American Dad!: Hayley Smith, Seal Team Six Review

A sentimental episode sees Jeff trying to get back his wife, while Steve and his friends try to get back succulence.

This American Dad! review contains spoilers.

American Dad! Season 12, Episode 3

“Let me break this down for you like the great Vanessa Williams in A Diva’s Christmas Carol: Don’t be so serious. There must be some mistake…”

This is a messy, battered seal corpse of an episode. It ends up all the way in a courtroom with Roger hypnotizing an entire jury and judge when it doesn’t need to complicate things half as badly as it chooses to. But even when American Dad! is taking the strangest, least efficient routes to get to where it’s going, it still manages to make some entertaining pit stops along the way.

As usual, Hayley is doing a great job being the family’s requisite wet blanket. She gets on the rest of the family’s nerves while forcing them to sneak out of the house in the middle of the night in order to enjoy delicious, delicious cheesecake. Even her perma-rock, Jeff, isn’t on her side. With the malaise being high in the Smith household, the family is left fantasizing over a time when Hayley was less opinionated, the faraway time when she was six years old.

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This ends up leading to more of Roger’s preferred mental health persona, Dr. Penguin, which is always a good thing in my book. Admittedly this might not be his most useful appearance, but his unethical hypnotherapy means end up causing Hayley to regress to her six-year old “Happy Hayley” self, and therein lie the makings for this episode. This storyline might feel like it’s scrambling as soon as it kicks off, and even by American Dad! standards it’s pretty hackneyed (and it doesn’t help that the B-plot hardly injects things with excitement). That being said, if you can get past the very lazy machinations of the episode, there’s at least something to enjoy in an oft-told tale about Hayley and what her dynamic continues to be with the rest of her family; an area that largely remains stagnant within the series.

Off in that B-Story Land, Steve has a sort of ridiculous plot about acquiring a slow cooker with his friends, after an unfortunate incident with Charlotte left Steve with some rather inedible pork in his gullet (and is a testament to Scott Grimes’ performance and how really Steve going on a tangent about anything can be deeply entertaining). In spite of the lowest of stakes in this situation, there’s something kind of beautiful about Steve and co. continually withholding their succulent meat off the promises of a crazy man from the street. The mantra of “The slower the cook, the better the taste,” slowly leads them to madness.

There’s a level of predictability of where a storyline like this can ultimately go, but you can’t help but smile as Steve insists that they double their cook time — and then double their doubled wait. All they want is the best tasting meat, dammit! The conclusion of this storyline simultaneously makes the most sense and the least sense in the episode, but extreme kudos are given for the Pig Universe that we deviate into, albeit briefly. I’d also have been more than fine ending on that note rather than pulling back to normalcy.

As Hayley continues to bounce around in her regressed form, no one is seeming to mind the reprieve from the typical Hayley, that is except for Jeff. Wisely, at this point the episode turns more into an installment that’s about Jeff than it is about Hayley. Jeff is forced with the prospect of finding Hayley’s necessary trigger to break her idyllic happiness and send her back to her normal self. It’s a fundamental journey that Jeff needs to go on, one that sees him needing to break down his wife to ultimately get her back. In spite of the eye rolling nature of this plot when it first appears, it surprisingly becomes more poignant as the episodes goes on.

I’ve spoken plenty about the TBS seasons’ partialness towards Klaus, and that comes to a fever pitch tonight in a manner of speaking when we even get a delightful “Wheels and the Legman” parody in the form of “Fish and the Jeffman.” This is actually a rather subversive way of mining more gold out of this treasured joke from the series. As exciting as it was to get a second installment of “Wheels and the Legman”, the force at which this hits you holds the same amount of weight. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but I’d gladly take another helping at this point (if Roger’s lawyers will allow it).

I’m also all about the episode needing to take a detour into a Francis Dolarhyde-type monster, Joe Chandler, in order to get a piece of the puzzle that brings Hayley back. It’s such a small tangent to this very messy storyline, but it’s probably my favorite joke out of the whole episode. It just goes to show you the weird paths these episodes can take. That joke — and the “It was pigs!” hallucination — are kind of emblematic of how this episode ends up feeling overall. It’s strange, uneven, but incredibly captivating all the while. This certainly falls into the lesser tier of American Dad! episodes, but there are still a number of set pieces here to store away as memorable moments in the series.

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Here’s hoping we’ll see that Hambulance again sometime…

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3 out of 5