After episodes that've seen Archer visiting Borneo, Argentina, the Alps, and deepest Wisconsin, "Vision Quest" crams all of its action (and nearly every regular character) into the office's busted elevator. It's a brilliant idea that leads to some of the show's funniest exchanges to date. Spoilers ahead!
As we open, everyone's bleary-eyed and grumbling (except Krieger, who's jumpy as hell and fondling a thermos) as they haul ass to a mysterious, mandatory 7am meeting. There's a bit of foreshadowing (Lana: "Keep your panties on!" Pam: "I'm one step ahead of you ... or am I?") and a throwback to last week (Ray: "Oh no, it's Maximum Overdrive all over again!") Inevitably, now that the entire office (except for Malory) is squeezed into uncomfortably close shared oxygen, the elevator wheezes, shudders, and comes to a stubborn halt. "We're stuck at the top ... I HOPE!" Archer intones.
What unfolds over the next 20 minutes, in more or less real time, is claustrophobic survival horror and co-worker aggression at its most absurd and hilarious. The usual stuck-elevator tactics fail, of course; prying the door open allows the between-floors group a peek into their darkened office, where useless robot Milton putters, making stacks of toast. The emergency telephone doesn't work ("Typical!"), and cell service is a no-go (thanks to Krieger, who installed an RF jammer on the roof of the elevator "so people would quit staring at their phones and talk to each other!"). Also, the trap door on the roof is locked from the outside, for reasons known only to Cyril, who admits to taking great interest in elevators ... you know, as a hobby ("I honestly have no response to that," Archer admits).
So what's the next step? Panicking about hunger seems about right, though the crew's been stranded for five minutes, tops, at this point. Archer thinks they should ration out whatever food is available (see, he was lost at sea once and ate all the food while the other guy was asleep, so he knows the protocol), but nobody's really got any provisions other than Pam, who loudly gobbles her bear-claw pastry rather than share. She's also, of course, carrying a bottle of malt liquor ("This is a fawty, shawty!"), which goes down the hatch posthaste. Burrrrrpp.
Shoehorned into this discussion of starvation, rapid-fire yuks galore: an involved takedown of Cyril's sweater vest (leading to an unexpected Silence of the Lambs reference, and Archer's eventual apology for wanting to use the garment as a table cloth: "It's cashmere! There are rules!") Cheryl/Carol's suggestion that she might be a mind-reader, based on her uncanny ability to suss out what everyone wishes they were doing right that very second (Lana: "I'm not addicted to lecturing people!" Cyril: "I'm not addicted to masturbating!") Ray's color blindness. Krieger's maybe-probably clone-ness. A running joke about whether or not all of this action is taking place in Soviet Russia. Archer's declaration that "We need to have a serious talk about phrasing." And the realization that all assembled have seen Pam's vagina ... and Lana's, too.
Amid all this, troubleshooting continues. Ray's able to get one bar on his phone by wedging his arm through the crack in the door, but the 911 operator (who addresses him as "ma'am," to Archer's utter delight) thinks he's a prank caller. Just when the situation deteriorates into all-out brawl (three words: elaborate voicemail hoax), Malory arrives and gets the elevator to open. (Best obscure reference in the episode is the visual homage to this famous movie scene.) Though the viewer may suspect, along with the characters, that Malory's arranged for the elevator to stick as part of some elaborate team-building exercise, it seems that wasn't the plan at all. Nope, the plan was for everybody to gather 'round and watch Vision Quest. Though that certainly would've been a valuable bonding experience (at 7am, no less), we'd have missed out on all the wondrous dialogue that came before. Literally! And ... scene.
Image via Indiewire.