Church Hopping is the one hundred-ninety-seventh episode of King of the Hill. It was first aired on April 9, 2006. The episode was written by Jim Dauterive, and directed by Robin Brigstocke.
When the Hill family finds out that the church pew they have been sitting in for twelve years has been taken over by another family, they abandon their Methodist church and begin worshipping at the new "Megachurch" after auditioning other churches. The relocation to the Megachurch tends to occupy their lives much more than normal; as Hank describes it, "It keeps coming at you." Hank decides enough is enough and chooses to run away and worship Lucky's way after the suggestions of other churches do not meet his expectations. Hank returns home from drinking with Lucky - while highly intoxicated - and declares he is finished with church altogether. Later that night, Hank dreams of plan to return to Arlen Methodist. In a meeting with Karen Stroup, Hank negotiates the return of his pew, the departure of The Smiths (the family that earlier usurped his pew) and leverages the departure of other parishioners in exchange for a permanent seat at Arlen Methodist.
In the beginning of the episode, the Hill family is in a desperate rush to get to their local church due to the fact they're late as Bobby Hill had failed to set the clock correctly for Daylight Savings Time. Peggy then says that they're soon to be at the church without being late, but as fate is not feeling kind to them, they are stopped at a red light and not only that, but an incoming train to boot. Then, the scene cuts to their hurried arrival at the church, and when they enter, Dale silently taps on his watch to Hank and the others to signify that he knows they're late. The Hills arrive at their usual pew, but they find that it is occupied by another family. Hank tries to gently suggest to this family to move elsewhere so that the Hills may sit down at their usual pew, but the family refuses to budge and the mother tells them that maybe the Hills should sit elsewhere.
Hank tries to argue for their spot, but Peggy just tells him to drop it and he does so reluctantly, forcing the Hills to sit in the back with the coughers. Reverend Karen Stroup then appears and calls attention to the family that refused to move as the newest members of the church: the Smith family. Hank and the family cannot hear her due to the coughing of the coughers. Hank then anticipates what happens next, a beam of sunlight will bounce right off the cross and hit Hank right in the eye. That very event happens to transpire.
Later on that day, Hank is busy drinking beer with Dale, Bill, and Boomhauer. Hank complains to them about the unfairness of it and how God always knows that Hank is usually seated smack-dab in the middle, a place that he and his family have always sat for 12 years. Bill then comments on how embarrassing it was when Hank had yelled "WHAT?!" in the middle of the service to Stroup, likely due to the fact he couldn't hear her. Hank then says he feels as if the Smith family had owned the place, but Dale argues that General Electric were the ones that had ownership of the church.
In the Hill residence, Hank then says he feels like he has trouble just letting it ride off his shoulders and asks if that makes him out to be petty. Peggy, however, argues that he is not being petty and instead shifts the blame unto the reverend, and complains that she has offered countless suggestions, none of which Stroup appears to have taken. Peggy suggests trying the new mega-church, but Hank doesn't feel as if that is the right course of action, feeling it too be to grandiose for his tastes, having at least 5000 members. Peggy lists the things that come along with it, such as a bank, dry-cleaner service, a mall and much more, but Hank says if he wanted to go that route, he'd walk around the mall and think about Jesus. Hank settles on having a talk with the reverend about this incident.
At the church, Hank is indeed having that very discussion with Stroup, telling her how the event with the pews transpired. Stroup seems to look taken aback by this, and asks "Your seats?" Hank then tells that is the case, at the second row, right side inside aisle, bringing up the Smiths, whom had refused to move that morning. Stroup mentions them to be a lovely family. Hank then suggests to Stroup that may she could talk to the Smiths about this issue so it doesn't transpire again, perhaps go as far as assigning seats. Stroup refuses this, saying if she wanted to do that, she can't do that because it's the house of the Lord, not the Hill's, not the Smith's, not even Stroup's, and advises Hank to just drop it. Hank walks away in disappointment.
Later at work, at Strickland Propane, Hank is having lunch with his fellow coworkers, Joe Jack and Enrique. After they finish their talk, Hank cuts in asking if a fellow wanted to move over a different church, but does not bring up why, what would be the best option. Enrique mentions his church first, then Donna jumps in and says that her church is a decent option, being made of steel, Joe Jack then says you have to be right with God to be in his church, and Buck Strickland decides to throw in his two cents.
However, a montage reveals the problems with the suggested churches: needless to say, Strickland's idea of worship is rather too energetic for Hank and his family, Enrique's church has a reverend who does sermons only in Spanish and the family can never seem to stand up or sit down in sync with the other members, and Donna's church appears to be one that sing songs, something that doesn't sit right with Hank and his family as they immediately leave.
Back at the Hill residence, Hank is eating dinner with the family and he says that he just wants a perfectly normal church, like the one he used to have. Luanne points out he used to have that and added Hank was disloyal to it, only for Hank to fire back that the church was the one disloyal to him. Lucky Kleinschmidt throws his two cents in the ring by saying that he doesn't go to any church, church usually goes with him wherever he goes as he worships whenever he can get a chance. Hank thinks the idea of worshipping while not in a church was asinine, and Peggy insist that, because no other alternative exists, they have to try the mega-church. Hank still doesn't feel comfortable with that, even if the preacher used to be a quarterback for the Texas Longhorns. Peggy concedes, suggesting that they won't worship at all, living the empty lives of secular humanists (in other words, not choosing any religion to worship and instead living on the idea of logic and reason). Hank silently thinks it over, deciding to give the church a chance, his pride refusing to let him go back to Stroup in defeat.
The mega-church, known formally as "Church of the Rising Son" as described by a sign some distance away from it, comes into view as the Hills approach it. In a shop, Hank seems to be examining the music selection, willing to understand the idea of coffee in church, but selling Nat King Cole albums seemed to call it into question. When they hear Stroup's name being called, Bobby goes off to flee, and when Stroup notices Hank and Peggy as Bobby has escaped, Hank asks if Stroup should be at First Methodist as it is a Sunday, Stroup says she's there for a coffee as it is free to all local clergy. When questioned by Stroup as to why they are at the mega-church, Hank admits they've been trying out a few churches due to the incident with the pews. Stroup is taken aback by this revelation, but Peggy counters with Stroup ignoring her suggestions being one thing but giving away their usual spot was going too far. Stroup admits that if you wanted a pastry or Christian-themed paper goods, the mega-church had no contest in that, but surely the Hills weren't going to worship there.
Hank argues the point that just because a place is big does not exactly mean it is bad, using the Pentagon as an example to back his argument. Stroup fires back with situations like the one that was happening, she normally asks what Jesus would do in Hank's place, and says harshly that Jesus wouldn't be acting like a child and holding grudges. Hank, not letting her have the last word so easily, decides to tell her that, likely said just to spite her, that the Hills were switching to the mega-church as their new place of worship and are never coming back to their old church. Stroup fires back, saying the Smiths have not only been sitting in the Hills' old spot, but they sing as well, and she leaves them alone with that. Needless to say, as a bus comes to take the patrons to the church, Hank is looking like he would be regretting his decision very soon.
Inside the church, Hank wonders what exactly he has gotten him and his family into, all of them looking rather incongruent to the large behemoth of a church. A man walks up to them, recognizing them as people who either just got mugged or are first-timers, and he introduces himself as Bryce, the liaison for new members, and asks how the coffee was. Hank says that it's good, and Bryce asks on a scale of satisfaction, were they plain satisfied or extremely. Hank replies extremely satisfied, then makes it clear to Bryce that they are just curious and looking around, having had a falling out with their former church due to a situation. Bryce tries to relate with them, admitting to the Hills that he was a former cocaine addict, having easy access to it because of being in a car dealership, something that makes them uneasy.
Another man comes in, ending the awkwardness between them by saying a hostile situation was afoot, and Bryce leaves to go sort it out. Peggy recognizes the man as reverend Nealey, from the bus benches, and introduces herself and her family to him. Bobby gasps in shock as he sees a sermon being played on large television sets, and sometimes afterwards, they usually leave the televisions on for the cowboy game. Hank decides to hurry before the good seats are taken, and the reverend tells them that the seats are assigned. Hank looks happy with this stipulation.
As Hank and Bobby go to sit down, Peggy overhears reverend Nealey talking to someone on the phone, who is flabbergasted that someone would assign carpet-cleaning on a Sunday morning. Peggy offers a suggestion, Nealey agrees to hear it and she says that he needs a hand or two. The reverend agrees.
Later, Hank is seen talking to Bill, Dale, and Boomhauer about his experience down at the mega-church, admitting Hank was skeptical of it at first, but it understood the concept of customer service. Hank then shows the boys a pager, which Dale asks about that device, that he got from Bryce, one that lights up whenever "there is important news from the church". Bill comments that it was like being paged by God Himself, sans the death. Hank asks the boys to swing by with him next Sunday, but Dale refuses because ever since Hank had left First Methodist, Stroup had been desperate to keep from losing members in her church that she had opened a section for smokers. Bill even wonders if she'd be desperate enough to let the members touch her, if they wished, because he hugged her and was not rejected.
Before Hank can even comment on that, his pager buzzes and Hank is force to cut his chat short with his friends. Hank then tells Bryce that he was extremely satisfied with the sermon, the Rattler Steakhouse disc among other services. Luanne then says to Lucky that someone is not extremely satisfied with Hank: the Lord. Lucky then tells her that they shouldn't judge other people for the way they choose to worship the Lord, and Luanne concedes to that point. Luanne asks Lucky where he plans on going with God, and he says that he'd be getting a fuel filter at Western Auto.
The Hills are driving by the next Sunday. As a jab at the Hills' actions, Stroup puts up a sign that says "NO ASSIGNED SEATS IN HEAVEN" and smirks as she spots them. Hank only sneers back in response and drives away, refusing to apologize for what transpired at the mega-church.
At the church, reverend Nealey is talking to someone about prices, and then another call comes in and Nealey is about to transfer to someone else, but Peggy comes in out of nowhere and micro-manages all of Nealey's calls, holding two and saying they want the same price the Baptists get in regards to the waivers. Nealey thanks her for her assistance, and calls her heaven-sent, to which she unsubtly agrees to and says Stroup never understood her. As for Hank, he is outside the mega-church playing football with the team, who immediately get down to pray. Hank thought that they were covered by the prayer that took place pregame.
As Hank arrives home from work later that evening, Hank is about to go to the alley and join in on the fellows' conversation, but is interrupted by his pager before he can even get a bite in edgewise. Hank is extremely satisfied with all but the overall experience. Bryce then guilt-trips Hank into changing his answer into "extremely satisfied". Bryce then asks Hank to show up in an hour as the woodworking club got together that night. Hank hangs up the phone, looking more tired than he was before.
Back at the mega-church, as Peggy is busy organizing Nealey's files for him, he is having an extremely personal phone call with a member as their mother was one of their favorite members. Peggy interrupts by trying to get him to sign something, but Nealey tells her that he's talking to someone. Peggy quietly suggests he signs the papers, and he does, but not completely. Nealey then turns around as Peggy is not giving him any room to breathe, and she interrupts him again, and he cuts her off by saying that he's having a personal chat with a member and signals her to leave. Peggy doesn't get the hint, to his annoyance, and instead decides to eavesdrop on the call.
Nealey, now fed up with Peggy, is avoiding her and the Hills and Hank comments he can't wait to be home to have a beer. Then, Bryce shows up and offers them a ride for the midnight movie, but Hank doesn't even get a chance to refuse the movie despite being exhausted from the activities of the mega-church and they ride off to the movie. Needless to say, Bobby and Peggy aren't exactly the most enthused by it while Peggy is overly-enthusiastic. By the time the Hills are finally able to leave, it is revealed to be 2:00 AM, having been in that church for 16 hours. To Hank's dismay, the church sermons start 6 hours prior to that.
At the Hills' residence, Hank decides to have a conversation about the new church, talking about how quickly things are moving. Peggy agrees and mentions the years she was ignored by Stroup at First Methodist, she has quickly become a big shot in the 9th largest church in Texas. Hank then points out that while he's happy for her, the church seems to be cutting into not only their family life but their private lives as well, being unable to socialize with the boys in the alley for three days straight. Peggy suggests they go to sleep, and talk about the issue on the way to church but it seems that Hank isn't even granted the mercy of sleep as the buzzer goes off yet again.
At the mega-church the next morning, Peggy hijacks a buggy from two church employees and Hank decides to go grab a coffee. But, instead of doing that, he waits until she and Bobby are gone and decides to run away from the church, having had enough of its' "in your face" nature, tired of the pager, the constant surveys and suggestions of activities from Bryce. Hank manages to run all the way home.
At the Hills' residence, Hank is sitting down and getting ready to watch a game of football when Lucky walks in, asks what Hank is doing here, saying he should be at church. Hank tells Lucky that he is through with the whole shebang, telling Lucky that his old church never bothered to pay him any mind and his new church wouldn't let Hank be. Lucky then says that the best way to get in touch with God is not through church, but through other means such as drinking at a bar. Hank refuses, but Lucky argues that Hank's choppy reception is a sign from God to give his way a try.
At the mega-church, Peggy makes an announcement if anyone had taped the Amazing Grace, to drop the tape off at her office and not talk about it until she sees it. Nealey cuts in, and the scene moves to the "Point After Lounge". Lucky and Hank are singing "Baby Come Back" by Player, intoxicated.
The scene then cuts to Luanne and an annoyed Peggy at the Hill residence, with Hank and Lucky arriving home via taxi as they were too drunk to drive. While Luanne is happy and relieved to see that Lucky is okay, Peggy is not so much that with Hank, asking where he'd been. Hank then says he'd been at the Point After Lounge, trying out Lucky's way of worshipping the Lord, calling it lax and not exactly the most common method of worship. Hank then admits that he is through with ANY church, and admits that Lucky's way of worship isn't to his standard either, and Lucky thanks Hank for giving it a shot. Peggy is not willing to accept this outcome, and Luanne chips in that Hank will go straight to Hell if he doesn't go to church. Hank doesn't seem to care and says they're free to be angry at him, but at least let him sit down while they do it, and he goes to sleep off the buzz.
Later, when Hank wakes up, he finds Nealey and Peggy standing right there, with Peggy trying to talk Hank into coming back to church. Hank then tells the reverend not to take any offense, but Hank decides that he wants nothing more to do with the mega-church. This confuses Nealey because he was getting reports from Bryce that he was "extremely satisfied" with everything, and Hank says that he really was at first, but then the church had started getting in the way of Hank's private, social, and family life, never giving him any room to breathe. Nealey sympathizes with Hank's situation, having been in something like this before and while Nealey coped with it well, he agrees that not everyone can deal with being bothered with so much stuff all hours of the day and suggests that maybe the mega-church is not for Hank. Peggy disagrees and says Hank should suck it up and stay at the mega-church, but Hank refuses saying he doesn't belong there, however he will not swallow his pride, go back to Stroup and simply reconcile over the ordeal with the pews. Nealey says that maybe the Lord can find him a solution, and insists that he take Peggy with him, obviously fed up with her. Peggy tries to beg to stay, but Nealey won't hear of it, willing to lose her assistance. The pager then buzzes as the reverend shakes Hank's hand, with Hank looking exhausted.
Later that night, Hank is dreaming about church when he suddenly gets an idea on how to fix the situation without having to drop his pride and apologize.
At First Methodist, Hank knocks at the door and Stroup seems quite happy to see him again, having gotten over their spat at the mega-church, telling her that he thinks God believes he should be there and Stroup agrees. Then, Hank points out his family's usual spot, the Smiths seemingly absent from the service as Stroup notices. Hank then mentions in a subtle way that he may have told the Smith family about the mega-church, mentioning babysitting services and bible bingo and while that stuff may be fine for them, the Hills belong at First Methodist, unless they have to worry about their spot being taken. Stroup again refuses to promise them their spot, and Hank subtly blackmails that he can't promise that he won't tell the other members about the services the mega-church has that First Methodist doesn't, such as Bill finding out about a Christian dating service, and Dale and Boomhauer riding on the trams. Reluctantly, Stroup concedes defeat and tells Hank to go take his seat.
Hank says "Good to see you again, Lord." and the episode concludes.
Pager buzzing and Hank sighing.
- In the beginning of the episode, the family is late to church because Bobby had set the clocks incorrectly on daylights savings time. This caused Hank to say, "Bobby you spring forward, not spring back!" meaning Bobby set the clock an hour back, rather than an hour forward.
- At the Point After Lounge, Hank and Lucky sing along with "Baby Come Back," the 1977 soft rock hit for the group Player.
- As Hank and the family try another new church, Hank opens the door only to hear "Day By Day," then closes it and walks away. "Day By Day" is a hymn based on a prayer ascribed to the 13th century bishop St. Richard of Chichester and was a standard in many hymnals. The version that we hear in the episode, however, is from the 1971 musical "Godspell" with music by Stephen Schwartz.
- The movie that Hank's family was watching during the movie was The Passion of the Christ. Jim Cavaziel the main actor being beaten is mentioned alongside sounds of a beating in the background. The Passion of the Christ is acclaimed for its realistic portrayal of the Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, but is controversial for its graphic violence.
- This is one of the few episodes where Hank is visibly drunk. The others include As Old as the Hills, Yankee Hankee, Night and Deity and What Happens at the National Propane Gas Convention in Memphis Stays at the National Propane Gas Convention in Memphis. He's also seen visibly drunk at a much younger age through a flashback in Be True to Your Fool.
- Luanne reveals in this episode she does not know Lucky's last name, even though they've been dating for several weeks.
- This is one episode where Hank is really in the wrong for his actions. The family could've easily found another pew for that mass or waited the next week to get there on time. Hank also seems out of line asking the Pastor to give assigned seating, since new members could always join at any time.
- It's also a little out of line for Hank to threaten convincing other members to leave the church for the mega-church until he gets his pew back. It was not only a matter of pride, but Hank also used blackmail to resolve his problem. To Hank's credit, however, he did try the diplomatic approach first and that failed.
- The pew seating is also inconsistent, as Revenge of the Lutefisk shows the family in a central pew second from the back. In Racist Dawg, they are seated about fourth from the back in the left side of the church.