“Lice Things Are Lice” is a solid episode, and very definitely a more conventional entry than last week’s rambling “Sacred Couch,” but it feels like it misses a crucial beat in its storytelling. So then, before we get into anything else, let’s talk about Louise’s bunny ears. Those ears are such a core part of her character’s visual identity that I didn’t even immediately recognize that they were something as ephemeral as a hat. It took me a moment to recognize that Nurse Liz’s decision to shave heads and burn hats in her attempt to defeat the super-lice would necessarily mean the destruction of Louise’s beloved bunny ears. In that instant, Nurse Liz ought to become the most serious threat imaginable, an adversary rivaled only by bunny ears thief Logan from “Ears-y Rider.” But beyond that initial moment of horror when Louise realizes it isn’t just Tammy’s hat that must fear the flame, the episode doesn’t especially lean into just how dire a threat this is for Louise.

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That’s a bit of a shame, given that “Lice Things Are Lice” is one of a very, very tiny number of episodes that has actually addressed the subject of Louise’s bunny ears—I might be forgetting another one, but I can only think of “Ears-y Rider” as an episode that has put the spotlight on thoe ears. That episode treated the bunny ears as an inseparable part of Louise’s identity, as she essentially suffered a psychotic break when Logan swiped them, and she spent her entire ears-less period wearing a hoodie just so that Louise never once had to show us the top of her head. To some extent, “Ears-y Rider” probably said all there ever was to say about Louise being deprived of her bunny ears, and I can see an argument that “Lice Things Are Lice” would have gained little by retreading that storyline, especially since Louise would not have been able to call upon a biker gang this time around to mete out her twisted version of justice. (Or maybe she could have. We don’t know her mind!)

It’s worth being careful with these critiques, because it’s not really a compelling argument to say a show, particularly a comedy, should do something just because that happens to be how it was done before. Whatever makes for the funniest, most entertaining, most moving, or just generally best possible episode is what the show should do, and changing circumstances can affect what is the best narrative move in a given situation. (I think that was the point I was trying to make about continuity in the review of this year’s Halloween episode. If not, it doesn’t matter, my whole point is anything can change at any time, provided there’s a good reason!) So this is less about how “Lice Things Are Lice” diverges from “Ears-y Rider” and more about how “Ears-y Rider” is the stronger episode than tonight’s entry, and, to the extent they can be compared, some of that has to do with how the earlier story has a much more interesting character arc for Louise. In “Ears-y Rider,” Louise is genuinely humbled and brought low by the bunny ears theft, then goes increasingly insane.

Here, on the other hand, Louise is desperate to get out of Nurse Liz’s clutches from the first moment the quarantine is declared, leaving the episode less room to maneuver when it would theoretically be time to ratchet up the tension. For the sake of argument, imagine a version of this episode in which Louise is blase about the whole quarantine thing, reasoning that a couple hours with a daffy nurse is still better than taking that pop quiz or just going to class in general. Such a response would feel just as valid and in-character as what we actually get here, and it then would mean something when Louise realizes she might not get out of here with her bunny ears intact. As it is, there’s just not enough space between her initial reaction and her later one for the threat to the bunny ears to register in the way it ought to, given how carefully Bob’s Burgers has handled those ears in previous episodes.

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I’ve gone long on this topic, partially in the interest of shaking things up with these reviews—it’s worth considering how the show “protects” certain things on the show, and how this episode doesn’t really follow up on that—and partially in response to the fact that “Lice Things Are Lice” is just kind of generally solid, without that something special to differentiate it. The main plot is helped considerably by Samantha Bee’s nicely unhinged performance as Nurse Liz, as Bee makes her character’s frustrations with the kids’ non-maladies simultaneously sympathetic and disquieting. It’s difficult to blame her for being annoyed by the kids’ transparent abuse of the nurse’s office, yet from the start she hints at how little she cares about anything other than furthering her own inherently go-nowhere career.

The moment in which she shaves her own head without a second thought is a fantastic bit of momentum-building, even if the rest of the episode never quite lives up to that comedic insanity. The fact she never shaves any of the kids’ heads is probably for the best, but it also feels symptomatic of the episode creating a strange, bold character and then not quite being prepared to pull the trigger on her craziness in the way the show might with, say, Millie. Again, the fact that Liz has to at least theoretically be a responsible adult provides a good reason for the show to not go as far as it might, but here again there’s a sense that “Lice Things Are Lice” struggles to nail down its premise, as though it’s got 80 percent of a terrific story but can’t quite figure out how to bring out the best version of itself.

By contrast, the restaurant subplot knows exactly what it wants to be, which is all about farting seat cushions. This is a solid contender for the dumbest subplot in the show’s history, at least when adjusted for amount of time the episode devotes to it. I mean that as a compliment. There’s nothing particularly deep here to interpret—just a whole lot of Bob, Linda, and Teddy sitting on cushions and making farting noises. There’s a sweet little moment at the end when the widow, vaguely aware that the Belchers and Teddy are engaging in some fart-related talk, observes that her late husband would have loved this place. It’s that kind of offhand sweetness that typifies a vital part of what makes Bob’s Burgers great, and it’s a nice reminder that even a slightly fuzzy episode like this one is more than capable of those little moments of clarity. It’s been a little while now since Bob’s Burgers was last firing on all cylinders, but this is a show whose very premise builds in a whole lot of goodwill.

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Stray observations

  • “Every time they’re not completely destroyed, they come back stronger than ever.” “Like Mark Harmon!”
  • I’m not sure this episode ever quite worked out what it wanted to do with Tina either, but I do love how fiercely protective she is of Gayle. Don’t mess with Gayle’s heart, Mr. Frond!

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