This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad! Season 13 Episode 3
“Yeah, I think that’s the lesson I learned. The most important thing in life is stuff.”
“The Enlightenment of Ragi-Baba” doesn’t do anything wrong, necessarily, it just happens to fall into some convenient territory that leads to a rather mundane episode. “Ragi-Baba” might be my least favorite of the three episodes from this season so far, but that’s hardly a condemnation of it. The entry still knows the right ingredients to fill itself with in order to be successful American Dad, it’s just the follow through where things ultimately fall short.
The larger plot of the episode sees Roger in need of validation after his model persona, Tasha, turns 28 and is no longer a desirable talent. To help remedy this, Haley takes Roger to her meditation center to find some solace, with matters very quickly getting out of hand. Roger adopts the episode’s titular Rabi-Baba guru persona and before Haley knows it, Roger has expertly stolen from her the tool she was trying to use to help him. It’s also not long before Roger is turning Ragi-Baba into the same publicity whore that Tasha is. All of these messages of self-improvement are suddenly muddled in egomania and narcissism.
In usual Roger fashion, the fantasy that he’s created here quickly gets away from him. Soon Roger has not only built a self-sustaining community, Ragi-Town, but he’s also managed to rebel against the whole place. The episode wisely sees Roger needing to use meditation in the end in order to solve his predicament, appropriately enough. It’s also a solid way of bringing Haley back in the fold, too. One of the episode’s highlights, Roger’s Nirvana Enlightenment sequence, is some gorgeous, surreal stuff, but I wish the voyage part of it lasted a little longer. The show has turned out so many unreal pieces of eye candy over the years that this might not even register amongst the top percent of them. That being said, it’s still a visual highlight of the episode and a strong part of the installment.
Roger’s storyline is certainly the stronger of the two, with it not only fitting the characters quite snugly, but it actually has an ending, which is more than what can be said about what the episode does with Stan and Steve. Basically Francine takes the two of them out for sushi and Stan and Steve are astounded by this culinary experience that they’ve never had before. They’re amazed by everything about sushi, from its taste, to the binding power of rice; “the maggots of the rich.”
Rather than Stan needing to prove himself to Haruki, the episode’s master sushi chef, all he needs to do is make a simple Megazord reference and suddenly he and Steve are being taken under Haruki’s wing. While Steve and Stan amongst sushi is a lot of fun, this random permission on Haruki’s plot is sort of emblematic of this entire storyline. A lot of weird stuff goes down that doesn’t necessarily mesh or make sense (and don’t get me started on those talking vultures in that one scene). You’re waiting for some big reveal to help tie this all together, but there isn’t one. You get scenes about how you should tell rice how much you want to marry it and a bunch of seemingly confusing suggestions courtesy of Haruki. It feels like this is going to culminate in learning that the chef is simply crazy or some sort of sham, but instead nothing at all happens. Stan and Steve apparently take over Haruki’s legacy, and that’s kind of it. It feels like more than a few beats are missing here, and unfortunately they happen to be crucial ones. Seeing Stan and Steve struggle or flourish in the sushi industry could make for a fun episode, but this is simply them listening while they get cryptic advice. It’s all set-up and it doesn’t make for the most exciting storyline. This side-story still manages to entertain, but it does struggle to justify itself.
There’s a perfectly serviceable episode within “The Enlightenment of Ragi-Baba,” but some unusual decisions and an overstuffed runtime lead to choices that rob it of any precision. “Ragi-Baba” will still make you laugh, but it’s a reminder of how important plotting and pacing can be in the end.
Now I think we all have some Cheers to get caught up on. There are all sorts of Carla and Coach signals to hunt for.