This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad!: Season 12, Episode 4
“We’re the NSA. We know who goes to Applebee’s.”
American Dad! has been on for so long, and explored so many different pairing permutations at this point that to complain about getting a rather traditional one this time feels a little moot. Stan and Steve storylines have the power to be the most moving, but also the most heavyhanded and predictable. This week’s attempt tows that line pretty well, but still manages to deliver and come out on top in the end.
Almost immediately into the episode Stan addresses that he’s having computer issues at work, with it seeming like the logical move to bring Steve into the office to hook him up properly. This rather quickly turns into a whole CIA versus the NSA sort of thing, which is a welcome dynamic to add to all of this. This premise features a delightful educational film delineating the differences between the two organizations and their history. This ends up morphing into a great gag where the point of this film becomes more about Billy Bob Thornton, the film’s narrator. The joke only becomes stronger when we get the inverse of it later on from the opposite perspective, this time with George Takei narrating.
In spite of the help that Steve is able to provide, Stan, in trademark Stan fashion, abandons Steve and his “Edward Sissyhands” handshake in favor of the cooler kids at the CIA, and in doing so ushers Steve right into the hands of the NSA in the process. Steve’s feeling mighty vengeful at his father — although not vengeful enough to ignore crucial Adobe updates, he’s not a monster after all — and so the rival agency seems like the perfect fit for him.
On the other side of the Smith family, Hailey attempts to not be a vegetarian for a day after a misunderstanding with Klaus (who continues his season 12 domination tour) and his hazelnut omelettes ends up putting some meat back in her system. While a questionable plot at its start, it only gains momentum when Roger signs on as her carnivore consigliere, coaching her through this experience and making sure that she does something wrong right.
With Roger egging Hailey on, what should be an innocuous B-plot starts ballooning pretty quickly. It’s a quick hop and a step from Roger and Hailey getting weird in Koreatown to them plotting to eat a gorilla that can do sign language. It’s also a strong example of what a phenomenal wild card Roger is in any sort of plot line. His presence here leads to constant deviations and reveals of fantasies and personal moments in a way that only he is capable of. They’re entirely independent from the story, but they flesh out the scenes so well and add such color to them.
There’s a pretty great twist at the end of this that I won’t give away, but between this and the “It’s all pigs!” moment from last week’s entry, I’m all for the show embracing a more lucid reality — not that it’s ever been that rigid to begin with. It’s a nice, unexpected note to go out on though, which is certainly more than you’d expect from a plot about Hailey going on a “Vegetation Purge.”
Eventually, once Steve gives the NSA what they want, he sees himself becoming a “discarded asset” and realizes that these guys don’t care for him any more than Stan does, they’re simply capitalizing on a situation. The situation might be a little contrived, but it’s what it takes to get Steve and Stan back together, even if it takes some tough love on Stan’s part first.
This might feel like fairly inconsequential American Dad! in the end. It falls back on the very tired dynamics that Steve and Stan often occupy, and while there might not be a lot of “huge” moments in this one, I strangely found it to be the most relaxed episode of the entire season. “N.S.A. (No Snoops Allowed)” feels very comfortable with itself, and sometimes just nailing some of the smaller character moments can make all the difference.
Now everyone, let’s all begin writing scenes from Roger’s The Splurge, sooner rather than later, okay? Priorities.