“Saturday” is a very good Lana-centric outing that is essentially a parenting comedy tucked within the usual Archer silliness.
This recap of Archer season 13, episode 3, “Saturday”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
The latest episode of Archer, “Saturday”, is basically a parenting comedy squeezed into a typical outing. It side-lines almost the entire cast except for Sterling and Lana, and then forces them both onto a mission that neither of them wants, Sterling because it’s a Saturday and he’s hungover, and Lana because it’s a Saturday and she’s missing out on the rare quality time she gets to spend with A.J.
Archer season 13, episode 3 recap
There are several reasons this worked for me. One is typical – it’s funny. There are a ton of brilliant line readings and sight gags, and we even get callbacks to some longstanding stuff like Archer’s tinnitus and Lana’s big hands. Sterling being annoyed about working on a Saturday is a perfect mode for him to operate in, but H. Jon Benjamin sneaks in a lot of minor notes of concern for A.J. – and even Lana, to some extent – without breaking character. Plus, the focus on A.J. in both plot lines allows for the development of not just the entire team and their quasi-familial dynamics but also Robert as a creepy, low-key villain. At several points throughout the episode, I spared a thought for how the old codger was inevitably going to use some of this in his custody argument.
Lana is often undersold in the Archer-verse as the straight woman since she’s always so no-nonsense and mission-oriented, but I’ve never agreed with that characterization. Lana is just as nuts and confused as everyone else; she’s so tightly wound that she can’t live a normal life without surrounding herself with people who’re wildly eccentric and unpredictable. In that crowd, she seems switched on. But she just knows how to manage those people. With A.J. she has no idea.
And on some level Sterling knows this. It still doesn’t stop him from being Sterling Archer – even though Lana is even more annoyed with his nonsense than usual here, for obvious reasons – but in the same way he’ll save the day for the sake of his own pride, he’ll do so for A.J. and Lana, too. So that gives the episode a nice arc. Initially, Sterling and Lana are on the A-plot, trying to retrieve a criminal negotiator (Kenan Thompson) at Fabian’s behest, but they eventually catch up to the B-plot, which sees everyone else – with the mysterious, unmentioned exception of Ray – looking after A.J. back at the office.
“Saturday” is the most we’ve seen of A.J. possibly forever and is the first sense we’ve gotten of her as an actual character. The Lana in her is obvious – she’s hyper-competent and has excellent pistol shot grouping – but she also has a noticeable amount of Malory in her, while Robert’s slimy influence (they’ve been “practicing boundaries”, so A.J. refuses to call Pam “Aunt Pammy”) is creeping its way to the fore to highlight his presence even while he remains mostly off-screen.
The villain of the week, The Broker, is also fun since he upends the usual tropes by being a surprisingly great guy who everyone wants to spend time with, including the criminal gangs who’re all trying to kill him. He helps to bring the best out of Lana and Archer both, and when the two plots dovetail it makes a pretty satisfying finale that showcases the whole team at their best.