Episode Grade: B+/A-
“Do you want us to go live somewhere else? We can go live in an orphanage for a while.”
Entering its tenth season, there’s a bit of a sense that there’s not a whole lot of unexplored territory within the framework of Bob’s Burgers as currently constructed. To a certain extent this is unavoidable; there’s only so many completely distinct stories you can tell about the same group of people at the same point in their lives while staying committed to a kind of realism. The secret then, and what the writers have mostly proven fairly adept at in these later seasons, is to find variations on the themes and moods to keep the similarities between episodes superficial. Well, that’s part of it. The other part is identifying what doesn’t work in an episode and then avoiding making that same mistake again.
Early on, this episode bears more than a passing resemblance to “Best Burger”. Bob has something very important to him, and then the kids (led by Gene) screw it up somehow. Two factors differentiate “The Ring (But Not Scary)” from that past episode, however. First is the correction of a past misstep. “Best Burger” leaned on Gene’s flightiness and unreliability way past what is normal for the character, to the point where the plot seemed contrived and any emotional resolution was severely undercut. This time around, Gene’s general irresponsibility serves the plot without moving him into “thoughtless idiot” territory. It also helps that the writers don’t put this all on Gene, making it clear the kids are in this one together.
The second thing this episode does to set itself apart is that it takes all the emotions involved extremely seriously. Bob sets the stakes early on, telling Teddy “[he] actually feel[s] pretty good about myself for once.” Bob doesn’t get a lot of wins, and it’s clear from the start how important it is that he get one here, both for Linda and for his own emotional well-being. This seriousness carries over to the kids once they realize exactly what they’ve done (They’ve gone down this road with Tina and Louise before, but this is almost certainly as anxious and guilty as we’ve ever seen Gene). Once they’re found out, neither Bob nor the episode let them off the hook even a little (following up what I just said about Gene, this has got to be the angriest we’ve ever seen Bob at the kids, right?)
From here, the well-timed intervention of Nat the Limo driver keeps the episode from getting too heavy, but I think it’s actually to the episodes credit that comic relief is necessary. Finding new approaches to old problems is one of the key strengths that has allowed Bob’s to keep turning out quality episodes at a point in its run where even the best shows start to slide into mediocrity. Welcome back, Bob’s Burgers. It’s good to see you again.
- Welcome back all for Season 10. I know I said at the end of last season that I wasn’t sure I’d be able to commit to another season of these write-ups, but as things stand right now, I should be good to go at least until the new year.
- Storefront: Fromage-inary Friends Cheese Shop
- Exterminator: Workin’ On My Mites Moves Pest Control.
- I’ll say this for the Gayle and Linda subplot: it did its job as a break from the a-plot, and it didn’t wear out its welcome, which is about all you can ask of a Gayle and Linda b-plot.
- Of course Teddy has Bob and Linda’s anniversary in his phone.
- Of course Bob gave Linda a “romantic high five” instead of a ring. She probably loved it.
- “I knew swimming made my wiener get weird and small, but my fingers?” “I guess fingers are the wieners of the hand.” “Well, your tiny wiener finger just got us in big trouble!” Gene, Tina, Louise, I’ve missed you.
- “We stage a burglary, and in the struggle we stab Dad, but only a little, and Mom is go glad he survived she forgets all about the anniversary.” Wow, you know Gene’s feeling the heat when he starts talking like Louise.
- I liked how Nat calls Bob “Robert”. Has anyone else ever done that? How sure are we that’s even his name?
- “Our love is in everything we’ve built together. After you begged me to settle for you.” Well, I mean Linda, you were about to marry Hugo…