Ever since Roseanne started stuffing every character into increasingly elaborate costumes and The Simpsons enjoyed breaking from its strictures with every year’s “Treehouse of Horror” edition, sitcoms have relished tossing a Halloween show into the fall mix.
But that’s what makes this new episode of Bob’s Burgers such a treat: instead of repeating the success of last year’s All Hallow’s Eve edition and giving the kids cobbled-together costumes, the story keeps the kids completely removed from the candy collectin’ action. While Bob and Linda struggle to put together a Chinese dragon costume for them, the kids—along with twins Andy and Ollie, and outlier Daryl (in a sweet “Whip It”-era Devo costume)—inadvertently get stuck in their impressively elaborate fort. There might have been a way out, with Louise’s stalker/fan Millie Frock (voiced with the perfect tone of maniacal weirdness by guest star Molly Shannon) hanging around outside and initially offering to get help. But because Louise has no real filter, she unleashes a torrent of abuse on Millie, who returns the favor by leaving them in their cardboard prison.
The fun of this episode lies in watching the kids struggle with their fate. The writers pack a lot of into these rapid-fire segments: a bit of suspense as they try to escape, tension when it’s revealed that Daryl has been colluding with Millie, and plenty of ridiculousness like their token effort at trick-or-treating inside the fort (“You get a rusted nine-volt battery, and you get a used coffee filter”). You know they’ll get out eventually, so it’s nice to just sit back and try and catch all the little throwaway lines (Louise: “I’m not going to die here in a box full of Gene’s farts!” Gene, as the fort is getting crushed: “Every meal I’ve ever eaten is flashing before my eyes! My last meal was cardboard!” Daryl: “It’s hard for me to think while my pants are off! I just want candy!”).
Bob and Linda, unfortunately, get stuck in the background of this story. The pair spends most of their screen time behind the counter at the restaurant gluing sequins onto the dragon costume or, in one inspired scene, attempting to get more sequins from the craft supply store. The couple’s finest moment comes when they decide that since the kids aren’t around to use it (as Linda puts it they’re “not wearing their costume on Ungrateful Avenue”), they’ll don the dragon and go get some candy.
Just like last week’s season opener, there’s no big lesson learned, and no heartfelt moment of family togetherness. In fact, by the time kids and parents are reunited, they spend the time wrestling over the candy Bob and Linda picked up. This episode was another perfectly rendered step forward for the series that will unfortunately lose a bit of its momentum as it faces a postseason baseball-induced hiatus until the first part of November. We’ll be waiting for your return, Belcher family.