Animated Archer Recap: ‘Heart of Archness, Pt. I’

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“Well, don’t just sit there sweating like a gigantic cheese.”

I was way late to the Archer bandwagon. I didn’t start watching the show until after its second season, only a few short weeks ago. But from the moment I saw “Mole Hunt,” and heard the phrase “Pita Predator,” I was an instant fan, and blazed through 23 episodes in three days. Thing is, I realize now that watching that many episodes of the show in such a short time isn’t ideal, at least not when you’re seeing them for a first time. The jokes on Archer are so numerous and fly so fast that binge watching almost reduces the show’s comedic brilliance; you’re still laughing at the idea of a character named Stinky, and Archer’s reaction to a character named Stinky, in “The Double Deuce” when the episode’s over, and you’re quickly up to “Tragical History.” Archer is the closest thing to Arrested Development on TV today (having Judy Greer and Jessica Walters, and occasionally Jeffrey Tambor and David Cross, provide the voice acting work don’t hurt the comparison, either), so I’m going to slow things down, and take time to appreciate the show’s blink-and-you’ll-miss-something-funny style comedy, beginning with “Heart of Archness, Pt. I.”

Sterling Malory Archer is missing. The super-spy hasn’t been seen in three months, ever since his bride-to-be, Katya, was killed by Bionic Barry, and everyone except Malory thinks he’s probably dead. (Cyril, in fact, doesn’t really mind, because ISIS actually turned a profit for once.) But Malory cares about her son, and she calls on the as-rugged-as-his-name-implies Rip Riley to track down Archer.

Jon H. Benjamin and Patrick Warburton, who voiced Rip, pretty much only do one voice in their respective careers, and even though they’ve been doing it for years now (dating back to Coach McGuirk and David Puddy), they’re still able to get big laughs. Warburton, in particular, is the king of the self-assured man, and Rip isn’t all that different from Joe on Family Guy. The voice actors on Archer don’t record their lines together, and it’s amazing that they’re able to keep up the rhythm they do. More than any other factor, over the animation, recurring jokes, and obscure references, it’s the cast’s ability to play off one another that makes Archer great.

Rip finds Archer on a tropical island, where he’s going through his grieving period, which includes growing a beard, changing his name to Randy, and sleeping with women on their honeymoon. (Archer, of course, turns the blame on the bride for sleeping with him, and he’s actually kind of right.) After a brief, bottle-smashing conversation, Rip knocks Archer out, and they head back to ISIS, on Rip’s old-fashioned Seaplane. The first quarter of the episode was mostly exposition, but here’s where things really start to get going. The back-and-forth between Benjamin and Warburton sounds like dialouge from a 1940s radio program — actually, make that the 1930s, and according to Archer, they wants their clothes, shitty airplanes, and words like “ruse” back. Remember to watch out for that bad egg Adolph Hitler, too.

Rip puts the Seaplane on Autopilot so that Archer can release the alcohol and mango juice in his bladder, but the entire thing’s just a ruse to distract Rip, and Archer repays the knocking him unconscious favor. Archer doesn’t quite understand the Autopilot thing, though, and because they didn’t re-fuel at the only location for hundreds of miles where they even could re-fuel, the plane crashes into the ocean. Now the best part of the episode. Scratch that: the best part of any episode ever. TO THE STILLS.

Archer not only saves Rip — he SHOOTS A SHARK IN THE FACE. (And sets a personal record for breath-holding, to boot.) FX is airing the three-part “Heart of Archness” now in the hopes of getting fans of the wildly successful It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia to continue watching Archer when it returns in early 2012, and I think any and every fan of Charlie Kelly can appreciate scenes of SHARKS GETTING SHOT IN THE FACE.

The rest of the episode almost doesn’t matter, but for the sake of “Part II”: the plane-wrecked duo are captured by pirates (who Archer is surprised to hear still exist, and then disappointed when they don’t have a plank), and through some misunderstandings involving guns and gore, Archer becomes the Pirate King, a fact relayed to him by none other than David Cross (who I hope will be back for parts II and III). Obviously the episode wasn’t going to end with Lana and Ray finding Archer, because it’s a three-part episode, but the pirate angle was an unexpected and welcome angle. And if Archer somehow becomes Colonel Kurtz, all the better.

“Heart of Archness” wasn’t one of the show’s best episodes, shark scene aside, but it was a good enough introduction for those who haven’t seen it before (people only really stared talking about the show midway through season two, and that’s too late for those who haven’t been watching since the beginning). It didn’t highlight the rest of the supporting cast enough (although Cheryl had one of the best moments of the episode, after Pam tells her to use her psycho-kinetic powers for good, she responds “no,” with an evil smirk), but the Archer stuff was excellent, bringing in Warburton and Cross only furthered the show’s excellent casting choices, and this was only the first third of the full-length episode. Time (well, two weeks) will tell how good “Heart of Archness” is, but here’s hoping — and guessing — it’ll make us collectively sploosh.

Josh Kurp hopes the show gets Portia de Rossi next.