PREVIOUSLY ON SCENE BEFORE:
“What happens here? You know what? I’m not even gonna specify, because spoiling this particular episode, while hard, isn’t worth it.”
“I could go on forever about this episode, but I’d be wasting precious time.”
Hey everyone, Jack Drees here! I do not talk about TV that much here on Scene Before, but it has been over three and a half years since I talked about ten of my all time favorite “Family Guy” episodes. Some examples from the time include “PTV,” (S4E14) “Wasted Talent,” (S2E20) “The Simpsons Guy,” (S13E01), and “Blue Harvest” (S6E01). If you are wondering, no, I do not have any current plans to update the countdown anytime soon. Maybe in a couple years if I’m desperate, but who knows? Besides, even though “Family Guy” is still on the air today, many of the newer episodes are either unfunny, disposable, overly cruel, or downright unwatchable. But there have been some diamonds in the rough, most notably “Three Directors,” (S16E05) where it is one short story presented in the “visions” of Quentin Tarantino, Wes Anderson, and Michael Bay, and “Trump Guy,” (S17E11) where Peter works for the Trump administration. But my favorite episode has aired during a time where “Family Guy” was just getting into the HD age.
Today, September 26th, 2020, is the tenth anniversary of my favorite “Family Guy” episode of all time, “And Then There Were Fewer.” Now I have a lot of respect for the “Family Guy” series. It is a show that I started watching at one point, and convinced my father to watch alongside me. I guess I got lucky, because at this point my father thinks Seth MacFarlane is a genius. In fact, I’m attempting to work on a bit of a “Family Guy” project myself. I can’t say much about it, but if Seth MacFarlane, Fox, or Disney reads this, I will be happy to talk with them about an idea or two I have!
When it comes to the adult animation genre, I think “Family Guy” reigns supreme in terms of humor and likable characters. From Peter to Stewie to Joe to Quagmire, the list goes on. Throughout the seasons, they all have their highlights in various episodes. And even if the episodes themselves are not that great, I still like the characters because at the end of the day, they have a likable presence or personality to keep the show afloat. Peter is a lovable idiot. While he is somewhat entitled and lazy, he plays the part great. I’m not a dog person, but Brian is probably one of my favorite dogs in media, mainly because of how well executed he is as a voice of wisdom. I occasionally enjoy myself realizing that Seth MacFarlane sometimes puts a bit of his own personality into Brian’s character. As for Stewie… He is probably in my top 10 most relatable characters of all time. Well, minus the desire to kill my own mother.
The supporting characters of “Family Guy” show themselves to be quite admirable too. From Tom Tucker, the charming newscaster who has a knack for dry commentary, to Mayor West, who is basically a college frat boy in a geezer’s body (RIP Adam West), and even though the actor himself is a controversial name as of today, James Woods had some of the greatest moments of screentime in the entire series.
This all adds up to something… That, kinda feels like a culmination.
The reason why I enjoy “And Then There Were Fewer” more than any other “Family Guy” episode is the same reason why I consider “Avengers: Infinity War” to be the best installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Every other movie felt like they played a part in a series of buildup. These movies eventually let “Infinity War” take elements from them to give a big, grand story that stands on its own and recognizes what came before, and even builds the story further in the end.
Keep in mind, “And Then There Were Fewer” is the premiere episode of “Family Guy’s” ninth season, but at times, it feels more like a finale. People die. The vibe is incredibly grand and massive. Also keep in mind, even though I mentioned “Infinity War,” this is not exactly like an epic. After all, this episode is a quirky but somewhat serious murder mystery. This episode relies a ton on its own, heavy, unique atmosphere that quite frankly, I have not seen in too many other “Family Guy” episodes. Your typical “Family Guy” episode goes straight for humor. Maybe it’s dark humor, controversial humor, or some plethora of pop culture references. And those are not always bad. These are in the show’s collective wheelhouse. In “And Then There Were Fewer,” the humor is there, but I stay for the story and characterization.
Let’s go over how the episode goes down, and I’ll give some of my thoughts along the way. *MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD*
The episode begins with the Griffins finding out they were invited to a party at Rocky Point Manor, a massive location where the rest of the episode would take place. This episode is the first one in series to be presented in 16:9 widescreen and high definition. In fact, the intro that is not often shown on television due to time constraints (it can be found on the DVD version of the episode, however) tries to make the viewer aware that they are in for something new. Not just in regards to looks, but the overall vibe. The scope is massive, almost movie-like perhaps. Instead of the traditional intro where they show the main characters in the Griffin House and an alternate venue singing, they rely on scenery and atmosphere. When the main location of the episode is revealed, the music, which by the way is a full-blown orchestra, is kind of bombastic and triggers an emotional punch. The music does a solid job of reminding me as a viewer of the beauty regarding the massive mansion up ahead. The colors and animation in these opening scenes are vibrant and finely detailed.
Now, this is a cartoon, meaning that you can get away with more in a presentation of its kind compared to something in live-action. Thus, this episode handles a crossover sort of situation at hand. Turns out the Griffins were not the only ones to get the party invitation, but as Lois points out, “the whole town got invited.” Not only did they get invited, but they got invited “in their honor.”
This brings every single character imaginable into the episode. Your main tag team including Mayor West, Quagmire, and the Swansons. They’ve also got Mort and Muriel Goldman, the Channel 5 news team, Dr. Hartman, you name it. This episode seems to open with big promise, but does it deliver above and beyond the idea of bringing tons of people together? You betcha.
“Good evening, everyone.” -James Woods
I know a lot of people are currently divided over James Woods as a person, but regardless of his personal views of the world, I will say that he has appeared in some of the best “Family Guy” episodes, and this one is no exception. His role in here is perfect as it solidly relies on previous buildup. “Family Guy” has had a history of using James Woods as an antagonist against several characters, including Peter, when he tried to copy several aspects of his life. He ruined Brian’s TV pilot, changing the core aspects of the script and overall vibe of the production. Throughout the episode, there are a couple of other things that other characters briefly bring up that make Woods look like an undesirable monster. Quagmire reveals Woods stole Cheryl Tiegs from him, Tom Tucker mentions Woods kept him from being the star of “A Nightmare on Elm Street,” and Mayor Adam West says James Woods took the Twitter name @MayorWest, meaning he had to then use @Mayor_West. His presence in the episode is a reminder of how far this series has come and raises questions as to where it goes from there, and I admire that about Woods here.
Woods reveals he has recently become a born-again Christian thanks to his girlfriend, Priscilla (voiced by Ashley Tisdale). Because he’s just become a man of god, he felt it was necessary to invite all the people he wronged to make amends. The guests wonder why they should trust him, but James Woods begs for said guests to give him a chance.
When Woods exits the dining room where everybody happens to be sitting, waiting for dinner, Priscilla tags along. Quagmire’s annoying girlfriend, Stephanie, goes over to the Woods’ chair and sits down. Soon thereafter, blood pours out of her chest.
She dies. Head flat on the table.
To quote Agatha the Pre-Cog from “Minority Report…”
This is the perfect catalyst to bring darkness to this episode. “Family Guy” is usually known for being dark, but that’s usually just from a comedic perspective. From this moment, it might as well be gathered that some serious stuff is about to go down.
Everyone assumes James Woods killed Stephanie, thus leading them to flee to their cars. Upon beginning their drive, a tree collapses a bridge, the only way they can go in their escape.
So it’s back to the mansion!
Unfortunately, nobody is getting reception on their cell phones, and even though there’s a landline, it’s dead. Everyone is in panic mode. until James Woods enters the room, where such panic is dialed up a couple notches. After a penis joke, scolding, and further realization that Stephanie is kind of a gag character. James and Priscilla are confused by everyone’s fear. James claims he’s unaware of what’s going on. So they go to the next room, where Stephanie’s body no longer remains. A power outage ensues, summoning a series of black frames, and “Family Guy” does what it does best.
“Oh my god! Is this what black people see all the time?” -Peter Griffin
James Woods dies with a knife in his back.
We don’t see who strikes Woods down, nor does anybody in the mansion. Joe Swanson catalyzes the rest of the episode.
JOE: What I’m saying is James Woods isn’t the murderer. The murderer… is one of us.”
JOE: And someone ate the last goat cheese tartlet.
PETER: Now I hope I die next!
We soon see that Stephanie died due to a timed gun, which went off as soon as Stephanie sat down in the chair that was supposed to be for James Woods. Nobody admits to wanting James Woods dead, so it’s time to play Clue!
Unfortunately for Joe, he’s soon knocked unconscious by Peter, who takes over the investigation. The characters remind us, the audience, that everyone at the dinner had a motive for wanting James Woods dead, but one was willing enough to get revenge. We see tons of finger-pointing. Diane Simmons points at Tom Tucker, who points at Seamus the pirate, who then points at Mayor Adam West. We get into a finger-pointing frenzy! No answers in sight!
Carl shoves Chris into a bookshelf, causing books to gravitate downward. One hits a particular floor tile that pushes down, making the bookshelf slide, thus revealing an opening to the basement.
Everyone goes downstairs, Peter opens a book revealing James’ misdeeds. He’s written each one down so he remembers who to make amends to. Upon some investigation, Brian comes across tons of Oxycontin bottles with James Woods’ name on it. All of it comes from Goldman’s Pharmacy, appropriately owned by Mort and Muriel Goldman. James Woods blackmailed Muriel specifically, as he was being supplied with free medicine. Everyone assumes Muriel is the killer, but she escapes before she can be captured.
Peter divides everyone into teams, and if you watch “Family Guy,” a couple of these combinations make complete sense.
“Chris, you check the basement with Herbert.”
*Herbert stretches over to Chris, emitting a twiggish sound*
Peter even points out Joe and Priscilla, who are currently passed out, therefore they’re labeled the “unconscious team.”
We see these teams in action. Derek and Jillian investigate an attic, where a black cat, voiced by Patrick Stewart, jumps out. There’s even an inside joke to “X-Men” where the cat reveals himself as a “professor.” Chris and Herbert collaborate, and Herbert makes a request to Chris to burn his house down if he dies. Diane Simmons and Tom Tucker enter an art gallery, where Tom clicks a button with his shoe, thus sliding a painting automatically. Tom goes inside, but he gets trapped! Diane raises some concern, but where did Tom go?!
Meg and Carl enter a billiard room, as if this wasn’t like “Clue” enough already. Meg bumps into the stuffed bear from “The Great Outdoors” written by John Hughes.
CARL: Oh, it’s okay. It’s just the stuffed bear from “The Great Outdoors.” Did you see “The Great Outdoors?”
CARL: You suck.
Even though the duo are searching for Muriel, they decide to take a break and play some pool. Meg finds the pool cues, but she falls down a chute as soon as she grabs one of them.
We see Brian and Stewie humming TV themes to each other, when suddenly, a shriek is heard in the distance. The two run to the scene.
Muriel lies down with the knife inside her. Everyone else comes in as well.
And if you’re wondering, the thing I love about this death, not to mention a couple others in this episode, is that the people who died here have not been revived. In fact, the only person to die in this episode who has been revived is James Woods.
The clock ticks. The lightning strikes. The tension could not be higher. There is no other episode in the “Family Guy” series that I can think of that has given stakes like this.
Meg and Tom Tucker reveal their journey through an underground passageway to the rest of the crew, who are all standing together in the dining room. This is where we get one of the best jokes in the episode, and honestly, it has aged like a fine wine.
Derek reveals he’s getting reception on his cell phone. Peter speaks up.
PETER: Oh my god is that–…
*reveal Derek’s phone cover picture, him in front of the Hollywood sign
PETER: Are you holding up the whole Hollywood sign?
DEREK: No no no no, the sign was way in the background. I was standing in the foreground going like this (raises his arms) while Jillian took the picture. So, by forced perspective it looks like I’m holding up the whole sign.
PETER: I don’t believe you. I think you are a god. And I would die for you or kill others.
It’s stupid, but simultaneously brilliant, which to me is a core element of what makes “Family Guy” worthy of its cultural relevance.
Derek goes to the roof to call the police. Unfortunately, not everyone heard him say that. As evidenced by this next quote…
“Oh my god, Priscilla’s gone!” -Brian Griffin
We angle on the couch where Priscilla was laid to rest. We don’t know her fate, but she is nevertheless gone. But guess who isn’t gone? Joe! He’s back!
Some assume Priscilla’s the murderer. Some think there’s more data needed to confirm if that’s true. Then we get arguably the funniest outburst of the episode. Everyone’s arguing about the situation. Peter just jumps in being himself.
PETER: Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.
PETER: He did too, I saw the picture!
Derek reaches a balcony, dials for the police, but he’s smacked off. Splat! He hits the ground. Dr. Hartman steps in, confirms he’s dead, also noting his head was hit by a blunt object.
Everyone flies back into the mansion, gathers together in a room. Lois assumes Priscilla’s up to this, then Consuela discovers James Woods’ Golden Globe is missing. Everyone gathers around Joe, who suggests that if anyone leaves the group, they’re assumed to be the killer. They investigate Glenn Quagmire’s room, which doesn’t have anything of note. Although Stephanie’s huge underpants get some screentime, which provides for some funny lines.
LOIS: Oh it’s got flowers! I mean, why bother? Who’s gonna see em?
CHRIS: Maybe someone in space!
The gang moves onto Tom Tucker’s room. They search around, Meg gasps, slowly revealing a bloody Golden Globe in her hand.
Everyone turns on Tom Tucker, Joe wheels himself over prepared to possibly turn him in. Tucker brings up Priscilla, noting that nobody knows what she’s up to. Joe suggests that’s possible, then blood starts dripping from the ceiling.
Peter lifts Joe to the ceiling, Joe opens a vent, and a dead Priscilla is revealed, everyone screams. Tom Tucker flees the room as many of the men track him down. They capture him in the dining room, where he’s cuffed. The police take him in once the sun rises.
The music in all of these scenes, and the entire episode for that matter, is simply put, “ear porn.” That’s the best way I can describe it. I know “Family Guy” is often known for their numbers that they’ve sprinkled into various episodes, but this episode has my favorite musical score, or my favorite musical job without lyrics, particularly in the “Family Guy series.” It’s intense, grand, and it pulls you right in. It’s kind of like some movies such as “Star Wars” where the music practically plays a supporting role.
The episode’s not over. We’ve just witnessed the main course. Now it’s time for dessert.
Everyone’s about to leave, Peter and Lois are packing up. Peter checks his stuff and notices his Hot Wheels fire engine does not appear to be in his luggage. He asks Lois if they’re in the bathroom, but she suggests she put them all in his bag. Lois walks down the hall, enters Diane Simmons’ room. She asks if Diane’s okay, to which she responds saying she’s managing. Then comes… this quote.
“You sound like my mother, she actually bought me this blouse for my first solo broadcast. I guess that’s sweet, huh.” -Diane Simmons
Lois is confused, until she puts what Diane said together.
As Peter often says, “Holy crap!”
Lois backs away, suggesting she’s looking for Peter’s fire engine, but Diane points a gun at her. She’s the killer.
As if this wasn’t exciting enough, the backstory behind all of this is incredible. At times when I watch it, I feel like I am viewing this story from the point where Diane is the protagonist. It kind of gives a grand, emotional “John Wick” vibe. I even teared up a couple times by watching the last 5 to 10 minutes of the episode because it’s that good.
Diane reveals that she and James Woods met at a press event, but their relationship was a secret from the media. Then she does something that NO CARTOONS EVER DO. Age. The footage reveals she turned 40, and around this time, James dumps her. Speaking of being left behind by straight, white men, Tom Tucker started promoting a younger blonde anchor, who we now know by the name Joyce Kinney. This anchor was set to take Diane’s place in a matter of weeks.
“I saw my career and my love life crumble, and I wasn’t gonna stand by and take it.” -Diane Simmons
From here, Diane reveals she has previously taken advantage of an intern named Priscilla. Sound familiar? At Diane’s discretion, Priscilla persuades James Woods to become a born-again Christian. This inspired the dinner where Woods invited everyone he wronged. Diane wanted everything to go as smooth as possible so she could kill James Woods and frame Tom Tucker.
“Oh my god. You’re 40?” -Lois Griffin
As for Diane killing everyone else, this was not part of the plan. Stephanie, as suggested earlier in the episode, was an accident. As soon as the power went out, Diane took advantage of the darkness and put a knife in James Woods’ back. From here, she reveals that due to Priscilla and Muriel realizing Diane’s true motivations, they had to die as well. For Priscilla specifically, Diane hid her in Tom Tucker’s room. Muriel was left on the ground as everyone gathered around, and Diane was lucky enough to be “part of the scene.”
When everyone gathers in the dining room, Diane notices Derek running to the balcony.
Remember this line?
“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.”
Yeah, you want to know why that’s possibly the best line in the episode? Because even though it was delivered in a manner where Peter was pretty much being a smartass, Diane Simmons utilizes it and takes it seriously.
“When Peter was yelling at everybody about that picture of Derek holding up the Hollywood sign, I grabbed the Golden Globe and slipped out. I followed Derek outside and did what I had to do.” -Diane Simmons
She then reveals the rest of her plan was a success as everyone turned on Tom Tucker.
But what about Stephanie? She was the first to die! But Diane didn’t acknowledge what happened to her body and where she went!
Turns out, Quagmire had Stephanie’s body locked in his trunk. Because when your annoying girlfriend dies, you might as well keep their body as a memento! It’s a lesson for everyone!
But of course, Diane has one thing left to do. Kill Lois.
Peter comes in the room, asks Lois if she’s on her way, and adds the notion that he wants to listen to tapes, but he can’t do that without the car key. Diane says she and Lois are going to take a quick walk. So Peter just asks for the key.
Lois awkwardly hands the key, Peter runs out of the room, and Lois is forced to follow Diane’s orders. Realization sets in that these may be Lois’s final moments. She and Diane walk to the back of the property, they stumble upon a cliff. Diane is set for the kill.
LOIS: Diane, please! You don’t have to do this! I won’t tell anybody, I swear to god!
DIANE: That’s right, you won’t. Goodbye, Lois.
By the way, the music here is glorious.
We zoom out on Lois, looking as normal as ever. Then we cut to a close-up of Diane, who has a bullet through her chest. She falls off a high cliff into the water. This is the last we’ve seen of her since.
Now who killed Diane? Lois didn’t do it! Nobody else was at the scene! So who killed her? Tom Tucker? Joe? Peter? Nope!
The answer is all kinds of badass, none other than Stewie Griffin himself!
“If anybody’s gonna take that bitch down, it’s gonna be me.”
Not only does this support Stewie being one of the most kick-ass cartoon characters of all time, but from a story standpoint, I am curious to know exactly he did this. I’m not saying there’s a plot hole behind it or anything, but for years, one of the biggest storylines in “Family Guy” history is that Stewie continuously desires to kill his own mother. The series even dedicated a two-part special where Stewie and Lois try to kill each other! This is how far they’ve taken this concept! Now, Stewie subversively SAVES Lois from danger. Why does he do this? Does he love his mother? Does he realize he needs a mother figure in his life? Did Diane piss him off one time? Does he just hate the news? I’m probably asking more questions than I need to! This is a complete twist, but I love it!
This episode is written by Cherry Chevapravatdumrong, and she honestly went above and beyond with it. All the characters within this massive cast had a purpose of some kind. Each one a motive, something to do, and unfortunately this episode has quite a few clips that cannot be shown on most TV broadcasts due to timing purposes. So I will definitely recommend you check this episode out if it plays on TBS or Adult Swim or something, but if you have the motivation, buy the DVD. I know the series is on Hulu as well, but I am not sure how long the episode is on there.
And Then There Were Fewer also uses a classical orchestra to its fullest potential, providing for a soundtrack that I still wonder why is not on iTunes or something. The opening theme for this episode is also used in a “Family Guy” mobile game, subtitled “The Quest for Stuff.”
The animation in this episode is incredible. Not only do we get to see everything in high-definition, but they utilize flashy water, crisp skies, and I must say that the manor inside and out is wonderfully detailed. I must say, this being the first episode in widescreen must have really set the tone, because this episode goes long. Not only because it’s an hour, but because there’s so much that goes on. A vast of number of characters! Plot point after plot point! Stakes dialed up to an 11! The episode barely has any dead air.
But I think the best part about this episode is that it relies less on comedy than usual. “Family Guy” is one of my favorite shows of all time, and I will say part of the reason why is because it makes me laugh harder than perhaps any other show I can think of. But when the show can do something different, make me feel emotions, almost get me to tear up WHILE STILL BEING FUNNY, that is a sign of a masterpiece. This thing gives me chills, man! I felt for everyone during the episode. Everyone who wondered if they were the next to die. Those who were perhaps about to die. Maybe not Stephanie, but she was a gag character, so it’s not like I was supposed to get emotionally invested in her. I even felt bad for Diane by the end of it. I understood her motivation despite the reveal that she killed everybody, because I got a sense of her struggle. This is a character that has appeared every now and then on the show, and to see her at this point, where she defends herself for her deadly actions, is kind of hauntingly beautiful.
But just a reminder, the most important thing we all learned in this episode iiiiiissssss…
“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin
Don’t you forget it!
In the end, And Then There Were Fewer is incredibly rewatchable, insanely beautiful, and provides perhaps the greatest blend of comedy and emotion in the entire series. Characters develop, thus allowing the show to develop down the road. It’s something I kind of wish this show would do more. Yes, it said goodbye to a few characters, but with an ending like this, comes a new beginning. We say goodbye to Diane Simmons, but now we have Joyce Kinney. They say change is inevitable, but I think “Family Guy” handles such an inevitability brilliantly. And Then There Were Fewer to this day, officially ten years after it came out, is my favorite “Family Guy” episode, and may just be my favorite television episode of all time.
You want to know how good this episode is? Even Seth MacFarlane himself says that this is favorite episode!
“I think this is my favorite episode of the series. A classic format, great-looking direction, and, I hope, a genuinely surprising ending. It was also the first episode to air in HD. It was really cool to finally see Lois’ pores.” -Seth MacFarlane (Retrieved from: Seth MacFarlane Reveals His 20 Favorite ‘Family Guy’ Episodes)
If the creator says its the best, that says something! Also goes to show that great minds think alike!
Today, “Family Guy” is continuously losing steam despite a few great episodes here and there. Although I will give the show credit for being a pioneer in adult animation for going where say “The Simpsons” can’t, and essentially making the cutaway gag a trademark. Season 19, not to mention the show’s 350th episode, is set to premiere on Fox tomorrow. I will most likely be watching, but “And Then There Were Fewer” is an episode that reminds me of what makes this series so watchable. The characters, the storylines, the brilliant writing. It all comes together beautifully. I will be looking forward to season 19 of “Family Guy,” not to mention the recently announced seasons 20 and 21. But I long for the day where “Family Guy” makes an episode as good as this. Although, just remember one thing, and one thing only.
“Derek lifted up the Hollywood sign.” -Peter Griffin
It’s in the picture!
Thanks for reading this post! It’s not every day that I decide to talk about television, but I figured since And Then There Were Fewer turns ten today, that would make for a good opportunity to do a post like this. But if you are interested in my movie content, feel free to check out my review for “Tenet!” Or, as some call it, the only movie in theaters right now! I’m not sure when I’ll get to talk about TV again. Maybe when another streaming service comes out or something, but we shall see. Be sure to follow Scene Before either with an email or WordPress account so you can stay tuned for more great content! You know what grinds my gears? The fact that more people are not checking out my Facebook page! So do yourself a favor, and check out the official Scene Before Facebook page! I want to know, did you ever watch the “Family Guy” episode titled And Then There Were Fewer? What did you think about it? Or, what is your favorite “Family Guy” episode? As of today, you have 349 to choose from, which is quite a buttload! Leave your freakin’ comments down below! Scene Before is your click to the flicks!