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The second season of FX’s Archer ended with a bit of a cliffhanger. Thankfully, Adam Reed and company were gracious enough to not make us wait the entire off-season for some resolution, instead blessing us with the ‘Heart of Archness’ three-part special that served as connective tissue between seasons. The special began where we left off, our spy - code name Duchess - missing after the murder of his Russian lover but with the help of great guest stars like Patrick Warburton and David Cross, everything is status quo for the start of Season 3.
And speaking of guest stars, for the season premiere Archer returned with the perhaps the biggest one yet… ”The Man From Jupiter.” The title of the episode is a clever reference to both The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and Jupiter, Florida which is the home of the one and only Burt Reynolds. The former is a famous spy show from the 60s - and possibly an upcoming film from Guy Ritchie - and the latter is well, only where the living legend and personal hero of one Sterling Archer resides. At least he was Archer’s hero until they met in a hotel bar. Can Burt win back Archer’s admiration? Does he care if he does? Not really, as long as he gets to keep seeing Archer’s mom Malory.
"You going to take her upstairs and give her The Longest Yard?"
I should start by saying that this episode played particularly well for me because I’m a huge fan of 1970s American cinema - the good and the bad - so all of those references that Archer soon starts throwing at Reynolds, I’m catching and loving every second of it (like how we all wanted “At Long Last Love” to be better). "Jupiter" opens with with Sterling in that aforementioned hotel bar picking up an attractive lady and blowing it when he insists they wait for her more attractive friend before retiring to his penthouse to checkout his new (very rare and environmentally unfriendly) hot tub.
The sound of Archer getting slapped is followed by Burt’s chuckle, a welcome repeating jab to take Sterling down a peg or two, and the two exchange words before it comes to violence - all also before the spy realizes that he’s messing with his idol. I loved how they portrayed Reynolds as far tougher and a way better spy than the world’s most famous secret agent. Of course, once Archer realizes that he’s being man handled by Burt Reynolds he quickly transforms into a childish adoring fan. He also makes the assumption that the actor knows his name because of his famous exploits when in reality, it’s because he’s there to have sex, uh, drinks with his mother. And cue the faint. A tightly written, joke filled, two and a half minute tease that perfectly intros both the guest star and the main conflict. Not a bad start for a fresh season.
"I’m sitting here with just a mustache and memories of last night."
The main conflict continues in Malory's office (without Burt) and Archer is sporting a fresh shiner from his fall to the floor. In fact, she wasn't even aware that her son was such a big fan of the Smokey and the Bandit star and the cutaway to young Sterling singing "East Bound and Down," mustache and all, was absolutely hilarious. Malory quickly changes the subject by informing her son about this week's b-story, a Cuban hit squad that has been sent to kill him - news she found out a week earlier but thanks to a really convoluted answering machine prank she decided the hell with it. However, now that she needs him off her back in order to pursue the mustachioed man, it's suddenly a fact worth remembering. And, speak of the devil, Burt calls and we finally get to see some of the other ISIS faces, first Cheryl and Pam drooling over pictures of Reynolds on her computer. Well, Pam isn't exactly drooling but she could still drown a toddler, not that you would.
Lana and Syril are both trying to warn Archer about the severity of the Cuban hit squad and/or making fun of the fact that Burt Reynolds is nailing his mom. The new old couple are supposed to attend a movie premiere together that evening but she receives a cancellation note from him at the last second - Regards, Burt ("they weren't even warmest"). Lana and the rest of the ISIS team quickly piece together that the card likely came from Archer who, in turn, has taken it upon himself to knock the star out and taken him back to his penthouse. In a nice nod to Silence of the Lambs, Archer keeps Burt strapped in a dolly like he's Hannibal Lecter all while Woodhouse attends to his every beck and call (like a serving him Pims in a pimp cup). Of course, it isn't long before the Reynolds' sweet talking and charisma mesmerizes Archer and soon the pair are talking plot possibilities for the last film in the Gator trilogy, this time with airboats.
The entire ISIS team - except for Pam and Cheryl who remained back at the office with a increasingly drunk Malory - take Krieger's van, now weighed down by all Ray's 'handicap shit,' to go rescue Burt Reynolds from Archer but instead are ambushed by the b-story, sorry, the Cuban hit squad. It's also a hilarious bit when Ray and Lana are debating the worth of a wheelchair bound field agent versus a female one, and as badass as Ray may look double gunning it in his wheelchair, I think it's safe to say that Lana wins this round. The ambush is a great piece of writing that brings the two narrative threads - Archer's problems with Burt and Malory as well as the Cuban hit squad - together right in the last third of the episode with the resolution to each now dependent on the other. After that brilliant brainstorm session about the third Gator flick, Archer sees that Lana and the rest of the team are in trouble so he and Burt put aside their differences and head to their rescue. "Let's do THIS!" I think I was as excited as Archer when he screamed that.
"I’m sorry, I can’t hear you over my giant throbbing erection."
The animation during the ensuing chase sequence is likely the best you'll see anywhere on television. It's just so unique the way they use state of the art 3D computer animation to create a retrofitted look. It takes them months to animate each episode and the hard work really pays off in the unique visuals of the show. Anyways, back to the chase where Burt is doing equal parts scaring, exciting and teaching the young Archer. While pulling some impressive Hal Needham like moves behind the wheel, the actor also offers rather poignant life advice - Archer will never be able to grow up until he starts seeing his mother as not his mother but a person with needs.
Of course, I don't want him to grow up - I mean, can you even hear him saying anything but "mother?" - but that doesn't change the fact that Burt is a pretty insightful dude as well as a super spy capable of taking down two cars at once. "Wait, was that the same footage?" Together, Archer and Burt easily rescue the rest of the team, which now includes Krieger's holographic girlfriend, with enough time for the new old couple to make it to that movie premiere after all. Good thing too cause we didn't want smashed Malory to get her hands on that 10 year old boy.
Another hilarious show, impeccably written and gorgeously animated as well as featuring quite possible the best guest voice of the entire series. H. Jon Benjamin alone is a voice-over superstar (providing his vocals for Sterling as well as Bob on Bob’s Burgers and the great Coach McGuirk on Home Movies) but combined with Reynolds and the rest of the cast, that was some animated magic and a fantastic way to kick off the third season. I don’t know how Adam Reed and the writing staff can cram so many great jokes - and even the rare little nugget of truth - into one little episode. It’s truly one of the smartest, raunchiest and ultimately funniest shows on television. And this season has only just begun. Plenty more of Pam's bloody fingers to come.
In case you don’t visit the FXArcher YouTube page, I included this video that the network uploaded today. It is the perfect topper to “The Man From Jupiter.” Enjoy the title sequence for a fictional spin-off starring, the now wheelchair bound, Ray Gillete (voiced by the creator himself, Adam Reed) called "Paralyzed." Yes. "Paralyzed."
God I love this show. And thank him it’s back. Archer airs Thursday nights at 10p.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.