No good deed goes unpunished on Bob’s Burgers. Then again, no bad deed goes unpunished either. And come to think of it, the good deeds do ultimately get rewarded, while the bad deeds get rewarded far longer than they really ought to. Eventually everything settles somewhere in the middle, a murky melange of B- grades and men willingly being taped to barstools. This is a vision of cosmic justice we can all get behind, basically.
The main plot, in which a Belcher betrays their siblings in pursuit of success at any cost and becomes a business monster, is one that could potentially work well with either Tina or Louise. Both are capable of letting things get out of hand in pursuit of an ever fuzzier goal. But the episode’s decision to go with Tina means a protagonist who at least in theory started out with good intentions before getting lost. For most of the episode, this is all so hilariously low stakes, even by the standards of Bob’s Burgers. Tina kind of wants to impress Jimmy Jr. and his crew, and she kind of wants to sell woodchucks, but even those motivations overstate the clarity of her goal. Mostly, she just wants to spout her idea of paradigm-busting, game-changing business speak, complete with lots of line graphs and strategic rebrandings. There’s a delightful purity to her commitment to being a business monster, right up until she goes a hundred dollars in debt to the craft store weirdoes and decides it’s time to grift Teddy.
This is one of those Bob’s Burgers episodes where much of the humor comes from the idea that anyone involved could take any of this seriously, even for a moment. Tina is always game to take something far more earnestly than it deserves, but she’s not the only one. Tammy finds yet another way to chase the status she’s convinced she already has. Jimmy Jr. wants snacks and doesn’t care how much he has to abuse the labor force to get it. Zeke remains delightfully philosophical when he isn’t challenging his buddy to impromptu wrestling. Mr. Frond is far too busy being bitter about his lost Etsy store of hand-knitted Doctor Who scarves to intercede at any reasonable point. Even Louise, Gene, and honorary fourth Belcher Regular-Size Rudy keep making those woodchucks way longer than they ought to, quarter-assing or no. And never forget that Bob legitimately gets choked up as he talks about what his business means to him and wonders whether he should come talk to the class.
All this might be just a hair too silly if Tina weren’t so absolutely committed to her disastrous vision. It helps that she’s smart enough to recognize how bad her ideas are on paper. She knows Woodchuck 2 is a grossly inferior knock-off of an original already dwindling in popularity, but she figured Wagstaff students would be stupid enough to go for it. Tina is so terminally sweet and forthright even when engaged in the most nakedly cynical maneuvers, which helps the episode from tipping over into mean-spirited territory. It’s only when everything goes awry and she runs afoul of Edith and Harold that Tina really comes close to crossing the line, and by then Louise and Gene have long since walked out on the sweatshop in search of vaguely preferable classes.
“Tweentrepreneurs” is one of the more thematically coherent Bob’s Burgers episodes, which is another way of saying the jokes feel extra satisfying when the story ties them all together at the end. What appears to be the latest throwaway bit of B-plot goofiness at the restaurant proves a perfect, if cracked illustration of the point Bob was making right at the start: The key to a successful business is promising and delivering something special. Sure, the dine-and-dasher had to rob the place three times before he could bring himself to admit that Bob’s food was just too wonderful to not have his life on an ongoing, more legitimate basis, but the point was made, dammit!
Until then, admittedly, Bob has to endure a hell of a lot, and that’s just from Linda and Teddy. Their stupidity can be a lot to take, but here again their fundamental good nature makes matters more palatable. It takes a lot to sell the idea that the dine-and-dasher could rob the same restaurant twice, let alone three times over, without making everyone involved come off as irretrievably dumb. On this score, the second time round is maybe the most crucial, as it’s so delightfully lazy in its initial premise: The guy put on a hat. That’s somehow enough for the easily distracted Linda and Teddy, who both vastly overestimate the complexity of finding such a hat. But part of why this bit works at all is that Linda is so eager to see the best in people, even when, just to make this clear, it’s extremely obviously the same guy just wearing a hat.
By comparison, the third burger theft is downright byzantine in its complexity, with claims of wayward identical twins and $20 bills changing hands one too many times. Here it makes sense that Bob would be fooled as well, if only because this con plays on his tendency to just go with the flow if people start bantering with him. A far less controlled version of that same desire to be a part of something is what drives Teddy into Tina’s own grift, as she tries to extort $100 from him to settle her craft debts. That Teddy is such a wonderfully insistent mark is a great gag, especially since it would be a narrative convenience for Tina to get the money and fix her mess. But then she wouldn’t really learning anything. Instead, the episode finds a more satisfying conclusion, one that naturally enough revolves around Gene’s butt. Tina discovers just enough business acumen to realize the googly eyes are the true key to success, or at least a marginal profit after a series of unnecessary fiascos.
“Tweentrepreneurs” is a fun, sweet little episode. It’s not one of the show’s more high-concept outings, instead happy to lean on what the show has long established about its characters and how they might all bounce off an admittedly general theme of what it means to run a good business. Since this is Bob’s Burgers, everybody loses their way in spectacular fashion, but any journey that ends with the kids merrily taping a willing customer to a chair without even having the slightest idea why they’re doing it is going to be one worth taking.