American Dad!: S13E03 “Hayley Smith, Seal Team Six”

Episode grade: B+

There’s a trope in family comedy that’s practically universal and one that few shows have managed to resist: even more than the fat, stupid father, even more than the annoying and/or crazy harpy mother… it’s the buzzkill pain-in-the-ass daughter. Yes, it’s pretty much always the girl who’s the one member of the family who, episode after episode, season after season, absolutely never lets anyone enjoy things or have fun, because… uh… girls, AMIRITE GUYZ??! (Seriously, I grew up with an older sister so I know it’s not that far off the mark, but it’s so often taken to an absurd and thoroughly unfair extreme in TV.)

Exemplified most famously by Lisa Simpson and her now-27-year crusade against anything her family might enjoy, Hayley was originally cast solidly in that same mold: a one-dimensional, tree-hugging, authority-hating, righteously-vegetarian hippie whose existence served as a comedic foil to those other monsters in her family who dare to enjoy meat, drive polluting vehicles, wear leather shoes, or eat at restaurants that have unfair wage policies and cause diabetes. Thankfully, like every other character in this show, Hayley evolved rapidly into a much more complex and interesting person, though never really losing sight of her core feature: being a frowny, fun-killing pain in the ass. Something must be done!

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Cue Roger, the show’s Swiss Army knife of plot advancement. In the guise of perhaps his most enduring character, Roger dolled up as the faux-psychiatrist Dr. Penguin can do so much for advancing the plot in the most absurd, amusing, and rarely wholly-healthy ways. This time, he’s brought on board once the whole family (including Jeff) comes to the same inescapable conclusion: something must have happened to Hayley that turned her into a bitter pill who complains (er… “has an opinion”) about everything and is incapable of smiling. Through hypnosis, Hayley’s ability to smile and enjoy life is restored at the expense of reverting back to her 6 year old self, back before whatever changed her actually happened. After some rather impressive sleuthing by Klaus and Jeff (complete with ripping off Steve and Roger’s own make-believe detectives) and discovering the original cause, things are made right again by Jeff clubbing an aquarium seal to death. (Wow, could a sentence like that exist anywhere else in pop culture?)

In the B-plot, we have Steve and his friends being exposed (literally) by a slow-cooking pervert to the wonders of slow-cooking pork in a crock pot. It’s an utterly pointless diversion obviously designed to fill in the gaps in the running time of the A-plot, but… what the hell, it gave us some hilarious moments, and what more can you ask for? One of this show’s greatest strength has always been making an unnecessary B-plot enjoyable through great lines, great voice acting, and an unbridled appeal to absurdity. Steve’s various hallucinations brought on by the ham (both waiting too long to serve it to his friends, and then serving to his friends long after it had spoiled) were classic, solid gold Steve. “This isn’t an ambulance! It’s a goddamn HAMBULANCE!”

Overall, another good sign that in this season American Dad! will continue to shine almost as brightly as we’d only dared to hope.

Random observations:

This show should have Steve singing at least once per episode. It’s, just, so frickin’ great.

[Hayley looking at a photo album] “Why’d you get out your paper Facebook?”

Roger going around undisguised around Jeff is going to take some getting used to.

“The slower the cook… the better the taste…” “That guy’s so weird about pork. Anyway… I’M BATMAN.” [Exposes self]

Rachael MacFarlane does a really impressive job with 6-year-old Hayley’s voice.

“You’re supposed to wear them until they fall off, it’s in the rules!” No episode is complete without a beautifully silly Bullock line.

“Eight hours without food. It’s like I’m a poor!”

“This pork isn’t coming out until it’s absolutely perfect.” “Well, I’ve always said I’m not gonna come out until I’m absolutely perfect. (Gasp!)” That marks the second gay line from Snot in three episodes.

“Children are more sexual than we realize. It was my work in that area that cemented my tenure at the University of the Ozarks. GO POSSUMS!”

Patty-cake between Dr. Penguin and emotionally-six-year-old Hayley was oddly adorable.

“I will help! I’ve been hiding all week from that six-year-old asshole.”

“FISH and the JEFF-MAN!” Dee Bradley Baker and Jeff Fischer reenacting Seth MacFarlane and Scott Grimes’ venerable Wheels and the Legman acapella theme was awesome.

“Would I be imposing if I asked you to put a camera in your pee-hole?” Joe Chandler is the unexpectedly and massively (yet still hilariously) random creepy character that only this show can pull off without going over the line.

“I gotta share this pork with my friends immediately!” [Looks down at erection] “Oh come on, every morning? …. YOU should be in that slow cooker, you pig!” Masturbation jokes with Steve will never not be hilarious.

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