When Peter and Brian jump off the roof of the Griffins’ house in order to escape “family night” to play laser tag with Joe and Quagmire, and Lois tells Chris to shut up because “all the good people are gone,” I wasn’t looking forward to another episode focused on Peter and his friends. Episodes this season using that structure—“Burning Down the Bayit” and “Cool Hand Peter” are a couple examples—have largely been disappointing. But when Peter, Quagmire, Brian, and Joe saw a bright light, got in a car crash, and woke up in a hospital to find themselves the only remaining inhabitants of Quahog, I briefly thought a sort of 28 Days Later parody was afoot. Instead, the episode turned, echoing a previous argument between Lois and Brian, then Stewie and Brian, that Peter only considered Brian the dog he owned, not on the level of an actual friend.
The whole episode is an elaborate gimmick, devised by Stewie in order to test that argument. I don’t think proving that point is important either way. Peter treats Brian, and every other character for that matter, in whatever way the show needs him to in order to serve its purpose that week. Peter’s character inconsistences are a part of the show’s fabric, and spelling out this one point tonight will make me question the next time Peter doesn’t treat Brian with the same fundamental friendship that is so vitally important here in this episode.
All of the searching through the abandoned Quahog as a group develops a bit too easily. The four of them wander around town outside the hospital, and happen upon the crashed car. They deduce from Peter’s face print on the wheel and car registration that his name is Peter Griffin. After going to his house, Joe and Quagmire sort out their houses, but because Brian can tell via scents that he frequently defecates on Quagmire’s lawn, everyone assumes Brian belongs to Glenn instead of Peter. All the little inversions, from Joe presuming he’s a stripper because of the cop uniform, to Quagmire and Brian justifying all the elaborate sex toys in Glenn’s house as dog accessories, generally hit the mark and generate laughs. Peter is perhaps more bluntly racist and crude, unknowingly showing off a lopsided bra that belongs to him, but the central question of the experiment, and the episode, is whether Peter and Brian can develop a friendship outside the owner/pet relationship.
That’s an admirable plot for Family Guy to spend a half hour exploring, except the episode largely avoids ever really dealing with that question, instead inserting a plot where the group tries to find out what happened to the rest of humanity. Aside from the misguided joke that Glenn still wants to try repopulating the earth with three men and a dog, the group wonders aloud about possible explanations. When Peter leaves, the other three notice a fake newspaper headline that says Peter caused all the destruction in the world.
Most of the connections that ratchet up the Quagmire/Joe murdering Peter arc are tenuous at best. The four all wake up with no knowledge of their lives, but their immediate questions about their identity are abated as soon as they find their houses. No question of family, no desire to search any further (and as usual, no problems accepting a talking dog), but they take a newspaper headline hanging on the wall at face value and without question grow murderous. Family Guy doesn’t use a logical progression for its plots, but it would be nice for the illogical nature of the pastiche to at least aim for humor, instead of tepid attempts at heightened drama while using more cutaways to pad out time.
By the end of the episode, it’s hurriedly made clear that Quagmire should not be Brian’s owner, and for some ineffable reason, Brian and Peter are connected, even though their memories have been erased. I liked a lot of the throwaway lines and cutaway material packed around the central plot, but when Family Guy goes all in on one plotline without any other runners, it’s a make-or-break choice. This question about Brian and Peter’s owner/pet relationship didn’t really need this sort of musing, as I’m still not sure this answer will make past episodes clearer, or influence their relationship going forward. It’s just a statement because the show felt like it needed to make one now, and the dynamic of the show will change as needed, ultimately rendering this revelation and confirmation of Peter and Brian’s friendship useless.
- Unofficial Cutaway Counter: 9. I tend to think anytime the count is close to double digits, it's too many and taking too much time away from the main plots, but tonight, a lot of the tangents were only a few seconds.
- Best cutaway: Quagmire teaching Brian to shake with both paws, then telling him to “shut the fuck up” when Brian says it reminds him of a quote from Milton. Seriously, making fun of Brian’s highbrow references has a much higher tendency of making me laugh than Peter referencing My Name Is Earl.
- Worst Cutaway: the sequence where Joe, Peter, Brian and Quagmire each get a quick cutaway into imagined lives. Patrick Warburton voicing Tweety Bird was great, but the others were pretty bad.
- What about the other cutaways?: The Joe/Quagmire fight over whether to watch La Vie En Rose or Reindeer Games was strange but funny. The Kitten/Gorilla pairing was awful and hilarious. I hated the Quagmire as ShirtPants cutaway due to it’s similarity to the “Stewie Said That” gag from earlier in the season. The small commentary on Twitter seemed late, unnecessary, and poorly executed.