This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 14 Episode 11
“Or maybe I just forgot to forget.”
A lot of people consider “Tearjerker,” American Dad’s effortless James Bond parody back from season three to be one of the show’s most enjoyable efforts. “Casino Normale” doesn’t embrace its source material in as stylized a manner as “Tearjerker,” and it lacks some of the grander social commentary about Oscar bait that’s found in the earlier installment. That being said, it’s nice to see American Dad doing its best spy impression once more. If the James Bond film franchise is able to “reboot” itself so many times, then isn’t American Dad also deserving of giving the genre another shaken-not-stirred spin?
“Casino Normale” pleasantly kicks off at the 70th Annual CIA Awards which helps introduce the episode’s brewing conflict between Stan and Francine—that he’s better at romancing marks than he is his own wife. There’s a lot of fun to be had at the CIA Awards. For instance, “Best Wiretapping Sound Mixing” is a very solid joke made only funnier by the fact that Nicki Minaj is the one announcing it at the awards ceremony. As is the fact that the CIA Awards seem to be awarding the Falcon a “Best Villain” award each year as a thinly-veiled ruse to murder him. The show’s on such fire during the awards ceremony that I’d have been curious to see the series do an episode that’s set entirely there. That’s not what happens, but I’m cautiously optimistic that American Dad could have made such an experiment worthwhile.
This work that this episode does to accentuate the contrast between “Sexy Work Stan” and “Gross Stan” is pretty fantastic. The reveal that Stan also has run over Francine’s foot for a bit that’s left her with irreparable damage is also perfect characterization that had me laughing harder than it should have. It’s also smart that this detail actually ends up being Stan and Francine’s saving grace in the end, too. It’s sort of bewildering just how much Francine puts up with—often for no reason at all—with this episode doing a good job at illustrating what’s her breaking point.
The episode’s heavy focus on Francine and her motivations is definitely appreciated and a lot of fun. All of this happens to rope Stan into her plan in the best way possible, too. By stealing crucial CIA secrets and masquerading as the female super spy, the Beaver, Francine has come up with a clever way to experience Sexy Work Stan’s seductions after all. Unfortunately, a lot of this seduction has to take place over a chat room and consist almost exclusively of “;-)”. It still seems to be more than enough to light Francine’s fire.
“Casino Normale” sets up for a lot to go down at a masquerade ball, only to then cleverly deflate all of this. Francine is hopeful to experience Stan’s charms in person, thanks to the cover of her costume, but he immediately knows that it’s her and everything unravels. Rather than make Francine feel like an idiot though, Stan reiterates that it’s the real, honest moments that they experience together that actually mean something to him. All of his extravagant seductions are just acts. “Casino Normale” then utilizes this newly found intimacy between Stan and Francine by having them work together to catch a super spy and save the day. It’s a story that continually subverts itself, but all to successful effect. I also thought the ending was genuinely sweet, even if it does have Stan and Francine committing tandem murder.
The other story going on in this installment plays with audience expectations in a similar way as well. We’ve been getting a lot of Roger revenge stories lately—which is far from a bad thing and if this show has to return to any well repeatedly, I’m glad that it’s this one—but this one holds a special significance since it involves Roger trying to prank Jay Leno of all people. Not to mention that he’s working as the puppet master behind Steve and Hayley, manipulating them in a way that assures Roger receives satisfaction regarding his big-chinned vengeance bounty.
This Steve, Hayley, and Roger story also made me realize how much I’ve missed Hayley this season and how wonderful she can be when she’s used properly. Somehow Klaus has risen up to usurp Hayley’s position in this series, so moments where she’s just waxing on about how the mail is a “gamechanger” and the perfect recipe for excitement reminded me of her subtle greatness. The whole storyline operates with the perfect degree of self-awareness and sarcastic tone to it all (“Vroom vroom!” “Oh yeah!”). Roger’s new obsession with classic cars as a way to gain approval from the mustached masses is superfluous. It’s just madness to keep these guys busy until the Leno trap is sprung.
The twist here is that Roger has racked up such a long list of vendettas at this point (he even has a book) that he can’t remember why he wants to get revenge on Leno. A story like this can ultimately be unfulfilling when the big reveal at the end fails to meet the expectations that audiences have created in their minds. “Casino Normale” mostly sticks the landing by mostly deflecting the question. Plus, there’s still a corpse at the end of the story. So what’s not to like?
Everything in this episode ends up delivering (much like the mail) and it’s all aided by the fact that the script here is very funny (Stan’s aside to Francine to see if he’s able to fit inside the wall is glorious insanity). Plus, the stories all shift and change enough to never grow boring. There’s a lot contained in these 20 minutes. This is also an episode that distributes its cast well, getting everyone involved and playing them all to their strengths. This might not stand out as the best episode of the season in what’s been a very consistent year for the show, but it’s a great example of the sort of episodes that the show is churning out 13 (or 14, depending who you ask) seasons in. That’s a fifth of how long the Annual CIA Awards have been running!
Anyone else got a strange hankering from some sweet uncompressed MIDI music goodness?