4. Bartleby the Scrivener?
This whole reference gets pretty well explained in the show. Bartleby the Scrivener is a short story by Herman Melville and it really is a hard read, or at the very least a tedious read. I did some paper on Melville in the 10th grade and retained absolutely nothing except for the chapter about whale semen in the middle of Moby-Dick (really, not worth getting into).
The story of Bartleby is about a guy who starts using the phrase “I’d prefer not to” as an existential plea for solitude and ends up driving everyone around him crazy. It was made into an ultra weird indie movie starring Crispin Glover in the titular role. “Scrivener” is an old-timey word for “scribe” but — based on this book and movie — could just as well mean “lazy assh*le.”
Here’s a clip from the Crispin Glover rendition:
And here’s the whole friggin short story if you want to impress no one with your reading prowess.
5. Hey, Eugene Debs (S01E08)
In episode 9, Lana seems surprised when the striking drones still haven’t resolved their labor problems with their gin-soaked manager. Archer points out that her time scale is off by evoking the name of a famous Union reformer, Eugene V. Debs, a Labor party organizer, socialist Presidential candidate and all around Pinko. Debs was finally arrested and sentenced to prison for pissing off Woodrow Wilson. At his sentencing he uttered these semi-remembered words:
Your Honor, years ago I recognized my kinship with all living beings, and I made up my mind that I was not one bit better than the meanest on earth. I said then, and I say now, that while there is a lower class, I am in it, and while there is a criminal element I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.
Eugene Debs is actually a pretty cool guy and doesn’t deserve to have any of my sass splattered on him. So we’ll move on to number 6.
6. “I bet he wishes he had Bilbo’s Coat of Dwarven Mithril” (S01E03)
When Lana and ISIS’s diversity double whammy, Conway Stern, are arguing over the completion of several missions they watch as a troop transport is blown up during “Operation Frodo.” Lacking the nerdular knowledge to come up with one of his famous riffs, Conway just makes an off-handed reference to hobbits. This gives the tubby nerd behind the controls to drop this heady gem. But what exactly is a coat of Dwarven Mithril?
So see, in Middle Earth… mithril is a type of metal found in the J.R.R. Tolkien universe, and it’s basically the Bruce Lee of magic metals. Gandalf explained it thusly:
Mithril! All folk desired it. It could be beaten like copper, and polished like glass; and the Dwarves could make of it a metal, light and yet harder than tempered steel. Its beauty was like to that of common silver, but the beauty of mithril did not tarnish or grow dim.
So in these times of economic insecurity, the U.S. Treasury recommends buying Mithril! Except it doesn’t really exist.
Anyway, a shirt (or coat) of mithril was recovered from the dragon
Smoug Smaug in the book The Hobbit and given to Bilbo Baggins. It eventually finds its way to Frodo who gets his ass saved five different times by the handy shirt, shielding him from Orc attacks and even once from Saruman the Douche.
Phew! I feel like I need a toke off an inhaler.
This nerdy piece of knowledge earns the drone who mumbles it the nickname “The Hobbit,” causing Archer to mistake him for a little person. (S01E08)