Bob’s Burgers S09E22: “Yes Without My Zeke” (Updated with review)

Hey everyone, trying something a little different for the finale this week, and posting this thread with the Season 9 Summation as soon as the episode finishes, Eastern Time. I’ll add in my review once I finish it, probably around 10:30pm as usual. Feel free to post whatever thoughts you have about this episode or the season as a whole as they come to you.

Episode Grade: B+

One of the great strengths of Bob’s Burgers at this late stage is its ability to reap the benefits of nine seasons worth of character development, not only within its core cast, but also among its better developed secondary characters. For the main characters, this was best exemplified this season by “The Helen Hunt”, which placed the main cast in an odd situation and just let them bounce off each other, with the show having a strong handle on how each would react to the the events therein. The result, if not a out and out classic, was a strong episode that drew its strength not only from how well the show understands its characters, but how well the audience does.

With one major exception, which I’ll get to later, a similar effect was on display tonight. Out off all the show’s secondary characters, Zeke and Jimmy Jr. have the most closely drawn relationship independent of any of the Belchers. Starting way back in the season two premiere, Bob’s has put a good amount of work in establishing their odd, deeply intense friendship, and drawn these characters intricately enough that it makes perfect sense. The small asides Zeke’s let slip over the years give off the impression that his home life isn’t the best, while Jimmy Jr.’s consists of a dad who’s pretty disinterested in his kids, a mom who it’s not clear how much she’s in the picture, and brothers who are both much younger and totally wrapped up in each other. Basically, their friendship is the strongest relationship either has, resulting in the two being understandably terrified of being separated.

Obviously, they can’t let this happen and, because this is Bob’s Burgers after all, that’s where the Belcher kids come in. While obviously not on the level of Zeke’s friendship with Jimmy Jr., the show has done a bit of work (at least two major episodes and a lot more smaller moments) over the years building up a nice little low-key friendship between him and Gene (Zeke’s “Don’t you ever scare me like that again, little buddy!” line was my favorite moment of this year’s Halloween episode). So it makes sense that Gene’s onboard with their plan to save Zeke from getting sent off to an alternative school, rather than just being there to round out the numbers. Louise is probably less invested personally in Zeke’s fate, but there’s no way she going to let another kid get busted by Frond and sent away, no matter who it is. It’s a matter of principle.

This brings us to Tina, and the one part of the episode that felt kind of off. Honestly, her arc here felt like a holdover from maybe season three, back when her obsession with Jimmy Jr. was all-consuming and Zeke was nothing more than an occasional irritant. In contrast to every other major player in the A-plot, whose motivations stem from years of character development, Tina regresses here to a borderline irritating degree. The confidence that has been building up in her over the years has meant she’s not nearly as obsessed with Jimmy Jr., so her willingness to give up on Zeke so she can have him all to herself comes off as ugly and petty in ways that she, as the Belcher with the largest conscience, hasn’t been in years. That she would eventually do the right thing was a given, but her arc came off as out of character in a way that stuck out like a sore thumb in an episode where everyone else’s actions make sense.

Meanwhile, back at the restaurant, Randy makes an appearance to give Bob and Linda their strongest b-plot in awhile. It was nicely in keeping with Bob’s occasional flashes of artistic leanings that he gradually became more and more invested in Randy’s terrible movie, while Linda’s well-intentioned if somewhat misguided support was a lot of fun. Overall, as the finale to this season, this episode was pretty fitting, registering as “very good, if not great”.

 

Lucky Baby Duckies:

  • Storefront: Gregorian Pants- Monastic Fashion. Exterminator: Ants Ants Revolution Pest Control.
  • “Sunburn Bingo” sounds like exactly the kind of game vacation-townie kids would come up with when tourists come to town.
  • Ow! My Penis” “Go ask the lunch lady for some ice for your penis.” Jimmy Jr.’s junk had a rough day.
  • Damon Wayans Jr.’s Arnold was amusing (“I wish I could be that carefree, but a lot of people are depending on me”), but I couldn’t help feeling a little cheated we didn’t finally get to see Pocket-Sized Rudy.
  • There are times where it feels like Teddy gets forced into plots where he’s not needed, but I actually think he could’ve worked well in this week’s B-plot. It felt weird not seeing him at all in a season finale.
  • “Death is probably a white man.”
  • “I think I’m gonna smile a little, so we don’t freak out the kids when they find us.” Perfect line to close out the season.

Season 9 Summation

  • This has probably been the case for awhile, but one of the things that struck me looking back over the episode list for this season was how many more kid-focused episodes there were than Bob- or Linda-focused ones (no Teddy episodes this year, unless you count “The Helen Hunt”, which I think of as more of an ensemble episode). Honestly, this may be for the best at this point, as Linda’s two episodes were both on the lower end, while most of Bob’s were pretty middle of the road, though in fairness Bob’s best A-plot (“Bobby Driver”) was weighed down as an episode by an absolute nothing of a kids B-plot. Conversely, the kids’ episodes were both more numerous and better on average. Largely, I think this is due to the well-developed setting of Wagstaff and its denizens offering a broader range of storytelling possibilities than the restaurant does at this point in the show’s run.
  • One oddly dispiriting note was the relative anonymity of this season’s holiday episodes, typically one of Bob’s Burgers greatest strengths. “Better Off Sled” was probably the best of the four, though it had a tenuous connection to Christmas at best (confined to Bob and Linda’s B-plot, which I didn’t even remember until I read back my review of the episode). “Nightmare on Ocean Avenue Street” and “I Bob Your Pardon” were both fine, but neither really reached the high standards Bob’s has set for itself for those holidays. “Bed, Bob, and Beyond” was more of an interesting experiment than a good episode, though it did improve on rewatch.
  • Overall, while this season had a few great episodes, most just fell into the “good to very good” category, and probably none reached “Classic” territory. At the same time, the weakest episodes this year were just a little bit stronger than last, so this season probably grades a point or two above season eight and about on par with season 7 (which had a few classics or near-classics, but also a couple of clunkers).
  • Top Three Episodes (in some order): “The Taking of Funtime One Two Three”, “UFO No You Didn’t”, “The Gene Mile”.
  • Bottom Three Episodes (likewise): “Every Which Way But Goose”, “If You Love It So Much, Why Don’t You Marionette?”, “PTA It Ain’t So”.

General Burgers Business

  • … And so ends my first season (well, 3/4 of a season) reviewing Bob’s Burgers here at The Avocado. Big thanks to all of you who’ve been reading and commenting. We’ve got a great community here at this site, and I’m very happy to be able to contribute to that in my little way.
  • That being said, this summer potentially brings with it some big personal and professional changes for me, to the point where I’m not exactly sure what my situation will be when the show comes back in the fall. I still love this show, and enjoy writing about it, but there is a possibility I won’t be able to commit to doing these reviews every week. This is no sure thing, but if it happens I’ll do my best to make it known beforehand to give someone else the chance to pick up the torch if they so desire.
  • Now that being said, assuming I do continue doing these next season, I’d like to explore some ways to get more people involved commenting if I can, since these threads are always more fun when more people are talking. I threw this out in the OT earlier today, but here it is again: Would you all prefer if I a.) posted the thread at 9pm Eastern, right after the show ends, the added my review later like I’m doing tonight, b.) keep doing as I have been, posting the review and thread when the review is done, usually around 10:30pm Eastern, or c.) hold off posting anything until sometime on Monday, so the thread has less of a chance to get buried? Let me know in the comments.