American Dad! Season 13 Episode 20: “Gifted Me Liberty”

Episode grade: A-

Stan’s job at the CIA is one of the core features of the show, stretching all the way back to its conception. Though Stan himself has evolved in many ways, the nature of his job as an international spook has basically remained more or less the same. He alternates between being a lowly desk jockey and an elite super-spy as the plot requires, and at the whims of his perennially unstable boss Avery Bullock. And it’s his relationship with Bullock that is one of the true, limitless fonts of inspirations from which this show draws.

Bullock, I must say, is one of the great secondary characters in sitcom history. Not only is he delightfully eccentric, but his voice acting provided by the ineffable Sir Patrick Stewart is simply transcendent. Stan’s job might otherwise be boringly clinical and arbitrary in general to the overall show, but Bullock’s (and Stewart’s) limitless enthusiasm and lunacy can set up another thousand story lines before it would ever go stale.

This time, Bullock discovers during the CIA office’s White Elephant (a.k.a. “Evil Santa”) party that someone has forgotten to bring a gift, and he’s the odd man left out. Inconsolable with rage, Bullock deputizes Stan to discover who was the culprit, and Stan goes on a mission to force out the guilty party by any means… even though he knows it was him. A series of hilarious encounters with his fellow agents winds up breeding resentment among his peers without getting him any closer to a solution, so he confesses his dilemma at Roger’s Place.

Thankfully, Roger, the most accomplished liar around, decides to take up Stan’s cause. In the guise of his new persona, the hard-boiled detective Ace Crouton, Roger instructs Stan in the intricate dance of lying one’s way out of a tough situation. Under Ace’s tutelage, Stan manages to pin the blame for forgetting to bring a gift to the Evil Santa party on an agent that has been recently killed in the line of duty, but this scheme backfires when Bullock revokes his widow’s pension in revenge. Stan, ever the just and righteous man, vows to make good on Davenport’s pension, and winds up briefly taking a night shift job at a convenience mart.

Eventually, of course, Stan’s conscious forces him to confess to Bullock that it was he that forgot to bring the gift. Bullock is upset that Stan made him desecrate the funeral of an innocent CIA agent, though he forgives Stan on the condition that he remembered to bring a gift to the new Evil Santa party. *Wahhh waaaaahhhhhh*

Meanwhile, Steve discovers that there’s actually a potential advantage to being the imitable “innocent good boy”. Girls may not want to date a good boy, but they’re more than happy to have a good boy as their façade for dating the bad boys that their parents would never approve of. He quickly capitalizes on this new opportunity, playing the fake good boy that all girls’ parents are happy to send their daughters out on dates with, racking up enough business that both Hayley and Klaus have to be retained as business assistants. Eventually this business scheme of assisting mid-teen girls hooking up with 20-something bad boys comes back around to him when the CDC traces a “conquistador measles” epidemic to the very handkerchief that inspired Steve to be the gentleman that started the entire scheme. Steve is immune due to the virus only attacking the sexually mature.

Both Stan and Steve are elevated once again to their character’s heights, though once again in a different and novel way. Thirteen seasons on and we’re still being surprised and delighted. Not every single episode can be a magnum opus, but for me personally it’s really hard to believe how many truly solid, fun, textbook-enjoyable episodes they’re still able to turn out..

Random observations:

I totally want a pizza slice sleeping bag.

“The torture variety pack is tempting… heretic’s fork, metal spanker, anal tarring brush!” “It’s a barbecue set!”

“I’m going to f— this f—er in the tushie!” God, Patrick Stewart gives some epic line readings.

Steve’s funeral scene… god, I had to pause to laugh for a solid minute. The ICP makeup was that delightful American Dad!-style escalation beyond the pale.

“Okay, okay! I’m the one taking dumps in the urinals! I call it an ‘inside the park home-run’!”

Damn, there’s a lot of “shit”s in this episode.

“These are the same hands that choked Lisa Bonet when she beat me out for the role of Denise Huxtable on A Different World. That was a lie. The role was created for her. But I did choke her.”

“I declare prima nocta!” [Editor’s note: this refers to the Medieval tradition of a lord being able to sleep with a subservient man’s new bride before the man can]

“Stan, you’re working late again? I need you here to explain Kimmel’s jokes!”

“Roger? You sell sperm too?” “Sell??”

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