This American Dad! review contains spoilers.
American Dad!: Season 12, Episode 2
“I’ll take my letter jacket in a woman’s medium.”
While a Steve plot involving him and his group of rejects pining for the female body is hardly reinventing the wheel, this episode moves forward with a surprising degree of focus, and even if we’ve seen this sort of plot countless times before, it still connects. The opening scene alone where Steve has a particularly breast-centric mindset (“You can have the starchy simulacra, but I want — nay deserve — the real thing”) and even gets jealous over a teen mom’s nursing infant is a strong example of the sort of quality that this episode is still capable of with a hackneyed story. This quest for mammaries lead Steve and company to the conclusion that they need to obtain letter jackets, with water polo being the shallowest of two evils. But then a wheelchair-bound student is edging Steve out of the competition.
This leads Steve right into the fins of Klaus, who is more than eager to coach Steve into re-convincing the water polo coach, James Hetfield (“So it’s a good thing that I’m this very different James Hetfield”) that he’s worth another shot. This is a pretty fun pair-up for the episode, and between this entry and the premiere, Klaus is batting two-for-two so far this season, which might be an all-time first. In fact, if these TBS seasons have done anything drastically different, it’s been their welcome collection of Klaus storylines.
What follows is essentially Klaus “ratatouilling” Steve into being a great water polo player by yanking around with his junk. None of this exactly makes a lot of sense but it plods forward with a certain degree of confidence that allows me to get behind it. Besides, it’s more Klaus. Plus I’m also pretty okay with the disturbing idea that Steve is willing to have a family member be amidst his genitals for the sake of popularity.
Speaking of family members, Francine ends up piggybacking on this story as she ends up finding herself as one of the cool jock moms at school, suddenly popular. With the show attempting such simpler stories in the past, I’m more than okay with them trying to enrich this very silly plot of theirs. The Francine material isn’t the highlight of the episode, but there’s still fun to be had with it. It also helps add to the madness that’s going on, where so much of the water polo fodder is steeped in a delirious Metallica filter in the first place.
On the other side of things, Stan and Roger end up buying a sailboat at a CIA auction, which is the perfect sort of chaos to balance with Steve’s hormonal half of the episode. I’d be more than fine with this story in the first place, but then Jeff (hey, Jeff!) also enters the fray, explaining his history and passion with sailing (“It’s the only thing I’m really good at”) only to get shut down immediately.
With Stan and Roger being a reliable, albeit predictable, story generator, throwing in the element of Jeff into the mix would be a nice way to keep things feeling fresh. I suppose they have guns instead as their wild card, but at times I’m curious why did the show even bring Jeff back if it was going to keep him benched so frequently? Granted, this does all come back at the end of the episode to tie together nicely, but that’s not to say that this conclusion couldn’t have taken place without Jeff present throughout the rest of the episode, too.
It’s a little unclear where this plot is going exactly, with Roger’s sailboating persona beating out Stan’s, which basically means the two of them just wax on about sailing without actually doing any. They end up befriending an elderly, seasoned sailor whose relaxed demeanor fits theirs all too well, but it’s not that far into things that Stan and Roger are as bored with having a boat as they were excited about having one. Soon their focus shifts from figuring out what to do with their boat to how they’re going to commit insurance fraud and sink the lemon, which is an angle that feels much more in their wheelhouse.
In the end this is certainly one of the more stuffed American Dad! episodes. On top of all of this, there is still a Steve and Klaus rivalry angle that it rides the episode out on (which features a delightfully bizarre fantasy sequence with a “grown-up” Klaus). Points should definitely be given towards the ambition of how much “The Life Aquatic…” tries to fit into it, but that’s not to say that a somewhat quieter episode wouldn’t have been more successful.
As it stands the episode still works more than it doesn’t and makes for an above average effort, but there are still a number of beats that ultimately don’t go anywhere. I suppose that’s not the worst thing though when your episode is about a man and fish water polo scandal and two people not going sailing.
Now I’m off to stand under a cold shower and tear up some hundred dollar bills.