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Archer's been having a great third season. And "Lo Scandalo" (which is Italian for 'Scandal', in case you couldn't figure that out), is another excellent episode putting the series right back on track after the show's "Drift Problem" last week. Don't get me wrong, I'll still take Adam Reed firing on half-cylinders over most other shows but when he's really on his game, Archer isn't just one of the funniest animated series on television but one of the funniest shows period. And this week's "Lo Scandalo" doesn't disappoint, bringing all of ISIS under one roof to help solve Malory's case of the murdered man in a catsuit. Sorry, zentai.
"Well, unless it was the creepy old people bondage sex police why would anyone break in here and shoot him?"
I spent some time last week discussing how the frequent callback jokes throughout "Drift Problems" made the episode seem a bit lazy and less effective than the usual brilliant writing. "Lo Scandalo" is a perfect example of the the series successfully building upon previous jokes, while there were still several series callbacks ("Nooooooop") most of the shows laughs were produced by a layering within the episode itself - like the trench coat, dildo, spaghetti and meatballs, potatoes, the Irish - a of which are set up in the cold open. Archer does an incredible job of packing a ton of information and setting up the (sometimes several) narrative(s) in a short amount of time and this week was no different.
The episode opens with Malory alone in her dark apartment, clearly shaken with a drink in one hand a rather large gun in the other. The door creaks open ("it's called WD40 mother") and, well, it's just Archer and Lana coming over to see what all the fuss it about and why they are wasting their Friday night reporting to Malory's apartment. The fuss is a recently murdered Italian Prime Minister - no they don't use kings - and after a lot of pleading and evidence to support her claim, Malory convinces the spies that three intruders did the murdering and that they need to help her dispose of the body. Oh, and the former fetishistic world leader kind of looks like the khaki version of The Gimp from Pulp Fiction... and has a dildo in his ass.
"I could eat. I mean not necessarily spaghetti and meatballs but, you know, not necessarily not spaghetti and meatballs. I mean, I really like spaghetti and meatballs. Man, if I don't get some spaghetti and meatballs I may literally die."
Malory has been meeting the Italian PM since Operation Gladio (a real thing by the way) for an annual sexual rendezvous which are only growing kinkier and kinkier. However, according to her, this time their romantic weekend, or dildo party, was interrupted by assassins who took out the restrained leader. It's really the perfect story for the show because it allows Lana to play the responsible agent/detective trying to gather the information and solve the crime while Archer is merely hung up on his mother's sexual escapades and impedes the whole process. His advice for mother is to get a good lawyer, plead self-defense (after he works her over a little) and hopefully avoid being found guilty of murder or sodomy with a rubber eggplant. Even though neither of the spies seem to believe Malory's account - which makes it hard for us to buy it - they are willing to try and help her get rid of the body.
After dismissing Lana's stupid notion of walking it out the front door, Archer suggests they roll the corpse up in a carpet, put on some coveralls and walk it out the front door. However, neither of those plans will work with the pesky Irish superintendent still holding a grudge from her Christmas gifts the last three years. Who would have though an Irishman wouldn't like a potato, especially since he can eat it now or drink it later. Anyway, since they can't walk him out in one piece, the plan shifts to dissemination ("whatever, call it her can't, me won't"). Dr. Krieger is called in and is more than happy to take care of it - how Heisenberg of him - and, plus he's very discreet. Soon the entire ISIS staff has arrived and just in time to help dispose of the pieces and create a smiley faced pattern of body parts around the city.
"Good Heavens. A murder?! Well, apart from this sullen wench murdering good etiquette... OW!... I find the very suggestion laughable."
But first they have to keep this noisy, snooping Irish detective from finding out. Detective Murphy arrives and shifts "Lo Scandalo" into a full blown spoof of the murder mystery. He's there investigating an anonymous tip about the Italian PM's murder while the ISIS team costumes up for an elegant dinner party. Judy Greer's voice work here as Carol is hilarious but it's Aisha Tyler who truly steals the show. She's almost always saddled with the tough task of keeping up with the funniest voice actor out there (H. Jon Benjamin) and doesn't ever disappoint. This situation has Lana dressed up in a French maid's outfit while the rest of the team get to go aristocratic and, well, treat her like crap. Good thing Calpernia has hands like cricket bats.
Murphy's about to leave but he just has to check the bathroom where Krieger took care of the body and... all seems fine except for the smell. She might want to check for an upper decker. Again toying with the conventions of the murder mystery, the cop survives (actually, no one else dies) and leaves them to successfully get rid of the body. Plus, the only person to piece together what really went on is Lana and she's an accomplice after the fact. In a Usual Suspects like moment, she unravels the entire mystery to reveal what we (should have) expected, that Malory was indeed the murderer all along. I suppose she doesn't go completely unpunished, she will have to wash her lips.
"Hmmm. Honey, you still got it. Bow chica bow bow, ahuh huh!"
The episode does a great job spoofing the classic whodunnit formula. In most murder mysteries the crime is usually committed after everyone has come to the big estate for the party pr game but this time, "Lo Scandalo" opens with just the murder victim and the murderer sitting alone in an empty apartment. They do their best to add some suspense - the drinking and worried Malory, the creaking door and the darkness - but let's be honest, no matter how hard Reed tried to steer us away there was never any doubt that Malory was the culprit. However, in many ways that's the best part of the episode - the story wasn't about who did it but how (and why) they did it and managed to con us all along the way.
We think we're watching Malory's crime of passion spin out of control with her trying to pick up the pieces when the truth is she had the whole thing planned down to the last detail. We should have known when we were being so unconvincingly lied to by Malory that it was just part of a larger plan. Misdirection and misinformation. Spies, you can't trust them, so you might as well laugh.
Tonight's episode wouldn't rank amongst the all-time Archer greats (praise I showered on "The Limited" two week's ago), but "Lo Scandalo" was an excellent half-hour of comedic storytelling and a clever spin on the murder mystery. Archer airs Thursdays at 10 p.m. ET on FX. It stars H. Jon Benjamin, Aisha Tyler, Jessica Walters, Judy Greer, Chris Parnell and Amber Nash. It was created by Adam Reed.