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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

American Dad: “Old Stan In The Mountain”

Illustration for article titled American Dad: “Old Stan In The Mountain”
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American Dad is the middle of a quietly good seventh season. I liked the show last year, but despite being interrupted consistently by sports and other considerations, and despite it being unclear when particular episodes were made, I think it’s pretty clear that the average quality of the episodes is pretty damn high. Like, high enough to receive best-of-the-year nods for reasons other than making up the numbers. Not toward the top, but hey, let’s give this show some love.

Tonight’s episode was pretty clearly one that’s been sitting on the shelf. In addition to featuring Hayley prominently (but not Jeff), Patrick Stewart also clearly states that the Urban Assault Vehicle is the new “2010” model. So there’s clearly a lot of serendipity making this season seem so good. That also makes it difficult to say what overall decisions are making it good.

So we’re left with what was good about “Old Stan And The Mountain": everything. Rarely stellar, but not every episode is gonna be transcendent. In the main plot, Stan displays excessive amounts of ageism before an old man in a wheelchair puts a hex on him. The next day, Stan starts aging rapidly. His kids and Klaus try to figure out how the hex works, while Stan interprets it as a motivator to chase his dream, climbing Kilimanjaro. Along the way, Stan hears Hayley and Steve’s discussion about putting a fly out of its misery, but he believes they’re talking about him.

Stan decides to kill Hayley and Steve before they kill him, but he falls asleep before he can do the deed. Sure, it’s a mild form of the ageism he’s supposedly learning to avoid, but the repetition renders it ridiculous. It also makes it more surprising when he suddenly succeeds, slashing the kids before chasing them up the mountain in a bizarre and awesome puppet-race bit of animation.

The B-plot, pairing Roger and Francine, is a real winner. It starts with the incongruous sight of Roger and Francine preparing for a dance competition, complete with ostentatious costumes and equally ostentatious 1980s dance music. But there’s no dance-off. Roger hasn’t been entirely honest with Francine. It’s actually a funeral. One where everyone hates Roger, as Francine remains in her ridiculous costume.

It’s all about tenacity, really, as Roger explains to Francine. Which she takes at face value, before succeeding at the dance and tossing Roger off a cliff. Why does this work so well? I think part of it is that it gleefully subverts whatever dance-movie clichés it can, but a bigger part of it is that Roger’s scheme is just so odd. Sure, it’s clear that he’s going to continue to not be “entirely truthful,” but to what ends? The final result makes sense when it’s revealed, but it’s absurd along the way—which is a fine trick.


Stray observations:

  • “You got a dumb nerd son, Stan.” The dumb nerd is a rare archetype on TV. Bill Haverchuck is my favorite.
  • “Well, it was in a foreign language, so it was probably ‘Death to America.’” Hayley’s got it all figured out.
  • “I filed something wrong. It certainly wasn’t because I killed the secretary of defense.”
  • “Francine, I haven’t been entirely truthful with you.”