In keeping with the grand tradition of Fox’s Sunday night lineup, this year’s Halloween episode of Bob’s Burgers aired two nights after the annual candy grab. Somehow, though, it seemed fitting, considering how this episode gently poked fun at the tradition of ghost stories and how, once again, the kids never actually got to go trick or treating.
The specter of this story is the spirit of a 13 year-old boy named Jeff, who has somehow decided to haunt the basement storeroom of the restaurant. Using a tip from a spooked-out exterminator, the family summons the ghost using a Ouija board and places him in a vessel: an old shoebox of Linda’s. But rather than throw him out as suggested, Tina decides to keep Jeff around for a while, turning this imaginary lad into her boyfriend, and becoming the school’s new “It couple.” Along the way, the vengeful Tammy decides to steal Jeff away, faking a message written on the bathroom mirror from the two-timing ghost.
Well, it should come as no surprise that Louise faked the whole thing, unaware that her sister would get so attached to “Jeff” (or as Gene put it, “She got Catfished by a box!”). Tina, though, gets her revenge by locking her siblings and classmates in a mausoleum that they break into as a rite of passage for the soon-to-be teens. The whole thing ends warmly and kindly, as Tina reminds everyone that they all got what they wanted from “Jeff,” but they should really look to themselves for the answers.
Spelling it all out like this, the episode feels kind of slight, even though it was packed with some great visual jokes—like Gene’s half man/half dog Turner & Hooch costume, and the silliness that ensues when a couple of paranormal investigators show up at the restaurant looking for answers. The plot was decidedly thin, but it was really its own vessel to move young Tina one step forward toward maturity. For a character that usually winds up stumbling and fumbling through life, it was nice to see her score a decisive victory for once. Let’s hope there are more of those to come this season.
Robert Ham is a Portland-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.