This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 12 Episode 19
“Before you ask, James Garfield is in no way related to Garfield the cat. I know, I was as surprised as you are.”
To that one dude out there who keeps pushing off his James Garfield biography so they can just watch one more episode of American Dad, this one was for you, buddy! You got to have your cake and eat it too, didn’tcha?
Stan is seen facing an uphill battle as he ropes Hailey into President’s Day festivities, a tradition for the two of them that has become a growing burden for her. The focus on Stan and Hailey’s issues also means we don’t get to spend an episode measuring Jeff’s success as a dog walker, which is unfortunate. A lackadaisical romp as the guy finds his niche at something—even if that’s dog naming rather than dog walking—would have made for an entertaining episode. As would Francine and Klaus’ “on fleek” time out. But I guess reanimating presidents is maybe a little more exciting
In a nice little hidden chapter out of Stan and Hailey’s lives, we learn that every President’s Day Stan takes Hailey to a different presidential museum and bombards her with the corresponding history. Hailey’s not opposed to history, per se, she just wants it to be as engaging as the yarns spun in something like Step Up 6. Therein lies the problem of Stan trying to jazz up presidential history for Hailey so it can stand up against her competing interests.
It’s also great to see this adventure going on specifically between Stan and Hailey, not only because of their firmly cemented political views, but more so for their diametrically opposed takes on what qualifies as “interesting.” Hailey is constantly blasé and without enthusiasm, whereas Stan’s excitement stems from blind patriotism and the footnotes of America. This makes their common ground all the more difficult to realize than if it was say, Stan and Steve, Stan and Hailey, or Steve and Hailey on the presidential excursion. That alone is enough to keep this episode interesting. But then they also Jurassic Park Garfield back to life.
The episode doubles down on the idea of opposites being forced to attract, as the other plot of the episode sees Steve intermingling with football of all things. Steve has started working for the school paper (which is run by Principal Lewis, because why not?) which he hopes will end up getting him slotted to doing a story on the cheerleading squad. A position that has a tradition of yielding the writer a cheerleader of their own (bottom rung of the pyramid only, sorry). However Lewis makes sure that touchdowns are going to be in Steve’s bylines. Besides, he’s totally right. A rookie reporter like Steve can’t handle the cheerleading story. Lewis knows what he’s doing!
Steve’s goes on to try to make the best out of a bad situation when he runs into Roger who’s masquerading as a sort of whistleblower—specifically, a Deep Throat. Besides this being perfect characterization is a logical complication to this story, especially when Steve’s having issues with even identifying what a football looks like. This Roger beat kind of buries itself until the episode’s ending, and frankly there’s enough going on all ready without Roger gaslighting people through all of it, too. The conclusion of all of this might come across as a little rushed, but it at least brings everything full circle in a nice way.
There’s also a weird, sexed up vibe to this newspaper story where Lewis is reading each finished story in a sultry, soulful voice. It’s a silly idea that doesn’t amount to much, but to try and understand the workings of Lewis’ mind are beyond my capabilities. It at least makes this boring, middle school newspaper have some life to it while injecting some absurdity at the same time.
As Stan and Hailey are frying bigger reanimated fish at the moment, Hailey is confounded why Stan would think any of this is a good idea, even if he’s doing it all to appeal to her level. When trying to poke further holes into the reanimation, Stan responds with, “Sounds like someone’s been to Trinidad but not Tobago.” This is a pretty perfect nonsense line commenting upon just how much you really don’t know about the “real” world. It’s something I’m going to have to adopt into my own vernacular as quickly as possible.
It’s all too fitting when Garfield, much like Hailey, decides that Stan is a bore and decides to pair up with her instead. While this is not only infuriating to Stan, it also rubs in his face that an idol of his thinks that he’s lame. Spending too much time on that aspect of things would perhaps be the episode showing its hand a little. Instead, Hailey gets to organically experience how awesome Garfield is and takes in his wisdom first hand, in a non-teaching structure. As crazy of an idea as it might be to bring back to life James Garfield to teach Hailey some presidential history, he ends up being the middle ground between Stan and Hailey. He’s the reconciliation of their two extreme temperaments, which is kind of beautiful. A lot of this episode had me thinking about Great Minds with Dan Harmon, which explores this very premise, so to speak, as modern comforts confound figures from the past.
I also thought it was a pretty inspired idea to have Hailey use DNA of Garfield’s assassin to bring him back to life, and then use him like a presidential tracking system. Further embracing the same bad idea is a favorite staple of mine and it’s just such a crazy plan—that makes total sense—to find the missing Garfield. Then when you come to consider that the assassin is being used like a bloodhound here, and Garfield is also the name of a very famous cat, you see all the many levels that this is operating on.
I thought it was a little surprising that the show left Garfield alive at the end of all of this—even if he has a presumed death on the way. Maybe this won’t be the last that we see of him. As all of this comes together it’s effectively touching to see Stan declare that he loves Hailey more than he does the presidents. “Garfield and Friends” balances the right amount of surreal with the emotional to deliver a satisfying installment. The episode benefits from a season that’s been relatively light on Hailey, and Roger’s backseat role here is barely felt.
Go bazooka sharks!