“Caught Napping” gets the whole gang together for a deeply personal mission in ice-cold Switzerland, but it’s Archer who might end up having his heart melted — or perhaps broken.
This recap of Archer season 11, episode 7, “Caught Napping”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Remember in last week’s episode of Archer, when Lana’s new husband Robert was re-contextualized as a kind of lecherous old man and possibly a low-key supervillain who was ultimately standing in the way of Lana’s reconciliation with Archer? Well, forget about all that. “Caught Napping”, written by Mark Ganek almost as a sequel to the earlier episode “The Orpheus Gambit”, or at least a direct continuation of its themes, instead uses Robert’s presence to dig back into Archer’s sense of complete abandonment post-coma, and in particular how he has been supplanted in the role of Lana’s partner and their child’s father.
Not that Archer was ever much of a father anyway. But there’s something uniquely heart-breaking about the moment in “Caught Napping” where a recently-rescued A.J. – more on this in a minute – sprints straight past Archer to hug her “daddy”, Robert, and H. Jon Benjamin lends Archer’s response such a subtle vocal twinge that those few seconds come to define the episode and indeed most of this current season.
So, yeah, A.J. has been swiped from her Swiss boarding school in “Caught Napping” to be ransomed for a fortune in bearer bonds, making the whole situation somewhat Robert’s responsibility since, you know, he’s the one with the fortune. But he takes the entire team along since he doesn’t know what any of them do, and for once the episode has a use for all of them, including Cheryl’s high-society experience and Ray’s abilities as a third-place Olympic downhill skier. Archer being helped into Robert’s private plane while drunkenly dissecting the lyrics to “American Pie” is probably the funniest thing I’ve seen this week, but his role in the episode is mostly to function as Lana’s “rampage sherpa” once she discovers the plot — and, of course, to have his heart broken.
All of this comes together really well. Everyone gets their own moments to shine that make sense within the context of the episode’s story and it all amounts to a really well-animated chase sequence that finally offs Jamie Lee Curtis’s lackluster returning villain, Peregrine, who is behind the whole scheme. Things aren’t necessarily put together in the most organic way possible, but since most episodes adhere pretty rigidly to the usual A- and B-plot structure, it’s nice to see everyone together, and everyone has something to offer.
But it’s the dynamic between Lana, Archer, Robert, and A.J. that has the most to offer, at least in terms of long-term development of the characters and the show’s identity. “Caught Napping” is very good at feinting in the direction of genuine emotional sincerity and then veering sharply left at the last minute. I’m not entirely sure where we’re supposed to stand on the whole matter, and with the show’s currently rotating team of writers, there’s a part of me that thinks this is intentional. Imperilling A.J. is a good way to get the gang together, but is the show really intending to reckon with the implications of Lana referring to a comatose Archer as a “sperm delivery device” in front of their daughter? Or, indeed, with their daughter calling another man daddy who was, just one episode ago, characterized as being obviously bad for her mother? I have no idea. But this was still a very well-paced, funny, and extremely quotable episode of Archer in the meantime. If that’s the case, does any of this matter?
I’d argue that it does, but I’m also enough of a dork to make my entire living thinking and writing about this stuff, so the possibility that I have no real idea what an ordinary viewer wants from a show like this is one we must consider. Either way, it’s the finale next week, and the show has already been commissioned for another season, so we’ll see how it goes. If nothing else, it’s still the funniest thing on TV right now.
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