“Two For Tina” S3 / E17
- B+ Community Grade
We are all Tina Belcher.
The oldest Belcher child sees herself, and is seen by the rest of her family, as the butt of the joke. These are the perspectives through which we, the viewers, see her. Through them, Tina's a disaster. Her friend-fiction, her horse obsession, her total social awkwardness—all these things make it seem like Tina is an outcast, a total weirdo, someone whose hormones make her unfit for society but forced to appear for our amusement anyway.
But Bob's Burgers doesn't seem to actually want to portray Tina as such a social waste. Bob's Burgers loves its weirdos. So Tina gets rewarded for her weirdness. Not only is the primary object of her crushes generally interested in her--“But I've logged over 3000 fantasy hours with my relationship with Jimmy Jr. You don't just throw that away”--but she's also got a new boy, Josh, who's equally interested in her. I'd say “Everything's coming up Tina!” here, except Linda may have trumped that: “C'mon Bob, Tina had a long wait to get to the buffet. Let her pig out.”
There's more going on here than simply the show deciding to be extra nice to Tina, though. Bob's Burgers is really suggesting that we're all weirdos. Having ridiculous hobbies and obsessions at that age, as they collide with hormones, isn't weird. Using Jimmy Jr., Bob's Burgers actually portrays that as entirely normal for everyone. Through Bob's Burgers' run Jimmy Jr.'s has filled the role of the popular, romantically unattainable kid. He's the son of Bob's wealthier, meaner rival, and Tina always feels like he's totally out of her league. But even though he fills that role conceptually, he's never actually embodied it. He likes Tina, knowing her weirdness. And with his dancing, he's really just as weird as she is—and he's treated as entirely normal within the show's universe. These kids may be freaks, but they're not abnormal freaks. We're all freaks. We're all Tina Belcher.
“Two For Tina” also continues Bob's Burgers' winning season (it's as hot as the Miami Heat, he announced topically!), which it's accomplished largely by focusing on Tina. I was skeptical of Gene and Tina as focuses for episodes initially, and while I'm still not entirely certain how often Gene can carry an episode, I'm delighted that Bob's Burgers has blasted away my Tina-based skepticism. Episodes like this one, “Tina-rannosaurus Wrecks,” and “Broadcast Wagstaff School News” indicate that yes, Tina is a star. She can be the focus of the show's best episodes.
And this was indeed one of the show's best episodes. In addition its smart character work, its jokes all landed. Jimmy Jr. hasn't often been used for humor, but he's effective here when he gets his own goals, instead of just being the object of Tina's desire. Him using dance moves to express mundane thoughts is one of the best early jokes: “What's that dancing for?” “It's for your skirt's stuck in your underwear.” “Oh, thanks for telling...me.”
The Belcher parents, meanwhile, have their own silly sideplot, where Linda tries to force Bob to go his first-ever school dance. She then recreates the drama and bad behavior for Bob's benefit. Much like last week's science project, I thought the show did a good job of not pushing this plot any more than it needed. More than that, it also made me realize that Linda's become firmly a fifth member of the family it terms of comedy. It's been a long time since I felt like she's been a drag on an episode. Her speech about crowning and naming the raccoons in the alley was marvelously deranged, and one of the best parts of a great episode. Bob's Burgers just keeps humming along, delightfully.
- “It was like being on a romantic stool.” “Yeah,, well consider that just a stool sample.” An example of a joke made even funnier by an initial double entendre explicit.
- Quiet episode for Louise, but her photobomb of Tina and Bob's photo made my night.