This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 15 Episode 9
“What’s the problem? I take twenty minutes to deliver a solid gold parking lot story and your jaws aren’t on the floor?”
Nobody wants to feel irrelevant. It’s a feeling that’s not only prevalent within most people, but it’s something that’s inherently human. This is true for a brand-new show that’s in its infancy, or a veteran series that’s fourteen/fifteen seasons in. American Dad does an effective job at still standing out and feeling important, even this late into its run, but this fear of irrelevancy is the very backbone of this episode.
Stan Smith is all about presentation and making sure that the proper ambiance is present for every story that he tells. Even though they’re not lacking any enthusiasm, Stan’s meandering tales about graph paper and parking lots fall on deaf ears at home. One of the strongest cold opens in some time does a masterful job to illustrate just how much of a nuisance Stan’s monotonous nothing stories have become in the Smith household. The family has even developed a hiding place between the walls for when Stan’s stories are particularly painful.
By now Stan’s insecurities over being ignored and rendered unimportant are well known within the series. That’s why Stan’s storyline in “The Never-Ending Stories” is so perfect for his character. Even if you’re not aware of this certain character affectation, this episode succeeds in how it pits Stan against his family and co-workers right from the start.
When Bullock goes away on vacation, he asks Stan to be responsible for his CIA class in his absence. Naturally this means that Bullock is gone for the bulk of this episode, but he still manages to make his brief time count. His line about how his students like to refer to the Patrick Stewart-voiced character as “Professor X” is rather brilliant, especially when it’s revealed that the name’s because of Bullock’s penchant for pedaling ecstasy to his students. In Bullock’s place, Stan really takes to his temporary teaching duties, not because he has any real sense of pride about training the CIA’s agents of tomorrow, but because it allows him a venue to tell his painfully long stories without consequence. Stan’s found an audience that has to listen to him and he lets this newly found attention go right to his head.
Stan falls in love with his new cushy situation where half-hearted attempts at “teaching” are still treated like gospel. Stan’s running commentary on Spy Kids 3-D or why Juni is his favorite character in the film finally has the attentive audience that it deserves. Stan even takes some drastic measures to indefinitely prolong Bullock’s vacation and guarantee that nobody takes away this attention. Stan remains in heaven until Roger shows up as Mrs. Weinsteinopolous (who’s essentially Mike Myers’ SNL “Coffee Talk” character, Linda Richman), who’s apparently the mother of one of the cadets in Stan’s class. Stan is naturally worried that Roger will find a way to deflate his adoring audience and bring him down from his pedestal, but he’s determined to not let that happen. Suddenly Stan needs to guarantee that his students get results on their midterms when in actuality all of their notes are full of Stan Smith minutiae, like the man’s affinity towards spider monkeys.
What follows is the best sequence from the episode where Stan uses magnets in a handful of increasingly ridiculous situations to ensure that his students make the grade. The magnet material is such absurd comedy that continues to raise the stakes in typical American Dad fashion. If nothing else, unique moments like this one continue to justify this show’s existence and how it can still be so outside of the box crazy.
Stan’s tactics to unwillingly help his cadets cheat their way to success works so well that his students get fast-tracked to the CIA’s wetworks division in the thick of Nicaragua. The final act of the episode is concerned with Stan and Roger heading to the jungle to rescue the clueless students before they all wind up dead. The dangerous jungle makes for a fun backdrop for the final chunk of the entry (Stan nonchalantly slices a toucan in half during one highlight), but it also provides the necessary obstacles for Stan to reach a cathartic place. Stan understands that his stories might be a little overblown, but more importantly he learns that it’s crucial to listen to everyone else’s stories, too. They could literally save his life. American Dad has some last-minute fun with Stan’s lesson here and gets inventive (and gross) in a way that keeps this episode creative and unpredictable right until its very last second.
As fun and fulfilling as Stan’s journey is here, the episode banks on Klaus to deliver for the rest of the installment. American Dad has shown Klaus increasing amounts of attention lately, but this is the big one, everybody. Here’s the full-fledged, in your face Klaus storyline that all of his patient fans have been waiting to happen. None of Klaus’ antics or his ability to penetrate the professional rap world makes a lot of sense, but the series has long-established the character’s interest in random, fringe topics.
Klaus gets recruited by Jesse Lou—yes, the Jesse Lou, the king of rap—after he witnesses his hype skills and enthusiasm at an impromptu local rap showdown (also, apparently incest is really popular these days with the kids?). It takes Klaus a little time to get his bearings as a hype man, but it’s not long before he becomes an instrumental part of Juicy Lou’s operation. In fact, Klaus’ hype game is so infectious that Minimum Security Records makes him an offer to start his own album rather than continue as Juicy Lou’s sidepiece. Klaus tries to maintain his integrity, but the dark charms of the hip hop industry almost immediately break down his resolve. He’s soon on an egocentric path that feels doomed as soon as it begins.
As silly as this is, it’s still a lot of fun and the episode finds the right energy and tone for this ridiculous storyline. In a lot of ways this plot feels a lot more suited to someone like Steve, but part of why this story works as well as it does is because it is Klaus that’s in this situation. Klaus’ whirlwind success culminates with the release of the music video for his first big hit, “Guppy Love (Fishin’ Ain’t Easy (Where My Sluts At?))” The video is a solid excuse for the episode to get in some great jabs at the overdone nature of the music video industry.
It’s entertaining to see Klaus let loose some mature, sexualized lyrics, but what’s even better is how Klaus’ video so quickly devolves into a shilling for 7-11 products (particularly a Nutra-Grain bar and a Mountain Dew). It only underscores how this fish has no business being in rap. The instantaneous way in which Klaus loses all of his love and fans might feel a little rushed, but his rap is terrible and maybe that’s all it took to have them really open their eyes on the matter.
American Dad is able to stay fairly focused on its stories this week, but there are still some strong examples of comedy that come from more random places. This episode introduces a boastful fellow CIA agent who’s 73, but has willed his body to reach peak perfection. The character’s a strong Bullock surrogate (it also doesn’t hurt that J.K. Simmons voices him) who it would be nice to see appear in future installments. Bullock’s untethered, strange ways are typically enjoyable, but this new character who’s very much in love with his own unnatural physique, provides a different energy and makes a welcome foil for Stan. The stylized way in which Bullock and his hedonistic pals dispose of the terrorists towards the end of the episode also stands out.
“The Never-Ending Stories” moves at an impressive pace that doesn’t allow the episode’s focus to ever feel stale. Stan-heavy installments can sometimes come on a little too strong, but “The Never-Ending Stories” finds a balance that works for it. For what it’s worth, there’s basically no Hayley or Francine to speak of this week, but the episode doesn’t really suffer for it nor do the characters feel missed here. There’s enough story to sustain what’s going on without them. Even Roger is mostly an afterthought here. He might help fuel the third act, but he’s largely passive throughout it. This is an episode that goes all-in on Stan and Klaus and while this isn’t the funniest episode of the season, it’s still a strong installment that works more than it doesn’t.
Additionally, Klaus’ storyline deals with the need for relevancy and attention in the same way that Stan’s material does, it just doesn’t make that aspect its focus. Klaus’ story is much more interested in the surreal spectacle of his fame, but the fact that both of these stories have the same drive at their core helps the episode feel more cohesive. At the end of the day, a character gets their tongue shot off in this one, so what more are you looking for here?
And don’t even try to get in contact with Bullock because he’ll be grippin’ and a-slippin’ at Hedonism III, y’all.