A friend once described my sense of humor as “delightfully crass,” and I’d say he’s pretty spot-on. Naturally, that means I love Archer, an animated show on FX about a delightfully crass secret agent/James Bond parody who works at ISIS–not those very real-life bad guys who are currently ravaging the Middle East, but the fictional International Secret Intelligence Service–under the agency’s director, his meddling, withholding, hilarious mother
Lucille Bluth Mallory Archer.
I’ve stormed through quite a few TV shows while living in Albania because 1) I live alone so I get bored easily and there’s no one around to judge me for how much TV I watch, 2) there’s nothing else to do when it’s super hot outside in the summer, and 3) there’s nothing to do when it’s super cold outside in the winter (besides book-learnin’ and other things that would not contribute to the slow decay of my brain). I had heard about Archer when I lived in the States but didn’t start watching until this summer, and me and my 18-year-old boy sense of humor were instantly hooked.
And to my delight, the plot of episode 7 of season 4–“Live and Let Dine”–is centered around Albania! I got excited, of course, because Albania isn’t mentioned in American media all too often. If you’d like to watch the episode, you can stream it here. Or, if you’re a very busy super important person and don’t have enough time, or if your sense of humor is more mature than mine and you only watch black-and-white French films so you can feel superior to others, here’s a synopsis:
The ISIS agents are hired to work undercover at a 5-star restaurant because they were tipped off about a bomb threat at a State dinner honoring the cohort of Albanian ambassadors to America. Unfortunately, the night of the dinner happens to coincide with the filming of a reality TV show, Bastard Chef, an obvious parody of Gordon Ramsay. Sterling (as usual) tortures Cyril with his antics while gaining favor with the celebrity chef, and Lana struggles as the restaurant’s overwhelmed hostess. Meanwhile, Mallory and the rest of the staff try desperately to get reservations.
I re-watched the episode for funsies and so I could break down what they have to say about Albania. And for my Albanian followers, feel free to accost me and/or the show in the comments if I say anything that’s not accurate:
- “Not only do I need to create a meal out of some yogurt and a sheep’s head…” They hit the nail on the [sheep’s] head with this one! In the opening scene, Chef Casteau (voiced by Anthony Bourdain) is complaining to the camera that he’s been ordered to cook Albanian cuisine for the diplomats. Sheep’s head is a delicacy in rural Albania. I’ve never managed to try it myself but I’ve seen it served at weddings, engagement parties, etc. Usually on a special occasion, people will roast an entire goat or sheep and serve it cut up into big hunks (mmmmm!). As for the yogurt, I’ve written about kos before, and Albanians love this stuff. I’ve warmed up to it, especially in the form of salce kosi, a yogurt dish similar to tzatziki sauce. Sooo good with bread, potatoes, and veggies dipped in!
- “If anything goes wrong tonight, US-Albanian relations could become even more unstable.” In this scene, Lana is lecturing Sterling about the importance of everything going smoothly at this dinner. Archer is ambiguously set in the past, mostly during the Cold War era, so when this episode was set Albania was likely under the rule of brutal communist dictator Enver Hoxha, who was loyal to the Soviet Union and Stalin in particular. I’ve had many conversations with Albanians about communism, and although some maintain that things were better in those times–particularly the economy–it was a dark, difficult time for Albania. It makes sense that America and Albania would have a tense relationship, which is difficult to imagine because generally post-communism Albanians LOVE America.
- Little Albanian flags on the limo: These guys did their research! If we got a clearer view, we could be able to tell if it’s the authentic flag with the correct number of eagle feathers or if it’s the phony one mass-produced in 2012 for the 100-year independence celebration.
- The entreé, tave kosi: Partial credit for this one. Tave kosi, which is a real Albanian dish, is not bright green.
- “Gëzuar!” Partial credit for this, too. When the chef and the Albanian ambassador toast, they say, “Gëzuar!” which is the traditional Albanian version of “Cheers!” However, they inexplicably pronounce it like Sean Connery would.
I won’t ruin the ending for you. But overall, the Archer team did a fairly decent job portraying Albania. It’s clear that someone spent a few minutes on Wikipedia before writing this episode.