Episode Grade: B
“One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off. It’s wrong to make promises you don’t mean to keep.” – Anton Chekhov
Chekhov probably never considered that his oft-quoted principle would one day be applied to an animated sitcom, but here we are (and it’s not even the first time I, personally, have done this). While most reading I’ve done on the subject indicates he was advocating for the removal of extraneous elements from a narrative, to me his word choice seems more applicable to the weight of expectation. That is to say, the pay-off needs to match the build-up. Or, to make a more appropriate reference, they eventually need to get to the fireworks factory.
This week, Bob’s Burgers didn’t have any guns on-stage (though it wouldn’t be the first time. Same character even), but they did have a sewage pipe. And a duet. And antique Italian kitchenware. A a rusty metal tub. And Mickey. Any number, or combination, of these elements felt primed to go off at any time. Then they just kind of… didn’t.
At this point, I’ll concede I may have finally just gone all the way up my own ass about this show (did I really just open up my review of a cartoon with a Chekhov quote? What is the matter with me?), but this episode really felt lacking in the pay-off department. Part of the issue is that all the pieces were in place for a ‘big’ episode. We had both Fiscoeders (and their cousin) and Mickey (who we haven’t seen in years) in play over in the a-plot. Combine that with Bob getting to work in his dream kitchen and Linda getting to be an actual nightclub singer and the stage appears to be set for everything to go explosively, hilariously wrong.
Then… nothing happens. Or nothing much anyway. The most dramatic thing that happens is Felix locks Linda in a closet, and she’s not even in there all that long. Calvin doesn’t have some big, sinister plan, he’s just being mean to his brother (who, let’s be honest, absolutely would’ve lost interest in a day or two). The sewage pipe doesn’t break, the kitchen remains unmolested. We don’t even get Linda’s big musical number. The whole thing just kind of peters out.
Over in the b-plot we had a similar issue, although this one might have been by design. On its face, ‘the kids try to make a pool in the basement’ seems like it could be a lot of fun, something on the order of the ice-rink in the walk-in from back in “Friends with Burger-fits”. We even had most of the same group of kids come by! In execution, the whole thing comes off kind of mundane. This was probably intentional, as Chloe Barbash is present to needle Louise about how boring the whole thing is, but having a character point out that a plot is dragging some doesn’t really pick it up any. There were good lines, as there always are (Gene and Tina both had good nights, and Rudy remains subtle little scene stealer), but honestly the funniest bits from this plot were Teddy’s interactions with the kids.
Ultimately, both of these plots might have done better had they not been paired with each other. It just felt like, with all the elements and characters in play, we needed something more to close out the episode than “the Fiscoeders wrestle” and “the tub leaks”. Still, this definitely feels like an episode that will improve on rewatch with adjusted expectations.
- Storefront: Lou’s Reed Wind Instruments
- Exterminator: Vermin Down the House Pest Control
- “I think we paid our rent this month. Are you here to congratulate us, or do you want some food?”
- “I guess if our standards are low. But that sounds like us.”
- Seems like you could do something more profitable with that space than storage units, Calvin, but you do you.
- Rudy’s still got it bad for Chloe Barbash, I see. Poor kid.
- “It’s too late for us to die young, but I know what you mean.”
- “Give me another. I don’t want to feel anything but mickies in me.”
- Odd decision to only show the kids swimming in the wet bread as a two-second flashback.
- Sorry for the late posting. Real-life work got in the way.