I assumed the title of this episode was a reference to something specific, and it is: Un Chien Andalou (translated: An Andalusian Dog) is a 1929 silent film directed by Luis Buñuel and co-written by Salvador Dalí. Thank you, Google!
I thought knowing that would make me feel smart, or that it would at least enrich my understanding of the episode in some way. But I'm pretty sure it has nothing to do with the episode's content (although I haven't seen the film, so I can't really say for sure). Morocco, the North African country where the episode is set, is French-influenced; Tangier, to be exact– it was occupied by both France and Spain in the early 20th century, and from 1912 to 1956, Morocco was a protectorate of France, basically meaning it was their responsibility to protect the nation.
Who would have thought that watching Archer would teach me world history? Or motivate me in any way to learn anything?
So that’s why the title works. Calling it "A Tangerine Dog" (as in a dog from Tangier, Morocco) is mostly just a play on words in reference to a movie Adam Reed (probably) watched, but it also indirectly relates to the mission Archer and Lana undertake. Just as France protected Morocco, ISIS is now called in to retrieve microfilm containing information about nuclear weapons in "Pakistan, or one of the –akistans," thereby protecting the nation from new world conquests.
"Sometimes we do good work," Archer says. "So promise me you won't quit again." In "Un Chien Tangerine," Archer and Lana do a ton of arguing. This isn’t necessarily new to their relationship, but specific details of their interaction in this episode put up red flags, especially after the last two weeks. She's upset with him for getting drunk, smoking hashish, mingling with Dutch high school girls (or were they college juniors?), and because, in her opinion, he is not taking their mission to extract a Moroccan agent named Kazak seriously.
Their relationship is now over four years deep, and these two characters haven't really dealt with the tension between them in any overt way. "Tangerine" begins with the quickly-dissolved implication that Lana and Archer slept together. Lana later implies that Archer paid extra for the "room where Allen Ginsberg wrote Howl" because it only has one bed, meaning she thinks he did want to sleep with her.
They bicker and fight; Lana accuses him of not taking the mission seriously even though he displays proficiency as an escape driver, is able to get Kazak to obey him (who, it turns out, is a large dog), and she is the one that throws their English-to-Arabic dictionary out the window. She gets upset and storms off into the desert with no supplies, and Archer comes to the rescue. He uncovers microfilm attached to Kazak's collar, but she thinks he is holding a wedding ring and proposing to her. So she punches him in the face.
Putting two characters in a real relationship is a hard decision for a writer's room to make, and because Archer gets so much mileage out of complete dysfunction, I'm not sure there's any real way for them to make a Lana-Archer relationship work. But it seems that the past few episodes have been leading up to just that (I wrote about that last week, as a matter of fact), so maybe big changes are on the way. As we approach the series finale, I expect a big plot twist, but I assumed it would involve Barry, who has been tagged on to a handful of episodes already this season. I guess we'll just have to wait and see, as it's usually pretty hard to forecast where Archer is going.
Another very welcome and very major plot point in "Tangerine" involved Pam Poovey, who apparently took the ISIS field agent test and aced it. Structurally, it has been a struggle for the writers to shake up the character pairings (a lot of Cheryl/Carol and Pam, and a lot of secondary core ISIS members tagging along on missions for basically no reason at all).
As I said, I welcome this change because it shakes up the natural order of things. As the show continues into its fifth year (it has already been renewed by FX), the characters must continue to develop in new ways. Pam has always gotten big laughs from me, and putting her in high-pressure situations opens up new opportunities for the character. Additionally, the underexplored nature of her aptitude for bareknuckle fight club gambling den matches can be expanded upon with Pam working as a field agent. After all, she has already bought three pantsuits.
Ben Wachtel likes baseball, the Boston Celtics, pancakes, tacos, and swam collegiately at Purdue University. You can follow him on Twitter at @benwachtel24.