This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 16 Episode 5
“See you in hell!”
“No, see me inhale.”
American Dad is not South Park, nor has it ever tried to be. This is a show that tackles many topics, but for a program that has “American” in the title and features such a staunchly conservative Republican as its figurehead, it doesn’t shove politics into the audience’s faces. I would never expect Trump to show up on this show, even though there’s legitimate reasons to involve the President of the United States. Even the show’s first season, which is its most politically minded, manages to not preach or push critical ideologies.
All of this being said, “Jeff and the Dank Ass Weed Factory” does feel like it’s an overwhelmingly pro-marijuana installment. This is hardly a super controversial stance for the show to take, but it does feel a little different for the program. While there may be a clear point of view in this episode, the last thing that it feels like is preachy or manipulative. In fact, it uses this issue to deliver an entertaining Charlie and the Chocolate Factory parody, which also helps bring together two characters who are often at odds, Stan and Jeff.
Stan comes into this episode all hot over the legalization of medical marijuana in Langley Falls and it leads to a lot of vintage Stan-isms on the topic. He also delivers an enjoyable impromptu def jam inspired stand-up set on the issue that’s surprisingly hip. In many ways Stan’s opinions feel like a personal attack on Jeff, who Stan won’t even allow to laugh at his jokes.
Jeff may often feel like a disposable character, but what’s really moving about this installment is how much Stan’s opinion of him and his stoner ways matter to him. Jeff’s personality is largely defined by his passion for pot, yet he’s willing to put those habits under the microscope because Stan is a dick.
It also happens to be an especially great time for marijuana users in Langley Falls since Tommie Tokes announces his Wonka-esque contest where he’s included four golden rolling papers in select blunt wrappers of his product. Tommie Tokes’ promotion ensnares all of Langley and the local news even provides up-to-the-minute coverage on the event. Curiously, this contest becomes of interest to both Jeff and Stan’s circles, but for wholly different purposes.
The CIA has it on good authority that within Tokes’ weed factory, he possesses as “everlasting edible.” Bullock is intent to destroy (and get the most out of) this item and make sure that it doesn’t get into the wrong hands. This sets both Jeff and Stan on a mission to get one of these four golden rolling papers, even if Jeff’s quest is much more humble and apathetic.
On that note, this episode truly understands that Jeff’s obliviousness is what makes him work so well. The sequence where he doesn’t realize that he has the final golden rolling paper is a seriously a work of art. The scene fires off jokes like a machine gun and by the end of it Jeff has been promised a night with Francine and the entire family has broken out in a brawl. I initially thought that Hayley may be resentful that Stan’s given this opportunity, but her disinterest in the prospect is even more perfect, especially when that can’t sink in for Jeff. This episode surprisingly doesn’t feature a B-story, so it makes the most out of the Smith family the few times they’re all together here.
A lot of the fun of this episode is how it pairs together Jeff and Stan. The two are typically at opposite ends of the spectrum, but right from the start “Jeff and the Dank Ass Weed Factory” reiterates the schism between them. This also makes the pay off of Jeff and Stan’s adventure all the more satisfying, since they certainly find a peace with one another by the end of this marijuana-laced journey. Their exchanges are consistently entertaining and gain even more impact from the fact that Stan has a hidden agenda to take down the whole operation.
The moment where Stan makes out with Jeff as a way to distract him from a slip up in the mission made me laugh out loud. There’s such a weird energy between them where neither of them really know how to act with each other and it leads to plenty of unexpected laughs.
Once Stan’s hand is finally pushed to toke up, he finds himself connecting with Jeff in ways he never thought possible. It’s definitely a powerful equalizer for them and the episode does also respectfully feature the freak out side of marijuana (which includes an appreciated glimpse of Stelio Kontos in Stan’s psyche).
I was hoping for insanity once Jeff and Stan get inside Tommie Tokes’ factory and “Jeff and the Dank Ass Weed Factory” does not disappoint in that respect. To begin with, Tommie Tokes is Snoop Dogg. Sure, he just voices the character, but due to Tokes’ design and speech pattern it’s not hard to imagine that this is just how Snoop spends his downtime. Much like in the style of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as Tommie Tokes introduces his contest winners to incredible weed-tastic delights, things get a little too groovy for individuals and people start dropping like stoned flies.
As if on cue, these fatalities are followed up with trippy musical numbers by the Snoompa Loompas that warn the audience of possible dangers that can strike while high. All of this really sticks the landing, whether it’s the deaths, songs, or just the sheer cleverness in each of Tommie Tokes’ weed rooms. It’s a very well thought out episode and a fitting tribute to Dahl’s original text.
The final act of the episode sees Stan and Jeff veer off from the tour and the story takes a surprising turn. Right after Jeff and Stan share what feels like a real moment of commiseration and Stan vows to leave the everlasting edible alone, it turns out that his entire performance at the factory has been an elaborate act. Stan’s betrayal leads to even more unpredictable means of torture by Tommie Tokes.
Tokes turns Stan into a Snoompa Loompa and although the operation gets interrupted halfway, the results are still absolutely horrifying. In spite of Stan’s lies, Jeff comes to his aid and it’s ultimately Jeff’s lung capacity and ability to get high that saves the day. Stan may deny it, but he also seems to genuinely learn the benefits of the drug.
For an episode that revolves around marijuana, “Jeff and the Dank Ass Weed Factory” shows a lot of focus and concentration. What could easily have been a write off of an episode is actually a very strong chapter in Jeff and Stan’s relationship as well as a thoughtful parody of a classic film and story.
What’s also nice about this episode is that as much as it’s a tribute to Jeff, it’s also a wonderful Stan entry. He’s in very fine form here and “Jeff and the Dank Ass Weed Factory” understands which of his impulses work best with Jeff. It’s also nice to see some self awareness on the show’s part by how Stan addresses that he “still works” for the CIA, albeit only part-time now.
The characterization and dialogue here is impressive, but there are also tons of great sight gags throughout this, like the use of bongs for snorkels, their interpretation of Wonka’s “glass elevator,” the gruesome face-ripping fatality, or a rainbow-colored chase sequence set to Kurtis Blows’ “The Breaks.” “Jeff and the Dank Ass Weed Factory” is a lot more fun than it deserves to be and it could easily turn into a new classic among fans. And for any of the problems that you may have with this episode and its resolution, as Jeff would say, “You worry too much.”
Now, let’s get a whole episode about Stan’s efforts as a funky stand-up comedian.
Daniel Kurland is a published writer, comedian, and critic whose work can be read on Den of Geek, Vulture, Bloody Disgusting, and ScreenRant. Daniel knows that the owls are not what they seem, that Psycho II is better than the original, and he’s always game to discuss Space Dandy. His perma-neurotic thought process can be followed at @DanielKurlansky.