This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 14 Episode 12
Let’s talk about some Turt Locker!
Watching the defusing of a bomb and the everyday antics of the anti-terrorism unit on a peaceful island community is weirdly satisfying in the bizarre set piece that sets off “Bazooka Steve” (has a starfish ever been used as a sheriff’s badge before, because that’s just straight up smart). Steve suddenly pops up in this introduction that’s then effectively punctuated by Roger asking “What the fuck are we doing here?” through voiceover. I think viewers would have clued into what’s going on without the little addition from Roger, but it’s a nice in-character touch that helps ground the scene.
The clock is then set back three to five business days earlier to when the sequence of events that finds Steve being air-mailed to a tropical island kicks off. Curiously, arena football is the spark that ignites Steve’s predicament, which is something that he’s basically got no relationship with at all. The episode has fun exploiting that schism as Stan drags his son to a Bazooka Sharks Vs. Pizza Rockets game (Klaus gets shortchanged this week, by both plotting and the customer service department of Marshall’s). Steve’s obliviousness towards the cherished rituals of football, like tailgating, is a lot of fun. It’s the smaller touches though, like Bullock’s line, “Excellent! You brought the child, as we discussed,” in regard to Steve being present in the festivities that really elevate the material. Any time a perplexed Steve utters “Mama” over not grasping the bloodlust of the sport is a delight. As is whenever that bloodlust ends up hitting Steve in the face.
The episode continues to play up the barbarism and mob mentality of football against Steve’s innocence to good effect. I laughed pretty hard when a dazed Johnny Concussion (Juan Consuelo, to the layman) attempts to run into the Dreyer’s Cream-a-torium before a Shark mascot directs him back to the field. This display is actually the final straw for Steve, who ends up inadvertently causing Johnny to retire from the game and ruin the season for the Bazooka Sharks (Donny Forfeit is true to his name, but bad for morale). With the entire town having Shark Fever, Steve finds himself as a pariah in the community. Even his own friends have given him the silent treatment. The gag here involving the wedding photo of Johnny’s girlfriend’s parents is also weird and great. It’s a testament to the unusual tangents that something like football can lead this episode down. It’s hardly as straightforward of an episode as it may appear.
On that note, I was genuinely surprised when Steve ends up mailing himself to the other side of the world rather than it being some ruthless act of Shark Fever. It’s still a decision that might not be the most logical one (employing Roger’s many services to disappear feels a lot more plausible, but Roger has other sorrows to keep him busy this episode), but it amounts to an interesting opening scene and doesn’t bury the wrap-up in a rushed conclusion. In fact, some of the most interesting material happens in the episode’s final moments. For one, several months go by, during which we see Steve become a basket weaver and longing for the simplicity of home life.
Shark Fever also sees Hayley finding herself in some hot water after making a bet on the game with Roger and quickly realizing that a “dime” is not actually a dime when it comes to gambling. Her debt to Roger sees him inexplicably forcing her into indentured servitude as a cab driver (a predicament which apparently fuels the industry). Hayley complies to Roger’s demands, but he basically abuses the sentence as a way to give his constant personas rides around town. And of course, with none of Roger’s other selves footing the bill, Hayley finds her debt refusing to budge.
Over the several months that Steve is away, Hayley really falls into her cab driving as dueling voiceovers hammer this point in. It’s also revealed that Hayley’s already repaid her gambling debt, yet stays behind the wheel because “the streets are her brother now.” None of Hayley’s storyline really goes anywhere in the end, but it still makes for a pleasant diversion from the chaos involving Steve. It’s also always a good thing whenever Jeff is in play, and while he might not be a crucial component of “Bazooka Steve,” it’s appreciated to see him bumming around with Hayley as she sinks into Roger’s quicksand.
The final stretch of this episode actually ended up touching me a little bit. “Bazooka Steve” does an effective job at showing Steve how sports or recreational activities can be the perfect distraction from the monotony of life, as well as why people need that. It eases into the point in a way that makes sense, but also manages to broaden Steve a little more as a character. He becomes a bit more three-dimensional in the process, which is certainly something that I wasn’t expecting from an installment like this one. “Bazooka Steve” might coast on goodwill through a bit of its mid-section, but a strong setup and conclusion help flesh it out.
Now excuse me, I’m on hold for some Lazer Rats tickets and it’s been far too long since I’ve been to the Rat Hive.