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Review: ‘Archer’ Season 7 Episode 5 ‘Bel Panto: Part I’ Starts a Murder Mystery

Review: 'Archer' Season 7 Episode 5 'Bel Panto: Part I' Starts a Murder Mystery

“I swear to God I had something for this.” (Episode Summary)

Hired to protect a priceless diamond necklace — elegantly named the “Zarina” — the employees of The Figgis Agency go undercover to a “no-shit-black-tie-Hollywood gala,” only not everyone gets to gown it up. Pam, Cyril and Ray pose as waiters while the rest of the crew put on their best dinner party attire in order to blend in among the friends of Academy Award-winning director Ellis Crane (John O’Hurley), aka the Hollywood elite. Queen of the ball is none other than Veronica Deane, who’s wearing the Zarina in order to impress her ex-husband — or so it’s implied.

About halfway through the party, what can only be described as an actual insane clown posse shows up, specifically looking for the Zarina. Earlier, after Cheryl mentioned they should hire a clown to liven up the dead party, Robert Shapiro (Patton Oswalt) made a funny face that strongly indicated he knew what was coming. Did he hire the clowns himself to cash in on the necklace’s insurance policy? Is Veronica Deane in more dire financial straits than before? And what will Lana do to Archer after she saw him swapping spit with a movie star? I can’t tell you because this, folks, is a two-parter.

LAST WEEK’S REVIEW: ‘Archer’ Season 7 Episode 4 ‘Motherless Child’ Gets a Barry From the Past

“Bloody Mary, full of vodka, pray for me now…” (Best Drinking Reference)

While Archer was certainly making the most of the open bar, nothing too alcohol-focused went down in “Bel Panto: Part I.” Instead, we offer up the sublime line from a clearly buzzed private investigator looking to get a bit creative with some carefully prepared hor d’oeuvres: “This is the world’s most expensive Mc-Ten-Thirty-Five.”

“Danger zone!” (Most Action-y Action Sequence)

We have a feeling most of the action will be coming next week — especially if Archer’s ensemble and the party’s setting indicate this is the night, first shown in Episode 1, he ends up face first in a pool — but Archer’s Han Solo-like ambush of the pink posse member will have to suffice this week. I, for one, laughed out loud when Archer snapped his neck, all the while profusely apologizing to Veronica, his new make-out buddy. It wasn’t nearly as jarring as some other recent bulletless deaths, but their quick hand-to-hand curfuffle was given a nice punctuation point in the surprising brutality of Archer’s final action — and his dismissal of its weight. 

(Best) “Phrasing!”

“Okay, so if you feel it coming, maybe just do it into
your hand — phrasing — can you do that for me?”
– Archer

“Literally the only thing about Los Angeles that doesn’t make me want to vomit.” (Best Hollywood Reference)

Archer set the tone early on for an episode devoted to taking Hollywood vanity down a peg or two: “Lana, this is Hollywood. None of this is even remotely necessary.” And he was right on the money. Not only were a handful of sharp jabs to the culture tossed in from time to time — an especially nice touch: the seductress who dropped Archer like a bad habit when she found out he wasn’t a producer — but the annual fundraiser for the American Tinnutus Association was such a lavish affair, one must wonder whether the money spent throwing the party would’ve been better served being given directly to the cause (a practice which is sadly typical among actual Hollywood “philanthropists”).

Archer may have set the pace, but creator Adam Reed let the biggest buffoon at the ball — a local, of course — deliver the decisive blow. While trying to court Lana to board his “movie” in one fashion or another, Academy Award-winning director Ellis Crane briefly implied the film would center around someone like Lana. “Oh, wow! It’s a female lead?” she excitedly replied. “What?! [hearty laughter] Oh, god, no.” While it’s worth noting this joke was made on a show with a man at the center of it, “Archer” has earned its place on the right side of things by giving its majority-size female characters more to say and do than any other spy or private eye story out there. 

“A black astronaut, Cyril. That’s like killing a unicorn!” (Best Quote)

“Is it just to rub it in his face?”
“Man, I’d rub it in his face!”
– Pam

“Can’t or won’t?” (Analysis)

So, let’s address the elephant in the room: Did Lana kill Archer? He’s wearing the same clothes as he was found in during Episode 1, and it was Veronica’s pool in which his body floated. So we very well could be looking at the first part of the story that catches us up to where we started. As for Lana’s involvement, yes, Archer tried to justify the kiss by making it part of his mission — stating, before he made his move, that it was a “win win” in that he got to kiss her and she got to make her ex-husband jealous — but Lana doesn’t know that. Nor is she likely to presume such an action was legitimately part of the mission, just as it seems unlikely she’d accept such an explanation from Archer. And, frankly, Lana has shot Archer before — just not fatally. With a baby involved this time, maybe she aims a little closer to center.

It’s in this connective tissue that “Bel Panto: Part I” is most successful. For the most part, it’s an episode laying the groundwork for things to come without bluntly stating, “Hey! This is the night Archer gets shot!” But that subtlety works to its advantage in that the inconspicuous nature of the episode blends perfectly with the garish clown masks dominating the later half. Who’s thinking about Archer face up in a pool when Cheryl is telling stories about clown robbers named Mr. Romper, Mr. Oingo and Mr. Boingo? (And can Cheryl tell all the stories from now on? She’s great at it.) We’ll see how the set up pays off next week, but in the long history of first-halves to two-part “Archer” episodes (presuming this is only a two-parter), “Bel Panto” ranks near the top. 

Grade: B+

READ MORE: Chris Parnell on the ‘Grotesque’ Moments of ‘Archer’ and His Resemblance to J.J. Abrams

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