Season finales on American Dad rarely function as season finales. They simply mark the end of whatever episode order Fox gave the show nearly two years ago. American Dad has only reached 20 episodes in a season once during its run—the fourth season—but this year it was designed to match that total, until the Christmas episode “Minstrel Krampus” got pushed back indefinitely (presumably until next year) after the tragedy at Sandy Hook. Without that one anticipated episode, this season had a few creative peaks—one for nearly nonstop laughter, the other for sheer ambition—a few off-episodes, but mostly above average work, missing a potential cornerstone.
The eighth season concludes tonight with “Da Flippity Flop,” which addresses Klaus, one of the show’s long-standing surreal elements. Like the few episodes this season that directly dealt with Roger’s existence within the world of the show, this week Klaus’ real body shows up—and having Hayley and Francine interrupt Klaus’ explanation was a nice little nod to how deliberate and hokey lengthy backstory can be for viewers who already remember it.
Other shows have recently handled body-swapping comedy with vaguely positive results, but American Dad had the foresight to dispense with any mix-up immediately. Klaus does a terrible Stan impersonation, and though his rampant gunfire into the ceiling of the family room convinces Stan that it has a chance, Francine and Hayley recognize what’s happened in an instant, and that gets a laugh where their ignorance would not. Even better, Francine’s reaction is not to immediately switch the two back, but allow Klaus his fun (even though it’s clear he does not want a temporary body joyride) to punish Stan for mistreating Klaus over the years.
The climactic sequence has Stan in Klaus’ decaying body chasing Klaus in Stan’s body, attempting to pull off the death-defying ski jumping technique. And as with the B-plot, which I’ll get to in a moment, the funniest bit involves a long-gestating joke. Guest stars Shaun White and Jonny Moseley standing in line for a chairlift is stunt casting, but using them to comment on how weird it can be to hop on a chair with some weirdo while stuck in the air over the snow is painfully accurate to unlucky skiers and snowboarders.
To Klaus and Stan, their conflict makes complete sense, but to any causal observer, they’re a ridiculous freak show. Hitching that joke to a specific observation about ski resorts adds another layer. The rest of the ending carries on in grotesquely surreal fashion—Stan-as-Klaus goes off the jump while his decaying body unravels—but the lift joke punctuated a strong finish to the season for the show.
The B-plot mostly worked too, and had the benefit of coincidence with Pain & Gain coming out just a few weeks ago—no thematic similarity, just location. Roger starts a gym in the attic and repeatedly tries to get Steve to sign up for a membership.
But of course, since Roger’s ventures never stay open for long—he’s operated a crooner lounge and a standard bar earlier in the season—by the time Steve actually commits to the gym, Roger shifts the attic into a Chinese restaurant, and his disguise changes to something far less amusing.
I expected the quick shift to something else, though not Roger’s caricature appearance and accent. Aside from that moment, this plot is great simply for the string of answering machine messages, building and building Roger’s criminal activity while simultaneously trying to close a new membership. Steve acknowledges that he shouldn’t have an answering machine, then proceeds through a crazy narrative as Roger’s character tries to complete a sale, gets in a car crash that kills three people, goes to court, shoots up the place—Snot interjects with one message here, the required comedic breath—then continues trying to get Steve to sign up.
Between that string of messages, the ski lift joke, and “Thanks for not hanging up when I dialed you by accident Dame Judi Dench,” this season finale of American Dad is a perfect example of how the show has settled into being above-average nearly every week, with the occasional ability to hit above or below that mark.
- Stan’s final flight in Klaus’ body, and his exhilarated callback to “Jump Cit-ayyyyy” retroactively made that joke work the first time.
- “Punch in the face!” worked for Hayley much better than when Klaus used it earlier in the episode.
- My top episodes of the season: “Blood Crieth Unto Heaven,” “Adventures In Hayleysitting,” and “Lost In Space.” Season Grade: B+
- To everyone who has been reading since last fall, thanks a lot for following along this season. We’ll be back here after the summer.