This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad!: Season 12 Episode 20
“You’re such a gentleman, Steve.”
“They are a dying breed.”
It’s Christmas in June, everybody! Just run with it and enjoy the un-seasonal greetings and royalty free jazz!
“Gift Me Liberty” decides to imbue itself with a little extra gravitas by taking the form of a broken, soused Stan recanting this tale in Roger’s bar. Right away this story is painted with qualifiers that make it feel like an especially sordid story from Stan’s very checkered history with the CIA. This becomes all the more interesting when we learn that it’s a Christmas story, more specifically, one involving a high stakes game of “Evil Santa” (Yankee Swap).
Bullock comes wise to the fact that someone didn’t bring a gift to Evil Santa and goes on a warpath accordingly, to try and figure out who the Scrooge is. We’ve seen plenty of examples of Bullock being temperamental or downright illogical, so his hair trigger over Christmas cheer feels very in character. As does Stan being the one appointed to try and calm the man down and figure out who’s to blame here.
As crazy as Bullock’s grenade pin-pulling demeanor might appear, he actually turns this around into a solid point about trust being fundamental in the CIA. If agents can’t be trusted to bring a simple gift to a game, then how can they be expected to have someone’s back in the fray? Think about that next time you weasel out of your next non-denominational holiday themed game!
Elsewhere in a less hostile powder keg, Steve is getting ready for the Harvest Dance, with the problem being that he can’t find the right outfit. I was more than ready for Roger to pop out as the one coaching Steve through this task, but was pleasantly surprised when this season’s MVP, Klaus, was the one dishing out advice here. Their aside about Klaus’ outfit for Steve’s funeral might have been my favorite bit from the episode (and I love the small touch that Roger is attending as some female persona). It makes for a fresh dynamic that only becomes stronger once the elderly tailor is added to the mix, preaching the wonders of antique handkerchiefs.
It’s not long before Steve is ditching the extravagant outfit plan in lieu of parlaying a handkerchief into being seen as a gentleman by all of the ladies within earshot. Pretty soon he’s found all sorts of women to grow old into the robot apocalypse uprising with, the only problem is that they’re using him as a front to please their parents. Rather than letting this get to him, Steve decides to rent out his services as a gentleman-for-hire, hopeful that he’ll be able to take advantage of his situation in time.
In a rather clever move, “Gift Me Liberty” doesn’t feel the need to stick to its structure and instead has Stan’s story catch up with the present time as he tells Roger everything. It’s at this point that we learn that months of Stan’s life have been devoted to this Evil Santa task force because he is the one who failed to bring a gift, and he’s terrified of being found out.
Following this revelation, the episode shifts into a more traditional Stan and Roger structure as Roger teaches him in the art of lying so he’s able to maneuver out of this situation he’s found himself in. This also leads to Roger in a Jake Gittes from Chinatown wardrobe (complete with nose bandage) under the hard-boiled moniker of Ace Crouton, which is exactly the sort of exaggerated nonsense that’s needed to fan this story’s flames.
Roger takes Stan through the three phases of lying — Believe, Benefits, and Blame — and Stan is finally ready to get this Evil Santa debacle behind him. All he’s got to do is set someone else up to take the fall, and with agent fatality being such a likelihood in the field, pretty soon Stan has found a corpse to be the patsy.
Things spiral out of hand in both of these storylines in rather unexpected directions for both fronts. Stan finds himself in a bizarre cycle of donating blood and sperm in order to fund the pension of the man’s family he disgraced, until he finally stumbles upon the virtues of honesty (this also reveals that Roger buys sperm from the sperm bank to presumably — what? Eat? That’s bonkers!). Meanwhile, we learn that Steve’s handkerchief is also a cesspool of disease which has been infecting everyone that it’s come into contact with — even killing some people (RIP Wyatt). For an episode that has two very simple plots in description, it’s exciting to see not only how much they do with both of them, but also the unexpected territory they push them into. As this season of American Dad! begins to wind down, it appears like it’ll actually be finishing as strong as it began.
Just make sure that Roger didn’t hear me say “actually.”