I tend to like Brian-centric episodes more than a typical episode of Family Guy. Brian is absolutely the most developed character on the show, despite being little more than an anthropomorphic dog stand-in for Seth MacFarlane at times. Most of my favorite jokes in the rotten episodes from the fall poked fun at Brian’s pretentiousness, and until tonight the Brian/Stewie adventure “Back to the Pilot” stood head and shoulders over the rest of this season. Even though “The Blind Side” went back the well for an A-plot that Family Guy has used over and over again, it was still funny enough and almost entirely logical throughout.
Just like Meg, Brian Griffin is on a relatively constant search for love. Sure, he may be a talking, walking, condescending dog, but he’s still looking for a nice human girl to settle down with. He’s been obsessed with Lois at various points during Family Guy’s run, he was a contestant on The Bachelorette alongside Quagmire, and all the way back in season 5 had a recurring girlfriend voiced by Drew Barrymore. Tonight was another episode in that vein, with Brian dating a blind woman named Kate, who just so happens to hate dogs.
In his panic, Brian lies about being a dog, and then has to avoid physical contact as he and Kate grow closer together. They obviously click, but their relationship is based on Brian’s early lie. Brian also takes advantage of Kate’s blindness to make himself seem better than he is, which is ultimately the karmic reason why the relationship won’t work out. He fakes a mugging by changing his voice and pretends to fight off five attackers, and stages a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower with a Stairmaster, a fan, and a croissant. Those tactics have to come crashing down, and thanks to Kate insisting Brian should meet her parents, he concocts an overly elaborate plan with Stewie for their dinner.
Even wrapped up in bandages like a mummy and with Stewie in tow as his nurse, Brian can’t help but keep lying about how great he is, claiming he was burned while rescuing children from a fire. The praise Kate’s parents heap on him for this false good deed causes Brian’s tail to wag uncontrollably, leading Stewie to cut it off, and in the ensuing argument Brian starts barking, giving him away for good. In the denouement, Kate says she could’ve looked past Brian being a dog, but the fact that he lied is the cliché deal breaker. And thus, another cycle of Brian’s loved-and-lost pattern is complete, but it plays out a simple moral logic that’s compelling, and had plenty of Brian/Stewie banter to keep things funny.
For some reason I can’t quite explain, the simplicity of the B-plot worked perfectly for me. Lois replaces the old wood on the stairs, and for some reason Peter keeps tripping on the new, inexplicably slick wood and falling down. It gets so bad that he decides to just live upstairs in the Griffin’s bedroom permanently, fearful of ever setting foot on the stair again. I don’t know why, but each successive time Peter fell down the stairs, I laughed. It’s an easy and obvious joke, but unlike Peter’s exaggerated fart movements around his new deaf co-worker early on in the episode, all the bits with the stairs elicited a good reaction.
The cutaways that came out of this plot didn’t work for me, particularly Peter’s contraption that lifts Joe up, leading him to ecstatically believe that he’s dead and is rising to Heaven. The potshots at True Blood and Showgirls also fell flat because they felt like beating a dead horse, but I’ll take what I can get. When the main plot makes coherent sense, the B-plot makes me laugh consistently through simple but effective comedic escalation, and the cutaways don’t fill the room with groans, Family Guy succeeds. This is a decidedly above-average episode, and one that didn’t get dragged down by the little bits that didn’t work. It’s not as good as “Back to the Pilot,” which remains the high water mark of the season so far, but “The Blind Side” can rest comfortably in second place for now.
- Unofficial Cutaway Counter: 12 – I’m pretty sure that’s the highest count of the season, which goes against my general theory that more cutaways/tangents means a worse episode. Do with that what you will.
- Best cutaway: I’d go with either Stewie discovering the Batcave or how annoying “dog people” can be. As a dog person, I found that one pretty great.
- To make last week’s episode even worse, one of Meg’s only appearances tonight is when she’s trapped underneath a collapsed beam in the living room, and Lois doesn’t give a shit. She and Peter cared so much when she was seeing Quagmire, but can’t be bothered to actually care about Meg. That contradiction has been my least favorite part of this season by far, stretching all the back to “Seahorse Seashell Party.”
- Brian meets Kate thanks to Quagmire. He sees Peter’s deaf co-worker, then organizes a “Disabled Ladies Night” at the Drunken Clam to round up women. Since there’s not much continuity between this episode and last week, Peter has almost no reaction to any of Quagmire’s deviancy.