Episode Title: "Once Bitten"
Writer: Adam Reed
I’m not sure what it means that my favorite joke in this week’s “Archer” was that Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell) can make a detailed drawing of a snake that looks just like a loaf of bread. “Once Bitten” had some really amusing parts and it teased a revelation that may possibly become important down the road. But on the whole, the two halves of the story never really came together.
Out in the vast desert of Turkmenistan, Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin), Ray Gillette (Adam Reed) and Cyril are on a mission to destroy an oil pipeline that quickly goes bad when Archer gets the jeep stuck the sand, uses the only map as toilet paper and gets his penis bitten by a poisonous snake.
Although it was unexpectedly hilarious to see Archer try to convince both Ray and Cyril to suck the poison out, only for Cyril to counter with the explanation for why that common snakebite myth is such a bad idea. And Archer’s desperate situation only brings out the best... of his dickish side as he stubbornly refuses to let Cyril and Ray call for an extraction and he even admits that murdering Cyril is on his bucket list.
“Once Bitten” actually explores some of the roots of Archer’s bad behavior, courtesy of his spirit guide, James Mason (Peter Serafinowicz). Or is that a “poor man’s James Mason?” Even in his late teens, Archer was kind of a douche. But we learn that Archer was nearly killed by a seductive widow who ended up costing him his chance at college lacrosse glory.
And more importantly, someone claiming to be Archer’s real father comforts him as a child after Mallory Archer (Jessica Walter) skipped out on his birthday. It’s not clear if that memory was an invention of Archer’s fevered mind or if it was something he had suppressed. It would have been a hell of a trick to casually toss that revelation out at the end of a random episode like this one. Even Ray and Cyril looked interested in finding out about Archer’s dad before he simply couldn’t remember what he had seen in the dream.
There were some funny moments as Cyril and Ray attempted to translate Archer’s predicament into a language that had the same word for bread, dog, Friday and snake. But those scenes went a little too long. That said, I love that Ray finally ended Cyril’s momentary moral dilemma by short-changing Archer’s Turkmenistan saviors and pocketing Mallory’s money for themselves.
If anything, “Once Bitten” should have committed to Archer, Ray and Cyril by giving the ISIS gang a rest for a week. But apparently there wasn’t enough story for the guys on their own, so “Once Bitten” also looked in on ISIS as Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler) voiced her objections about the moral and environmental implications of their mission and Mallory tried to hide the fact that the mission had already gone bad.
The ISIS scenes were mostly pointless, but there was a brilliant bit when Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) ruthlessly broke down why Lana won’t ever quit ISIS... and then seemed surprised that she had said that out loud. Or Cheryl may not have even been aware of what she said at all. That demonstrated that Cheryl’s mind can actually have a coherent thought. Whether Cheryl’s personality can handle that thought is another thing entirely.
Lana seemed quite disturbed by Cheryl’s insight; which suggests that she is really just hanging around until Mallory dies so she can assume control of ISIS and take her place. It would be intriguing to see Lana deal with that realization by trying to leave the agency and the Archer family behind. But it wouldn’t be “Archer” without Lana as the voice of sanity.
“Once Bitten” was funny enough, if not quite as satisfying to watch as “Archer” usually is. This felt more like a filler episode; which is strange considering how few episodes “Archer” has in a season. Not every episode can be a winner, but this was merely acceptable.