This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad! Season 14, Episode 2
“Francine, there are no conspiracies. They’re just fake junk!”
One of the most important relationships in American Dad! is the precarious tightrope walk of a marriage that the show negotiates between Stan and Francine. While it’s safe to say that these two will never call it quits, the installments that are most interested in their trust issues and how they can become a better couple often hold the most poignancy in the entire series. Admittedly, episodes of this nature aren’t always a success and sometimes they even manage to underscore the characters’ most undesirable traits, but “Paranoid Frandroid” acts as a strong example of how to properly tell a conflicted Stan and Francine story, while this episode also throws a very current premise into the mix.
One of the constants that’s been present over the last few seasons of American Dad! is the inclusion of the peppy morning show within the show, “Morning Mimosa.” This is typically a fun non sequitur that the show can cut to when necessary and it also helps fill in the void that’s been present since Greg and Terry left the scene. “Morning Mimosa” turns out to have an increased sense of importance this week and actually acts as the catalyst for Francine’s freak out. “Paranoid Frandroid” highlights how Francine prefers the pointless fluff pieces of “Morning Mimosa” over actual news segments. However, it’s within that guarded, oblivious perspective of Francine’s that this episode starts to have its fun.
Stan has gotten accustomed to this unassuming, compliant version of his wife, so her new self-awareness begins to worry him. It’s not that Stan doesn’t want Francine to be informed, but he argues that if she continues too far in this direction then she’ll end up like Hayley, scowl lines and all, which is the lesser of two evils as far as Stan is concerned. Stan naturally gets ready to walk Francine off a ledge when she falls into a conspiracy wormhole full-force. Stan prefers his wife when the extent of her problems are what sort of rodent is about to be married on “Morning Mimosa,” not when she’s trying to figure out who’s a lizard person and what’s the government’s next big scandal.
Rather than simply talk to Francine on the matter like any involved husband would do, Stan attempts to sweep the problem under the carpet by doubling down on his deception. Stan notices that his support structures are beginning to weaken here, which is when he reveals that he’s actually been in charge of “Morning Mimosa’s” production for years now. The whole program has been engineered to be the show that he needs it to be for Francine so she’ll remain placated and worry-free through her days. This is a drastic, over the top scheme that Stan has in motion in order to solve this very minor problem of his, but it’s hardly the most extreme behavior that Stan’s demonstrated before.
When Francine stumbles onto all of this, it of course doesn’t help her frazzled mind. She literally finds out that her life has been turned into a conspiracy in order to keep her powerless, which only confirms her paranoid thoughts and that she’s alone in the world. It’s enjoyable to see Stan and Francine bounce off of each other with conspiracy theories as the basis and it’s frankly a little surprising that the show hasn’t explored this territory earlier. There have been occasions where Stan has gotten a little CIA crazy, but a storyline where Francine’s government conspiracies ostracize her from her husband is a no brainer.
Roger’s interests nicely dovetail with Francine’s this week as he decides to keep himself busy with his attempts to run a conspiracy theory convention in the attic. His paranoid, radical viewpoints come at exactly the right time for this fragile version of Francine and she very much takes to the ideologies that Roger’s conspiracy nut pushes forward. It doesn’t take long for Francine to start to experience her very own “truth twitches” when she begins to become enlightened.
Francine is able to further channel her newly realized truth seeker persona with Roger on his conspiracy theory podcast, Truth Planet. The two are great foils for each other here and their many unwarranted fears only cause each other to increasingly unravel. Most importantly though, this gives Francine a sense of purpose and lets her feel like she’s in control of her life for once. The final act of all of this culminates in a rather interesting way when one of Francine’s radical conspiracy theories ends up being right on the money. It’s not long until Francine becomes a target for Bullock and the rest of the CIA to eliminate so she’s unable to reveal more secrets to her Truth Planet audience.
Outside of all of the raving Truther nonsense that’s in this episode, Klaus finds himself latching onto Steve’s current affairs when he learns that his adventures with Snot will take them to Chesterbrook Condominiums, which is pretty much as good as it gets for a boyfriend of Snot’s mother. Klaus is eager to make sure that Steve doesn’t blow this opportunity for any of them and that they’ll be able to mooch plenty from Chesterbook Condominium’s bountiful bosom, specialty sodas and all.
Klaus is dead set to turn Snot’s new basement bedroom into the most bitching of bachelor pads. Steve seems to just be happy to watch Snot and his new possible stepdad, Del, get closer, but Klaus gets a little power hungry over the possibilities that come with a basement. All of this also acts as more of a confirmation that Klaus continues to be the most improved character over the course of the TBS seasons of this show. “Paranoid Frandroid” is another excellent example of how to put this egocentric fish to good use.
The next order of business is for Steve and Snot to find some ladies to bring into their newly finished basement, but it shouldn’t be surprising that these two aren’t exactly the smoothest when it comes to wooing women. That being said, the power of the basement does break through to one woman in particular, Snot’s mother, which leads to a particularly uncomfortable sequence between herself and Klaus that involves the circulating current of an air hockey table. It’s something that needs to be seen to be believed. But hey, what are a few crushed dreams and unresolved daddy issues when your friend’s fish gets to third base, right?
This Steve, Klaus, and Snot sidestory might not carry a ton of weight to it, but it’s still entertaining and it knows how to put these characters to their best use. Honestly, this storyline could have simply been Steve and Klaus freestyling to Linkin Park’s “In the End” for the entire time and I’d have been totally fine with that. American Dad! is always better when it features some singing from Steve, but when that singing is a Linkin Park duet with Klaus, you can pretty much call it a day and go home early.
When this new season of American Dad! kicked off in December, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the season’s Christmas-themed premiere. That said, “Paranoid Frandroid” is a much more encouraging installment and helps assuage any fears that may have existed about this new year of American Dad!. “Paranoid Frandroid” ultimately comes down to a dire situation where Francine needs to trust Stan, otherwise she’ll end up dead.
At the same time, Stan gets to experience the mental head games that Francine goes through in this episode when the CIA keep him in the dark over their plot to assassinate his wife. It’s a somewhat rushed way to bring all of this together, but it’s a resolution that makes sense and one that allows these two fragile people to feel safe in each other’s arms again. The irony over how Stan and Francine both need to put together a fake death conspiracy in order to fool Bullock is also the perfect note to go out on.
Now excuse me, I’ve got some giant gummy celery to chow down on. We’re not all hunchbacks with herring obsessions, after all.