Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Dad: “Killer Vacation”

Illustration for article titled American Dad: “Killer Vacation”

Last week, Family Guy repurposed a cannibalism plot point eerily reminiscent of the 2007 American Dad episode “Vacation Goo.” This week, American Dad features another Smith family vacation—this time devoid of the rather fun virtual reality misdirect in that episode—sending the whole family to a resort to unwind. It splits neatly into four quick plots with basic construction, but nothing really lands until the final action sequence.

Stan promises Francine that he’ll stay off his phone and ignore work for once, but after sending a picture to his office, he gets a call that the Activities Director of the resort is a war criminal. Though the struggle to satisfy a significant other and compartmentalize work while on vacation is a tired plotline, American Dad gets some extra mileage out of it because of the Stan/Francine relationship. When she inevitably discovers he’s trying to assassinate the guy, she wants to help, since at least they’ll be doing something together, instead of Stan sneaking out of hip-hop necklace craft class to shoot a pool full of dolphins by mistake.

In last season’s second episode—the delayed Family Guy/Cleveland Show crossover “Hurricane”—Hayley got some character work for the first time in what seemed like forever. Now there’s development on the Hayley/Jeff front in consecutive weeks! The couple tries to restart their sexual fire with little success, but with the help of a swinger couple, their spark reignites. Combined with last week’s premiere, when Jeff attempted to swoop in and save Hayley from Roger, this is the most progress for these characters since they got married, and it’s a shame that a mayonnaise joke may be the only memorable thing about it.

Roger decides to dress up as an old lady on vacation for the first time since her husband died. As Abigail Lemonparty—nobody look it up, and thanks for the awful Internet joke, American Dad—Roger hits it off with an older man who just lost his wife. When the guy ditches his character for a younger woman, Roger changes his disguise to “George Hamilton, 20 years ago,” complete with inhuman bronze skin tone, and rides off on a Segway to victory. I’m still not sold on Roger’s assumed character acting as a guest star every week, and when he’s separated in his own plot, it succeeds or fails based on the comedic value of his costume, which I didn’t find funny here.

Steve’s plot is the least entertaining, but it’s the one that brings a few threads together at the end. He meets a kid his age named Liam with a British accent and they set off for the nude beach across the island. Liam has some sadistic goal to keep getting Steve hurt, but Liam’s accent is so convincing that Steve keeps doing things like jumping off a cliff with banana leaves tied to his arms as wings. The pratfalls didn’t really work, but once the two get to the nude beach, Steve is, of course, rewarded with seeing his parents and Hayley and Jeff instead of his adolescent fantasy.

“Killer Vacation” isn’t a terrible episode; it just isn’t a very good one, with few laughs until the final minutes as Francine and Stan run away from the Activities Director after a suicidal lemur gets in the way of Stan’s assassination attempt—which is the biggest laugh of the episode. Seriously, I talked myself up half a grade thinking about that scene at the tennis court, which is the only clip worth watching over again. The running gag with the gardener slightly pays off as well, as he’s the one who actually finishes off the war criminal to complete the relatively simple escalating comic rule of three. That earns Stan’s ire once again, and of the four plots, the Stan/Francine arc is the funniest, but that makes this a weak episode overall.


Stray observations:

  • The only cutaway, to the marriage counseling show “Oh No He Didn’t, Oh Yes He Did,” perfectly embodies why I’m glad that American Dad employs fewer of these jokes than Family Guy.
  • If Stan kills the war criminal, he gets 400 CIA bucks, enough to get him a bicycle, like it’s a Chuck E. Cheese or something. Those prizes were always worthless.
  • The Hugh Grant joke has been made so many times at this point, and there has to be a more current celebrity to make that same type of reference.