It’s important to pay attention while watching a TV show, but keeping an eye on an episode’s running time invites its own particular benefits. That’s definitely the case with “Double Indecency,” a clever and refreshing divergence for Archer.
The introduction of Barbie and Donald Zisner outline the stakes without much ambiguity, laying a clear path for the episode’s volley of clean, coherent cross-cutting. Husband and wife both suspect the other has been getting a little side action, and won’t settle for the usual tail-and-photograph job, insisting that a member of the Figgis Agency seduce their spouse. A bawdy battle of the sexes seems to be afoot, but as the time-counter ticks on, it becomes apparent that “Double Indecency” may not make it to the seduction. Where the episode should be hitting typical act beats, it keeps digging deeper into a combined She’s All That/Indecent Proposal parody and scoring bigger and bigger laughs.
The premise is contained entirely within what could have otherwise been a scant few minutes, as the characters split into teams and fall into competition. The men, tasked with charming the primped-up starlet Barbie, decide to make things interesting with a bet: If Ray can guide Cyril to a conquest over Barbie, they’ll get the reward money, while Archer throws his support behind Krieger. The ladies formulate the same plot, with Malory backing Cheryl and Lana coaching Pam. Out of nowhere, this episode reminds us how these characters can be thrown into any given situation and generate inspired comedy.
Because this may be the flat-out funniest episode of Archer the season has yielded. Going strictly by the numbers, the sheer volume of sterling one-liners within these 18 minutes (a shorter episode of Archer than usual) puts many other episodes to shame. There’s Archer assuring us that even an unscrupulous lady-killer such as himself has standards: “Negging?! Jesus Christ, what grade are you in?” Cheryl anticipates a cabbie’s misunderstanding of her unconventional method of payment: “Do you have change for 10 — let me finish — drams of vole’s blood?” After getting smacked with three separate chairs, Archer incredulously asks if they’re fighting in a chair factory, and Pam swoops in for the win upon seeing Krieger’s Afro’d kung-fu, disco-suit look: “Why is Krieger dressed up like Evel Nazi Bob Ross Knievel?”
As dictated by the latest unwritten rule of Archer, the assignment turns out to be a ruse (of course) masking a “basic cuckold porn fetish” (also of course). To be fair, the Archer staff is giving L.A. noir of yore its fair due by including all of these double-crosses and red herrings, but at a certain point it passes from homage into slightly numbing repetition. Maybe the scheming of “Double Indecency” only looks slack when compared to the intricate “Bel Panto” double-header, but either way, what ought to come as a twist has taken on a familiarity that robs it of any surprise.
Nevertheless, “Double Indecency” shines by creating opportunities for largely untapped character dynamics. Cheryl and Malory rarely interact more than they do with the phone-related shrieking that begins this episode, and the disturbing rapport between Krieger and Archer will get viewers wondering why they don’t spend more time together. Splitting the group along gender lines not only shows how men and women are subject to different processes of beautification based on different criteria; it also stirs up some fresh back-and-forth comedy between underutilized character combinations.
Archer has aged comfortably into its “hang-out show” years, when audiences will return season after season just to spend time with their favorite characters. The show certainly knows how to work this angle, finding fresh material between the characters we know and love. They’re all still themselves — Pam’s brash and hypersexual, Krieger’s a literal mad scientist, Malory’s recreationally cruel — but throwing them all together can tease out details we haven’t seen before. Cheers kept its viewers content by feeding them a fantasy of a neighborhood bar where everyone knows your name, a place you could drop by and hang out around for awhile. Archer does a similar thing to excellent effect, but instead of trading banter at a watering hole, they hurl obscenities in a deranged game of sexual one-upmanship.
Assorted Thoughts and Questions:
- Pam may have her negative qualities, but absolute and total commitment is not one of them. When she hears it’s date time, in two minutes flat she’s administer a DIY Brazilian to herself in the middle of the office. When the chips are down, that’s someone you want on your team. (Though I probably could’ve gone my whole life without hearing the line about ingrown hairs turning her into “Bumpelstiltskin.”)
- Wheeler and Woolsey, as it happens, were a Vaudeville comedy duo that successfully made the transition into comedy films with such pre-Code gems as The Cuckoos, Caught Plastered, and Diplomaniacs during the ‘30s.
- Pam and Cheryl reveal themselves with the utterances “Boosh!” and “And/or kakow!”, two favorite catchphrases of Frisky Dingo cutups the Xtacles.
- The Scare-ah Fawcett dig from Don Zisner refers to ‘70s icon Farrah Fawcett and her recognizable feathered hair, which Cheryl’s makeover echoes. But his epithet for Pam, a reference to deceased singer James “Baby Huey” Ramey, steps much farther over the line.
- The Archer animators are nothing if not equal-opportunity pervs: As if to counterbalance last episode’s charitable shot of Lana in her delicates, the mighty outline of Cyril’s (mythically large) dong shows through the pants of his new ensemble. A glorious time for fashion, the ‘70s.
- A priceless sight gag: Krieger practicing his kung-fu moves in no particular direction while everyone else fights the guards. It’s outdone only by his tentative clarification of “…with a person?” after Archer tells him he’ll have to do some sex.
- Archer is confusing Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist philosopher and proponent of self-reliance, with Doonesbury creator Gary Trudeau. Classic mix-up!