Archer: Season 3, Episode 10
Pam can be a difficult character. On the one hand, she represents pretty much everything about Archer that detractors hate. She is a loud, crude, obnoxious hedonist, a character that gets off the vast majority of the show's most disgusting lines and displays some of its largest gross-out tendencies. On the other hand, however, Pam may just be the most original character on Archer. This isn't necessarily a good thing (Britta Perry is the most original character on Community, and while I disagree, I fully recognize that a lot of viewers hate her), yet Pam represents something that is a world apart from anything else on television. Archer is just your standard drunken, over-sexed, flawed male protagonist. Lana is his long-suffering partner and the show's straightman. Malory is the terrible mother trope Jessica Walter has perfected, Cyril is the bumbling screw-up, Krieger is the wacky one, Gilette is the gay one, and Cherly is the rich eccentric. But Pam? Pam is something new entirely.
I would say I fall somewhere between the two Pam camps. I have never disliked the character, though if I were to rank the cast, she would probably appear closer to the bottom (I have biases towards Krieger, Malory, and Sterling, first and foremost). I appreciate how unique she is as a character and how interesting she remains as we delve more into her backstory, yet I also recognize that she can be quite obnoxious and sometimes seems like a character the writers can just make do anything (see: drift-ing a few weeks back). Amber Nash is hilarious as Pam, and she can sell almost anything, but a character that is that bracingly dedicated and endlessly satisfied with the way she lives her life can be a little hard to take. Mostly, I could probably use fewer "Pam pooping" jokes. Yet any issue I have with Pam Poovey (and I should stress that, compared to others I know, my issues are minor) was laid aside tonight, for this may prove to be the character's finest hour.
When the episode began, it was obvious Archer had slept with Pam, so much so that I feared where this all was going. As he tried to get her to hide it, I was groaning at the idea of a "Pam blurts the secret" episode. But then it took a turn. And then it took several more. I think the idea of Pam and Archer hooking up, and Archer being the one who is really into it is mildly clever. That alone could have propelled a decent episode of the show, especially with a fun runner. Yet "Crossing Over" did some much heavier master-plot lifting and ended with such resonance, it reminded me how weighty Archer can be at its best.
Nikolai Jakov, Head of the KGB and Archer's potential father, decides to defect after losing his office to Barry (yeah, Bionic Barry, making his triumphantly insane return). Archer is instructed to sober up and prep the safe house, and of course does neither. Then he is instructed to debrief and protect Jakov while the rest of ISIS eliminates a KGB sleeper in New York. Instead, he gets drunk with his potential father and slinks off to have sex with Pam. All of this is standard Archer behavior, the sort of things this incredibly flawed character does pretty much every week on the show. But "Crossing Over," like last year's brilliant "Placebo Effect" (and the entire "Archer has cancer" arc that preceded it) chose to play things straight for once and to point out just how awful Archer can be, and what terrible consequences his vices have wrought.
Tonight, one of those consequences was the death of Nikolai Jakov, who counts, I think, as a fairly major character death and whose absence will certainly be felt in weeks to come. The show places the moment when Archer learns of his death and realizes it was entirely his fault completely straight (even if Pam does make a joke immediately after), to its credit. Archer is a silly comedy, at heart, but its willingness to push its characters and to take them seriously, warts and all, is what makes it such compelling television.
Even if the weighty drama and the character developments aren't really your cup of tea, "Crossing Over" still had a lot to offer, including the return of two GREAT running gags: two characters playing around with the word "literally" and Archer's increasingly ridiculous (and hilarious) voicemail pranks. It also brought back some great recurring characters in Nikolai (who I will miss), his ridiculous assistant, and Bionic Barry, all of whom have had some classic moments on this show. I also enjoy the way Archer and Malory's casual alcoholism can be played for a joke one moment and be taken completely seriously the next. This was the first episode where Archer was openly drinking or intoxicated the entire time, and I have to say, it felt a whole lot more like Don Draper during the darker parts of Mad Men Season Four than like the hilarious alcoholic Archer is usually played off as, and I mean that in a good way.
"Crossing Over" is the type of episode that I live for as an Archer fan. While a lot of the threads are left dangling, and how things like Pam and Archer's coupling and Barry's master-plan (also, whether Nikolai's video message improbably survives) play out in week's to come may affect my appreciation of the episode in hindsight, for now this is another fantastic episode in what is shaping up to be a legendary third season. If these plots pay off, and if the show can keep this level of quality going for a while longer, we may have one for the record books on our hands.
-"Let me see some hands. Who wants chicken and waffles?" Another obsession of drunk-Archer we have discovered this season.
-"Lana and Cyril bailed. Trifflin' bitches."
-"Come home with me! Plus, my valet will give you some heroin!"
-"That's 150 gallons of Pam's hot, dirty, ball-slappin'..."
-"First of all, Mrs. Coach Mumford came on to me, and second of all, what are we talking about?"
-"How do you know about it?" "Because I'm part of everybody?"
-"Me, who happens to be in a relationship with Burt Reynolds, in case you've forgotten." "I actually did forget that." "Yeah, I never see you together. Are you dating, or..."
-"But this time, get in there! All you've been doing is giving one side hell."
-"Who hunts dogs?" "Orientals! Duh."
-"I promise myself I don't cry. Promise broken."
-"I can assume! You're already an ass!"
-"You make me sound like some kind of Chupacabra, but for dicks."
-"Don't you ever disrespect her!" "You're not my Dad!"
-"No! Well, it's not a box of wine."
-"It's a safe house! Nobody knows where it is!" "Well, here it is!"
-"You actually think you get away with this?" "Obviously, why else would I do it?" Great Barry line.
-"What are you doing?" "Rationalizing my behavior...""With gas!" "Oh. Killing you. Hahaha. Oh, Marmaduke."
-"Doesn't matter. Ice can't tell time."
-"Hello...hello...mother, this isn't voicemail!" I couldn't write all of that down, but it was great...and then really dark....