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“Bed, Bob, And Beyond” takes us into some of the scariest, most unsettling possible territory for a Bob’s Burgers episode, let alone a Valentine’s Day story: It throws the whole show off its axis to have Bob and Linda fighting for an entire episode. That’s an intriguing risk for the show to take, especially when this is generally one of the more structurally experimental episodes. Almost the entire episode takes place either on the way or coming back from the movie theater, with only Louise’s opening flashbacks to the morning’s fight and the brief interlude with the actual movie to break up our time in the car with the family and their imagined version of the movie’s ending. It says a lot about how invested I am in this family that this is one of the show’s most legitimately tense episodes, as I was worried right up to the end about how Bob and Linda would patch things up and how the kids would get away with breaking Gene’s bed. As the episode’s final moments make clear, I was always a fool to worry about the latter—of course the kids were just going to run out of the car, leaving Bob to grumble powerlessly.

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But the episode got me to believe that the kids’ peril was real, and that’s what more generally makes “Bed, Bob, And Beyond” fun. As with similar episodes like “The Frond Files” and “The Gayle Tales,” most of the story unfolds in the kids’ hyperactive imaginations, as they attempt to supply an ending to the popcorn fire-interrupted film. The result is the most 90s-infused episode in the show’s run, as not only do the kids pull from 20-plus-year-old source material like Speed, Titanic, and sort of Twister, but also the actual movie has an obvious Hugh Grant pastiche as the actor behind the stammering Scottjon Dansteve. Even by the show’s typically low-stakes standards, little of what we see here actually matters. Most previous fantasy sequences on the show at least feature versions of the Belchers. Here, we spend the bulk of the episode in the company of Scottjon and Princess Paula McCartney, with the family serving as some combination of narrator, supporting voices, and critics.

If I were feeling uncharitable, there are parts of this episode that feel a touch too contrived, at least on first blush. It does seem odd the Belchers would take the kids on their Valentine’s movie date, especially when we’ve seen them leave the kids alone in the house in other episodes. The flashback itself is a touch odd, as if the episode can’t find a more organic way to maneuver all its plot threads into position. But that’s a fair tradeoff to get the main story, as weird and silly as it is, into motion as quickly as possible. All that matters once the Belchers start driving to the theater is that the parents are mad at each other and the kids are trying to patch things up if only to avoid having to face consequences for the broken bed.

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It’s there that we have a perfectly reasonable answer to what is, in fairness, a perfectly reasonable question: Just why are Bob and Linda taking the kids to the romantic movie with them? The answer is simple and admittedly circular: Because it’s the Belchers we’re talking about. Of course Bob and Linda—let’s be real, this was Linda’s idea—would think the kids should come along to see the most romantic movie about London tour guides and bored princesses they can find. Again, given the circularity, that explanation is going to be as compelling as you find the Belchers themselves. That’s the entire episode. We get a few slivers of new information, all of which track perfectly with what we already know, like the fact that Bob always cries the most dad tears when he watches a romantic comedy, then immediately goes off to download the soundtrack. But beyond that, a seasoned Bob’s Burgers watcher can predict most of what unfolds here. This is a celebration of the family for its total weirdness, to say nothing of the kids’ total lack of local London knowledge.

While the adventure of Scottjon Dansteve and Princess Paula McCartney is a decidedly out-of-nowhere scenario to use as the main thrust of the story, its randomness proves a comedic asset. “Bed, Bob, And Beyond” isn’t trying to break any new ground with the characters, and since it can’t even have fun with fictionalized versions of the family like the show’s previous iterations on this format could, picking previously unexplored comedic territory like the family’s understanding of England provides lots of fresh gags. Gene’s understanding of London is especially demented—just giant tubes on every street, apparently—especially when you factor in his total inability to make up names for characters. Don’t forget Scottjon’s best friend, Johnny Nottinghill, or possibly Johnny Hooligan, to say nothing of the nefarious dastard Big Ben!

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Getting the Belcher parents to invest in these ridiculous stories is what makes charming silliness of all this hang together as a fully-formed, funny episode. Linda is typically the easier of the two to draw into whatever her kids are doing, no matter how half-assed or shady they’re being about their motivations. Bob, on the other hand, is more just unable to deal with all the logical inconsistencies and geographical errors, and he can’t help but get more invested as the kids’ stories unfold, give or take when Tina inevitably devotes a lot of her story to discussion of Scottjon’s butt. And because Bob can’t win, his suggestion that the bus will have to “mind the gap” as it jumps London Bridge—not Tower Bridge, there’s a whole song about it falling down and everything—lands with a total thud.

On paper, “Bed, Bob, And Beyond” is about as insubstantial an episode as it gets. The whole conflict revolves around what Louise herself calls the dumbest argument imaginable, with the kids trying to divert attention from something they were always going to skate on anyway. Most of the episode is built around parodying movies that are all at least 20 years old. There were moments watching this where I couldn’t quite believe Bob’s Burgers would dare devote 30 minutes of primetime television to something so silly. And yet, this was also about as suspenseful as the show ever gets, because everything in this episode rested on the family dynamic and what it would take to repair the hurt feelings. That’s a bizarre achievement, no question, but it’s definitely an achievement. Rarely has the show spun so much story out of such a small central concept, and that proves a worthy companion to the show’s past Valentine’s stories.

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Stray observations

  • I appreciate that Linda might be willing to go along with everything else, but she draws a clear line at the idea of a wave in a river.
  • It looks like the animators put in some decent effort to get, if not the precise geography of London right, then at least its general architectural look. That alone gives this episode a different feel even than the other more experimental episodes. Indeed, I’m trying to think: Is this the first time the show has depicted a real geographic location in any detail?
  • We have a couple Shaun Of The Dead alums in Lucy Davis and Peter Serafinowicz as the voices of the princess and Scottjon. And it really must be said: Johnny Nottinghill is the most Nick Frost role that Nick Frost didn’t technically play.

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