“American Dad!” recap: “Scents and Sensei-bility”

Despite its title being a play off a Jane Austen novel title, last night’s episode of American Dad! was unrelated to any of her classic works (sorry Austen fans). The main plot was more akin to The Karate Kid, as Steve and Snot decide to take up karate after witnessing supposed fellow nerd — new kid Martin — beat the crap out of an unsuspecting bully (with Martin being told to “FINISH HIM!” with the Mortal Kombat-style voice of a fellow student, which becomes a running joke in the episode, with this kid speaking everything in the tone of that fighting video game, even telling Barry at one point to “FINISH IT!” when Barry is about to leave his lunch).


Martin — before being kicked out of yet another school for fighting, since it is his third strike, according to Principal Lewis (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson, a welcome return) — tells Steve and Snot to visit his sensei at his dojo. The two visit the place — located in a strip mall and called Dojo Biden, with references to the vice president everywhere — and meet with Sensei Tom, who tells them to let their anger rise up to make them better fighters. (Sensei Tom seems to thrive on anger himself, as it becomes clear that he lives at his dojo and doesn’t have a lot of money to his name.) Only Snot is able to get angry enough to throw an effective punch, and while Steve is ready to give up on karate, Snot enjoys it and starts getting into trouble at school himself for fighting.

Hoping to get Snot out from under Sensei Tom’s control, Steve tries to bribe the man (with $12, a windfall to Sensei Tom, who envisions the ham sandwich he could enjoy with that), but Tom tells Steve that he will only let Snot go if Steve defeats Snot at an upcoming karate tournament. Needing to learn some fighting skills before then, Steve turns to his dad, who has had to learn martial arts in the CIA. Stan merely hands Steve a gun, telling him that a gun beats martial arts every time.

Shortly after this, a new sensei conveniently turns up in Steve’s life — Roger, dressed in martial arts master attire. Unfortunately, Roger’s training merely consists of having Steve give him backrubs, make him drinks and brush his wigs (Roger is later astonished that Steve actually thought this was karate training).

At the tournament, Steve’s attempts at the “brushing” technique used with the wigs does nothing against Snot, who begins pounding on Steve. Steve is promptly declared the loser, and is resigned to losing Snot as a friend. At school, Steve hears Snot getting into another fight, which would be his third strike, resulting in expulsion. Steve jumps in to take the brunt of the violence, getting beaten to the point where he says that even the NFL wouldn’t let him go back in afterward. Principal Lewis witnesses the fight, and determining it is only Steve’s first strike, nothing happens (he also informs the rest of the students about the three strikes rule, and that they all have two free fights that he expects them to use). Seeing how devoted Steve was by standing in for him, Snot decides to give up karate.

That was the “sensei” part of the episode. The “scents” part revolved around a pretty weak subplot, which is too bad because it’s the first time Klaus has figured prominently this season, and it wasn’t great material. The family kicks Klaus out of the house (making him an “outdoor fish”) because he is starting to smell. As Klaus plots his way back into the home, he must dodge cats, birds and even a lizard (there is a funny reference to The Warriors, with a songbird rattling bottles and taunting Klaus to “come out to play”). Klaus eventually drives the family from the home by sending his stank into the house via the heat pump, then locking himself in. Later, he accepts a large package which he assumes is the family trying to sneak their way back in. It turns out Stan, Francine and Hayley had packaged up all the animals, hoping they would take care of Klaus. But Klaus has the last laugh, yelling that he has killed them all.

The episode ended on that weak note, but there were some signs that the season is improving, especially thanks to Principal Lewis and in-jokes like the Mortal Kombat reference. Again, not as “edgy” as TBS keeps promising, but amusing enough.