"North by North Quahog" is the first episode of season four of Family Guy, and is the first episode to be produced following the revival of the series after its cancellation in 2002. The episode premiered on April 28, 2005 at a special screening in the grounds of the University of Vermont, Burlington, three days prior to its scheduled television airing. The episode accumulated a Nielsen rating/share of 6.3/9 on its first airing, making it the most-watched episode in the series, and was watched by just under 12 million viewers. In the opening scene, Peter jabs at FOX by listing the many shows that premiered and were cancelled on the network while Family Guy was off the air. The show was saved by very high DVD sales and cable ratings on Adult Swim.
The episode’s plot revolves around Peter and Lois, as they try to help their marriage by taking a second honeymoon, but the two are chased by Mel Gibson after Peter steals the sequel to The Passion of the Christ from Gibson’s private hotel room. Much of the plot and many of the technical aspects of the episode, as well as the title, are direct parodies of the 1959 Alfred Hitchcock movie North by Northwest; in addition, the episode makes use of Bernard Herrmann's theme music from that film.
Like the very first episode of the series, "Death Has a Shadow," "North by North Quahog" was written by Seth MacFarlane and directed by Peter Shin, who won an Annie Award for Directing in an Animated Television Production for this episode. The episode itself was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.
While the two are on their way to their vacation spot, Peter crashes the car into a tree when he decides to read a Jughead comic book while driving. They are forced to spend all their honeymoon money on repairs. Peter feels they should head for home, feeling his plans won't work out at this rate, until he finds out about Mel Gibson's personal suite at a swanky hotel. Peter then poses as Mel Gibson in order to get the room, which seems to be the ideal place for a honeymoon. In the suite, they try to rekindle the spark by making love again; however, Lois calls out Mel's name. Seeing that their honeymoon idea isn't working as he hoped, Peter once again opts to head home early.
As they are about to leave, Peter accidentally stumbles upon Gibson's private screening room and view the trailer to Gibson's newest film, Passion of the Christ 2: Crucify This, a fictional sequel to The Passion of the Christ, in which Jesus, who is said to be palyed by Jim Caviziel, and Chris Tucker's character from Rush Hour engage in high-speed car chases and shoot-outs against the police. The trailer is voiced by Don "The Voice" Lafontaine. In order to spare the world from "another two hours of Mel Gibson Jesus mumbo-jumbo", Peter steals the film. As the two are leaving the hotel, however, they are spotted by two priests, Gibson's associates, who were there to pick up the film.
Peter and Lois are pursued by the priests in a car chase that leads through a shopping mall. After they elude the two cronies, Peter buries the film in a cornfield. While he is doing so, the priests fly down in a cropduster as in North by Northwest, and kidnap Lois. Peter is given a message telling him if he does not return the film to Mel Gibson at his estate on top of Mount Rushmore, Lois will be killed.
Peter arrives at the house and gives Gibson a film can. As Peter and Lois are about to leave, however, Gibson discovers that the film has been replaced with a dog turd, leading to a chase on the face of the mountain. Lois slips and hangs on to dear life as Peter grabs her and, being held at gunpoint, Peter tells Gibson that the film is in "President Rushmore's" mouth and points to the other side of the monument. Gibson follows Peter's direction and walks off the edge to his death as Peter pulls Lois to safety. Upon climbing back to the top of the mountain, the two make love on George Washington's head, bringing the spark back to their marriage.
In the subplot, Brian is left in charge of the kids while Peter and Lois are gone, though he is unable to keep Chris and Meg under control until Stewie offers him advice. The two team up to manage the home, which turns them into a traditional couple. Brian and Stewie chaperone a dance at Chris's school. During the dance, Chris is caught with vodka in the bathroom that actually belongs to Tom Tucker's son, Jake. Though Brian and Stewie punish Chris for nearly succumbing to peer pressure, they go out to clear his name. A friendly visit to the Tuckers' house the next day makes the situation worse, so Brian and Stewie resort to planting drugs in Jake's locker, and Jake is sentenced to community service. When asked who got Brian the drugs, he reveals that it was Greased-Up Deaf Guy, who celebrates his return by breaking the fourth wall "Good to be back, America!"
The episode contains many other references outside of film, including television and print. While watching Two and a Half Men (two men and a man who got sliced in half), Meg tells Chris that she wants to watch The George Lopez Show, only for Chris to retort by saying the show furthers the stereotype that George Lopez is funny. When Peter crashes the car on the way to Cape Cod, he is reading from a Jughead comic book. Brian reads a novel version of the movie "Caddy Shack" reading the "Man-na-na-na" scene. Also, Stewie reads from the first Garfield comic strip collection, Garfield at Large (although he mistakenly mentions that Garfield has to put up with Nermal, whose first appearance was reprinted in the third Garfield book).
In the final scene of the episode, recurring character The Greased Up Deaf Guy makes an appearance and breaks the fourth wall by waving to the audience and saying, "Good to be back, America!" This is a self-reference regarding the show's cancellation and subsequent revival and return to television.