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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bob’s Burgers: “Slumber Party”

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Louise Belcher was arguably the standout character on Bob’s Burgers for the first (and possibly much of the second) season. Many episodes focused more on Bob’s dealings with the restaurant than with his familial interactions, Tina had yet to fully blossom into the perfect character that she is now, and neither Gene nor Linda were defined enough to be especially memorable. Louise was the Belcher that was talked most about—she’s loud (often screeching), chaotic, sinister, and free in the way that only children are. Louise is childlike anarchy and juvenile evilness, but it works for her. Now she sometimes faces the problem of being too much. I still love Louise (and this has a lot to do with Kristen Schaal’s voice acting) and I think she has the energy that really propels forward an episode but even so, I can understand complaints that she often comes off as too mean-spirited or too antagonistic.

This doesn’t bother me, though because I think Bob’s Burgers has done a fine job of occasionally creating situations that bring Louise down a few notches. Louise is at her best when her meanness and sarcasm are matched up with the typical aspects of growing up. “Boyz 4 Now” was such a tremendous episode because it took all of Louise’s character traits and applied them to dealing with a first crush. She was softened, but only just a bit—she still resorted to violence at the end, even if for her that was an expression of adoration. Tonight’s episode involves another adolescent rite of passage: the slumber party.

Unsurprisingly, Louise is against having a slumber party because, as Bob puts it, she’s not the most social kid (she still hasn’t answered Bob’s friend request, and he knows that she’s seen it). Linda insists that it’s a part of growing up and basically forces Louise to have one, but it’s a disaster from the beginning. The partygoers aren’t the most fun bunch—one talks too much, one is scared of germs, one really likes to braid, and one is just plain boring—and Louise keeps trying to find ways to leave her own party. It doesn’t work, but Louise is a schemer, and manages to gets three of the four girls to leave. The fourth, Jessica (voiced by Kathryn Hahn), refuses.

Bob’s Burgers has pitted Louise against her peers before. There was the bully in “Ear-sy Rider,” a strange case that saw Louise become temporarily and uncharacteristically insecure due to a situation that she accidentally put herself in. Then there was Millie in “Fort Night” who was both completely unhinged and a little terrifying. But Jessica in “Slumber Party” is different. She isn’t going toe-to-toe with Louise as an act of revenge or malice, she isn’t trying to actually win a battle, and she isn’t trying to prove anything. Jessica is staying out of a mix of embarrassment of self-preservation; earlier in the episode, it becomes clear that Jessica has wet herself and is trying to hide the pajamas until she can toss them out the next morning. An innocent mix-up causes the pajama bottoms to get mixed up with the girls’ tie-dye projects, and Jessica refuses to leave until she gets them back.

Out of all of Louise’s previous enemies, I think Jessica is my favorite. She’s on Louise’s level: Jessica is clever, she doesn’t give up, she knows how to pick locks, and she understands what makes Louise tick. Like Millie, Jessica comes off a bit crazy, but it is for more understandable 9-year-old reasons—like going great lengths to prevent a humiliating secret from leaking to the school. The more Jessica refuses to leave, the more Louise is determined to force her out. At this point, it’s a matter of pride for Louise, because she can’t let even one person win and therefore stay the night. The conflict eventually becomes a pillow fight using Tina and Gene as human shields (Gene’s quite good at it for his first time) until they accidentally find the soiled pants being attacked by a raccoon. (Oh yeah, there’s also a great plot about Linda’s obsession with the outdoor raccoons.)

It turns out that Jessica had nothing to worry about. Sure, Louise can be mean (and I’d say this is mostly to her family, and out of love, than it is to peers and strangers) but she’s not evil. Louise seems to have a code. She will make fun of your boring stories or silly interests, but she won’t do anything truly hurtful—and in the world of elementary school, outing Jessica’s bedwetting might be one of the worst things she could do. Plus, Jessica never really did anything to Louise that would cause Louise to retaliate. The two girls even end up bonding over their crazy mothers and pillow-fighting skills. Louise isn’t going to morph into a social butterfly with a giggly best friend, but this is a nice step in the right direction.


Stray observations:

  • That raccoon story was gold, especially the way Bob quickly changed his mind about keeping the raccoon around—“Let’s put a hat on him!”—and how Linda left out some wine. Also: “Raccoon! Raccoon in the tub! Code orange!”
  • “She peed all over the place. I saw.” “That does sound like Mom!”
  • There wasn’t a whole lot of Tina tonight, but her as a sarcastic mall rat was great.
  • My favorite small moment was Bob’s dejected “Great” when he learned he had to drive Jessica home later.
  • Tonight, on the Bob’s Burgers Relatable Characters Scale, I’m both Linda spending her childhood throwing rocks at cars (sorry, neighbors) and Tina falling asleep at a birthday party.
  • The picture of Linda and Bob outside of City Hall is the cutest thing.