Episode Title: "Skin Game"
Writers: Chris Provenzano and Adam Reed
In the previous episode of "Archer," things got weird and strangely poignant as Sterling Archer's (H. Jon Benjamin) ongoing sexual trysts with Pam Poovey (Amber Nash) helped lead to the death of Sterling's potential father, Nikolai Jakov (Peter Newman) at the hands of Barry Dylan (Dave Willis); a vengeful cyborg who is now in charge of the KGB.
Prior to that, Barry had killed Archer's fiancee, Katya Kasanova (Ona Grauer) in the second season finale; which was one of the few times we've seen Archer develop real feelings for anyone or experience soul-crushing grief. "Skin Game" revisits last year's finale when Katya shows up alive in the home lab of Dr. Krieger (Lucky Yates).
Well… alive is a relative term. It's never really clear just how much of Katya actually remains in this new creation. Katya still has her memories and her feelings for Sterling. But she's also got a power switch where her nipple should be, the skin of a dead hobo and important body parts that are disturbingly removable. But we'll get back to that.
The buildup to the Katya reveal hilariously fleshed out Krieger's bizarre home life… which Archer interpreted as Krieger being a serial killer. Krieger couldn't quite argue against the killer label, but he did object to the "serial" tag. Regardless, Krieger appears to have conquered death, after a fashion. But I'm not sure sure if that entirely explains Krieger's recurring boners of happiness.
Archer is ecstatic to be reunited with Katya again before he shows her off to Lana Kane (Aisha Tyler), Cyril Figgis (Chris Parnell), Ray Gillette (Adam Reed) and Cheryl Tunt (Judy Greer) and declares his intent to make Katya a member of ISIS. Although Sterling's dour mom, Mallory Archer (Jessica Walter) dismisses Katya as a KGB double or an abomination; Lana points out that having a cyborg on their side would help negate the advantage that Barry has over them.
But all is not well in Casa de Archer. After asking Katya to close her eyes during sex so he wouldn't have to stare at her red, glowing pupils; Archer is alarmed to discover Katya has detached her vagina and left it in the sink to be cleaned. Actually, alarmed is putting it too mildly. Archer freaks the f*** out and he faints when Woodhouse (Geroge Coe) describes what he would use to clean the vagina and his eagerness to do so. What would Captain Reggie say?
Because Archer has no real friends to help him deal with this emotional crisis, he turns to Cyril while drinking the hapless man's high end bottle of booze (given to his grandfather by Frank Sinatra). There's a really funny recurring gag of Archer slapping Cyril's hands when he gets too attracted to Katya or he displays too much interest in finding out whether her detachable vagina vibrates… And for the record, yes it does.
Although Archer is clearly having a hard time dealing with Katya's changes, he does demonstrate his love for her by asking her to marry him again. Also, he knew that Mallory would hate the idea. Archer even gets Cyril as "the best man available" and enlists Ray as the minister before Barry bursts into the office and attacks Archer once again.
This time, Katya is more than a match for Barry's enhancements and the ISIS agents have a workable plan for taking out Barry's power source by cutting off all light in the building. Unfortunately for Archer, Cyborg Katya really is a match for Barry, as he finds them having sex in an office; much in the same way that Barry once walked in on Archer bending over Barry's fiancee on a desk at ODIN.
To add salt to the metaphorical wound, Katya tells Archer that she is drawn to Barry because they are both cyborgs and she asks him to be happy for her as she and Barry run off together in an almost shot-for-shot homage to the end of "The Graduate;" even down to the looks of regret and apprehension on their faces as the bus drives away.
There were a lot of funny jokes within this episode, but the emotional impact of Katya's return and her abrupt departure fell flat compared to last week's episode. In "Crossing Over," Archer's inner turmoil over Jakov's fate felt real and palpable. Here, Archer let's Katya go without really fighting for her and the strength of his feelings for her seem to be pretty weak compared to his reaction to Jakov's demise. This may have been the defacto second part of last week's story, but it still lacked the knock-out punch of "Crossing Over."
A few of the nods to last week's episode were appreciated, including Pam's not-so-subtle attempt to ask Archer if Katya's return meant that their sexual rendezvouses were over. But because neither Pam nor Archer got that worked up about their previous status quo, it undercut the joke and the drama of the situation. Barry's return was handled the same way. Barry was back a week after striking his greatest blow against Archer, but it seemed too trivial compared to the tragic events of the previous episode.
Speaking of which, Barry's character was crafted in response to several crushing (and even crippling) actions that Archer made against him over two seasons. Prior to this episode, I wouldn't have guessed that Barry could even the score between them. But now that Barry has claimed Katya (both by killing her and by stealing her heart), the scales actually tip in Barry's favor. And that can't last for long. Sterling Archer is overdue for some payback.
Here are the top "Archer" moments of the week.
Archer: "Baby, come on. You're not an abomination. I mean, that's your original skin, right?"
Krieger: "*cough* hobo. *cough*"
Barry: Is anybody going to ask how and why I knew to show up here?"
Archer: "Is… Okay, I'll bite."
Barry: "By tracking the satellite signal from Katya's internal hard drive; which Doctor Dips**t over there bought from the KGB."
Krieger: "Yeah, but the savings…"
Barry: "Like 80 bucks you saved."
Archer: "Ugh… what is that? I've never smelled that smell in America."
Krieger: "I live in a transitional neighborhood."
Archer: "As the crack dealers move to nicer ones?"
Mallory: "Well, don't come crying to me when she breaks your heart."
Archer: She didn't break my heart, mother. She was murdered."
Mallory: "Yes, and then you ran away from home to – ugh – grief-bang the entire Pacific rim."
Mallory: "Oh please. I bet the gene pool of Polynesia is irreparably altered”
Woodhouse: "I took the liberty of poaching you an egg."
Katya: "Is not much of a liberty considering you are going to polish my vagina."
Woodhouse: "No, no it isn't."