The static nature of a cartoon universe means that Bob’s Burgers will always be on the brink of disaster. If Bob’s Burgers the restaurant is ever permanently forced to close down, or somehow becomes a mainstream success, then Bob’s Burgers the show completely ceases to be what it once was. Either you’d see Bob as a failed restauranteur trying to launch a new business every week (5 Broke Belchers?) or Bob trying not to let success spoil his high standards and general decency (The Belchers: Movin’ On Up?). And so the Belcher family are caught in an eternal Sisyphean loop, pushing that burger up the hill every week and watching it roll down.
It’d be a tragedy if Bob’s Burgers wasn’t so good at plugging an optimistic spirit into that crusade, each new endeavor shot through with a steadfast belief that this one could be what turns things around. Even in “Flat Top O’ The Morning To Ya,” an episode that’s about the fate that could befall them in a worst-case scenario, the energy is still less around the failure than it is making lemonade from lemons. Or barbecue sauce from powdered orange drink mix, such as it is.
While St. Patrick’s Day festivities are distracting most of the town, for Bob and the kids it’s business as usual. And there’s no business like “going out of business,” with a recent BBQ restaurant closure offering the chance for Bob to pick up some reasonably priced supplies. While hunting for bargains, it doesn’t take long to Louise to spot something else—a tag on a fake mustache being worn by the restaurant’s former owner Jules Beachum. Voiced by the always welcome Richard Kind, Jules is the exact sort of weirdo Bob’s Burgers excels at depicting, the ones who don’t even let the most practical obstacles get in their way. It doesn’t matter that he’s got no real plan, natural talent, or even a fake mustache that will stay on his face, he’s going to achieve his goal.
The goal in question is to hang onto one piece of his family’s history, the restaurant’s flattop grill. It’s one of those Bob’s Burgers plots where the family isn’t the instigator in the trouble but they’re more than happy to throw themselves into it, and if anything the lower stakes make them even more invested. Louise in particular is in fine form this week, thrilled to get in on a caper that she can technically classify as a bank robbery. She’s so excited she’s literally bouncing in place—an adorable bit of animation—and literally has to shush herself when the caper gets underway. Gene’s happy to be part of anything where he doesn’t have to work too hard and can just sit down and navigate, and while Tina puts up some token resistance (“We can’t steal the flattop, that’s stealing”) it quickly gives way to her natural empathy once she draws the parallels between Jules and her father.
Tina can see the parallels, but “Flat Top O’ The Morning To Ya” is less effective in connecting this crusade to Bob’s own personal doubts. It’s all the more glaring given that one of the things we still have yet to understand about Bob is how much kinship he feels with other restaurant owners that aren’t named Jimmy Pesto. His prior interactions with his peers are limited (though similarly chaotic) and there’s no real instances of him sticking up for or being threatened by them. Instead of exploring that interaction, we just get his normal wet blanket nature at even wetter levels, only participating in the scheme via inertia and not having a good time at any point of it. It even costs him the plates he had his eye on, plates he could have saved twenty bucks on and now can only whimper as he loses. It feels like the most Bob Belcherian defeat you can possibly concoct.
What’s the most bothersome about it is that it misses an real opportunity to take things to the next level for Bob. After being trapped in the spice closet, Jules finally admits that the restaurant failed because he let the quality sag, and caring about and perfecting the barbecue flavor was more his dad’s thing. (He’s really more of a beekeeper, especially now that he knows you can’t mash dead bees together and get honey. Seriously, this guy is a perfect Bob’s Burgers supporting player.) That feels tailor-made for Bob to really connect with the failure of Jules’s restaurant on a personal level, especially given how little it takes for his own kids to stop paying attention to the restaurant and what must be his fear that no one will pick up the spatula once he’s done. Instead, the focuses on Bob’s own general fear of failure, where despite being conveyed through song the import is deflated by constant interruptions of the kids and their acknowledgment that they know about those fears. Gene puts it best: “We know about the secret failure dungeon in your butt.”
“Flat Top O’ The Morning To Ya” does recover some steam once they get out of the spice closet. Bob’s able to work up as motivated a sales pitch as he can—albeit one where he can’t stop himself from nitpicking the grill’s cleanliness—and Jules ruins what little momentum he gets from that speech by pushing the grill out the door and sending it to collide with his car. Yet that damage leads to a happy ending for all parties, the resale value ruined enough that an aspiring restauranteur is able to purchase it for his waffle cone/cheesesteak fusion restaurant Yummy Yummy Cheesy Beefs. (Tina: “That place sounds perfect.”) Again, Bob’s Burgers’s soft spot for its damaged goods makes up for a lot.
Bob decides he’ll just tell Linda the plates were haunted, but he shouldn’t have any fear about telling his wife about his bad decisions, because she’s making plenty of them herself. This week’s b-plot is a natural outgrowth of what happens when you leave Linda and Teddy alone without adult supervision in the restaurant, and when you happen to do so on a holiday where alcohol is involved. It’s surprising that this is the first Bob’s Burgers St. Patrick’s Day episode given how the holiday is defined by chaos and drunkenness, two regular menu items on the show and ones that many other shows thrived on.
“Flat Top O’ The Morning To Ya” thankfully doesn’t go overboard on the presentation, instead using the holiday’s excess to feed Linda’s natural attitude of “more is more” once she’s free of Bob’s edict on keeping the holiday out of things. Drunk on the power to dye beer green—and the green beer itself—and realizing there’s nothing stopping her from applying that to the rest of the food in the restaurant. In the natural escalation of things, she winds up dying all of their available hamburger meat too late to realize that a green hamburger patty winds up looking disgusting. It’s the sort of casual “slow day at work” plot that feels like it grew out of John Roberts and Larry Murphy riffing in the room, backing themselves into a corner at the end of it. (The pot of gold medal goes to Teddy’s suggestion that they say the hamburgers are made from ground-up leprechauns. I can’t even imagine that Burger of the Day pun.)
It even gives Bob something of a happy ending, despite his aversion to doing anything at all for the holiday. Linda’s long shot plan to give out the free samples turns her into a tipsy Pied Piper, leading a whole St. Patrick’s Day crowd over to the restaurant and give them an unexpected windfall. It’s a strange outcome but also the sort of thing you’d never see at Beachum BBQ, and an explanation as to why Bob’s Burgers can plausibly keep the restaurant teetering on the edge of failure. At the end of the day, it’s always going to be just crazy enough to work.
- Burger of the Week: The Happy Paint Paddy’s Day Burger (whiskey brushed patty)
- Store Next Door: Let’s Talk About Ex, Baby: Divorce Counseling.
- Pest Control Truck: Bugshead Re-Squisheted Pest Control.
- In another welcome bit of casting, Andy Daly returns to the show as the auctioneer. I’d love to have heard him give more of an auction fast patter—and to share some tips with Gene given his early interest in the profession—but the slightly beaten-down quality of his character has its own comedy gold. “Do I hear $10? Pretty please? That’s an auctioning term.”
- Bob might secretly fear none of his kids will follow in his footsteps, but let’s be honest: we all know that adult Louise is going to take the restaurant over and figure out how to franchise it in six states, while her husband Regular Sized Rudy meekly but happily does her bidding. That’s my head canon at least and you should respect it.
- Teddy’s suggestions for days they can dye the meat green: Arbor Day, Labor Day, Green Day Day.
- Gene has a foolproof plan to steal Jules’s whisk. “That’d just be like ‘plop,’ down the pants. And if anyone asks ‘Is that a whisk in your pants,’ we’d say ‘That’s my weiner, sir!’ And we’d tip our cap and off we go.”
- Really, all Gene’s lines are great this week. “No slot-shaming!” “Laps are the plates of the body.” “This one’s either paprika or dog.” “And why does it look like a Shrek exploded in here?”
- “You gonna join me, or am I celebrating alone like a sad person?”
- Louise: “Dad, you’re so good at touching strangers.” Bob: “I feel alive, or something.”