In Slate’s Archer TV Club, Jeremy Stahl will IM each week with a different fan of the FX spy comedy. This week he chats with Jeffrey Bloomer, SlateV’s editor/blogger.
Jeremy Stahl: Thanks for joining me tonight. I hope you're a fan of mouton, because that's all we've got.
Jeffrey Bloomer: No monkey soufflé?
Stahl: What is this, Spain in the '30s? So I actually thought that the setup for tonight's episode was pretty thin: ISIS, or “shithead squadron” as Anthony Bourdain's celebrity chef character Lance Casteau so aptly dubs them, is working undercover as Casteau's kitchen staff on his reality show in order to protect the Albanian ambassador from “vague” assassination threats. It all seemed like a forced way to work a Bourdain character into the Archer world. What did you think? And are you a fan of Bourdain, generally?
Bloomer: It certainly wasn't the show's most adventurous satire. Bastard Chef? Nice one, guys. I like Bourdain for his curiosity and enthusiasm, and I occasionally catch his show for that reason, but the sharp-tongued cruelty passing for personality got old a long time ago. I'm not sure this episode did much beyond replicate that, but I did appreciate how it fanned out to all of the absurd aspects of a "celebrity chef": the faux-reality of the TV shows, the impossibly stuffy restaurants, the people who call 10 months in advance to be rejected and keep the whole sadistic game going.
Stahl: Yes, I liked the two-reservation-phone-lines gag—the real phone number being for the Vernie Kennedys of this world, and the fake one for the rest of us schlubs. But even that seemed designed more to give Lana something to do than anything else. Still, this was one of those episodes that reminded me why I enjoy even the most disappointing episodes of Archer more than any other TV comedy in the post-Harmon-sitcom-era. There’s always just enough silliness and newness and randomness (the "suck it, Chet" whiteboard, for example) in this show to keep me entertained, even if a premise is kind of lame, as it was this week.
Bloomer: Yes, I did like the titles everyone got, especially Cyril as Chet Manley, the garcon du cuisine. That means kitchen boy.
Stahl: I also loved how that final scene played out and how nonchalantly Katja murdered Casteau by dropping him out of a chopper, but it left me bewildered as to the identity of ISIS's chief antagonist now. Has it become Katja instead of Barry?
Bloomer: I'm not sure Katja could ever be a real villain; her casual helicopter maneuver seemed more an act of mercy so we didn't have to hear Casteau talk anymore. Whatever happened to everyone at ISIS being ISIS's chief antagonist?
Also, what do you think of the Katja-Barry relationship?
Stahl: I’m very pleased with the direction of the Katja-Barry relationship. That last cutting line from Katja telling Barry to “remind himself” not to piss her off was just the perfect expression of their current dynamic. Katja has supplanted Barry as the KGB boss and is clearly starting to find him to be the kind of nuisance that he is, while Barry seems to be taking advantage of their romantic partnership to justify continuing to be a nuisance. I think they are starting to make a really good comedy duo, with Katja as the straight man and Barry as the buffoon.
Bloomer: Yes, that was hilarious and one of the only real jokes that landed with firm feet in this episode. Can we peek at the fringes for a second before we go: Pam fights bettas!?
Stahl: That was wonderful, though, not surprising considering her drift car racing, fight clubbing, etc. Every time we get another peek into Pam's off-hours life, something good happens. I'm still struggling to visualize a goldfish fight, though, which is probably a personal problem.
Bloomer: Definitely a personal problem. I'll draw you a diagram.
Stahl: Great chatting with you, Jeff. Remember: ABBAB.