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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bobs Burgers: “Mazel-Tina”

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“Mazel-Tina” is one of the two episodes that I have been most looking forward to for months (the other one airs next week). It has a premise that is guaranteed to work: Tina attends a classmate’s bat mitzvah and accidentally becomes the center of attention. What else do you need? You can put Tina into virtually any situation on earth and I’d love it. “Mazel-Tina” also benefits from including Tammy, one of the show’s greatest recurring characters and someone whose “frenemy” relationship with Tina is always enjoyable. There is some wonderful voice acting from Jenny Slate who absolutely sells Tammy’s bratty “Batzilla”/My Super Sweet Thirteen attitude throughout the episode, managing to obnoxiously screech in a way that’s both horrifying and hilarious.

“Mazel-Tina” begins with Tina obsessively refreshing her email, waiting for an invite from Tammy. The invite never comes but Tina is determined to find a way to attend the party. She’s intrigued and excited at the idea of meeting BFOS—Boys From Other Schools—because she wants to gawk at some new faces and new butts. When she overhears Tammy screaming at her mother and demanding a seventh caterer (while I like that these characters never age, I would love to see her insane list of demands for a Sweet 16 party), Tina offers up the burger restaurant and Louise is not happy.

It’s a great way for “Mazel-Tina” to keep the main focus on Tina and also incorporate side plots about the rest of her family all while keeping everything cohesive and in one setting. The Belchers work best as a unit and they’re all aces during the bat mitzvah. Linda and Bob start off working at their catering table but are each distracted by the other caterers that surround them and are curious to try the other food. Linda is the first to go—she has been saying crepe under her breath for 10 minutes, even as she protests to Bob that she hasn’t been—and runs off. Later on, Bob goes off on a mission to get napkins—“Whatever that is,” Gene says—and also finds himself trying all the other food (and really loving it), leading to Bob and Linda absently wandering into a wedding in a different hall, plates full. While this is all happening, Gene is manning the burger station but, instead of using the grill, is just serving them up raw. (“You want this food cooked, you go put it in the sink and run it under hot water.”)

Louise and Tina make up the bulk of the episode—and the best of it. Louise convinces Tammy’s party planner Janet to quit and Tina somehow walks her way into the job (although she’s not great with a clipboard). Tina throws herself headfirst into the role of party planner and, after Tammy ends up trapped in the giant Tammy head, Tina throws herself into taking over Tammy’s place at her own bat mitzvah. She leads the limbo (although Tammy went to limbo boot camp), does the Macarena, and goes from being called “other Janet” to “other Tammy.”

Louise ends up trapped with Tammy and it’s possibly my favorite pairing the show has ever done. Tammy’s a spoiled brat who annoys the hell out of Louise and Louise has no qualms about calling her out on this. At first, both Louise and Tammy try to get out of the head and back to the party, especially as Tammy realizes that Tina is stealing her thunder. But Louise knows how much Tina needs this little win and so Louise takes one for the team and pretends the headsets are broken, opting to deal with Tammy so her older sister can have some more fun. I love when Bob’s Burgers explores this part of Louise: She can be really mean to people in her life but she will always stick by her sister (and the rest of her siblings) because she loves her dearly and wants her to be happy.

But Tina, in a believable character moment, gets too wrapped up in this whole charade: The fun of being Tammy, the appeal of being the center of attention, and the idea of becoming a woman through this religious ritual that isn’t even hers. When Tina does find out about Tammy and Louise being trapped, she doesn’t immediately help them because she knows that up next on the bat mitzvah schedule is the girls’ choice dance with cute Justin. Eventually, Tammy and Louise break free and Tina is caught redhanded. True to the show, there isn’t a huge conflict; the girls all verbally spar, but it’s nothing serious. Tammy tries to attack Tina but is interrupted by the Hora. It’s one of those episodes where the events, while funny, pale in comparison to the wonderful little character moments: Louise showing how much she cares about her sister but not going totally soft (she is mostly indifferent to Tammy’s upset cries); Tina understanding her selfish and obsessive actions; the entire family continuing to accept whatever silly traits the rest of them have.


Stray observations:

  • Once again, this is one of those episodes where my notes were just my favorite quotes (and usually Gene-centric). Tina’s “Get my hands off your upper butt” was my favorite but Louise’s delivery of “Because of your big mouth” was amazing, too.
  • Tammy’s parents’ exchanges were also a highlight, like their debate on bisexual vs. unisexual.
  • “Be a man.” “You be a man.”
  • Tammy’s makeup is so perfectly teen.
  • Nice Single White Female reference tonight.
  • A Jewish movie star, like Whoopi Goldberg.
  • “Dad, I never realized how soulful your eyes are.”