Episode Grade: B-
This was a tough one to grade objectively. On one hand, it was consistently funny, which is of course the primary job of an animated sitcom. It also did some nice work fleshing out Nat, almost certainly the breakout character of the past couple seasons, without falling into the trap of making the episode all about a supporting character. Even Teddy’s b-plot worked, pulling off the neat trick of leaning so hard into Teddy’s obsession with Bob and Linda that it blew right past creepy and came right back around to hilarious (while yeah, still being a little creepy). Really, the elements were all in place for a pretty great episode.
On the other hand, a couple bum notes can really drag down an episode. More than that, tonight we saw the show make two mistakes it’s made before, which is a little disheartening. The first misstep was with Louise. If we’re going to see this level of selfishness and manipulation from her (she hasn’t been this callous with her siblings in years), she needs to get some sort of comeuppance or learn some sort of lesson. Instead, all her actions lead to is getting her exactly what she wants, which leaves a bad taste. ‘The Hawkening 2″ had a similar issue, when Louise literally steals a thousand dollars from the family to finance her Hawk and Chick screening, then suffers literally no consequences from it. It’s one thing when, for instance, American Dad pulls this sort of thing with Roger, but Bob’s Burgers isn’t built that way. We’re not supposed to be rooting for the character who acts the most obnoxious to win.
The second major issue tonight relates to Bob, and is another that has come up before with his character: the wrong character learned the lesson. As a reference, let’s consider “There’s No Business Like Mr. Business Business”. In that episode, Bob spends an inordinate amount of time and energy trying to get Mr. Business a role in a cat food commercial before eventually conceding that he’d pushed too hard and gotten a little obsessed. Which would be all well and good, except it completely sidesteps the fact that he did all of this to try and make Gayle financially independent, and that if she had shown even the slightest bit of initiative he wouldn’t have had to go so far. Tonight, he had to close the restaurant for a day, his eldest daughter’s vomit is everywhere, his son is scared almost catatonic, his youngest daughter is arguably responsible for all of this, he has to shell out thirty bucks to go into a crappy tourist trap to retrieve a snake, then finally the animal sanctuary turns out to just be more snakes. That’s kind of a crappy day, and he should be allowed to consider it one. For Linda and the kids (bizarrely including Gene, who still seems scared out of his wits) to reframe it to him as actually having been fun and memorable feels unearned. That he buys this is totally unsatisfying as a conclusion, especially with Louise getting off scot-free for her terrible behavior.
I’m probably coming off grumpier about this episode than I intend to, because there was some funny stuff going on tonight. I fully expect to be disagreed with on this, but I was laughing pretty much all the way through Teddy’s psychotic break of a b-plot. Nat is always a joy and we got to see some good emotion from her at the episode’s conclusion, which is new ground for the character. Gene had a particularly good night with his terrified line readings (“And now I need you to drown those snakes.”), and there was some humor to be had in Louise’s scheming. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to overcome the missteps and pull the episode above the low end of average.
Four Pounds Of Beef And a Big Bottle Of Pee
- Storefront: You Walkin’ To Me? Physical Therapy
- Exterminator: Sorry, Gnat Sorry
- It still amuses me that Nat refers to Bob as “Robert”, and now we get him referring to her as “Natalie”. These are the kind of touches that make Bob’s world feels so lived-in.
- “I am not taking a snake car to a madness castle”. Eugene Mirman’s line readings a terrified-Gene really do deserve special mention.
- “Guy Handsometeen”. Credit where it’s due: Louise put some effort into her scheme tonight, with not a lot of notice.
- “Tina, you promised me you wouldn’t read.” “That’s the family motto.”