bizarre enthusiasm for the adventure and quoting Asimov’s Third Law in respect the incredulity of the position they’re in. Instead of not really understanding what she’s been saying, it was merely a lead-in to her saying she’s in it for the money she doesn’t need, but she’ll use it to buy an orphanage just to bulldoze it. The capper belongs to Pam, after listening to Cheryl’s horrible diatribe: “Well… maybe she’ll die.” It’s almost enough to redeem a few other episodes this season on its own.
Then there’s also a fairly telling moment between Lana and Archer. His unbelievable luck has apparently inured him against any real fear of death, which—kind of sweetly—implies he believes he can always be there for baby Abijean. And speaking of Abijean, add in the return of Ron Cadillac, smoking while holding baby Abijean (though Mallory is just angry with him smoking around her drapes), and an outraged Krieger chaffing at the medical establishment calling out his lack of qualifications, and a winning Part One ends—as our favorite quack clone sabotages the procedure, causing the microscopic ship and crew to be injected in the patient’s foot, instead of near the site of the clot.
If Part Two manages to maintain the level of energy exhibited in this week’s episode, there’s no question Archer, despite its multiple, oddly lifeless entries this season, will end its tenure back in espionage on a rousing note of victory. Bring it!
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter @scottcwold, if you must.