Episode grade: A-
Ah, good ol’ Stan. Patriarch of the Smith family, breadwinner, conservative stalwart, father to two crazy, irresponsible kids, father-in-law to a worthless stoner who shares way too much information, husband of a chronic kleptomaniac, caretaker of an insane pansexual alien who constantly gets in way over his head… sometimes it gets to be too much. We’ve seen this happen to him before, of course, most notably in 2008’s “Spring Break-Up”, in which Roger turns the backyard into an MTV-style Spring Break party and Stan gets himself a college-age female Spring Break buddy who makes him feel young and free again. As with any non-serialized sitcom, Stan winds up embarrassing himself thinking Spring Break can last forever, and eventually sees the error of his hedonistic ways and returns with a new appreciation of his grown-up family life and loving, understanding wife.
In this new episode, the plot’s motivation is basically the same: Stan is stressed out by the insanity of his family and needs an outlet before it kills him. Thanks to this show’s remarkable ability to actualize similar plots in wildly different ways, though, it’s not Roger’s crazy scheming that pushes Stan into this midlife crisis-style
escape. Rather it’s Avery Bullock, his — to put it politely — eccentric boss, who discovers the CIA has been hacked by South American cyberterrorists, and in a drug-induced delirium decides Point Break style surfers must be to blame. He winds up tasking Stan with infiltrating them, something Stan sees as an opportunity to get some much needed relaxation.
Of course, it turns out that Stan adapts quickly and starts to love the surfer’s lifestyle, his new friend Kai, and Kai’s chill surfing buddies, and does whatever he can to keep living the dream. Once Bullock goes from “super high” to “medium high” and realizes the Point Break thing was stupid, Stan robs a bank with dummies dressed as his new surfing buddies so he can give Bullock a reason to stay on the case. This predictably backfires and the CIA moves in on the surfers themselves, crazy violence ensues, et cetera. Ultimately it all resolves to the typical “reset mode” ending, but via the kind of trademark “out of left field” wackiness that this show truly excels at.
Roger’s crazy machinations don’t play as heavily into this episode as much as they usually do, though they’re not without their own amusement. He tries (and surprisingly fails, despite his attempts to woo the FIFA judge) to get the World Cup to come to the Smiths’ backyard, and failing that, changes tack to land the Boston Marathon, before Stan returns and puts a stop to all that silliness. Add in Hayley and Jeff naively thinking they’re ready to have kids, and Steve’s bizarre and vaguely pederastic friendship with a random drifter who winds up being thrown out by Stan before he can murder Steve, and you have a full cauldron of American Dad! absurdity and hilarity.
This is the fourth episode in a row that I’ve enjoyed quite a bit, and I think I can say at this point that, despite a middling premiere, this season has recaptured at least some of the glory and magic from its peak years. I can’t express how grateful I am that TBS rescued this show from Fox’s neglect and managed to retain all the voice acting talent and so much of the writing staff that made American Dad! such a unique, brilliant, and amazingly durable animated sitcom.
“Hey dad! I made a new friend on the edge of town! He won’t tell me his name!” “No! That’s an inappropriate friend!”
“Jeff smokes so much weed–” “HOW MUCH WEED DOES HE SMOKE?!” “That… that there’s no way he could get a girl pregnant? I mean… it’s not really a joke… but I can think of one!!” Classic American Dad! craziness.
Also, a bunch of those random characters are familiar.
“Look, Stan! You can’t even see the pack of lightbulbs I’m stealing!” “We can afford those!” Francine’s back to her shoplifting ways, apparently.
The witch-like pharmacy lady disappearing back into the paper towels stack is a great sight gag.
“What’s your zip code, bitch?!” “And DON’T… lie!” The antagonistic surfer pack is hilarious. Sucks we don’t see
“Back off! The beach is for everyone!” “Says who?” “The city bylaws!” “Yeah? Well, I’m gonna go down to City Hall, and talk to the head of the records department, and then we’ll see about your little theory!”
“You know why I love surfing, Stan? It’s all about learning to let go. You know, I fathered 6 kids in 3 different countries… I just let ‘em all go!”
“When I have a baby, I’m going to name it… Recycling!”
Stan eating starfish… so crazy random.
“The tip is my favorite part, Smith! The tip’s all I need! Any more than that, and it’s TOO MUCH!” They must have a contest in the writers’ room to see the craziest things they can get Sir Patrick Stewart to say.
Since when did Bullock think of Stan as his best friend?
“I’m sorry, Kai. But there are worries. There are lots of worries. For instance, I’m standing on a jellyfish. And the jellyfish has attracted wolves. And the wolves are being hunted by poachers.” “You’ve seen too much!”
“Now let’s find out if I’m pointing this rocket launcher the right way!”