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- Danger Room Cold Open: The pilot.
- Darker and Edgier: Dreamland has a fairly serious Film Noir plot and humor that's even darker than Archer's already high standards.
- A Date with Rosie Palms:
- Implied in "A Going Concern," when Archer punches his mother's desk and it starts vibrating:Archer: What is that?
Ray: Oh, yeah.
Ray: Not a bumblebee, is it?
- From the first episode:Malory: And, for God's sake, take a shower. Smells like a whorehouse in here.
Archer: Okay, your own fingers.
- Implied in "A Going Concern," when Archer punches his mother's desk and it starts vibrating:
- Dating Catwoman: Malory is having a secret relationship with Mayor General Jakov, head of the KGB and routinely gives up intel to him, even though he never asks it from her. He's also one possibility for Archer's dad.
- Deadly Dodging: Burt Reynolds gets the Cuban gangsters to shoot each other in "The Man From Jupiter". Archer does the same in Swiss Miss.
- Deadly Hug: Conway Stern betrays Archer with one of these.
- "Dear John" Letter: In "The Man from Jupiter", Archer forges one to Malory from Burt Reynolds after she starts dating him.
- Death as Comedy: Numerous extras and one-shot characters over the course of the series, Brett getting shot in the face in "White Elephant", and Bilbo's fatal heart attack in "Coyote Lovely".
- Deconstructive Parody: The show is a Post-Modernist, lampshady joke at the expense of Cold War-Era Spy Fiction, most notably the James Bond franchise.
- Deliberate Values Dissonance: Played with - characters sometimes express less-than-progressive attitudes about race, gender and sexuality, or use decidedly backward terms like "negress" or "quadroon"; but it's hard to tell if this is due to the show attempting an honest reflection of the societal values of its pseudo-60s setting or just because all the characters are massive jerks.
- Depraved Bisexual: Cheryl, who not only gets turned on by physical violence on her person (particularly, being choked) but has been shown to be aroused equally by Cyril and Malory.
- Pam also probably counts. Maybe not "depraved", so much as "desperate", but definitely an "any time, any place, any how, any one" kinda gal. As the series goes on and Pam's character develops, she ditches the desperate aspect and fully embraces the depraved.
- Krieger naturally manages to top both of them. Not even species is an obstacle to him.
- Description Cut: When Pam is kidnapped in "El Secuestro";Malory I'm sure Pam is fine.
Pam [tied to a chair, being repeatedly punched in the face by her kidnapper] Who taught you how to punch? Your husband?
- Description Porn: The introductory video for Archer's Cool Car. And when we say "porn", that's certainly the effect it as on him.
- Did I Just Say That Out Loud?:
- Cheryl.Cheryl: Please, if you really cared, you'd resign, but there's no way you ever will, because you're just counting the days until, her face bloated and yellow from liver failure, she calls you to her death bed and, in a croaky whisper, explains that Mr. Archer is totally incompetent and that you, the long-suffering Lana Kane, are the only one qualified to run ISIS and you weep shameful tears because you know this terrible place is the only true love you will ever know.[beat]Lana: Excuse me.Pam: Daaaaaamn!Cheryl: What?...oh my god, was I talking?
- Also Malory, from "White Elephant"
- Didn't Think This Through: In "On The Carpet", as Krieger reveals to the others the undetectable submarine he built in the Tunt mansion's indoor pool:Krieger: Thoughts?Lana: How are you going to get it out of here?Krieger: Hmm?Lana: How does that thing leave this room?[beat]Krieger: GODDAMNIT!
- Diesel Punk: The eighth season will take the super-spies cum drug lords cum detectives back to 1940s Los Angeles.
- Discriminate and Switch:Malory: I am not. Why, because I dont want Archer to end up with a woman like Lana Kane? My God, a black...ops field agent?
Pam: I thought she was going in a whole other direction with that.
- Discredited Meme: In-Universe example: in Season 5, Archer realizes that nobody is calling out "Phrasing!" anymore, and decides that they're communally decided to stop using it. He tries to replace it with "Said Ripley to the Android Bishop", but it doesn't work out.
- Disney Death: Archer and Lana get one in "Skorpio", complete with an onlooker saying No One Could Survive That!.
- As does Trinette in "Training Day".
- Disposable Intern: ISIS interns in Krieger's lab are typically used as test subjects and die horribly as a result.
- Disposable Sex Worker: Referenced by Archer (though the trope itself is ultimately subverted)Archer: Oh my god, you killed a hooker!
Cyril: Callgirl! She was a callgirl!
Archer: No, Cyril! When they're dead, they're just hookers!
- Disposing of a Body:
- Both Torvald Utne and Archer's date are staged to look like a "standard hooker Murder-Suicide" and then torched.
- The plot of "Lo Scandalo." This turns out to be one of those rare things Krieger is disturbingly competent at; he hacks up the body in a bathtub, calls up the other agents and gives them brown paper packages to drop in separate locations around the city.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Archer and Barry Dillon operate on this. What started as an accidental suit-tearing ended with girlfriend murder, (possible) father murder, being marooned on a space station and finally being shot with explosive ammunition, crushed by grain, set on fire and hit by a car.
- Dissimile: In "Honeypot".Charles: Save your breath for cooling your ceviche.Ramon: Ceviche is already cool.
- Distracted by the Sexy: Both Archer and Lana get this in "Skorpio" when fighting alongside each other half-naked.
- Archer in "Coyote Lovely". Turns out it was part of a Batman Gambit. And it worked.
- The Ditz: Rona Thorne in "Movie Star." It's a front.
- And definitely Cheryl.
- The Dog Bites Back:
- Woodhouse has had several with Archer: locking him out of his apartment when ISIS briefly fired Archer, allowing Archer's co-workers to throw a babyshower for the hooker Archer knocked up in his apartment without his permission, as well as the revelation that several times a year, Woodhouse knocks Archer unconscious and then convinces him he blacked out after a wild bender.
- Pam in "El Secuestro":Pam: "Let's see how much you wiggle when I whoop five thousand dollars worth of your ass!"
- Does Not Like Shoes: Cheryl is often seen barefoot or swinging her shoes on her foot, such as in "Skorpio".
- Don't Ask: Said verbatim in "Lo Scandalo":Ray: Speaking of, why the hell is the Italian Prime Minister here?
Archer and Lana: Don't ask.
Malory: Oh God, that reminds me—Krieger!
Krieger: Yeah, I found it.
Archer and Lana: Don't ask!
Krieger: Can I keep it?
Cheryl: Keep what?
Archer and Lana: DON'T ASK!
- Dope Slap: A running gag in season five. The dope in question would receive several light rapid-fire slaps before getting one final harder slap.
- Double Agent: Katya Kasanova is believed to be this by both Malory and Lana, even more so when she was seen in Doctor Krieger's research lab with his "secret project", and the KGB listed her file as double agent. As it turns out, she's not, she's merely in love with Archer, and Krieger was helping her throw a dream wedding since his would never be. Nicolai Jakov merely altered her file to read double agent as counterintelligence, and to cover his own ass with his superiors.
- Double Entendre/Have a Gay Old Time: In "Double Deuce" when Woodhouse saves his friend Reggie in World War One:Reggie: Woodhouse! You came for me!
Woodhouse: Course I did, sir! I'm a—
Woodhouse: [long pause] Sir?
Reggie: Have you got one? Dying for a smoke.
- Double-Meaning Title: Dreamland could refer to either the bar that the story centers around, or the fact that it's Archer's coma dream.
- Down L.A. Drain: Archer and Conan O'Brien in a segment that originally aired on Conan.
- Draft Dodging: In "Movie Star", Ray mentions his friend pretended to be gay and lead him on to avoid serving in Vietnam. Ray found out and reported him to the draft board.
- Dramatic Drop: Archer drops a tumbler glass of Scotch when Woodhouse calls him to inform him his car's been stolen. By the time he gets down there to see for himself, he has a new glass of Scotch...which he promptly drops when he sees the car's been stolen.
- Pretty much a Running Gag with Archer. In "Lo Scandalo" it appears that he fixes himself a Scotch specifically so he'll have something to drop. Malory also bitches about this habit in the first season, noting that Archer's nearly Dramatic Dropped his way through the whole set of Steuben glassware in her office.
- Dude, Not Funny!:
- Brett makes fun of Archer for having breast cancer in "Stage Two", earning himself a No-Holds-Barred Beatdown.
- Pam comparing Lana's small fortune made on pretending to have sex with the men in the office to ''Schindler's List, prompting an outraged response from Lana.
- Cecil is livid when Archer begins to laugh about Cheryl's obvious mental illness and how the ISIS staff all treat it as a joke.
- Pam saying "Inappropriate", then later "Damn, dawg. Inapprops" after people react this way to a joke she tells.
- Archer drugging Lana and carrying her off to Wales, which Archer has to clarify that it wasn't for "sexual assault-y reasons," soon after revealed to be a mission. Understandably, Lana is pissed about it for the rest of the episode.
- Lana herself arranged a fake scenario involving her own baby being used as a hostage to test if Archer would truly look after her — a charade that included him getting shot. She (and Mallory) treated it as if this were somehow a normal test of parental devotion. Archer is less than enthusiastic about the idea when he finds out.
- Dude, She's Like, in a Coma!: Cyril is smashed over the head with a bottle and knocked unconscious. Then he is given a shot of heroin and drained of a dangerous amount of blood, after which both Pam and Gillette have their way with him.
- Dumbass Has a Point:
- Cheryl is the only person to spot the connection between $4 million dollars vanishing from the staff 401(k)s and Archer taking the same amount to Monte Carlo. Later in the same episode, Archer points out that while he was the one who'd lost the money, he wasn't the reason it was embezzled to begin with.
- And the repairman in "Legs"
- Archer's fear that stopping drinking all at once will cause the cumulative hangover to kill him is actually pretty well-founded — alcohol withdrawal can lead to seizures, permanent brain damage, hallucinations, shaking, and ultimately horrible death.
- Archer has moments of genuine emotional intelligence in contrast to his usual Ambiguous Disorder.Archer: People who like you just because you have cocaine aren't people you want as friends.
- Season 6 has Archer point out the danger of him and Lana both flying on the same plane - if it were to crash, Mallory would become AJ's guardian.
- Early-Bird Cameo: The first instance of Archer's "holding-up-a-finger-while-drinking" pose was by Pam in "Pipeline Fever", while dumping batteries down a garbage disposal.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- There are a lot more low-angle shots in the first season, which cause characters' faces to be drawn extremely differently and are very jarring.
- Ray doesn't appear until the fifth episode. He also has a different voice.
- Amber Nash (Pam) doesn't appear in the title sequence until Season 2. It takes until Season 5 for Lucky Yates (Krieger) to make it.
- A flashback in the pilot episode shows Archer having pinned Pam to the floor and beating her with her own puppet while she shrieks in terror. Contrast with a later episode the following season in which Pam, being beaten by kidnappers, simply taunts them for their sissy punches while her captors wonder aloud how she's even still conscious.
- Archer's answering machine pranks. In the pilot, his home phone has a mundane message on a tape deck (which sounds like he doesn't fully understand how to operate it). By the season one finale his cell phone's voice mail has increasingly elaborate messages that sound like he's answering the phone before revealing it to be a recording, to everyone's annoyance, and by season five, when his voice mail is full, calls set off lights and speakers playing techno music in Cheryl's mansion. Krieger is quite intrigued by the last one.
- The Pilot introduces a female receptionist working at ISIS who is multilingual and threatens to call Human Resources on Archer; aside from a few cameos throughout season one, she isn't seen in future episodes. Also there were two Bilbos seen in the control room.
- Archer has some very prominent scars on his chest and abdomen seen throughout the pilot that were removed by later seasons.
- One first season episode features the only instance of a pixelated object (a purple dildo). There has never been a pixelated object since.
- In "Skorpio", Archer has a Mexican live-in cook (who he keeps impregnating). She is not seen after this (or before, really), with Woodhouse doing all of Archer's cooking.
- In season two's "Tragical History", Archer is asked how many rounds Cyril had fired and responds "Who am I? Count Bullets-ula?". By season four's "Coyote Lovely", he's able to track how many shots are fired from multiple guns to the point of being accused of having atypical autism. That said, he may simply have been lying in the earlier instance: Cyril had fired all his bullets, and revealing this would have likely resulted in his and Archer's death by katana. Though on the contrary, he later tries to shoot Cyril in the foot and claims he thought Cyril only fired five rounds.
- In the pilot, the thought of Malory dead gives Archer an erection. In the rest of the show he is absolutely disgusted by the mere concept of his mother having sex.
- Early episodes had Carol/Cheryl being Mallory's long suffering secretary who was obsessed Archer.
- For the first few episodes Krieger didn't even speak and seemed largely indifferent to everything and everyone around him.
- After sex with Conway Stern in the third episode, Cheryl says she hopes she's pregnant. This seems a much stranger line after its established that she's a fervent Child Hater.
- Easy Amnesia: A Double Subversion. Krieger explains that Archer's fugue state is a difficult situation and must be handled with finesse (even citing The Flintstones as why a simple Tap on the Head with a frying pan isn't an effective cure), yet his memory finally comes back when Lana loses patience and does just that.
- Elevator Escape: Parodied in "Edie's Wedding":Lana: Wait, wait, wait, wait, Ray!
Ray: (holding the elevator door open) Yeah, come on. You coming?
Lana: No, but hey, I know it's late notice, and I really hate to ask, but would you mind keeping A.J. for the we—
Ray: (repeatedly pushing a button as the elevator doors begin to close) Wh-? I'm hitting door open! You can't see it but I really am! Oh my God, it's just like Maximum Overdrive!
Ray: Lana! On Monday let's talk about how scary this was for me!
- Elevator Failure / Locked in a Room: Happens in "Vision Quest". Malory calls everyone in for a 7 am meeting, but the elevator goes past the top floor and gets stuck. Ray and Pam try to open the trap door, only to find out, as Cyril had just explained, that the door on the roof is locked from the outside so rescue crews can get in, but people can't get out and walk around on a damaged elevator. They then spend the entire episode stuck in the elevator until Malory resets the system and reveals she had called them in for a team building exercise. Lana accuses her of sabotaging the elevator as the exercise, but Malory denies this and explains the exercise was watching Vision Quest.
- Embarrassing Cover-Up: "Lo Scandalo": Malory kills the Italian PM in the middle of a bondage session, knowing that Archer's disgust and Lana's disapproval will distract them from suspecting her as the culprit.
- Embarrassing Middle Name: Sterling Malory Archer, codename "Duchess," after his mother's deceased dog. Malory considered "Reginald," but decided that it was "too gay."
- Enemy Mine: When Archer is captured by the KGB, Malory recruits Barry to rescue him as Lana can't go undercover adequately there.
- Erotic Asphyxiation: Cheryl's fetish. Also that of one of Woodhouse's old war buddies.Stripe: ...Plus what he named his plane.Woodhouse: I always thought that had something to do with the engine. Well, here's to you, Choke and Stroke!
- Et Tu, Brute?: Referred to by name when Jakov discovers that Boris is helping Barry by necessity now.Jakov: Et tu, brute?!
Boris: Et me, buddy.
- Europeans Are Kinky
- Konrad Schlotz, a German Chubby Chaser hot for Pam
- His 16-year-old daughter, Anka, appears to be a nymphomaniac. It's a front.
- The Prime Minister of Italy ends up dead in Malory's apartment, strapped into a seatless chair, wearing a zentai suit, and with something shoved up his ass. According to Malory, though, the development of this kinkiness was a drawn-out process in the relationship.
- Even the Girls Want Her: Lana, for Pam and Cheryl at the very least.
- Even the Guys Want Him: Or only the guys. In any case, a whole lot of people seem to have been in love with Reggie Thistleton. Or maybe not.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex: Every single main character is shown to have an incredibly rampant sex life to the point where almost all have them have slept with each other.Lana: (to Pam and Cheryl) I cannot believe I had sex with the same person as you two (referring to Archer).
Pam: You had sex with me.
Lana: No I did- (gasps) Oh my God that's right!
Pam: What are you laughing at?
Mallory: Oh my God that's right.
- Everybody Laughs Ending: Parodied in "Killing Utne."Cheryl: Oh, I thought we were laughing at the dead people we set on fire.Lana starts laughing again, then stops
- Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Doctor Krieger; his 401k◊ actually has "Doctor" instead of a first name. Then we learn that he's not a real doctor, so that must really be his first name.
- Everyone Has Standards: Archer may be an utter whoremonger and slut, but he won't take advantage of Anka. And he's never sexist, nor does he hit women who aren't combat-capable. He may be hideously culturally insensitive, and assume that the bomber is "Beardsley McTurbanHead" (actually a Sikh), but if someone starts flat-out using racist slurs or starting a racist diatribe, he'll stop them with a little lecture on why racism is bad. Archer has also shown an affinity for large animals: Babou, Cheryl's ocelot, the tiger Calzado murders, and Kazak.
- Not just large animals: in "Honeypot," after ending up in a bar that hosts rooster fights, he later mentions that he spent the entire night out in the Everglades helping a large, crying Dominican man bury his dead bird. This despite alligators and crocodiles, both present in the Everglades, being Archer's two biggest fears.
- He's also shocked to find out that, as liberal as Lana is, she's vehemently against illegal immigration (to the point that she wants to keep the people being smuggled in locked in the van while they wait for authorities).
- He also goes on a Character Filibuster about the U.S.'s habit of overthrowing democratically elected governments and then being surprised at the blowback in the Archer Vice arc. These Hidden Depths are lampshaded by the other characters.
- Lana might not particularly like Pam, but she still called Malory out for making Pam cry by simultaneously destroying the diorama of her old farm that she spent a lot of time working on and reminding her of the flood that destroyed it by pouring her coffee over it.
- Mikey seems genuinely disturbed at the notion that he's been helping replace chemotherapy meds with placebos.
- In the pilot, Kremensky thinks everyone should be nicer to Pam and is disgusted as everyone else when Archer gets an erection at the thought of his mother dying.
- Ray's brother may be a drug d-FARMER but damned if he's going to contribute to the obesity epidemic.
- Ramon Calzado, a poacher and wanted drug trafficker, does not rape his captives and is disgusted that Archer thought he would.
- In "Crossing Over", a KGB agent begs Lana to let him defect, since he's terrified of Barry, the new KGB head.
- In Season 3, loan-sharking pimp Popeye is adamant on making the cleaners eco-friendly.
- Conway Stern says he would not shoot Lana in "Three To Tango" because she just had a kid and he's "not a monster." Though the kid herself, and the babyweight, is apparently a deal-breaker when it comes to Conway wanting to hook up with Lana.
- Charles and Rudy, the gay hitmen in "Honeypot" remark on Archer's stereotypical Camp Gay disguise as being too gay.
- Everyone Is Bi: The cast seems to be quite open to sleeping with both sexes, with even the openly gay Ray expressing interest in sleeping with Lana because "Nobody's that gay.".
- Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: The "unaired" first episode on the DVD is just the first episode with Archer replaced by a velociraptor.
- Evil Cripple: Franny Delaney, The Irish Mob boss who bilks cancer patients out of their medicine and pockets the profits.
- Evolving Credits: Beginning in Season 2, the credits would have updates such as:
- Season 2: Pam (Amber Nash) is added into the main cast, and is credited in between Cheryl/Carol (Judy Greer) and Cyril (Chris Parnell). Pam's silhouette is seen following the bouncing bullet with her dolphin puppet.
- Season 4: "FX Presents" was added to the center of the clock and jet at the beginning.
- Season 5 (Archer Vice): Krieger (Lucky Yates) is added into the main cast, and is credited in between Lana (Aisha Taylor) and Malory (Jessica Walter). Krieger's silhouette is seen grabbing the bullet Lana shot with his sex robot, before flinging it aside. Beginning with A Kiss While Dying, the backgrounds are changed to represent the Archer Vice theme.
- Season 6: Reverts back to the original spy-themed backgrounds, except Archer's credit is heavily edited to cover up any mention of ISIS due to the real-life ISIS.
- Season 7: The backgrounds are changed to represent the private investigation theme and the new Los Angeles location.
- Season 8 (Archer Dreamland): The backgrounds are changed to represent the 1940's film noir theme, and the theme song is changed to a jazz band cover. In addition, some of the character's silhouettes are changed to fit their roles:
- Pam's Dreamland counterpart is seen smashing her credit naming down a peg with her fists.
- Cyril's Dreamland counterpart is holding a radio instead of a cellphone.
- Lana's Dreamland counterpart sings into a microphone loud enough for the bullet to fly off her credit naming.
- Krieger's Dreamland counterpart grabs the bullet with a cocktail mixer, shakes it for a bit, and then tosses it.
- Season 9 (Archer Danger Island): The backgrounds are changed to represent the jungle theme, and the theme song is changed to an island-themed cover. As with the previous season, some of the character's silhouettes are changed to fit their roles:
- Pam's Danger Island counterpart is seen smashing her credit naming down a peg with a beer bottle, though only for Amber Nash's last name.
- Cyril's Danger Island counterpart is using a morse code reader.
- Lana's Danger Island counterpart is dancing, before hitting her credit naming with her hips to knock the bullet off.
- Krieger's Danger Island counterpart grabs the bullet with his beak before tossing it to the left.
- Season 10 (Archer 1999): The backgrounds are changed to represent the space theme, and the theme song is changed to synth cover. As with the previous seasons, some of the character's silhouettes are changed to fit their roles:
- Carol/Cheryl's 1999 counterpart puts on a helmet.
- Pam's 1999 counterpart pounds on Amber Nash's name, but does not knock them down.
- Cyril's 1999 counterpart is holding a Geiger counter.
- Krieger's 1999 counterpart grabs the bullet in a beaker, shakes it, and lets it go (similar to his Dreamland counterpart).
- Exactly What I Aimed At: Cyril in "Tragical History."
- Exact Words: Archer, Pirate King, defeats a challenger using a gun. The other pirates say the challenge is meant to be hand-to-hand combat, but there is nothing in the "Pirate Orientation Guide" that explicitly forbids armed combat.
- When Conway and Brett laugh at Archer's Walther PPK (chambered in .32 ACP) in "Diversity Hire", Archer claims it has plenty of stopping power, then shoots Brett to demonstrate. "See? He was putting on his pants and I stopped him."
- Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: At the end of "Lo Scandalo", Archer is laughing as he explains why Malory couldn't possibly have killed the Italian Prime Minister, until he realizes mid-sentence that the completely insane and implausible scheme he's describing is, in fact, exactly what she did.
- Sterling Archer shares the same sense of style and love of prostitutes as Xander Crews in Thompson and Reed's previous show Frisky Dingo. There's also the ISIS employee who's a chubby hobbit cosplayer
- Jessica Walter plays an old, wealthy, overbearing mother with a drinking problem, and Judy Greer plays a Plucky Office Girl who happens to harbor a dark side, the same roles as their characters in Arrested Development. Creator Adam Reed has described the show as James Bond meets Arrested Development.
- Extreme Libido: Cyrill is apparently actually diagnosed with sex addition between seasons 1 and 2, after a few... well, several incidents of cheating on Lana. Everyone tells him it's not a real thing.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Becomes increasingly the case as the show goes on, especially when the Archer Vice arc comes along.
- Fake Crossover: Season 4 is bookened by two fake crossovers:
- It opens with what seems to be the eponymous restaurant of Bob's Burgers with the Belcher family inside, Bob (who happens to have the same voice actor as Archer) included. It turns out "Bob" was Archer, who was suffering from Identity Amnesia for a few months. Apparently there is no real Bob here and Linda's kids were from another marriage.
- The finale involve the characters visiting an underwater base inhabited by a unhinged captain named Murphy wearing a blue speedsuit.
- Fake-Out Make-Out: Lana to Archer when he's forgotten his identity and a KGB hitsquad is after him. The kiss starts to bring his memories back.
- Fake Pregnancy: Uta the assassin desperately wants to be pregnant, to the point where she begins to believe she actually is pregnant and even wears a prosthetic pregnancy belly to assist in her delusion.
- Faking Engine Trouble: Done by Ray, when he sees Le Chuffre chasing them in a helicopter."Oh, rocket launchers. Y'all, my car is slowing down for some unknown reason! Just must be out of... carburetor."
- False Flag Operation:
- In "Job Offer," Malory, in a drunken fit of jealousy, issues a burn notice on Archer after he quits ISIS to work for ODIN. To save Archer from being killed by his new coworkers, Lana sends a retraction of the burn notice from a Telex in the ODIN office building. Lana's false flag is compounded, as it implies that the burn notice itself was an ODIN false flag operation designed to discredit ISIS and its best field agent.
- In "Movie Star", the KGB attempt to assassinate the new Soviet Premier while attending a peace conference in New York, possibly with the intent to start World War III.
- A cardinal tries one using Camorra gunmen in "The Papal Chase", who impersonate the Swiss Guard and attempt to assassinate the Pope and frame the Swiss Guard. The cardinal, who would be almost guarenteed to be elected Pope, calls in ISIS to stop the attempt to deflect suspicion. Lana figures it out halfway through the chase, and Archer kills the gunmen.
- Family Versus Career: Averted for Archer, whose mother is also his boss.
- Famous Last Words: When he was cornered in an elevator in Moscow, Archer was happy for his last words on planet Earth to be "Fuck you, you douchebags". Apart from that, the show provides many examples of this:Kremenski: The hell is wrong with you people?!
Reggie Thistleton: Fish... [bleep] ...in it...
Katya Kazanova: Yes! I will save you, darling! I love you!
Savio Mascalzone, Prime Minister of Italy: May have been?! You don't know? Madon'! Che tipo di puttana sei?!Translation
Nikolai Jakov: And so, Sterling...remember, things are not always what they appear.
Commander Drake: Mars forever!
Bilbo: No, I think I'm really dying...!
Captain Murphy: Oh my God, just like that old gypsy woman said!
Sterling Archer: Lana! I...love...you...!
Brett Bunson: God dammit, I can't hear y—
Barry Dylan (maybe): So... forgot what I was gonna say.
- Fan Disservice: Pam, Malory, and a German chubby-chaser in a threesome.
- Fanservice: Lana's revealing outfit while trying to seduce a prince, and the sex scene between Archer and Lana in "Pocket Listing".
- It's generally a pretty regular occurrence to see the main cast in various states of undress, and (almost) all of them are quite good looking.
- "Fantastic Voyage" Plot: The two-part episode "Drastic Voyage" had the group use the shrinking technology to remove a blood clot from the man who invented the shrinkray. (See also That's What She Said below.)
- Faux Affably Evil: Barry affects a breezy, affable personality, constantly spouting innocent cliches like, "Later, tater!" He's actually a cold-blooded and murderous psychopath bent on revenge.
- Fed to Pigs: At the end of "The Honeymooners", Krieger turns out to be the one who was planning to sell uranium to the Koreans. With them all dead, he has his radioactive pig eat their bodies.
- Fight Clubbing: The reason Pam is able to take such a brutal beating at the hands of her kidnappers? She paid for college with her (lethal) underground fighting bouts. She also uses that experience to lay a brutal smackdown upon Malory for lowballing her ransom.
- Five-Man Band:
- The ISIS field agents form one quite nicely now that there's five of them.
- The Leader: Archer, "The World's Most Dangerous Spy".
- The Lancer: Lana, who works closest with Archer and is his direct foil.
- The Big Guy: Pam, who has superhuman strength, practices bare knuckle boxing and is generally batshit crazy.
- The Smart Guy: Ray, who is the only one who consistently knows what he's doing.
- The Chick: Cyril, who is the most sensitive and least skilled of the five.
- In Season 5, the group changed tactics to become a drug cartel rather than a spy agency, resulting in a shuffling of roles.
- Big Bad: Malory, who runs the cartel and ultimately makes most of the decisions.
- The Dragon: Archer, working directly under his mother and acting as a primary enforcer.
- The Brute: Pam, who's constantly making foolish decisions that endanger the cartel but also contributing with muscle when the chips are down.
- The Evil Genius: Shared by Cyril, who's typically making smart choices and decisions on jobs, and Krieger, who takes a non-action job by working out the mechanics of their drug operation.
- The Dark Chick: Shared by Charlene, who's mostly uninvolved with the drug cartel and only working with the group to become a country music star, and Lana, who's forced by her pregnancy to take a non-action role in the group.
- The ISIS field agents form one quite nicely now that there's five of them.
- Cheryl, goes from being an insecure and slightly unhinged secretary to a full-blown maniac. Eventually a plot point in series 4.
- Pam goes from the tubby, unloved and rather pathetic HR lady to a fight-clubbing sexual goddess.
- ISIS itself went from a low tier but still somewhat functional agency to an full blown Incompetence, Inc. that screws up every single assignment, to the point that they were once hired with the expectation that they would fail.
- Foreign Cuss Word:
- Krieger's virtual girlfriend is particularly prone to these (in Japanese).
- Katya is fond of "bozhe moi!" ("my God!").
- In "Skorpio," Pam explains the love triangle between Archer, Lana, and Cyril is why she doesn't sleep with her coworkers. She has since slept with everyone but Ray.
- In "Stage Two", Malory is seen reading a magazine about counterfeit chemotherapy drugs while Archer undergoes a lumpectomy, foreshadowing the following episode's plot of his chemo drugs turning out to be fake.
- In "Drift Problem," a fake fire drill is used to lead Archer to his birthday car surprise. Archer grabbed Ray out of his wheelchair and carried him outside. At the time, it was assumed that Ray was paralyzed due to an injury from a mission. Archer drops Ray at the sight of the car, leading Ray to say, "Ow!... I think." hinting that Ray really can feel his legs. This was later The Reveal in "Bloody Ferlin". This seemingly throwaway joke leads up to The Reveal in "Bloody Ferlin." Ray is found on a ladder, giving away that he was never paralyzed. He was wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair as standard procedure, and the others mistook this for paralysis. However, he used the mix-up for every opportunity he could get.
- The events of "Sea Tunt" are foreshadowed in the previous episode, "The Papal Chase" in a Freeze-Frame Bonus - Ron's reading a newspaper with the headline reading "Sealab Offline"note .
- The Reveal of Lana's decision in the Season 4 finale makes a lot more sense when you take her reaction to Cheryl's Breaking Speech into consideration.
- The driving force of the show's Retool into Archer Vice was hinted at in Sea Tunt with all the mentions of "treason".
- In "White Elephant", Krieger asks if it's murder to kill a clone of oneself. By the season finale, he's apparently killed his three fellow clones (or been killed by one).
- During the B Plot of season 6, episode 3 "The Archer Sanction" the Office Gang looks for Malory and AJ, as neither had shown up at all, and Lana could not reach Malory. The next morning they wake up in Malory's Apartment with REALLY bad hangovers (both Cyril and Cheryl are begging for someone to kill them while projectile vomiting. Turns out that Malory had gotten her apartment bug bombed without telling anyone first, and so she was staying at the Plaza Hotel. Sharp-Eyed veiwers would have noticed the Bug Bomb Canisters in the Background of several shots in the Apartment, and if you listen closely, Pam says "Everything else [in the kitchen] was in plastic bags." through a mouthful of radish.
- In the first episode, Lana is first introduced walking out of an office to meet Archer who is asking everyone to smell his burnt dry cleaned shirt. A few seconds later, Cyril walks out of the same office, dressing himself back up in a hurry. He's clearly been having sex with Lana moments before.
- In the episode Deadly Prep, Archer tells Whitney that he thinks Ivy and Whitney will die in a "bizarre murder-suicide." Later in the episode, Whitney is shot in the head by Ivy who meant to kill both Archer and Whitney. Archer and Ivy then begin a chase, which ends in Ivy attempting to kill both himself and Archer (who had boarded his car) by driving off a cliff, only succeeding in killing himself, and thereby proving Archer's prediction eerily correct.
- In the very first season, and every season after, Sterling Archer's phone ringtone plays the lyrics "Mulatto Butts - Black Ass Momma, White Ass Daddy". The lyrics (whilst catchy) seem to refer to a mixed race baby with a Black mother and White father. Cue Season 5, in which Lana's pregnancy is revealed to be a mixed race baby from Archer's donated sperm. Not to mention in "The Papal Chase", when Archer points out (much to Lana's chagrin) that Lana appears to have gained weight, making a crack about her "lately almost overly ample butt"; a few episodes later, the Season 5 finale reveals that Lana is pregnant.
- Forgot I Could Fly:Archer: Seriously, how do you forget that you have bionic legs?
Ray: I don't know, do you go around thinking about how you have real leg bones?
- Forgotten Birthday: Played unusually straight as the setup for "Drift Problem".
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: Almost every episode has at least one visual gag or joke somewhere in the background. Blink and you'll miss it.
- In "Skorpio" Nikolai Jakov, Head of the KGB is seen reading a magazine that has an ad for the Excelsior, the rigid airship that's the subject of the very next episode, "Skytanic".
- In "Stage Two", when Archer is undergoing surgery, Malory is reading a magazine with an article on counterfeit chemotherapy drugs, which impact Archer in the following episode, "Placebo Effect".
- Special mention goes to "The Papal Chase". The newspaper Ron Cadillac is reading has an article on the back that simply says "Sealab Offline" with a picture of the titular Sealab.
- Every time the computer terminal is shown on screen, it shows the output from the real-life linux utilities, like "make" in "Honeypot", "ls" in "Skorpio", "top" in "Tragical History", and so on. But every now and then some of the output is changed for comedic effect, like in the top's output, where apart from "running" and "sleeping" program states, there are also "bitches", "problems", and "hangover". But to see it you not only need to freeze the frame, but actually know where to look.
- Cyril's peer evaluation of Lana in "The Wind Cries Mary" is indeed scathing. Among other things, apparently Lana often fails to wash her hands after using the restroom.
- Frequently Full Moon: The moon is nearly always visible and full in nighttime scenes.
- Freudian Excuse: Archer's dysfunction is a result of growing up with a negligent and outright abusive mother, as revealed in a number of flashbacks to his traumatic childhood. She abandoned him until the age of five, then sent him off to 12note straight years of boarding school. Other examples include abandoning him on Christmas Eve with no way to get home, taking all of his Halloween candy from him in a blackjack game, and giving him liquor at a young age. After several flashbacks, various characters admit that it "explains a lot" about Archer's personality.
- Freudian Threat: While on a rampage, Archer threatens to shove a knife straight up his captive's urethra if he doesn't tell him what he wants to know. It works quite well.
- When Krieger is seemingly caught trying to turn baby AJ into a cyborg, Malory threatens to shoot his balls off and casually enjoy a drink while he bleeds to death.
- Friendship Moment: In the episode Pocket Listing, Archer and Pam have a quickie, which is followed by a surprisingly honest heart-to-heart. Archer remarks without sarcasm that Pam might actually be his best friend and she not only doesn't disagree but actually gives him a hug.
- From Bad to Worse: The start of the Archer Vice arc, which saw ISIS being raided and disbanded, the gang being out of a job and unsuccessfully trying to sell constantly dwindling supplies of cocaine, Lana being sidelined due to pregnancy, and, when last we left Archer, Cyril and Ray, they were captured in "Smuggler's Blues" and being led to their deaths. Fortunately, by the end of the next episode, the guys escape and happen upon a plane with even more cocaine.
- Frying Pan of Doom: Woodhouse uses one when Pam threatens to go to the cops if she's sent to rehab. He then apologises for the delay to Archer's breakfast, since he'd been frying eggs at the time.
- Full-Name Ultimatum: "Sterling Malory Archer, you will eat every crumb of that sandwich..."
- Funny Answering Machine: Recurring.
- The first episode features the dry-cleaning business reaching Archer's machine. "Leave a message at the tone. Uh... tone."
- In Season 3, almost every episode (as of "Crossing Over") has at least one joke involving Archer's less than helpful answering machine.
- The second episode of Season 4 had him using a airhorn, twice. A few episodes later, he simply turns off his answering machine and doesn't answer his phone because it "drives people crazy."
- Inversion: Malory assumed Archer, in a call, was another of his messages leading her on before faking her out, only to be told the recordings don't call her.
- In Season 5, he has an elaborate message hinting he, Ray and Cyril are under fire, and when his inbox is full, it sets off lights and techno music in Cheryl's mansion.
- Season six has Malory has her own prank to give Sterling a taste of his own medicine.
- Funny Background Event:
- Pause on pretty much any shot in the ISIS offices. especially in Krieger's lab; pay attention to the bin labels.
- In "The Rock", when the Drones are discussing a strike, Cheryl says "So I say: No union!" and Krieger shouts "Yes! Confederacy forever!"
- Also "Tampons! Well! I... don't know what that is."
- The Cuban hit squad smiles and waves at Burt Reynolds right before opening fire in "The Man From Jupiter".
- There's a few instances of Pam graffiti in various episodes, including an ASCII version on the computer behind Krieger in "Honeypot".
- In "The Honeymooners", Archer and Lana have an argument while suction-cupped to the side of a skyscraper... right in front of a pajama-clad boy watching in shock before taking a picture with a cell-phone.
- The next episode, "Un Chien Tangerine", has Chi - the Asian woman giving Archer a manicure/pedicure in the previous episode - as one of the spectators for Pam's lost fight.
- The "Danger Zone" video has a locker for "Other Barry" over Barry's left shoulder.
- If you look carefully at one shot from "Sitting", you can see AJ with a small plush ocelot.
- Fun with Acronyms: A little Religious and Mythological Theme Naming.
- ISIS stands for International Secret Intelligence Service. Isis is the Egyptian goddess of fertility, and everyone in the office Really Gets Around.
- ODIN stands for Organization of Democratic Intelligence Networks. The Norse god Odin was The Spymaster. He also gave up one eye in return for incredible knowledge; Barry, one of the few ODIN agents ever seen becomes crippled and loses an eye, then gets turned into a superhuman cyborg.
- Gainaxing: Lana.Archer: [as a lingerie-clad Lana fires a heavy machine gun] If this goes tits-up... [trails off.]
- Gargle Blaster: Green Russians - absinthe and milk.
- Gas Mask Mooks: The FBI in "White Elephant". While they do use flash grenade, they do not use tear gas, so it would appear they wore them just for the psychological effect, though masks used in concert with flash grenades are often equipped with lens that counter the flash effects.
- Gender-Equal Ensemble: The main cast consists of four men (Archer, Cyril, Ray and Krieger) and four women (Lana, Malory, Cheryl and Pam).
- Genius Ditz: Sterling is pretty incompetent in most things, but he's the best field agent there is. He's also incredibly slow on the uptake on a number of occasions, but he also displays a surprisingly hefty education, apparently coming from his years at a boarding school. In one exchange that exemplifies the dichotomy, he overhears two mooks on a space station make an Animal Farm reference. Archer knows that Animal Farm is "an allegorical novella about Stalinism by George Orwell," but thinks they were talking about an actual animal farm. On another occasion he references Herman Melville's "Bartleby the Scrivener" and is surprised that no one gets it. According to Adam Reed, he's often being willfully obtuse just to see what will happen.
- He also shows a pretty deep knowledge of history, turning some throwaway lines into a Genius Bonus.
- One example lampshaded by Lana - "You don't know your own blood type, but you know who discovered them?"
- Probably his crowning moment of this is "The Archer Sanction," where he mistakes Ireland for an Axis power, forgetting that they were neutral in World War II, not Axis. Then reveals he was thinking of Romania the whole time, "but only as an inevitable consequence of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact and the Soviet invasion of Bessarabia."
- The Ghost: Brett and Popeye started out this way but eventually started making appearances. Trudy Beekman is referred to throughout the series, but appears mostly out of frame in season four, becoming He Who Must Not Be Seen. Cecil, Cheryl's brother, appears in "Sea Tunt".
- Giant Mook: Bucky's "girlfriend" in "Heart of Archness", a ten-foot-odd muscleman whose only speech consists of incoherent roars, and who is pitted against Archer in single combat. Archer shoots him in the knee.
- Gilligan Cut: In "Placebo Effect":Pharmacist: I get it! You have a lot of guns!Archer: And a knife. Which I will insert into your urethra if you don't answer my questions. Number one...[cut to Archer staking out a warehouse]Archer: God what a pussy. I could barely keep up, he was spilling so fast.Lana: Well, you did threaten to shove a knife up his dick-hole. Which, again, ick!
Irish Mobster: Go ahead and shoot me! Cuz ain't nuthin in the world can make me talk!Archer: You say that...[cut to Irish Mobster handcuffed to poker table, pants around ankles, having a 'smoke grenade' shoved up his ass]
- Later in the same episode, after crashing an all-night poker game:
Archer: Jesus, will you relax? What's the worst that could happen?[cut to the gang kneeling on the ground on the airstrip, surrounded by heavily armed San Marcos soldiers]Lana: Way to go, Gilligan!
- In "Palace Intrigue: Part I", Lana expresses concern that landing a plane loaded with weapons in San Marcos after openly stating that a known weapons dealer sent them may not be the wisest choice.
- A Glass in the Hand: Malory breaks the last of her Steuben glass set in frustration when Nikolai hangs up on her in "Dial M for Mother".
- Go Mad from the Isolation:
- Barry goes from "unstable" to "completely insane" while stuck on the international space station. Though he wouldn't have been alone if he hadn't murdered everyone.
- In the "Sea Tunt" two-parter, This is what happened to Murphy
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: In-Universe: In Archer's mind, his cheating on Lana is justified because he only cheated with sexy and powerful women, whereas Cyril is just a prick for cheating since he only did it with other ISIS personnel.
- Good Girls Avoid Abortion: Archer impregnated his Mexican cook, Peeta, three times and paid for an abortion.Archer: Hey! Peeta is not a whore!Malory: She wasn't until you go ahold of her.
- Good News, Bad News: In "The Papal Chase", after being told the "Good News" aspect:Pam: Hey hey! That is good news!
Lana: You do know how the whole "The Good News Is..." thing works, right?
Guard: The bad news is—
Pam: Oh, right.
- Gory Discretion Shot: The Disposing of a Body scene in "Killing Utne," where the team pose two bodies to look like a Murder-Suicide in Trudy Beakman's apartment and then torch the room. The camera spends the whole time focusing on the apartment door as we listen to the events within.
- Also in "Swiss Miss", where an El Frente Rojo assassin is set on fire by Archer. We only hear his gurgles and see his horribly burned forearms.
- Gossipy Hens: Pam is a notorious gossip.
Malory: The last thing I need is this spreading like...Pam, what the hell!Pam: [texting the news around the office] What? I can't help it! It's like a disease! [beat] [resumes texting]Malory: Pam!Pam: Do you not know what "disease" means?! Oh...right.
- A few examples—she's got a blog filled with videos of various bits of gossip, actively films Cyril's father-issue rant, and when informed Malory might have breast cancer, we get the following exchange.
- Government Agency of Fiction: ISIS.
- ISIS (as well as ODIN, and possibly even the KGB) actually appears to operate in the free-market, without any link to the government. Since the series is vaguely in an alternate universe, it's hard to be sure— but if they were receiving any taxpayer dollars, you'd think it would have come up by now.Pam: Can [Malory] really sell ISIS? Aren't we owned by, like, the government, or something?
Cheryl: Yeah, I've never been totally clear on that.
- It finally bites them in the ass in "White Elephant", when it's confirmed that ISIS has been operating without any government approval whatsoever, which the FBI is rather unhappy about. Undone by the finale, where the agency is resurrected as a CIA contractor, minus the ISIS name.
- ISIS (as well as ODIN, and possibly even the KGB) actually appears to operate in the free-market, without any link to the government. Since the series is vaguely in an alternate universe, it's hard to be sure— but if they were receiving any taxpayer dollars, you'd think it would have come up by now.
- Gratuitous French: "Jeu Monégasque". Many of the agents use it, and while Sterling knows the least, several people make fun of Lana's issues with pronunciation.
- Gratuitous German: A pair of assassins is German and one episode centers around a German millionaire and his daughter, both of whom use a lot of random German words. Doesn't mean their pronunciation is spot-on, though.
- Gratuitous Italian: Thrown around a lot in "Lo Scandalo", in which Malory orders the ISIS crew to help her dispose the body of the Italian prime minister (and her lover of 35 years).
- Also in "The Papal Chase", when they're undercover in the Vatican to protect the Pope from an assassin.
- Gross-Up Close-Up: When Pam finally manages to pierce Barry's cyborg armor with explosive shotgun rounds in "Edie's Wedding", the damage to his internal mechanisms and remaining organs is seen in gruesome detail.Barry: Huh. I mean, I'm not a doctor... or a roboticist, but - that can't be good.
- Gun Porn: There are loads of different types of firearms represented from various time periods over the second half of the 20th century, each of which is lovingly detailed and often depicted with the correct magazine sizes.
- Guns in Church: Lana, a "covert operative", frequently wears two guns openly in side holsters atop her otherwise skintight clothing.