One of the greatest advantages of being a superspy parody TV show is the exotic locale potential for an individual episode’s setting. Whether it’s Monte Carlo, steamy South American jungles or outer frickin’ space, part of Archer’s core concept enjoys the freedom to cast a wide geographical net as an extra layer to apply its humor, just as the 007 movies do to heighten the intrigue and sexiness. While Archer has taken us to the mountains before for skiing and lodging-based adventures, we haven’t yet been taken mountain climbing as the premise for the globetrotting. Mountain climbing, with an emphasis on assassination. Now we’re talking spycraft.
Over Lana’s expressed moral objections, the usual field agents (Sterling, Lana and Ray) are assigned by the CIA to “extra-judicially terminate” their mountain climber target (somewhere in the Swiss Alps—I couldn’t catch the name of the mountain, or if it’s indeed even the name of a real mountain). “Not assassinate, Lana! They made up a whole different term for it!” Per usual, the conflict begins due to Sterling’s complete refusal to take the job seriously, ignoring the mission dossier beyond “the target is from a country that was an Axis power in World War II.” Unsurprisingly, it turns out there are four potential targets, including German, Italian and Japanese nationals, but Archer is far more preoccupied with Ray’s failure to bring gum on their trip. (Brief, but telling, insight into Ray: “Just like the car trips with Momma and Daddy. Only nobody whipped me with the fanbelt.”)
At this point, I’d argue Lana’s just as much to blame for the lack of preparation; it’s almost impossible to believe she’d rely on Sterling for providing the critical intel for any assignment. Granted, she’s a new mom, and likely quite a bit more distracted than in previous years, but being an otherwise (mostly) sane individual, I expected her to be angry with herself for not preparing behind Sterling’s back. My expectation, however, is that this will provide another strong entry in a long list of grievances for her to scream at her baby’s daddy over how he’s absolutely not allowed to be so irresponsible anymore, now that he’s a father. But I digress. One of Archer’s most consistently hilarious running jokes is how cavalier Sterling has what may be the most dangerous job in the world, and I’m happy to have it last as long as the laughs can sustain it.
Moving to the B-plot, the rest of the team are celebrating Cheryl’s birthday in the office’s “secret” Japanese bath. Similar to last week, this doesn’t really elevate the episode as a whole, although there are a few choice moments, like when we got to delve deeper into Cheryl’s inherently unknowable mind: “Wait. Watermelon is red?!” Malory has again absconded with baby Abijean (C’mon, guys—that fresh baby name snark is getting cold!), and finally pays Sterling back with a beautifully elaborate “full voicemail prank.” (“Well, I guess you had that coming,” Lana deadpans. “How so?!” demands Sterling, with H. Jon Benjamin absolutely killing it with his delivery.) With Malory unreachable, and the rest of the team in various states of too sloshed or too poisoned to be of much help to Lana—who’s frantically attempting to clarify who exactly they’re supposed to kill—the team drunkenly sets out in search of Malory. They let themselves into her apartment, not realizing it’s being bug bombed. Their boss was enjoying a lovely stay at the Plaza with her grandchild the whole time.
Back on the mountain (to nobody’s surprise), the field agents’ target turns out to be none of the former-Axis powers. It happens to be their hunky guide, Crash, with whom Lana and Ray had been desperately flirting. Hearing his last name reminds Archer the target is actually Irish. “IRELAND WAS NEUTRAL IN WORLD WAR II!” screams Lana, only after Crash (“Yeah, again, I’m actually Canadian.”) managed to kill the other three, who were actually INTERPOL, and also tracking the real killer. (“But Ray forgot the gum!” Archer continues to protest.) Unfortunately for their target, banking on rational behavior in the face of peril is the very definition of not knowing who he’s up against. With no further ambiguity, Archer shoots the Irishman (Canadian!), ignoring his warning about creating an avalanche. Sterling, Lana and Ray miraculously survive. (Lana: “How can you be so happy, having just been in an avalanche?! Archer: “I have a pretty weird bucket list.”) Crash’s fate is left ambiguous, but as ever with Archer, unless the audience actually sees the antagonist die, it’s likely we haven’t seen the last of Crash McCarin.
“The Archer Sanction” doesn’t do a whole lot with its international setting, but its decidedly back-to-basics mission-based premise within that setting makes a huge difference in underscoring the best examples of the type of humor at which Archer has always excelled. Much more than the previous two entries of its Sixth Season, last night’s episode feels more like a return home, even if they packed their primary characters up, all the way to the Swiss Alps.
Scott Wold is a Chicago-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter, if you must.