No show does heartwarming quite like Bob’s Burgers. Even when they’re hitting on the well-worn holiday themes of forgiveness and family togetherness, they balance that out with hilarious bits of weirdness, like Gene soaking in a cardboard box full of baked beans, and then running around trying to get people to catch him like a greased pig.
The core of the episode explored the fraught relationship between Bob and his father, Big Bob. Back in the day, the two worked together in the elder Bob’s diner. But as various flashbacks show, it wasn’t a great situation. The elder Bob kept stifling and criticizing his son’s culinary creativity, so much so that when he tries to rebrand the restaurant as “Big Bob & Son’s,” Bob Jr. has a meltdown and storms out.
The wounds have never fully healed for the younger Bob, and they always start getting reopened within 15 minutes of him hanging out with his dad. So, when the Belcher clan visits Big Bob’s restaurant for a Christmas eve party, Bob Jr. is adamant: 15 minutes, and then they’re leaving.
Naturally, this concludes with a kind of reconciliation between the two men, not long after a big blowout in the middle of the restaurant. The younger Bob finally realizes that his dad does love him, especially when he finds out that Big Bob saved the first review of Bob’s Burgers (“Good food… service leaves much to be desired…”). With the help of the owner of the gay bar next door to Big Bob’s (the marvelously monikered The Junk Yard), they hash out their differences… all while country line dancing. Again, there’s that perfect balance between the sweet and the silly.
The best scenes, though, were reserved for the kids. On the way to the restaurant, they realize they haven’t found a Christmas present for their dad, and commence digging around Big Bob’s basement for a gift. This eventually turns into a kind of Gift-Off with the kids competing to create the ultimate prize for Bob. Louise attempts to make an epic mousetrap… by combining dozens of individual mousetraps. Tina tapes a bevy of items (a notepad, a desk lamp, and a book of matches, among them) to a desk chair so “Dad will never have to walk again… willingly.” Gene fills a box with baked beans and lays in it. Like most everything else the kids do with regards to their parents, it is misguided and preposterous, but full of love. Yes, even Gene soaking in a box of bean juice.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.