It's a dark and stormy day in...wherever ISIS is...and Malory Archer is particularly cranky. Her recent mammogram found something and she wants everyone else to share her pain, without saying why she's so irritable. Of course, once Pam finds out, everyone else knows within seconds. Archer promptly faints. (At least he didn't throw up.)
While Malory's test results come back clean, Sterling's so freaked out about his mom's diagnosis that he goes to see a doctor, who asks him about alcoholism (which he denies while drinking) and exposure to radiation (which involves a nuclear warhead, one plutonium rod, and the nurse whose name he can't remember that he slept with in the X-ray room). It's unsurprising after all that, then, that the doctor finds a mass and declares it stage two breast cancer. You knew that with all the things (and people) that Archer gets into, he had to catch something sometime. I'm just surprised that it's not an STD.
He breaks the news of his diagnosis to his colleagues, and Lana is shocked by his positive attitude and suddenly rearranged priorities. Archer decides he wants to voluntarily spend time with Seamus, and gets the two of them tattoos of each other's names, much to Trinnette's disgust. From there, his behaviors only get weirder: he decides to take Woodhouse's Vegas vacation for him, getting arrested under Cyril's name (meaning that Cyril gets extradited and beaten up in jail), and when he returns, he gets gifts for his coworkers, drunkenly blubbers to his mom, and uses his diagnosis to manipulate Lana into spending the night with him.
The following morning, Archer goes in for surgery, which Malory tells us that he was four hours late for, but it goes fine and he emerges cancer-free. Once he's in the clear physically, he's right back to being his usual insufferable self, including not being able to remember the name of his doctor two hours later and having the attention span of a small child. Of course, that's until his doctor mixes up his diagnosis at least three times in the space of five minutes. The last phone call suggests that the cancer has spread to Archer's lymph nodes and he's not in the clear after all. "What's cancer?" Carol/Cheryl wonders aloud as Archer isn't sure whether to panic or not.
"Stage Two" shows us that for all the bravado Archer puts on, when his back is honestly and truly against the wall, he'll fold like a cheap card table. It also clues us into the idea that he's not a complete jerk, as long as he's not distracted by booze, or available women, or shiny objects. This is a kinder, gentler Sterling Archer. Yet the humor comes from the fact that we know this won't last. A reformed Archer is like a Michael Bay movie that doesn't involve lots of explosions and effects: such a thing does not exist. And even when he's trying to be nice, Archer is still the funniest pain in the behind on television.
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