I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: if there’s one thing you can rely on with every episode of Bob’s Burgers it’s that any victories that the Belcher family has are likely going to be short-lived, or come along in a more ass-backwards fashion than expected. So, at the risk of spoiling the episode in the first paragraph, Bob doesn’t win the titular contest for Best Burger, but what does come out of his efforts is a little bit of personal growth and a way to express his affection for his strange and easily distracted son Gene.
The biggest lesson that Bob learns is that he’s a master of self-sabotage. He spends the majority of the cooking contest (being held as part of the wonderfully-named Wharf It Down Food Festival) sweating and kvetching because he is without the secret ingredient needed for his Bet It All On Black Garlic Burger: black garlic. And he doesn’t have it because he entrusted Gene with the job of retrieving the bulb of garlic from the kitchen. As Linda points out, he unconsciously gave the assignment to their least trustworthy kid, because he knew Gene would screw it up and ruin their chances of winning.
It’s Gene, though, that winds up coming through for the family, even after squashing the original bulb of black garlic, and forcing the kids to visit a store that they’ve been banned from to get a new one. It’s the middle child’s moment of triumph, which he deserves, especially after learning that his family has been using his name to describe getting distracted, or as they call it, Gene-ing out. “I thought that meant taking off your shorts after a big meal!” Gene exclaims after his sisters tell him this. “I’m a verb! I’m a bad verb!”
He comes through in the end, but only after running the new black garlic bulb through the food festival, and getting tempted by all the wares being hawked in his path, like 10 for $1 pizza tacos and a hot fudge car wash. The experience allows him and his dad to have a small tender moment (after Bob loses to a celebrity chef’s burger). Of course, while Bob is expressing his love and appreciation for his son, Gene finds his attention wandering to the line of people waiting to get into the restaurant.
It’s here that Bob scores his one big victory of the show: all the people heard about his black garlic burger and want to try it. Even the celebrity chef that beat him in the contest (“I smelt it and now I want you to dealt it into my mouth.”) The catch? All the kids decide to cash in on the day off that they bargained for when Bob begged them to go get the missing black garlic. One step forward and one step back, yet again.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.