American Dad: “The Missing Kink”
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American Dad: “The Missing Kink”

Making fun of Stan Smith’s prudish conservatism was the bread and butter of American Dad’s early seasons, but it was also the limitation of the premise that held the show back. When it became less beholden to Stan as the absolute center, and less concerned with lampooning his politics, the show grew into the more surreal animated sitcom it is today. But bringing that back once in a while can still work. After all, what’s the fun of having a stuffy, stubborn prude as a patriarch if you can’t knock him down a few pegs and call him out for his missionary-only preferences?

“The Missing Kink” is the first time this season that I can remember finding a plot centered on Stan and Francine’s marriage so funny. Stan celebrates successful sex with a conservative yet insane “Missionary Accomplished” sign, but Francine wants more from their sex life. When she inadvertently discovers that she likes when Stan spanks her, she hatches a plan to get him to indulge in his kinkier side—which of course will run amok and backfire, but that’s what these kinds of sitcom plots do. Thankfully, a lot of funny dialogue and two comedic set pieces in the first half of the episode mask that trope.

First, Francine’s ploy to get Stan to spank her—without actually talking to him about expanding their sexual horizons further—involves shaming Steve for not checking the ball to Klaus before shooting in a game of one-on-one basketball. The escalating levels of outrage, from Klaus to Francine to Stan, to Steve throwing Klaus and the water dish, built nicely with more laughter.

It helps that Roger’s role in the plot is a great character, the bartender in speakeasy-esque attic of “Roger’s Place,” counseling Francine and Stan separately and egging on the situation in order to not only bring out Stan’s deviant side, but push it to the extreme. As a trendy bartender, he serves his own piss to Francine as an Imperial IPA, then goes on about whipping up some duck sliders and a fancy salad to Stan, before picking out some garbage on a plate. I like Roger’s costumes and characters more when they fit into a story as a supporting character instead of separating him out in his own satellite plot. “The Missing Kink” accomplishes the right balance of memorable, funny character with Roger’s underlying bored agent of chaos. When Roger breaks into song while nudging Stan to be more adventurous in the bedroom, it takes the episode in the standard bizarre overdrive direction.

“I’ve Got A Kink” isn’t quite a home run, but it has a few great lines and typically extravagant visuals, along with a Principal Lewis cameo—though the similarity between the tune and “I’ve Got A Dream” from Disney’s Tangled is a bit unsettling. Once Roger gets Stan to open up, he immediately goes off the deep end, indulging in so many kinky elements right away—prairie dogs, a leafblower with a rubber glove, a cat holding a popsicle and a fudgesicle, letting Lewis watch with a friend—that the change doesn’t seem sincere.

I thought that potentially Stan takes it so far in order to turn it back on Francine that indulging too much in kinky activity would ruin what they have together, but instead he goes so far that he alienates Francine entirely. Roger’s solution is to literally insert his greased-up body into the problem, leading to a great visual gag in Stan’s hospital room, but I didn’t like how Francine’s arc ended. It takes what could be a funny, shared moment for the Smiths and instead goes with a joke about how much ass slapping there is in sports.

Running counter to all the kinky explorations in the Smith marriage, the B-plot continues Jeff’s long absence. Hayley has started to date again, which Snot takes as an opening to ask her out, since she’s so sad and desperate he might actually have a chance. The eventual reversal is obvious—Hayley gets attached, Snot isn’t interested because he loves the chase more than catching something—takes the wind out of the plot. Even more disappointing, Snot uses one of the oldest I-don’t-know-how-to-dump-someone tricks in the book, and pretends to be gay in order to extricate himself from the situation.

It’s still fun to laugh at Stan for his strict conservative ways, but I’m glad that American Dad doles this type of story out in smaller parcels than it used to. It especially helps to pair Stan with someone else in the family trying to soften him, and Francine’s futile quest to introduce more adventure into their bedroom certainly combats Stan’s uptight, Bible-misquoting ways in a way that creates room for a lot of jokes. “The Missing Kink” may end in an unsatisfying way, returning to the same boring Smith sex life, but with Francine indulging elsewhere, but it still contains enough laughs and outlandish visuals to outshine the rough patches.

Stray observations:

The weekly green backpack meeting declines an idea for a darker shade of green. How demure.

Snot’s cell phone uses a 9V battery. Awesome.

“Next on FOX: another fucking singing competition.”

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