“Look, now I’m a cartoon character!”
“Hey it’s famous billionaire, Fung Wah!”
Full disclosure, I became terribly excited about this ridiculous sounding plot ever since I heard about it two weeks ago. The show has gone in some wonderfully surreal, meta directions before. We’ve been reminded a number of times that this is actually a show that has actors portraying these characters, rather than it merely being a cartoon. So when I heard that American Dad, not Stan, but the show itself was being “sold to a Chinese businessman” I got all sorts of excited about the potential this installment could have. Would it be a poorly dubbed episode? Would the entire thing be subtitled?
I couldn’t wait, and I was extremely happy when the episode began with us being greeted by a live-action, Fung Wah—the Chinese businessman in question who acquires said show (in a “Jack in the Beanstalk-esque” trade), with this gag going as far as Fung Wah appearing as the executive producer in the episode’s in-episode credits and getting some gratuitous plugs and fan service throughout the episode. Just when you feel the episode isn’t leaning into all of this hard enough, it suddenly kicks it into overdrive. The Fung Wah references become more cumbersome, almost like the episode is drowning in them. You can almost picture Fung Wah going through the script and gleefully adding shout outs to himself in an increasingly knee-jerk panic reaction that there aren’t enough.
Before you know it, Steve and company are literally having a conversation with an animated Fung Wah about how the show is now better than ever(!!) This is by far my favorite material out of the year (and I think the highlight of the TBS season) and it’s a shame it had to come so late in the season and after a hiatus that many viewers might not have returned from. It’s an idea I love so much and one of the series’ biggest creative boons since the pretend-play episode, “Blood Crieth Unto Heaven.”
Elsewhere, in the more grounded plot of the episode, when Stan finds himself forgetting his anniversary with Francine yet again: Rather than go through the humiliating process of groveling, Stan decides to kidnap Francine and send her to a mental institution while he buys time to build the ultimate surprise for her. And remember, that’s the less weird of the two plots.
We’ve seen the Stan and Francine anniversary topic come up enough times throughout the series that this is at least a fresh angle to a stalwart well for the show. Like all of the best Stan plots, this one begins with him having the best of intentions, without it ultimately escalating far out of control with Francine suffering in the process. The result here is that Stan ends up being Francine’s trigger (a revelation that feels several seasons in the making) with the damage leading to Francine being withheld for several more months. Naturally Stan’s plan of action is commit himself to the institution to break Francine out, and it’s not long before we have the makings here.
As much as I’m all for a good ol’ fashioned heist situation, it’s kind of chilling to see a knocked out, glazed over Francine locked away simply because Stan’s a bad husband. Sure it all works out in the end—and they’ve arguably been through worse—but it’s pretty bad behavior that’s kind of just glossed over in the end (although that tranq dart scene is pretty damn great). Who knows, Fung Wah probably deleted out some of the more empathetic scenes from the institution.
It’s also worth mentioning that there’s no Jeff of any sort to be seen here. It’s entirely possible this episode’s production order might have originally come before last week’s, but if that’s not the case, it would have been nice to at least had him drawn silently in the corner.
Finally, there’s a hint of a story with Roger needing to get rid of some of his wardrobe. It’s become so big that it’s literally consuming and spilling out of the house in a physics-breaking House of Leaves-esque fashion. This is what is paired with a lot of the Fung Wah material, and arguably this really doesn’t go anywhere, but I was into the gimmick so much I could look past the repetitive structure of it all. I’ll take insane ambition over banality any day, even if that means it has a few kinks in it
All of this is sort of wrapped up for us as Fung Wah interrupts everything and tells us:
“Anyways, that’s our show, American Dad! Famous cartoon. Keep watching and tell your friends. I love all my viewers. Bye! Oh, I forget to tell you what happened to Stan and Francine…Everything work out!”
And then the final moments of the episode spill into a lengthy, thorough ad for Fung Wah’s hotel chain, clothing line, Swiss chocolates, and crystal stemware.
A lot of people might hate all of this, but it’s a brilliant experiment akin to something Andy Kaufman would have orchestrated. By the end of the episode we learn that Fung Wah, ever the proletariat, has flipped American Dad to another Chinese businessman for a profit. Now the show has been turned into American Chinese Dad as we’re told it’s “1000 times better.” We then get to watch a brief clip of the episode that does exactly what I hoped this episode would do in the first place, as we’re treated to a wonderfully broken version of the show and given the best of both worlds.
And do not forget, together we have love. We get happy, go go go!