Depending on how you look at it, the relationship between Louise and Tina has either remained remarkably consistent across the show’s run or changed beyond all recognition. In the basics, there’s not a whole lot to differentiate much of how Louise treats Tina tonight from how she did back in the first season. Louise is the force of nature, casually steamrolling her big sister into being the public face of the effort to win a roller coaster ride with Boo Boo. Give or take the precise circumstances, those interactions could have happened in the show’s early days, but they would be, as is perfectly understandable for a show still finding its feet, a little flat. Louise would control Tina for either well-meaning or malevolent reasons, and Tina would be too much a wallflower to put up much opposition. Crucially, neither instance would mean much to Louise as a character, as her typical role early on in the show’s run was more as a chaotic catalyst for other people’s character arcs.
But now Tina has grown enough that, even if she still doesn’t quite stand up to her little sister, she at least actively and continually protests. And Louise’s actions are now far more motivated by her own wants and desires beyond the kind of generalized need for chaos that drove her in years past. In this case, it’s Louise’s adorably psychotic obsession with Boo Boo, the newly former Boyz 4 Now member who has the most gorgeously slappable face Louise has ever seen. We’ve seen other really good episodes in which Louise railroads Tina until the former eventually sees the error of her ways—“Tina Tailor Soldier Spy” is my go-to example, though I’m always going to be a sucker for a John Le Carre reference—but tonight’s effort is particularly strong because Tina traps Louise into admitting her deceit almost immediately. Once Louise acknowledges she is still obsessed with Boo Boo, Tina agrees to maintain the pretense that she’s the one behind the Boo Boo boosting out of love for her sister. Both Tina and Louise have become more nuanced, active characters over the seasons, and their back and forth here pushes them into more emotionally rich territory.
Beyond that, though, there’s the simple fact that Louise’s palpably insane feelings for a pint-sized pop star are just hilarious. Kristen Schaal is great at playing unhinged, and the animation perfectly complements her line readings as Louise swoons for Boo Boo—the moment where Louise strokes her computer screen while swearing she will have her reunion with Boo Boo is particularly great. Most of this is just a retread of Louise’s original encounter with Boyz 4 Now, but then there’s no particular need to innovate when given such a strong comedic foundation. Still, the episode is careful to lay out how Louise’s crush can fit in with the rest of her character, as Louise repeatedly recognizes how disgustingly out-of-character her feelings are. Louise clearly hates this about herself, yet she is far too overwhelmed to deny her crush, which opens up yet another vein of character-based humor. All the character moves, no matter how disparate, fit together and inform one another, and the result is a spectacularly propulsive central story for Tina and Louise.
It’s easy for the littlest Belcher to overwhelm any story of which she’s a part, but credit to the rest of the Boo Boo plotline for finding things for Tina and the other jilted Boyz 4 Now fans to do. Tina does want to support Louise in working through her crush, being at the ready to offer that delightfully graphic sweaty pits metaphor, but she’s also crestfallen to realize her actions have cost her a spot in the fan club. The club itself doesn’t get too much screentime, but it’s the perfect microcosm of shrieking preteen fandom, with one overly invested dad thrown in for good measure. The vomit-based hit on Boo Boo is perfectly calibrated, with all the characters operating on their own levels of reality: For Louise and the Boyz 4 Now fan clubbers, this is the equivalent of a political assassination, while Boo Boo himself is just desperate to prove he’s an adult, and that one dude emceeing the thing is still trying to work out the correct length of time he should pause when making announcements. Two weeks removed from an episode I found underdeveloped, the show roars back with one of its most gloriously intricate outings, with about a dozen different characters all contributing to the story for reasons that are all rooted in their own character motivations, rather than a general need to serve the larger plot.
By contrast, Bob’s story feels like it could be a tad too familiar, as we appear to get just the latest variation on his rivalry with Jimmy Pesto. I’m not sure I’d go so far as to say the show has outgrown what Jimmy Pesto represents, but theirs is such a one-sided rivalry that it’s hard not to get a little frustrated with Bob for once again stooping to Jimmy’s level. Indeed, as Linda points out, it feels especially silly for Bob to care so much about Jimmy’s fake mobster plaque when he turned down the opportunity to display his actual one, but the storyline ends somewhere interesting with Bob recognizing just how desperately that stupid jerk needs his little fantasy of being a mobster, or at least being adjacent to mobster history. It’s hard for Bob’s story not to suffer in comparison with the kids’ brilliant story, but I’m still not sure how much credit to give a familiar plotline that pulls out a swerve at the last possible moment, particularly when it’s not all that much fun to watch Bob get himself pointlessly pissed off over Jimmy’s actions. I don’t imagine this ending presages any lasting shifts in the dynamic between Bob and Jimmy—Bob himself tells his new best friend the historian that Jimmy is absolutely still a jerk—but hopefully the creative team takes from this the fact that it’s possible to switch things up with this relationship.
“Bye Bye Boo Boo” is a classic, a worthy illustration of all the show can be when it takes a bunch of its characters both familiar and new, gives them all clear motivations, and lets them bounce off one another. Tina and Louise get to bond over their respective sets of crazed feelings, a bunch of excitable preteens almost drench an undersized boy singer with vomit, and said singer instantly recognizes Louise the moment she slaps him again. This is pretty much everything I could ever want from a Bob’s Burgers episode, and it’s particularly exhilarating to watch this after one of the show’s rare misfires. I didn’t doubt the show is still going to hit way, way more than it misses, but this was a damn home run.
- Just throwing this one out there: If the show ever brings back Boo Boo back for round three with Louise, they really ought to throw Regular-Sized Rudy in there. Let’s let Louise’s two suitors fight it out! The size-related gags just write themselves, too.
- Mike the mailman is such a jerk. I love it.