Archer 5×03 ‘A Debt of Honor’: A Scrooge McDuckian Vault


Following directly on last week’s events, Pam uses the million dollars in counterfeit money to buy amphetamines from the Yakuza, and the ISIS gang must deal with the fallout. This is not a super-strong episode of the series, though there’s still plenty of good gags and lines to make it an entertaining 22 minutes. As usual, a “meh” Archer still beats a good episode of most other shows. We’ll discuss further after the jump.

I mentioned last week that I didn’t want Pam to become the one-note coke-fiend troublemaker, at least not as a constant gag throughout the whole season, but that’s certainly the main driver of the premise of this episode. After the drama the gang went through with the Yakuza in Season 3’s “Drift Problem,” it’s hard to see why she would go back to them when she could probably get the drugs from other sources, or just use them to find a dealer she could give counterfeit money to without recrimination. In short, the crisis is pretty manufactured. Archer is usually better about creating at least the appearance of organic conflict, but the basis for this one is pretty shaky. I half expected someone to say “Oh that lovable goof Pam, what has she gotten us into this time?”

I wonder if this is due in part to the more heavily serialized nature of this season. In past seasons, if a plot didn’t work, it would be over in 22 minutes. The writers don’t have to stall to build toward a mid- and endpoints when the plot encompassed one episode, even when it was built on elements of earlier installments. In Archer Vice, the ISIS crew can’t be international drug power players immediately, so you get an episode where they tread water and actually suffer a net loss in the end. If this had been because they are complete amateurs at selling massive amounts of drugs and have zero resources, that would have been a solid way to spin it. Instead, that crazy Pam got into the cocaine again!


Source: FX

That said, the episode did have some good character moments. My favorite gag was definitely Pam’s long note to the Yakuza hitmen giving them her exact location, which fits in with her inability to consider herself in danger until it’s too late. Archer’s self-aware realization that he has been shot a lot, and should probably be worried about lead poisoning, was another treat. Malory pointing out to Lana that she doesn’t give Archer enough credit was a surprising bit of  motherly pride, of course ruined by her questioning of Lana’s future mothering abilities. And, of course, I never get tired of hearing about Carol’s crazy ancestors, including one that tried to tap into the underground railroad via tunnels under his mansion to “capture runaway slaves and sell them back to their rightful owners.” And, poor Woodhouse being stuck in a new unused part of the mansion, lying under a medicine ball, unable to answer the ringing phone or doorbell.

Some other highlights:

  • Archer: Ugh, Jesus Christ. Can the mind vomit?
  • Pam: So remember when I used to drift race with the Yakuza?
    Archer: The Yakuza!?
    Malory: What, were the Hell’s Angels busy?
    Pam (laughing): Busy being pussies….you know, relatively, when compared to the deadly and terrible Yakuza.
  • Malory: …And Ron, take me to lunch!
    Ron: It’s 8:30 in the morning!
    Malory: A bar then, whatever! Ooohh, or maybe a jazz club. We can smoke reefers with these negroes you’re suddenly so nuts about.
    Ron: It was 1940!
  • Cyril: With all this, your great-whatever uncle must have really wanted to catch some slaves.
    Carol: Oh, it bankrupted him, and the crazy part is, this was like 1890.
  • Any use of the Price Is Right failure sound effect.
J.P. Laub

is a pop culture connoisseur, politics wonk, sometimes gamer and consummate nerd. To give you some idea, he is an avid reader of Wikipedia entries about fictional and theoretical faster-than-light drives. Seriously, he once saw a random Dune reference on a website and spent 45 minutes reading about the Holtzmann effect and related entries.


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