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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bob’s Burgers: “Mutiny On The Windbreaker”

Illustration for article titled Bob’s Burgers: “Mutiny On The Windbreaker”
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From the beginning, Bob's Burgers' greatest strength has been its unique style. Its compatriots in the Fox animation bloc, The Simpsons and Family Guy, are both well-known properties, tied together by familiarity if nothing else, while the other two Seth MacFarlane spinoffs are obviously not big tonal deviations. Bob's Burgers, on the other hand, came along with its somewhat jagged animation, an emphasis on more natural line readings, and a down-to-earth focus on a family struggling to get by. Even while it struggled in its first half-season, it was still a breath of fresh air compared to its largely stagnant partners.

That's what makes tonight's episode disappointing. A cruise ship captain enjoys Bob's burgers and invites him to serve a meal on the docked ship. The ship takes off, effectively kidnapping Bob while the rest of the family enjoys the vacation. It doesn't seem like a terrible premise, but it has the effect of removing Bob's Burgers from its strengths. What follows could easily have been a Family Guy episode—Chris falling for the puppet? Stewie giving himself claws? Oh definitely. Or there's The Simpsons, which actually may have done it better last season.

Perhaps the issue is that Bob's Burgers itself feels adrift when it leaves its home city. Last week, the farm sequences were surprisingly lacking, while perhaps the worst episode of the second season involved the family taking a food truck to a music festival. It's hard to say exactly why this is—perhaps the show relies on a certain form of urban living that doesn't translate well, or perhaps it's just experimentation that's lacking now, but will eventually click.

“Mutiny On The Windbreaker” isn't necessarily a bad episode of television, even if it's lacking as an episode of Bob's Burgers. The captain, voiced by Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor, mixes charm and insanity at just the right levels, and Bob's relationship with the ship's disgruntled French chef leads to the funniest lines of the evening. Even still, it's filled more with charm and chuckles than the big laughs Bob's Burgers gets at its best, which makes comparing it to a good, late-season episode of The Simpsons even more apt.

The very best parts of “Mutiny On The Windbreaker” were primarily visual (which is also recent Simpsons' biggest strength). Or, to be more specific, Louise immediately going to a manicurist and demanding Lady Deathstrike-style claws—on her feet as well—is the most Bob's Burgers part of the episode, and easily the best. Seeing her running down the walkway, poking a kid's juice box to cause her pursuers to slip up was incredible, as was her tapping on glasses to play a song.

But perhaps the very best component of the Louise storyline is that none of the family comments on it. She's not questioned or judged or punished for turning all her nails into claws. It's just something funny and weird and totally in character. The only time it even proves a problem is when she can't use them to climb up a wall, but even that is quickly remedied. After that, it's just click-click-click every time she walks, and a running set of great visual gags elsewhere, which her family tolerates and even enjoys. That's what Bob's Burgers is about at its best.


Stray observations:

  • “That's it… hummmmmm like normal people!”
  • Quietly, it was a fairly strong episode for Linda, although the tanning gag never bore fruit. “Penny angel!”
  • Gene's crush on the sexy manatee was perhaps the furriest thing I've seen on a television show whose writers might pay attention to such things. “I know she was a puppet. But she put her hand right up my heart.”