American Dad: Big Stan on Campus Review
A perfectly pleasant American Dad sees Stan becoming security for a college campus and Roger opening a bed and breakfast.
“I feel like I’m watching Paul Blart, except I’m not peeing with laughter.”
This season of American Dad has mostly focused on Stan so far, which is hardly an anomaly for the show. The character and his job at the CIA have been a deep well of stories, so it’s not surprising to see the show once again playing with the idea of subverting Stan’s status there and his confidence in himself.
Very quickly, after hearing that there are some very heated games of monopoly being held between Johnson’s mother and his sister, the episode jumps into the meat of things by Bullock announcing that the CIA is experiencing budget cuts. It might have to do with a lot of things in the infrastructure, or possibly the giant golden polar bear hover car that spews out gold coins that Bullock rides in on. Stan ends up not realizing that he’s volunteered for furlough and being designated campus security at Groff community college.
Meanwhile Roger tries to help out the financial situation in the Smith household (as the weekly pay checks that Stan is now taking in aren’t doing much, in spite of how much they might excite him in their week-liness) by finally opening that bed and breakfast, “The Inn Under the Attic” that he’s always talking about. Roger’s only hesitation is that his five circle (or are they owl eyes? Areolas?) rating on TripPlanner might suffer from the experience of going into business. The idea that Roger’s non-existing B & B already has a rating, in spite of not being open yet, is some complicated Roger logic at its best. Of course all of the satisfied clients that have “stayed” there so far have all been various guises of Roger.
Back on campus, Stan takes to the security game pretty swimmingly, whether it’s helping crippled mushroom-soccer players, doing air guitar riffs that are confused for seizures, trying to locate the school’s missing orangutan mascot (and the suspicious appearance of the new teacher Mr. Tang Ooh Ooh Ah Ah), or becoming crunch brothers (mixing five separate cereals together). This is largely due to Stan wanting to be thought of as the cool uncle of the security guards, there to chill and hang out, rather than actually keeping anyone safe.
Stan wanting to just have fun and relax while amongst frivolity is consistent with his character, but it feels somewhat off that he would just disregard keeping the campus safe as a means to fit in. Stan has always been insecure, but his desire for justice has always been a strong backbone to him as well.
Quickly Stan finds his policing attitudes changing when he’s not seen as an authority figure and is essentially rendered useless, as the cool uncle is unable to be taken seriously. Frankly, this is a pretty predictable route for the episode to go down, and the sort of storyline that we’ve seen often with Stan. It moves smoothly enough here, but it’s hardly the most engaging Stan storyline, and you can’t help but wish to be returning to Roger’s side of things with Mr. Cavendish’s unreasonable standards (your dewberry bushes better be pristine!).
Hailey is briefly mentioned in relation to the college (before stating that she’s always dropped out by midterms), but is then swiftly forgotten. Having Hailey around too would have at least added another level on top of what was already going on and inject even more flavor into this. It’s all still entertaining though and a more than satisfactory effort here.
At the inn, Mr. Cavendish expects “absolute perfection” from Roger and his staff during his stay, and is sure to tell them that he’s almost always underwhelmed. While there are not many beats to this story at all, the resolution to it is pretty wonderful with Cavendish just being an escaped mental patient, rambling off deranged things and doling out five circle ratings cavalierly as he’s hauled back to the institution. The wrap-up here makes up for the lack of substance to the rest of the story.
Stan’s story comes to a close when he flips out and goes rageful with power when the injustice of calling him a “lame uncle” is uttered and he gets all trigger-happy with the pepper spray, dousing the campus—in slow motion—in sync to the works of Beethoven (something that I could have seen more of, actually, with a more elaborate set piece going on here). This is likely not going to be anyone’s favorite American Dad episode, and it might end up being one of the lesser entries of the season even, but there’s still plenty to enjoy here and at a certain point you want to just let Stan sign your cast and enjoy the ride.