King Of The Hill has a tendency toward being formulaic, evidenced by this season in particular, which has rehashed the Hank-vs.-jackasses conflict to varying effects nearly every week. However, tonight's episode proves that the show is still capable of fresh permutations on the same-ol-same-ol.
I think the key to tonight's episode was how Hill-specific it was. There were no exploding car dealerships, no school carnival, just small-scale family drama, leaving room for plenty of subtle hilarity ("Sarcasm, huh? Well, two can play at that game cute baby,") and a nice chunk of pathos as well. Egged on by a book-pimping family "guru" who shames her at a school meeting, Peggy tries to bring her family closer as only she can: through a series of increasingly smothering changes (a family-tracking dry-erase board, an underwear-outside-the-bedroom policy, removing all the doors in the house) that eventually drive Hank and Bobby to actively avoid her. It's a completely believable real-world set-up executed in a completely absurd manner, thanks mostly to Peggy's ability to be both soul-crushingly mundane and bat-shit insane at the same time.
Peggy's high opinion of herself can be grating, and when she faces her inevitable humbling, it can be either schadenfreude-tastic or just awkward. But when she discovers Hank and Bobby missed the family Christmas portrait because they were hiding from her affection, I actually felt a little sad for Peggy, who, while often hilarious, does not normally inspire feelings of sympathy. The final act, though, managed to wrap it all up in a touching yet not-contrived manner, with all three be-guilted family members independently convening at the mall (Hank to kick the guru's ass for messing with Peggy's head, Bobby to beg the photographer for a reschedule, and Peggy to eat pretzels and mope), where they plot to steal the Dooley family's undeserved portrait session. The resulting closing shot, of a mustard-stained Peggy and a mid-sneeze Bobby, was sufficiently endearing while avoiding schmaltziness, a nice wrap-up to a sweet yet somewhat twisted family story (twisted even further by a final reminder of Bill's obsessive weirdness).
--The alley B-story (if it can even be called that–it was more just a segue device) was typical Dale shenanigans, yet I never really get sick of those: "Now my beer tastes like my back pocket!"
--More Peggy's diary please: "Dear diary, Bobby's eyebrows have still not grown in; it is disturbing."
--Anyone else dying to know what was in that mysterious bag Strickland gave hank for that emergency "propane run"?
--Apologies for the lateness of this posting; due to a mind-numbingly long commute back from SXSW I was unable to watch/comprehend any television until this morning.