The return of Bob’s Burgers after a far-too-long hiatus was welcome this week, but it felt even more so with a half-hour that managed to get funnier and funnier as it went along, and was capped off by a great closing moment with the family. And any episode that focuses on the travails of Tina tends to be a near-classic.
In last night’s episode, we find out that Tina has been working as a hall monitor at her school and is heading for a promotion to “Hall Manatee.” (Don’t ask what that means because they never really explain it, and it’s funnier not knowing.) Like most things in her life, she doesn’t do the job halfway, lording her power over the students, including her own siblings who she catches sliding down the staircase railing.
Her commitment to the job is challenged when she loses a “fugitive” that she’s supposed to be escorting to the principal’s office. In this case it’s the motormouthed but sweet tempered Zeke, who was caught rooting around in the gym teacher’s office. On their way to the principal’s office, he manages to escape from Tina and the poor girl has to lie to Mr. Frond, lest she reveal that she fell down on the job.
Of course, she manages to find him and goes about setting things right, but Zeke pleads with her, because he was just trying to borrow the school’s mascot uniform to wear for his grandmother, in hopes of cheering her up before she has surgery. (“I asked the coach and he said, ‘No.’ He probably thought I was going to poop in it. Just ‘cause I used to poop in stuff.”) The whole affair culminates with Tina helping Zeke escape with the costume and breaking the rules for the benefit of someone else. It was a rather sweet way to bring out that lesson that we parents try to instill in kids: little white lies and small deceits are sometimes the best thing you can do for someone.
The episode’s funniest moments though came in the service of a story that I initially thought wasn’t going anywhere. Back at the restaurant, Linda has decided to start putting up napkin drawings from the customers, but poor Bob can’t seem to get his wife to fall in love with any of his work. So, he takes himself down to the local art gallery for a crash course in drawing from the angry old couple that works there. Their trick: he has to draw the elderly woman in the nude. The whole scene is as gross and hilarious as you can imagine, with the woman and her husband egging Bob on as he struggles to maintain his composure. “Listen, I’m trying I just can’t breathe right now,” he says, taking charcoal to paper. “I just… wasn’t expecting… the hair…” The biggest surprise is that Bob manages to do a great job of it, delighting his family with his nude drawing. “Saggy and sophisticated, just like it says on her bumper sticker,” Tina says.
I’m sure I’ve beat this drum a lot already, but episodes like this are what make Bob’s Burgers such a brilliant series (and our top pick for Best Animated Series of 2014). They continue to balance out the heartfelt with the outlandish, and drive it all home with pithy asides, smart references to other pop culture bits (the little nod to The Fugitive was a particularly nice touch), and scripts that don’t dare insult the audience’s intelligence. I’m sure Loren Bouchard is busy enough with this show, but if I were a TV executive, I’d give this guy carte blanche to make whatever kind of new show he wanted. Until that day comes, I’ll just have to be happy with this one fabulous animated sitcom.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.