Episode Grade: B+
Well, those of us who were worrying that Bob’s Burgers might be running out of new ground to cover have a bit of egg on our face after this one. While this is certainly not the first episode Bob’s has structured around the bathroom, I feel pretty confident in saying this is likely the first episode of any show structured around a constipated nine-year old (unless there’s an old South Park I’m forgetting. Actually, there probably is. Other than that, though). Or, to take it one step further, the first emotionally resonant episode of any show structured around a constipated nine-year old. Only Bob’s Burgers possesses the right combination of weirdness, bigheartedness, and willingness to go blue necessary to pull something like this off.
I’ll be honest, I was not expecting much going in to this one. The premise frankly seemed very Season One, and the uneven nature of some of this season had me thinking we were in for a throwback to the rough old days. Luckily, the episode makes a few solid decisions that an earlier incarnation of the show would not have, resulting in an unexpectedly strong outing. First, the show and its characters both take Louise’s problem seriously, with both avoids a mean-spirited tone and keeps the humor on the right side of gross. Think ‘humor involving toilets’ rather than ‘toilet humor’. Second, the Louise we get tonight is much more in line with her late-era characterization, avoiding her tendency this season to slide into her old, more selfish and manipulative ways. This accomplishes the crucial task of making sure the audience has sympathy for her, rather than simply being amused by her predicament. This brings us to the third good decision the show makes tonight, which was to make this a Bob and Louise episode.
If you ask me on another day I might give a different answer, but of all the intra-Belcher relationships on the show, Bob and Louise’s has thus far proven to be the richest when it comes to emotional depth. That depth is the real reason why this episode works. If Bob was any other character, he’d tell Louise to just suck it up and use the aquarium bathroom. That’s not the kind of dad Bob is though. Despite the fact that he often seems to live in fear of his youngest child, he also gets her in a way no one else really does. Yes, tonight that specifically relates to their shared fear of pooping away from home, but it resonates because we’ve seen this aspect of their relationship before (think the original “Hawk and Chick” if you need an example).
As for the rest of the family, this week’s b-plot initially felt like it probably should’ve been an a-plot. The idea of the family putting together a music video for Linda’s parents (speaking of Belcher grandparents, are we ever going to see Big Bob again? Feels like that should’ve happened by now) seemed like something the show could’ve had a lot of fun with. While I still think that could’ve been a pretty great episode, as a b-plot it did its job alleviating the pressure (sorry) of the main plot with its bursts of silliness. All in all, a solid episode this week.
Techno, Glitter, Body Oil
- Storefront: Only Have Rab-Eyes For You Rabbinical Dating Service
- Exterminator: Exterminator 2 Bugment Day Pest Control
- “As you know, this Friday is the overnight lock-in at the Bog Harbor Aquarium. Which is great, because there’s nothing teachers love more than not going home.” Ms. Labonz, telling it like it is.
- “Louise, I love that you’re excited about school, but why are you excited about school?” Bob and Linda’s barely disguised disregard for education is always a treat.
- Was that a wireless router taped up next to Louise’s bedroom door? It’s placement seemed intentional, but I don’t remember that ever coming up before. Anyone else?
- I didn’t love the original episode they appeared in, but I did love seeing the pickle costumes again, and I especially loved that Bob didn’t bother taking his off before running to Louise’s rescue.
- Here’s a fun note that speaks to the care with which this show is made: when Louise’s class is getting their orientation at the aquarium, I was able to identify all but three of Louise’s classmates by name. Now, I am the sort of fan who writes weekly reviews for free, but still. We had Wayne, Large Tommy, Jeremy, Andy, Ollie, Harley, Jodi, Chloe Barbash, Arnold, Regular-Sized Rudy, and Hogarth Haber. I’m not sure there are that many named students in all of Springfield Elementary.