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‘Archer’ Review: “Southbound and Down”

Archer Vice Southbound and Down Review
FX

Archer’ season 5 adds a bit more ‘Vice’ in its latest episode “Southbound and Down,” as the group encounters obstacles attempting to road trip to Texas for Cherlene’s first singing gig, forcing Pam to come to grips with her cocaine habit.

Previous ‘Archer’ installment “House Call” saw the group ‘s attempts to curtail Pam’s cocaine addiction become complicated by FBI Agent Hawley (Gary Cole)’s arrival, so does “Southbound and Down” keep the changes rolling? Is ‘Archer’ season 5 cutting the group a break yet?

Read on for your in-depth recap of everything you need to know about ‘Archer’ season 5 episode 5, “Southbound and Down!”

While Krieger finally reboots Ray’s cyborg legs, Malory announces that she has secured a gig for Cherlene performing at the Travis County Limits. Cherlene refuses to fly to the Texas event however, for which Archer joyously realizes they’ll have to road trip down, a la ‘Smokey and the Bandit.’ Archer secures an expensive tour bus, as well as a Pontiac Firebird to act as the lead car, reluctantly accepting Pam as his travel companion.

Out on the road, Malory insists that they need to make Cherlene’s singing career take off, given that Malory lost everything from ISIS and the divorce with Ron and that Archer continually fails to move their cocaine, before the group realize Archer has overheard her insults over the CB. Shaking off the harsh words, Archer reveals to Pam that he stashed 100 lbs of cocaine on the bus in hopes of finding a buyer in Texas.

The next day, Archer awakens in the passenger seat to find that Pam tranquilized him and took over driving, stopping at several seedy truckstops along the way. Archer soon spies a convoy of bikers looking to hijack the tour bus, leading Archer to realize that Pam must have blabbed about the cocaine. Meanwhile, Cyril does his best to defend against the bikers, while Cherlene giddily assumes the bikers are attempting to kidnap her. His gun lost to one of Pam’s craps games, Archer does his best to run the bikers off the road, crashing the bus in the process.

Archer reluctantly covers for Pam regarding the biker threat, and changes the bus’ tire to get their convoy rolling again. Minutes from the gig however, Archer sees a police car has begun to pursue them, as Pam switched out the cocaine into the blocker car. Cherlene arrives to her singing gig at the last moment, while Archer and Pam lead the police car away, with Archer chiding Pam for her cocaine-influenced behavior of late. Pam suggests that she only does the drug to keep thin, to which Archer counters that they all liked her better before the addiction.

Pam notices that the pursuing police car belongs to a different county, as Archer points out the officers to be in league with the bikers, and only interested in the cocaine, which they reluctantly dump on the highway. Meanwhile, Cherlene plays a solitary song and attracts the attention of a record promoter before Archer and Pam arrive, but when they do Pam blabs that Archer lost them even more cocaine.

OUR REVIEW:

We’ve been without any fresh ‘Archer’ for a few weeks, given the ratings black hole of the Olympics, though we have to confess a bit of relief for the absence. For as much as we’ve enjoyed the ‘Vice’ portion of season 5, it’s gotten harder and harder to deny a bit of uneven tone, and even claustrophobia to the proceedings, the last two episodes of which had us confined to the Tunt mansion, with no real forward momentum to the coke storyline, or the grandiose imagery seen during the premiere’s season trailer.

Curiously, “Southbound and Down” wasn’t included among the initial five episodes sent out to critics, though it largely accomplishes the same ends as (presumably) next week’s “Smuggler’s Blues.” Both episodes take the opportunity for a bit of travel, here in an extended ‘Smokey and the Bandit’ road trip homage, while neither sees the gang in any real measure of success for their actions.

As always, ‘Archer’ installments remain rife with the usual wordplay, repetition and comically exaggerated anger that continues humming along after five seasons, and we appreciate the smaller moments of growth that make their way in around the edges. Archer himself continues to display a strong protective streak for Lana, and even convinces Pam that her own insecurity about her looks isn’t worth the damage it’s caused to their friendship.

On the outskirts of these bonding moments however, there still hasn’t been much progress with the overall storyline, essentially boiling down a 20 minute road trip into a business card for Cherlene, and another cache of cocaine lost to circumstances, while it would be nice to see Team Vice actually given a win for a change. Failure is funny, no doubt, but the open-ended design of ‘Archer: Vice’ feels increasingly cramped without any real sense of forward momentum to the central storyline.

Well, what say you? Did you get your fill of spy-spoofing ‘Archer’ action? What was your favorite gag from “Southbound and Down?” Tell us if you’re on board for ‘Vice,’ and join us next week for all-new ‘Archer’ recap of “Baby Shower” on FX!

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