Bob’s Burgers: “I Get Psy-chic Out Of You”
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Bob’s Burgers: “I Get Psy-chic Out Of You”

Psychic powers? Linda never saw them coming!

“I Get Psy-chic Out Of You” has a higher degree of difficulty than your typical Bob’s Burgers episode. Linda has a well-established inability to recognize when her exuberance has gotten out of hand, but past stories in which Linda temporarily lost her mind tended to keep the stakes as small-scale and personal as possible. Linda lost roughly the same amount of perspective in, say, “Mother Daughter Laser Razor” or “Slumber Party,” but in those cases her craziness only affected her immediate family—especially Louise, perhaps because she’s the one Belcher who can be counted on to match her mother in the insanity department. Tonight, though, Linda’s sudden belief in her psychic powers risks leading gullible people astray, subverting the course of justice, and even getting a man fired. In terms of the story’s basic structure, if there is a bad guy here, then it really has to be Linda, give or take that curt jockey who has carved out a lucrative life of crime as the Little Boy Bandit. What adds to the trickiness is that the natural person to call attention to Linda’s folly is Bob, but that positions him as the story’s wet blanket. Part of the joy of Bob’s Burgers is how consistently it gets us to root for the Belchers, even when some or all of them are rampantly misbehaving, and this episode doesn’t place either Linda or Bob in naturally sympathetic roles.

Still, a tricky premise isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, and “I Get Psy-chic Out Of You” makes pretty much all the right decisions in how it handles its chosen scenario. The episode never really leaves any doubt that psychic powers aren’t real, but Jon Schroeder’s script isn’t any more didactic than it needs to be in its treatment of Linda’s psychic readings. Linda and her customers quite clearly just lead each other to whatever they most want to hear, and Teddy in particular shows a ridiculous willingness to ignore all of Linda’s obviously wrong suggestions, but the exchanges don’t play as mean-spirited. The episode manages to have several of its characters act foolishly—even by their standards—without making the characters themselves come across as stupid. Bob’s Burgers is so consistently hilarious in part because the creative team seems to genuinely like the show’s entire sad sack ensemble, with the possible exception of a Jimmy Pesto or a Hugo. Yes, Teddy is dumb to believe Linda’s absurd predictions, but he follows through on them not because he’s an idiot but because he’s a hopeless romantic with a flexible enough work schedule that allows him to engage in a de facto scavenger hunt.

Bob too is handled with care. More than most episodes, “I Get Psy-chic Out Of You” casts Bob as a humorless scold, but the episode earns that role with its keen understanding of his motivations. Bob does mention a few times that there is just no way that psychic powers are real, but his objections are never so coldly intellectual. Bob’s initial reaction suggests he’s mostly wary of Linda’s self-professed powers because he’s fully aware how annoying this is going to be. Bob has long since learned how to recognize when his goofball family and his weirdo regular customers are about to bait each other into some fresh ridiculousness, and so his skepticism is as much to save himself a headache as anything else. Even with an outlandish, warmed-over premise like Linda bumping her head and developing fake psychic powers, Bob’s Burgers keeps the story grounded in the family dynamics.

Before that comeuppance, the episode also finds some nicely specific criticisms for Bob to make. Some of his best moments come when he simply describes the lunacy that has just unfolded, as when he points out that Linda has just sent Gretchen to a city in another state because she believes she’s a psychic. Wisely, the episode decides that even this isn’t really sustainable as a character arc for Bob, so he becomes obsessed with Linda’s dire warning that he will fall down some stairs. The viewer can interpret whether Bob is genuinely unsettled by Linda’s prophecy or if he’s just worried about validating his wife’s silliness, but it doesn’t really matter. After all, the entire sequence is just an excuse for Bob to crabwalk down the stairs while giddily congratulating his own genius; it’s a hilarious combination of a perfectly staged visual gag and H. Jon Benjamin making a bunch of silly noises.

Where this episode could go off the rails is when Linda becomes a police psychic. It’s one thing for Linda to get carried away with her friends, but Bob acknowledges that it crosses a whole other line for her to call the news with a psychic tip. Bob’s Burgers eliminates that potential issue by reminding us that nothing in this town is so serious that Linda’s meddling could ever mess it up. There really is no authority figure who can more ably illustrate that point than Sergeant Bosco. Perhaps my favorite occasional character, Bosco isn’t quite as delightfully hateful here as he was in “Bob Day Afternoon” or “My Fuzzy Valentine”—tough, in fairness, nothing is likely to top “If I wanted to feel like a loser, I’d just call my kids”—but he’s perfectly cast as a cop who deserves every last bit of psychic nonsense Linda can give him; after all, he casually confirms one of Linda’s few correct readings when she picks up a knife and declares they have the wrong man. Gary Cole’s line readings are terrific, as Bosco seems to lose and regain interest in what he’s talking about at random points throughout his sentences. There’s a wonderfully funny logic to Bosco’s character, as he’s presented as a cop so fundamentally lazy and corrupt that he can’t even be bothered to do the work necessary to hold onto the authority that enables his laziness and corruption in the first place.

The eventual resolution of the plot, in which Tina’s attempt to get a horse’s autograph helps unmask the elusive Little Boy Bandit, underlines both the basic strength and basic weakness of “I Get Psy-chic Out Of You.” As a solution to the episode’s mystery, it works well enough, but it feels a little forced. The best Bob’s Burgers episodes have an effortless quality, gradually building up comedic energy as the one bit of silliness naturally leads to the next. Tonight’s episode follows that same arc, but the story strains to pull off its premise without making its characters look too silly or letting the story get too bogged down in plot. For instance, Linda’s realization that her psychic visions were just the result of common sense is a clever moment, but it isn’t especially funny or touching in the way the best Bob’s Burgers resolutions tend to be. This is a solid episode, but it isn’t quite the equal of more organically constructed recent stories like “Uncle Teddy” or “Mazel-Tina.”

Still, I can’t write this episode off because—and you can pretty much assume this is always the case unless I specifically say otherwise—this is a very, very funny half-hour of television. The one advantage of such a relatively complex plot is that it allows a bunch of characters to bounce off of each other; this is the most we’ve seen of Mort in ages, for instance. There’s a lot of ramshackle silliness to be had in Bosco and Linda partnering up to solve a crime or in Teddy spending some quality time with the kids down at the track. And, if nothing else, “I Get Psy-chic Out Of You” earns its keep with the all-important revelation that Tina is the Belcher family’s real comedic genius; she’s just stuck writing all the best gags for that natural showman Gene. Even when Bob’s Burgers can’t quite pull off its main story, it’s at a point in its creative life where it can quite effectively coast on the hilarity that ensues whenever two or more Belchers are in the same room together.

Stray observations:

  • Greetings, everyone. Pilot has had to step away from the Bob’s Burgers beat, so I’ll be taking over for the foreseeable future. Think of me as the cool uncle you never had. Maybe call me A.J.? Also, while we’re doing introductions, I’d have to say Tina is my favorite character, but Bob is my spirit Belcher. And now, some quotes!
  • “Sounds like Sandy Duncan.” “Everybody sounds like Sandy Duncan to you, Mom! Sandy Duncan this, Sandy Duncan that, oh…”
  • “Tell Mom and Dad that I’ll miss them… but I’m home now.”
  • “I keep telling him to quit the force and just play.”
  • “Is Linda sure the dress is yellow? Could it be a floral pattern, and not a dress but a vest? I, uh, think we’re supposed to meet, but I’m not feeling any chemistry, to be perfectly honest. Nothing. Like zero.”

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