This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad! Season 15 Episode 7
“Do we really want to put all of our energy and creativity into whatever the hell Klaus has going on?”
American Dad! hasn’t been afraid to adopt a more Klaus-heavy approach in its last few seasons. In fact, I’ve been quite vocal over how the sardonic fish has slowly turned into the show’s MVP over the course of the TBS seasons. Recent seasons have been generous in their tendency to give Klaus a winning one-liner over Francine or Hayley, but he still doesn’t get an entire episode at his disposal. “Klaustastrophe.tv” tries to shake things up a little in that respect and this is definitely the biggest Klaus offering in recent memory. This may not be the strongest episode of the season, but that’s hardly got anything to do with how much attention Klaus gets this week.
The best part of this Klaus storyline is that the rest of the Smith family start at a place where they’re already over whatever Klaus has to offer. In some sly, meta writing they debate about the limited number of stories that they’re able to tell each week and they contemplate if it’s worth it to “throw one away” on Klaus. Hayley’s nonplussed response of “It’ll probably be fun?” is absolutely perfect and brilliantly speaks for the audience. Even though Klaus has proven himself many times over at this point, it’s hard to say that anybody really wants him at the center of an entire storyline.
“Klaustastrophe.tv” is smart to channel that hesitation and make it part of the story. It’s also funny to think that Klaus’ antics are always going on in the background and if Francine and company simply choose not to follow him and inquire further into his behavior, then they’d be up to something different and he’d continue on his own. The episode acts as if Klaus always has some stupid side hustle happening, but this is just one of the few times that the family is apathetic enough to give in and see what he has to offer.
Klaus’ turn at center stage here involves him hosting a website that informs the world to the various failings and faults of the Smith family. Klaus collectively puts them on blast, not just by spreading their dirty laundry out for the world to see, but he actually broadcasts video of them, too. They don’t have a shred of anonymity in any of this. The big joke here is Klaus’ apparent confusion over what an “epic fail” even is. His recordings begin with “pranks” that are the lowest of stakes like confusing a cough with a sneeze, laughing at Hailey forgetting her keys for a hot second, and other tiny errors that hardly qualify as the “epic fails” that he’s so interested in celebrating.
After Klaus’ efforts elicit a lot of yawns from the family, he ups the stakes, but goes considerably farther than what’s expected of the typical “epic fail.” He causes Roger to slice his face off, for instance. The final stage of this involves the Smith family working with Klaus to create fabricated “epic fails,” but it’s just not the same for him. Even though Roger’s tarantula video deserves to go viral, he just doesn’t think that that they understand the subtleties of the art form. It’s funny to watch how quickly all of this escalates from harmless stunts to bloody disasters.
It’s worth nothing that Steve doesn’t jump onto the Klaustastrophe bandwagon as he lets it slip that he’s too busy with his social butterfly routine. While this gag removes him from the bulk of the episode, it’s always nice when the show actually acknowledges the reason behind a character’s absence. This episode could have just as easily operated with Steve gone and no one saying a word about it and it wouldn’t have been a problem, but the fact that this one effectively writes him out is the more humorous solution. It also allows Steve to tag along with Stan on his path to Curly Neal, where his enthusiasm towards every aspect of the trip (including their time on Southwest Airlines) is pretty adorable.
On the topic of Stan and his journey here, the episode digs deep with him and actually explores his childhood issues of abandonment, albeit in a very off kilter way. When the phrase, “Go on, get out of here” from a proud fruit salesman in Bogota, Colombia triggers Stan he begins to freak out. Not only does it cause him to botch the mission, but more importantly it unlocks something substantial within Stan. He’s left with the overwhelming feeling of not wanting to be left behind, but on the plus side, at least there’s plenty of consolation guava to make up for the work-related failure.
As Stan digs deeper into what’s going on with him and the cause of these flashbacks, he turns to therapy to gain some guidance. Mind you, this is CIA therapy so there’s of course some unusual wrinkle to the methods. In this case it’s a mental visualizer that’s able to print out a picture of the person at the core of Stan’s trauma. It’s also a convenient plot device that allows the episode to keep moving and not get lost in the details. Plus, it’s easy to look past these kinds of details when Ted Danson is the one who voices the CIA shrink.
In typical American Dad! fashion, Stan’s separation anxiety doesn’t connect to his father or even anyone else from his family tree. The show instead goes for the unexpected and obscure and Stan’s recent anxiety is actually linked to Harlem Globetrotter Curly Neal. Even though Stan has figured out who’s behind his separation anxiety, he’s left clueless as to what his connection with Curly Neal is. The mystery between their relationship is what fuels much of the second act, but it keeps the episode’s trajectory on the unexpected side. This installment would be a lot easier to read if Stan was trying to fix things with his son or father, so the extra complication to the story does help strengthen it a little.
The audience learns that Stan went to Globetrotters camp when he was nine, but he was apparently kicked out. Stan’s quest turns into a hunt for knowledge that takes him all the way to the Globetrotter Farms in Upstate Harlem. The truth in all of this is pretty funny and he episode reveals that Stan actually didn’t go to Globetrotters camp. In fact, there wasn’t even a Globetrotters camp to attend! The players were just trying to make Stan feel better because his parents were so terrible. What’s brilliant here is that Stan should have the separation anxiety from his shoddy parents, but he instead projects to the Globetrotters that raised him (for an afternoon) instead.
“Klaustastrophe.tv” is a well constructed episode that still manages to graphically blow up a few individuals with grenades and bleed out a few members of the Smith family before the credits roll. The episode scratches the itch of Stan’s actual emotional problems and daddy issues, but wisely doesn’t actually turn to Stan’s dad and try to cram him into the episode, too. Stan’s able to use the information in a way that helps him understand that because he has a full family he doesn’t need to feel abandoned and the episode doesn’t need to dig much deeper than that on the issue.
The fact that Steve goes through the exact same situation with a fictitious “Sesame Street On Ice” camp that will probably unearth itself 35 years later for him is also the perfect, fitting resolution for all of this. The circle of life goes on and on.
“Klaustastrophe.tv” offers solidly structured stories where both halves of the episode feel complete. Even though they both lapse into ridiculous territory, they stay consistent with their tone and sell the material well. It also proves that a Klaus story isn’t the worst idea and that there’s a lot of fun to be had there. If he doesn’t die in that pit, he deserves another one this season.
Here’s hoping those Globetrotters will get that call for Space Jam 2 sooner rather than later.