May 5, 2015

TV Recap: Bob's Burgers - "Eat, Spray, Linda"

Welcome to TV Recap, in which we look at modern shows and analyze them on an episode-to-episode basis. This one focuses on the cartoon sitcom Bob's Burgers, a very funny show that is capable of rivaling old school Simpsons in terms of irreverent humor and off the wall zaniness. With a cast of modern alternative comedian heroes, the story follows the Belchers as they run a burger joint. Join me as I take part in dissecting the show in its first full season. Check back on Tuesdays for the next exciting installment.

There has been a lot that has happened on Bob's Burgers to make the characters more interesting and complicated. However, we have not really gotten much time to hang out with Linda (John Roberts) outside of the family to better understand what makes her so special. With this episode, she gets her own birthday episode, and things in typical fashion don't go according to plan. In fact, it reads like an opposite day in which Linda's day is absolutely destroyed at every turn. As a result, the episode manages to reflect a certain level of highs and lows that make it a rather interesting episode.
Linda wakes up on her birthday to discover that she isn't interested in getting older. She feels that with her advanced age that she doesn't deserve any great caveat. Bob (Jon Benjamin) and the children are preparing food when they tell her to go to the store, which will give them more free time to prepare their special party. When Linda goes to the store, she is initially held up by a woman who cuts her in line named Deirdre (Drew Droege). She also gets parked between two massive cars and rips her pants, resulting in her getting a plastic bag to cover it up. This is followed by her locking her keys and cell phone in the car.
As she heads west, she gets aboard a bus that is going to a wharf in the wrong direction. At this time, Bob and the kids begin looking for her when she doesn't answer her phone. After stopping by the store, they decide to hit a few locations that include a candy shop that she is banned from, a pet store, and a fancy hotel where she goes to the bathroom. Bob is realizing that Linda has quite the lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Linda has gotten off the bus and is venturing through a field to make it back to the city. She gets sprayed by a skunk and has her glasses shatter. She looks crazy and is unable to find anyone who will give her a ride. When she next runs into Deirdre, she is working at a chalk convention. Linda takes out her revenge by running over her artwork and frustrates her. It is in this moment that she finally arrives home to an empty and locked house. When she does finally find her family, she decides to ask for this to be her annual birthday plan of ruining other people's day.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

I am not entirely sure how much I enjoyed this episode. For one, there's a lot of nonsensical plot points that feel tangential to each other. Things simply happen to belittle Linda's plan of a perfect day. This itself is fine, but it just feels like gag after gag that is set up to make us convinced that everyone sees Linda as a little crazy. She is somewhat sympathetic in this quest, but it still feels like gags akin to when Bob would sacrifice his health in order to help the family. The payoff was great, but overall it felt like a little more complicated version of "Adventures in Chinchilla-Sitting." This isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't really do the show many favors.
However, the thing that gives the show an edge is that it actually has a complicated plot structure. As with the best of moments, Linda introduces the chalk event early in the episode and returns to it in the third act. There's a lot of small things that are so well placed that I have issue finding much fault with how it is constructed. For my disinterest in Linda being humiliated beyond belief, it does build to something cathartic for her. I feel that this has always been the show's strengths and it allows for interesting things to happen within the confines without it seeming a little forced.
Meanwhile, I like that we discover more about Linda when she isn't on screen than when she is. When Bob and the kids go around to different stores, it opens up an interesting yet divisive reputation that she has garnered around the city. Some of the moments are comical and are full of small beats, but it is inevitably that this is how we find out about Linda. For a character who is always candid, this is about as much as we have seen her do outside of the family, and that provides an interesting note as to how we should be seeing her in general. It is definitely odd, but feels very much keeping with her character.
For an episode that ranks as one of the weaker ones this season, it does manage to hit quite a few nice beats and produces one heck of a story. This season has been really strong in developing the character dynamics into something far more challenging than we're used to. Now that we have a better sense of Linda, even at her worst, we may be able to look at her differently and produce more sympathy or humor from the moments that she is given in the episodes to follow whether this season or in a hypothetical next one. 

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