Though it’s almost certainly an unintentional accident of scheduling—the tax-themed “Large Brother, Where Fart Thou?” sure feels like it was meant to have aired around April 15—tonight’s pair of episodes work well as companion pieces. Both episodes explore how the Belcher children view one another, particularly when Bob and Linda are busy with solid contenders for the two stupidest subplots in the show’s history. (I mean that as a high compliment, for the record. And pun not initially intended.) That Louise is impulsive and self-absorbed is well-established, but both “Large Brother, Where Fart Thou?” and “The Quirkducers” find new territory for her dynamic with her siblings to play out. The results are two simple, very funny episodes that take the show very nicely into Thanksgiving, even if the holiday-themed episode doesn’t give us the latest iteration of Bob’s doomed love affair with cooking the big turkey dinner.
Without crunching the numbers, I’d guess that the least explored pairing among the Belchers might be Gene and Louise. The two are together all the time, but rarely in a situation where their differences matter more than their similarities. If all three siblings are together, the key relationship is almost always going to be Louise and Tina, with Gene either being funny and gross on the sidelines or serving as a de facto ally for one of his sisters. On the rare occasion Gene steps into protagonist duties, like in “O.T.: The Outside Toilet” or “Stand By Gene,” the whole point tends to be that Gene has randomly found something he actually cares about, which leaves his sisters as slightly bemused followers as he goes on his journey.
Getting Tina out of the picture allows the show to focus on just Gene and Louise, and the latter’s reaction when Bob and Linda decide the babysitting arrangement is telling: Who would ever think of Gene as an older brother? Sure, he’s the epitome of a middle child, but that implies both Tina and Louise are there to keep him in that center spot. When it’s just Louise and Gene, the age difference feels incidental, with them operating more as unhinged partners in crime than any recognizable spin on an older brother and younger sister. Gene himself only gradually realizes the responsibility he has stumbled into once Bob and Linda place him in charge, as he still largely allows himself to be led along by Louise right up the moment that Logan appears to get his revenge for the cantaloupe incident.
The moment where Gene reluctantly stands between Louise and Logan is genuinely touching, all the more so because the episode doesn’t remotely hide Gene’s reluctance. He’s scared and unclear why he’s doing something this stupidly brave, yet he doesn’t allow his fear or confusion deter him in the slightest. He’s resolute in a way that doesn’t contradict at all what makes Gene, well, what makes him Gene. That’s part of the genius of Bob’s Burgers, and it speaks to why it still cranks out consistently great episodes seven seasons in: It can show sides of characters we haven’t seen before that are still entirely logical extensions of what we already know. In this case, the reason we hadn’t seen this Gene before is just because the show never put him in a situation where he would need to think of himself as his little sister’s protector, yet he knows exactly what to do when Logan closes in and there is literally no other option. The episode ends on that loveliest of notes, a genuine Louise emotional moment, as she hugs her brother to the utter flabbergast of Bob.
As for the episode’s other two stories, both exist almost entirely in the heads of the respective Belchers, with Tina sending herself to detention to explore a possible romance with some boy she made eye contact with and Bob and Linda eating some pot cookies. It says a lot that this is how ridiculous the three older Belchers have to be to leave Gene and Louise unsupervised for as long as the story requires, but I can’t argue too much with a story that gives us a stoned Bob calling his besieged son, with both instantly assuming the other knows what’s wrong with the other. Tina’s story is so self-contained that her would-be romantic interest never actually speaks to her, but then this is Tina’s development in a nutshell: She’s still the socially maladjusted weirdo she was when the show began, but now she’s so confident about it she doesn’t even need the rest of the world.
That mindset carries over to “The Quirkducers,” as her still fairly darn erotic play becomes central to Louise’s attempt to get a half-day before Thanksgiving. Tina has reached a point where she can totally see how the more popular kids might look down on her as quirky—a word she intends to take back, dammit!—but she’s still either too trusting or too oblivious to see Louise taking advantage of her. This is a simple, somewhat familiar story, with Louise once again manipulating Mr. Frond and everyone around her toward the desired goal.
To some extent, “The Quirkducers” makes a virtue out of its lack of innovation by sticking multiple subversions onto what might otherwise be an anticlimactic ending. First, Louise realizes her Carrie-inspired prank has gone ridiculously overboard and feels real regret for her actions. Then, Tina reveals she actually likes what her sister has done and wants to use it as the one thing that can save her play, because it’s real in a way that nothing else in this middle school play has been thus far. And then, just as it appears the episode is going to salvage a heartfelt moment between Louise and Tina, we learn Tina is just trying to set up an erotic romance scene between her and Jimmy Jr., at which point everybody is ready to shut this down.
All of which is to say Bob’s Burgers again makes an asset out of how layered all its characters are. Tina can be righteously upset with her sister for ruining the play, willing to go along with the plan when she learns all the other cast members want a half-day, and inspired by the fearless depravity of Louise’s prank. Because the show spends so much time making the Belchers consistent as characters, they have more latitude to change quickly in response to new events.
Bob and Linda function particularly well in that capacity whenever they attend their kids’ events, as they flip from confused to invested to concerned to disturbed, depending on what one of the little Belchers does at any given second. Plus they can be their own kind of stupid once more, as seen with Linda’s steadfast belief that a potato not only looks like her grandfather but also is, on some level, her actual grandfather. Of all the deeply silly Linda subplots the show has given us over the years, this one might well be the absolute silliest, but Bob’s alternating bemusement and encouragement make the whole thing work. He doesn’t completely buy in, which makes it clear this isn’t something we ought to even pretend to have to take seriously, yet he comes around enough to show he still supports Linda. As with a lot of tonight’s two episodes, that speaks to how all the Belchers function: sometimes as a bridge to us in the audience, but mostly just there to support their equally silly loved ones. It’s a winning combination.
- I appreciate the suggestion that Bob is a bit of a stand-up snob, given his belief there’s plenty of money to be made in bad stand-up.
- Mr. Frond was born to be an executive producer. Poor guy missed his true calling.
- Logan has some quietly supportive, largely uninterested friends. Which seems like just the kind of friends someone like Logan needs, to be honest.