Bob’s Burgers, more than probably any other animated show on Fox’s Sunday animation block, is about family. Family Guy is rarely about the family’s combined adventures, and even when it is, it rarely feels warm while doing it. Same goes for all the other MacFarlane shows, American Dad! and The Cleveland Show. The Simpsons is still capable of doing this, but these episodes are often few and far between, especially considering the show’s earlier episodes. But Bob’s Burgers is almost exclusively about the unity of the Belcher family. The Belchers are a family whose members need each other or their family just doesn’t feel right, kind of like how Bob felt like something wasn’t right when he fired his kids last week.
This week’s episode, “Mutiny on the Windbreaker,” is one of the weaker episodes of the show’s third season, most likely because it splits up all five of the Belcher family members. It may seem like more fun to have all three of the Belcher kids have their own separate storylines—three times the wackiness!—but it ends up not working as well as having the kids together as a team. For the first time in a while, even Bob and Linda are separated for most of the episode.
In “Mutiny on the Windbreaker,” Bob is offered a 10-day, all-expenses-paid ride on a cruise ship, by the ship’s Captain Flarty, voiced by Jeffrey Tambor, if he can be the ship’s special guest chef. Bob turns the captain down, but he agrees to be the guest chef for one night, while the ship is docked. The family is given a VIP card, which is basically their golden ticket to do whatever they want on the ship for free. But to the surprise of no one, the ship takes off, as the increasingly insane Captain Flarty announces they are on their way to Puerto Rico and Bob discovers that the entire staff of the boat is being held captive.
While the characters on Bob’s Burgers are fun and fleshed-out enough on their own, they are all better in groups. So splitting them all up, almost immediately upon getting on the ship seems like a mistake. Linda gets a horrible tan, then wins big at penny slots, pouring the pennies on her bed and making penny angels. Louise goes to a nail salon to get insanely long fingernails and toenails, while Tina goes to a masseuse after seeing his butt and tries to bargain for something more than just a scalp massage. Gene gets the best story of the children: after having gone to see a puppet show called Herman and Marilyn the Talking Manatee, Gene falls in love with Marilyn. Paul F. Tompkins voices Herman, and even with such a weird premise, Herman tries to extort $100 out of Gene through his attraction to Marilyn, but Tompkins makes it hilarious, as he does with everything.
Bob, as usual, spends the episode as the most levelheaded member of the Belcher family, trying to escape the clutches of Flarty and get his family back home. There is some humor in Bob freaking out while everyone else is just having a great time, and his realization that he can’t really run anywhere since he’s in the middle of the ocean, but it still begs for the family to be involved in the episode in a stronger way.
That being said, even when Bob’s Burgers isn’t at its best, it’s still pretty strong. Watching Louise tap dance with her Wolverine-like toenails or Gene’s interests in a stuffed manatee puppet that he understands is just a puppet, are right in Bob’s Burgers’ wheelhouse of insanity. But Bob’s Burgers needs the family together, not apart. That’s where the best stories, and best laughs, almost always come from.