Looking at Bob’s Burgers through a critical lens is an interesting exercise, since it’s so reliably the show I watch when I just want to have fun. The twenty or so minutes I spend with the Belchers every week has become a steady source of entertainment, and even when the jokes don’t land, the family’s constant celebration of each other and their community’s weirdest impulses is always heartwarming. Basically, Bob’s Burgers is my comfort food. Taking it apart is fascinating, and also, a little painful. Luckily, “Housetrap” is a solid episode that manages to balance some more surreal material with grounded punchlines. This is especially noteworthy if only because it’s a destination episode that takes place entirely outside the restaurant, which has either made for some of the strongest episodes or the most uncontrollably zany ones.
It all starts when Teddy decides to take his burger to go, which just might be the most unusual part of an episode that also features a dramatic confrontation on a widow’s walk. He then tells them that he has to go put away someone’s patio furniture before it rains, which is the kind of luxurious problem the Belchers have never been in danger of having, so yes, they’re obviously going to crash Teddy’s gig.
It takes a few scenes for “Housetrap” to get going into the main event (i.e. accusing someone of murder), but the Belchers’ unabashed joy at getting to play in a fancy beach house is infectious. It’s also a reminder that shows tend to follow families that live on the same socioeconomic level as Larry Goodwin and his wives. The Dunphy-Pritchetts wouldn’t bat an eye at someone’s vacation pictures, nor would their kids freak out at getting water “from the fridge.”
So the second Linda says she can help Teddy, there’s no question the Belchers are going to worm their way into the house. Even as they comb through someone else’s stuff, the moment when Linda tells Bob to relax, turn around, and look at the view like they own the place is genuinely sweet—even if Bob tags the moment with a deadpan, “I feel really poor right now.”
Still, “Housetrap” only gets moving once Louise and Linda start poking around the house to find out more about who could possibly live there. The show doesn’t often lean on Louise and Linda as a pair, but that just makes it more fun when it finds a way to do it. “Mother Daughter Laser Razor” is a standout for tapping into their shared competitive spirit, “Housetrap” highlights how both Louise and Linda are huge fans of meddling in other people’s business. Okay, so Linda likes to snoop because she’s curious while Louise keeps an eye out for possible blackmail material, but their commitment to getting answers is basically the same.
This episode also hits a more typical Bob’s Burgers beat, but it’s so reliably funny that it never gets tired. Wasted Bob (or as Gene calls him, “Loopy Dad”) truly brings out the best in H. Jon Benjamin. Where he usually gets to play an exasperated or panicked straight man, this Bob is a giddy, sloppy mess who shows how much he loves everyone and everything by slobbering on them all in glee. Wasted Bob is a treasure, and if it didn’t mean pointing to some sort of serious substance abuse issue, I wouldn’t care if he appeared every goddamn week.
Tina and Gene sit most of this episode out, standing to the side and commenting on the action like more of a bemused Greek chorus than active participants in the increasingly frantic murder conspiracies at hand. Tina in particular gets a few good lines in when Bob tries to impress them with his nonexistent pool skills and she doesn’t know enough about the game to know for sure how bad he is. While Linda, Bob, and Louise drive much of the action, though, the real standout in “Housetrap” is Helen the maybe murderess. It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s Katilin Olson rips into the character’s unbalanced outlook with obvious relish. Helen, with her “pain relievers” and unnerving sense of humor, is one of the best showcases for a new Bob’s guest voice actor in a long while, in large part because Olson’s chirpy brand of unhinged is such a perfect match for Helen’s twitchy mania.
Sharp music cues punctuate Helen’s creepier moments so that the possibility of her snapping feels like it could happen any time. Again, Wasted Bob strikes gold when he mumbles about how great Helen is and how wrong Linda is about her being a murderer, prompting the soundtrack to spike and Helen to narrow her eyes in…anger? Annoyance? Disgust? It’s never quite clear, but that’s the point, and the episode is all the more bonkers for it.
The relentlessly upbeat Helen also contrasts against the dark and stormy night, which further feeds into the episode’s surreal bent. This holds literally true in the episode’s best scene, when Helen corners Linda on the widow’s walk. Linda, thinking she’s definitely about to die, backs away slowly as Helen approaches her in fits and starts, talking faster and faster like she’s on fast forward (“I didn’t kill him! I loved him! Okay, I didn’t love him, but I liked him! Okay, I didn’t like him, but I liked being married to him. Okay—”). The animation in this scene is also noticeably sharper than in regular restaurant scenes, as Helen and Linda’s hair ripples in the brewing storm. Did Helen actually kill her husband? The buried toolbox Wasted Bob finds points to “yes,” but finding the answer isn’t ever the point of this delightfully silly chapter in the Belchers’ lives.
- I was thrilled to step in for Alasdair, but not to worry, he should be back next week.
- Bob trying to play wingman for Teddy is real cute, even if the gist is, “Teddy should take what he can get.”
- Related: Teddy fashioning faux cologne out of a licked cough drop.
- Another of my favorite Kaitlin Olson reads: “Oh yeah, good husband. Good good good good good.” “With good taste?” “Well, he picked me! Ahahaha!”
- Helen, on the strength of the pain relievers she slipped Bob: “I had couple and now I’m right there with ya!”
- “Larry had the tackiest taste in boulders.”