Being the “sanest” character in a cast of complete—if we’re being exceedingly generous with our terminology here—“eccentrics” can often relegate Lana to the oft-thankless role of the straight woman (despite the occasional stupefying choice. Consequently, it’s difficult to not imagine how a woman who’s clearly overqualified for a spy agency staffed by drunks and freaks (if we’re now being more accurate with our terminology) might have started down that path. In this week’s episode, “The Kanes,” a little sunlight penetrates (are we not doing “phrasing” anymore?) that subject, when we finally meet her parents.
We’d already gotten a little background on Lana’s pre-spy vocation as an activist and environmentalist back in Archer’s second season, and after being introduced to her Berkeley professor parents, it seems the apple (initially) didn’t fall far from the tree. But before Lana introduces baby Abijean and (re)introduces Archer to Doctors Lemuel and Claudette Kane, she drops a bomb on him: They think she’s still pursuing her PhD in Environmental Science, and he had better not breathe a word about their career as spies. While it’s admirable of Lana to say she’s making an effort to include Archer in matters of family, insisting that he keep huge secrets is a pretty huge liability. and Archer even seems to have forgotten he’s already met her parents: In what’s probably this week’s biggest laugh, a flashback shows him having drunkenly staggered his way past introductions to them at a restaurant, before collapsing and slowwwwly pulling down the tablecloth with him, while Lana’s parents glower at her. “Was I charming…?” probes Archer, assuming a dapper accent.
Though excited to meet their new grandchild, the Kanes definitely remember Archer, but to their credit, only occasionally take a disapproving swipe at his presence. That is, until Archer horribly misreads the room, and thinks Lem (Archer: “Can I call you ‘Lem?’ Lem: “Sure you can. But it’s pronounced, ‘Dr. Kane.’”) and Claudette are propositioning him into a three-way while in their hot tub. They were actually preparing to propose he join them for their family reunion, but in Sterling’s defense—their approach, full-blown nudity and all—was highly suggestive. Nevertheless, the weekend visit is a washout, until Lem finds his groundbreaking research in biofuel (which has gotten him into the running for the Nobel Prize, no less!) was just stolen from their home.
In the meantime, Pam, Krieger, Cyril, Cheryl and Krieger’s holographic anime girlfriend get stuck in a bad neighborhood on their way to bowling league night when Krieger’s van breaks down. (The latest van graphics are cribbed from Rush’s first album. Also, where’s Ray tonight? Training for his pilot’s license?). It’s then up to Pam and her terrifying strength to pull the vehicle, while Cyril and Cheryl push. At least, they said they were pushing, while they enjoy a slow Pam rickshaw. Krieger didn’t even release the parking brake. As the rest of the gang neglected to respect Pam for her toughness in doing all the work towing, they certainly regretted it soon after, when they run afoul of some street punks. One of them turns out to be an old buddy of Pam’s from her underground fighting days. Justifiably, she then ditches them to go to a strip club with her fight club homies. It’s always great to witness Pam’s small victories.
Back in California, Archer immediately clicks into “superspy mode” following the burglary, and he, Lana and her father engage in a high-speed pursuit, during which Lana’s profession is dragged out of the closet while spraying semiautomatic gunfire. Lem’s reaction is, initially, betrayal (“Did you just drop in on your way to overthrow a democratically-elected government somewhere?!”), followed by acceptance when Lana admits she never really loved the idea of becoming a scientist. “Why do you think I threw up every time on the way to the science fair?!” she reminds him, followed by a flashback of a little Lana with her diorama, riding inside a vomit-covered car interior. It’s actually a fairly sweet moment amidst the chaos of the car chase, when Dr. Kane tells his daughter he and her mother will always be proud of her, no matter what “stupid, stupid, stupid choices” she makes, while glaring at Archer for emphasis.
They finally catch up with the “burglars,” only for Lana and Archer to discover it’s the CIA, with none other than Slater himself in command. Slater defends the research theft as a defense of international relations. (“You think we have problems with the Saudis now?”) Yep, the government is, indeed, suppressing alternative fuel. Dr. Kane is outraged until Slater tells him to check his bank account, which he does so on his phone, and finds his objections overruled by dollar signs, which seriously disagrees with everything we’re lead to believe about the Nobel candidate, and what his established values are. It’s a confusing about-face in yet another episode that’s otherwise funny as hell with some terrific relationship-clarifying stuff between Lana and Archer.
Like several others this season, this episode notably stumbles the ending. This week, it’s another case of a joke that’s not even close to justifying the characterization failure it creates. While it’s not as serious an offense as Lana callously jeopardizing lives like in “Sitting”—as we’ve only just met Dr. Lemuel Kane formally—I’m still worried there’s a trend developing here. The episode arrives like Archer himself in a hurricane of fun, only to end with all the nice things from the table yanked down to the floor.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter @scottcwold, if you must.