“I don’t know shit about hugging.”
When a series has been on for as long as American Dad has, it makes sense to begin scrambling to find any loose threads of story that can still be explored or expanded upon. Francine’s sister Gwen has been mentioned a number of times throughout the series, but never before seen, and so it’s only appropriate that she finally make her appearance now, and that it’s one that fills Francine with worry.
Francine learns that her much more Asian sister, Gwen (in a very welcome appearance by Uma Thurman), is in town, and it’s getting to her so much that it’s even plaguing her in her dreams (along with her unhealthy fixation on Scott Baio). Her preoccupation with her sister’s arrival has her acting all loopy, part of which includes her filling Klaus’ bowl with vodka.
Klaus immediately getting drunk as vodka is poured into his bowl is a pretty great gag. The fact that he remains drunk for the bulk of the episode though is a creative enough way to do something different with him and get some new use out of him, too. It works well, and Klaus has actually been one of the more fortunately featured characters this season so far.
While Francine is fretting over her sister coming, Stan and Steve couldn’t be more excited about it due to the fact that Gwen is a fooooooox (something Stan has made abundantly clear in the past), something whic Steve can’t help but sing about. And Steve singing is always a step in the right direction. Hailey however is a little more skeptical, seeing Gwen as a plague that merely uses Francine and takes advantage of her, and while Francine says you can’t turn your back on family, Hailey insists otherwise.
Roger weighs in with thunder sheeting.
You’d be surprised at how much humor is derived from this episode with simply the sound of thunder, and this bizarre Roger outing gets some of the bigger laughs of the episode. As does him trying to figure out his briefcase’s combination.
Things get wonderfully weirder when Roger heads off on a Fighting Hellfish-esque treasure seeking mission, and therefore appoints Klaus in charge of the thunder sheet to underscore all the heavy dramatic moments that happen in the Smith house (something he kind of gets the hang of by the end of things). This is a luxury he’s able to do because Roger’s understudy, a gorilla, is unavailable for very particular reasons, in what might be my favorite joke of the season so far.
Stan and Steve’s inappropriate feelings for Gwen actually end up stemming into the B-plot of the episode, which is Stan explaining to Steve the art of a good “hug,” which is not just a regular hug, but rather the cop-a-feel-y type. Even though the HUGS/KISS scene between Stan and Steve where he tries to educate him is wonderful, convoluted magic, it feels like this plot is kind of meandering as soon as it starts. Gwen already feels like a fleeting presence that Steve trying to ultimately hug her weirdly feels disconnected. It’s still fun stuff though, and in an episode that’s already pretty busy, its simplicity (in spite of the complicated nature of Stan’s lesson) works in its favor at least.
However, Gwen’s reunion is short-lived as her probation officer quickly shows up and she has Francine and the rest of her family go along with her cover story and it seems like old habits might die hard in Gwen’s case. Especially once she sets up a fake cell phone sweatshop within their garage. And with Sri Lankan workers no less. Once a botched human liver heist or two goes down, Hailey’s had enough and kicks her loose. But in the end Francine comes to her sister’s aid to help her, revealing that she was actually the one who set their high school on fire when they were teenagers, and Gwen took the rap. That she’s indebted to her sister.
While all of these plotlines kind of feel half-baked as they’re happening, they all manage to land surprisingly well, with each one having not only a satisfying conclusion, but a reasonably subversive one. The hugging one is still the thinnest, but it entertains all the same. I suppose we’ll see if Gwen remains more of a fixture on the show (and I would hope so, what with the Uma and all) after how things end here. I certainly don’t need to see more of her, but having her stick around, even staying with the Smiths, could be an interesting way to shake things up.
Cue the thunder sheet.