"I'm not the one who called Child Protection Services," Cleveland yells at his wife Roberta, until he (unsurprisingly) realizes, after much back and forth, that he did indeed make the call. This third episode isn't as bitingly funny as the first or as well told as the second. Instead, it's riddled with implausible plot points and "edgy" jokes, i.e. the type to propel you hurl yourself off the nearest ledge.
In this episode, Cleveland learns that the adage about how you can pick your friends and you can pick your nose, but you can't pick your friend's nose, also applies to picking your children's friends. On its own, the premise is a solid one.
As his stepdaughter is popular, Cleveland decides to take it upon himself to secure a friend for his socially unskilled, lonely son, Cleveland Jr. Further infantilizing his son and leading a perfect stranger at a bus stop to mistakenly think Cleveland is pimping pedophile pleasure doesn't deter Cleveland. He eventually finds what he is looking for right under his nose, or, more accurately, his neighbor Lester's driveway. Lester's son Ernie is as wanting as his own.
Cleveland Jr. and Ernie, hit it off from the get go. Proud of his coup, Cleveland tells Ernie, he is "always welcome." Too young and docile to recognize the implicit lie of an empty gesture, Ernie takes Cleveland at his word. Ernie's dad doesn't seem to care, or, at least, gives Ernie his permission. Thus, Ernie moves into the Brown's home, much to their chagrin.
Again, another plausible premise- the guest that stays too long, the friend of your child that decides the grass is greener, or chocolate chip cookies taste better. It's been played out in non-animated human homes as well as staged ones like 90210, Gossip Girl, Mad Men and so forth. Instead, The Cleveland Show decides on a different and completely unbelievable twist.
The Browns turn Ernie over to foster care. It turns out that the family, who have taken Ernie in, are actually doing so, for the (wait for it) money! I hadn't heard about "welfare queens" since the time Reagan made ketchup a vegetable. I realize that each episode takes nine months to make, but there were more noteworthy nickel and dimers and exploiters of children in the news in the last twenty-odd years.
But it's the time in the show when Cleveland must fix the problem so this is the card the poor man's been dealt. He tells Lester to rescue his son, as a means to get back at "the government." Considering Lester doesn't pay taxes, it doesn't seem like he would bite, but, with little time left in the episode, he does. And he brings along a Confederate army of rednecks. There is a shootout and, Ernie and Lester, unsurprisingly, reconcile.
There is another adage The Cleveland Show may be mining, the one about how almost all television shows can be uneven from episode to episode and series take time to grow.