This American Dad review contains spoilers.
American Dad Season 16 Episode 6
“You don’t understand. These are my friends and I’ll never turn my back on them.“
Episodes of American Dad that revolve around Steve and his friends always have a lot of potential, especially when Roger is the agent of chaos in the equation. Their whole escapade to recreate the film Mannequin, which goes wildly off course remains one of my favorite installments in the series, so there’s a lot that can be done with these characters when in the right context.
Snot, Barry, and Toshi have been apart of this show right from the start and they make up an integral part of who Steve is. They’re a constant. Steve and his friends have been through various stages of conflict throughout the course of the series, but their bond has never completely fallen apart. The group has certainly hit their respective lows, but “Lost Boys” poses the question of what becomes of Steve when his friends are stripped away from him and the result is a compelling, thoughtful episode about what it means to be a friend.
“Lost Boys” begins with Steve and his pals in the throes of celebration for their ten-year friendiversary. The boys have even composed a soothing song for such an occasion. The episode is full of sweet displays like this where the group improves each other and show that they’re stronger as a team. While all of this selfless kindness is going on, it’s very appropriate that the entire reason that Roger wants to steal Steve away from his friends is because he needs a squash partner. Squash is just Roger’s passion of the week. It’s entirely incidental and Roger’s such a fickle individual that he could fully drop out of the squash tournament before it’s even time to compete, but because he needs a partner now, that’s more important than ten years of friendship.
Roger’s rather ruthless with his methods to tear apart Steve and his gang, but it’s just as satisfying to watch Steve passionately defend his friends as it is to witness Roger’s evil schemes. Roger is always a bit of a devil, but he especially feels like one here as he continually tries to lure Steve away from his friends with increasing temptations.
Roger’s ploys are obvious, but what gives this exchange some depth is how Roger reinforces the idea that everyone slips up at one point and that eventually Steve will choose his own interests over those of the collective. Steve remains steadfast with his dedication towards his friends, but like Roger predicts, he does eventually reach a breaking point when he believes that his life is in danger that causes a major schism in their happy group.
Steve’s love for his friends is just so wholesome and genuine. It’s the complete opposite of Roger, which makes this collision of sensibilities very entertaining. It’s almost painful to watch Steve fall completely into Roger’s trap, completely oblivious to the role that he’s played in all of this, but still treat himself like the bad friend in this equation. It’s unusual that Roger’s plans are this effective, but once the squash tournament is over and he’s discarded Steve like a used wig, Steve is left broken with no one at all in his corner. Even his family is away with their ridiculous antics.
Speaking of those antics, the rest of the Smiths find themselves with a rather playful storyline after Hayley discovers that Jeff is a savant at knowing when to “flip or flop” a house. The family decides to pool their resources and use Jeff to make some easy money. It’s a lot of fun to see Jeff and Hayley work together with her parents so well, but the reverence towards Jeff’s talents is even more enjoyable.
The whole production that Jeff puts on in order to see “the house’s bones” is fantastic, as is how much everyone is in awe of it. It’s also likely just convenient placement in the episode order of the season, but Stan is a lot more respectful and cordial towards Jeff, which I’d like to think has to do with the fallout of their bonding in last week’s “Jeff and the Dank Ass Weed Factory.”
This new passion results in the Smith family investing in what appears to be a truly terrible house while Jeff ruminates on the current house bones at hand. From of the start it feels pretty clear that Jeff doesn’t actually have any skills in this area and that he just got lucky one time, but each progressively awful decision that he makes builds up exciting suspense. It feels like this will be one giant disaster, but maybe someone will support Jeff’s crazy “bone-centric” ideas and confirm that he’s not insane.
Of course, that’s not what happens, but it’s still an entertaining, expensive disaster, if only for everyone’s utmost confidence towards Jeff’s actions up until the very moment where it all falls apart. The story is as thin as the bones of a poor house, but the over the top conclusion where Jeff admits that this was just a way to get closer with Hayley works better than if he was just lying or trying to impress Hayley’s parents. Besides, Hayley’s the one that really pulls the trigger on all of this.
The episode’s final act takes an unexpected turn that makes for a fun twist to Steve’s dilemma. Rather than spend the rest of the episode on Steve’s attempts to win back his friends, he instead funnels all of his friend energy over to Roger and becomes incredibly overbearing. When this becomes too exhausting, Roger becomes the one that tries to repair Steve’s relationship with his friends and undo the damage that he caused in the first place. It’s an angle that’s much more layered and forces Roger to try and do good, all of which is more engaging than Steve’s friends simply accepting his apologies.
Roger is on fire in this installment and nearly all of his lines are laugh out loud funny, so any extra excuse to put him around Steve’s friends is also a good idea. The fact that this includes a lengthy detour with Klaus is even more unexpected, but it works within the atypical nature of this episode. In the end, Roger doesn’t follow anyone’s advice and operates as a lone wolf in order to right his wrongs. He learns absolutely nothing about friendship and he nearly endangers many lives in the process, but what follows is incredibly endearing. It wouldn’t be a proper plan of Roger’s if lives weren’t on the line, but it’s really touching that Steve’s friends forgive him without any grand gesture. That’s what friendship is all about.
This season has been especially on point with everyone’s characterization and “Lost Boys” continues that trend. This episode showcases Roger’s selfish rage and Steve’s innocence very well, but this is also a particularly strong Klaus episode, even before he amounts to anything of importance.
Klaus is a delight to watch as he harasses online gamers or waxes on about his bros in Tampa, but he’s also able to act as a reliable foil for Roger when he starts to tailspin. In terms of dialogue, this feels like one of the funniest episodes all season and it’s incredibly dense with jokes. There are some fantastic non-sequiturs throughout this installment, like Barry’s feelings over Scrubs’ move from NBC to ABC or how Roger’s anger in the squash tournament culminates in him stabbing himself in the neck with a broken racket. A character’s ghost even briefly weighs in before deciding to return to this mortal coil.
“Lost Boys” is just an all around impressive, meticulous episode of American Dad. The story and characters are strong, but it’s also an episode that pays attention. Roger complains about a failed Julia Childs-themed business venture in an aside for one scene and then it later appears as one of the tools Roger uses to break up Steve and his friends. The same sort of payoff happens when Klaus’ friends in Tampa aren’t just a running gag for the character, but actually turn into a pivotal plot point about teaching Roger the basics of friendship.
There are smart attentions to detail like that throughout this episode that make it stand out more than an entry that’s just really funny. “Lost Boys” does everything right and it manages to have a real heart to it on top of everything else. It’s a real skill to successfully tell a moving story about friendship and still be able to go out on the outrageous visual gag of sucking and spitting out the snake venom from a friend’s inner thigh, but that’s why I’m happy that American Dad is still around.
Oh, and the “Dad-ing” branch of American Dad expands its brand to “The Unmaskers!” and puts Banksy under fire. That’s right, no one is safe!
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.