This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 14 Episode 18
“Foiling your plans will make for the perfect distraction for making small talk with my daughter.”
Throughout American Dad’s many seasons and endless character pairings, the episodes where Stan and Hayley work together are often the series’ strongest outings. In the series’ infancy, Hayley was seen as the polar opposite foil to Stan, epitomizing many of the things that he resents in humanity. This relationship has slowly morphed and matured through the course of American Dad’s run, with “The Long Bomb” making for yet another satisfying installment in the Stan/Hayley oeuvre.
Funny enough, last episode saw Stan and Hayley imprisoned together in a Tunisian labor camp. While “The Family Plan” gets by on the shared competitive nature of Stan and Hayley, “The Long Bomb” instead leans into the humor in how awkward these two can be with each other.
There’s some real beauty in the idea of Hayley going to a football game with her dad, purely because she believes the rest of the family will also be joining. When the reality of the situation sees the two of them alone together, the episode kicks off to a strong premise where both Stan and Hayley are both stuck in a scenario that they wish were they weren’t. How can precious Bazooka Sharks versus Gorilla Stars be enjoyed when there’s such awkwardness hanging in the air? On the topic of the Bazooka Sharks, it’s nice to see them become one of the series’ recent wells for content. There’s even a clever callback to Johnny Concussion, may he rest in peace (and receive a “bone-crushing moment of silence” at halftime).
Rather than trying to actually work through their lack of communication, Stan opts to flee and find as many menial tasks as possible to run out the clock before the game begins. At least then there will be some sort of buffer between him and Hayley. Stan and Hayley’s tension is however merely the beginning of a very bad day when a bunch of terrorists decide to hold the stadium hostage. American Dad begins to do its very best Die Hard impression and all of the terrorist material ends up landing really well. Besides, this is also the most time-consuming distraction that Stan has available to him so of course he’s going to take advantage.
Once the Bazooka Sharks stadium is going under siege, Stan and Hayley spend the majority of the episode apart, but that ends up strengthening their communication in the process. It’s a bizarre concept to get behind, but one that the episode effectively integrates into the story. The obvious emotional blocks that Stan and Hayley have in place never dominate “The Long Bomb’s” focus, but if you squint real hard there’s a heavier message in here about finding healthy ways to be honest.
The episode wisely figures out that graphic terrorist deaths are more gratifying than emotional catharsis as the entry embraces the former. One extreme instance in the episode sees Stan receiving intel through a ventilation shaft grate courtesy of a concession stand salesman. As this outlandish visual passes over, even the episode itself is able to realize the hoops that Stan and Hayley are jumping through in order to avoid having a regular conversation. It’s hard to begrudge this direction though when it leads to moments like Stan expelling hot steam in someone’s face, melting their skin off in the process. Or the morbid fate of the terrorist��s corpse that’s continually given penalties. Rather than learning anything from this, the episode instead swings from one elaborate set piece to the next as Stan and Hayley crack down on these terrorists together, but separately.
As Stan and Hayley are saving the rest of the oblivious members of the stadium, Roger finds himself in the Bazooka Sharks luxury box while all of this is going down. Roger’s slumming around as an escort for no real reason in particular (to rip off VIPs?), not that anyone is especially interested in his services. It more so feels like a way to have Roger around all of the terrorist action, while also having an “excuse” to be ultra-sexual. He’s a welcome, if unnecessary presence here, but it’s definitely a fun little slice of weirdness. Unfortunately, it just never goes anywhere. Besides it being reliable territory to turn Roger into a hooker, he’s useless here. Actually giving Roger a little more agency here, rather than him just spitting off asides to Hayley, would make this all feel a little more worthwhile.
“The Long Bomb” might not know exactly what to do with Roger, but the rest of the installment displays a surprising degree of focus. Besides Roger’s brief shenanigans, there’s really no B-Story to speak of here. The episode barrels ahead on the terrorist material, which leads to some strong, motivated pacing that keeps the energy alive.
On top of that, the tonal whiplash of the severity of all of Stan’s terrorist encounters and how flippantly they’re moved past is a solid gag.
It’s a little surprising to not get any Steve or Francine this week. While featuring them here would inevitably take away from the episode’s momentum, at least seeing them watching the Bazooka Sharks game at home would have been nice. These minor issues aside, “The Long Bomb” is a very fun entry of American Dad that’s been a part of a deeply consistent season. It’s episodes like these that make you want to break into the Shark Shuffle and enjoy some Zooka Dogs. Or something.