Episode Grade: B+/A-
At her core, Tina Belcher is an optimist. Pretty much all of her defining characteristics stem from this, from her hopeless romanticism to her sense of justice, a fundamental belief that things will work out in the end if one simply tries. In this way she’s a lot more like Linda than any other member of her family (Bob and Louise are both much more cynical, while Gene is just a devil-may-care epicurean), generally always believing in the best possible outcome. Sometimes this means believing in someone when no one else does (“Midday Run”), sometimes it means lying to the IRS to save an aquarium (“Aquaticism”), and sometimes it means putting herself out there romantically regardless of the risk of being hurt (too many episodes to count).
Put a character like this on almost any other show and that show’s universe will usually punish them for their perceived naivete. Bob’s Burgers is different in that it presents that optimistic viewpoint as a legitimate way of looking at the world. Good things can happen if you allow yourself to believe they will. Setting aside all of the science talk, this is Tina’s message to Susmita and this episode’s message to the audience.
Ok, now that we’ve got the highfalutin’ philosophy talk out of the way, let’s talk about how good the episode actually was. The short answer: very. A slightly slow start and slightly rushed ending kept this one out of classic- territory, but overall this was about as good as late-era Bob’s gets. I’ve said before that Wagstaff has the show’s deepest bench of great supporting characters, and the small moments we got from Jimmy Jr., Zeke (more on him in a bit), Jocelyn, and Tammy were all great, keeping the episode moving when it could’ve gotten bogged down in a lot of science talk. The use of Ms. Jacobson as the teacher running the science fair rather than the expected Mr. Frond was great, as she was able to comment on the weirdness going on without just adding to it. Henry Haber once again proves himself a master manipulator of his fellow students, easily corrupting the eminently corruptible Gene and Louise (who, of course, feel guilty for betraying their sister and quickly fess up). Bob and Linda’s standard restaurant b-plot was a little slight, but the writers smartly didn’t linger too long on it, getting a few laughs before getting back to the far more interesting events at school. All that, plus Bob got a win over Jimmy Pesto. What else can you ask for?
I know I said I was going to try and be better about getting these reviews up sooner, but I did kind of struggle a bit to find an angle on this episode more substantial than “It was really good. Here are some quotes.” Finding new things to say about this show at this stage in its run can be a difficult. The show may be a little past its peak , which I would place as seasons 3 through 6, but as long as they keep turning out quality episodes I think it remains worth talking about.
- Tina kissed Zeke! And not in a game of Spin the Bottle this time! After briefly toying with the idea on Zeke as a romantic prospect for Tina a few seasons ago, the writers appeared to more or less drop the idea, so this is the first time we’ve seen any indication of it in a while. From both a character and show-structure standpoint, there are honestly some good reasons for the show not to go down that particular road, but the heart wants what it wants. Tina and Zeke forever!
- I kept waiting for Bob to admit he ordered the tiny coat-racks during “Wine Time”. Really, Bob and Linda should just shut off the computer when the wine comes out.
- Who do you call when you need a giant satellite dish for your middle-school Science Fair project? Uncle Teddy, of course.
- Gene has a rock solid frozen yogurt topping system, which I’m sure surprises no one.
- “Thanks to your help, I think we broke your sister’s spirit and put a lid on her reckless sense of optimism.” Damn, Henry. That was a little dark. I was a little surprised he didn’t get some sort of comeuppance at the end, but oh well. He and Susmita seem like they’ll be happy.
- Tina’s whole Last Day On Earth sequence was hilarious, but a special shout out goes to her exchange with Bob: “I know. That was really dumb, Dad. But I love you” “You’re dumb. I mean, I love you too.”