Last week’s season premiere showed Bob’s Burgers in a wider state of mind—a grand caper adventure that was at its core about the deep affection that the Belcher family has for each other, and how truly bad they are at expressing it most of the time. By contrast, “Boys Just Wanna Have Fungus” is about as traditional an episode of the show as you can get. Both the primary and the secondary plot are driven by previously executed plot hooks—a secret ingredient for one of Bob’s burgers, a package arriving during a slow day at the restaurant—and the stakes and resolution for both are low enough that it barely makes a blip on the Belcher weirdness scale.
And yet those low stakes are part of the reason why Bob’s Burgers is such a wonderful show, and why it continues to be a minor miracle that it’s still wonderful into its tenth season. (A longevity that’s its own minor miracle, which we should be thanking any and all deities for.) At this point Bob’s Burgers has achieved the state of pure comfort food television, a place where the core ingredients are so satisfying that any single serving is almost guaranteed to deliver. You know what you’re getting with an episode of this show, and while it often throws something on top—a dash of Kevin Kline or Megan Mullally, a special sauce of a musical number—it doesn’t need any of those to succeed.
Speaking of those extra flavors, Bob’s endless quest to build the perfect burger is the action that drives the main plot of “Boys Just Wanna Have Fungus.” Sighting a rare mushroom at the farmer’s market, he’s reminded of an old idea to use that mushroom for a perfect burger. And when the price becomes an issue—as it so frequently is with Bob—he decides to go find them in the wild himself. Again, that’s a decision that’s entirely in keeping with what’s been established with Bob, and one that you can see paying off from the get-go. Of course Bob’s oft-voiced desire to live off the land would convince him he could succeed in this endeavor without any training. And of course his wildly overestimated abilities to do so would fail the instant he had to put any of it into practical application.
Where the episode zigs is incorporating Gene into these adventures, slightly smarting at Bob’s agreement that he’d be the first one killed in an apocalypse. (Let’s be honest, we were all picturing Gene with an apple in his mouth in that scenario.) Bob and Gene pairings are uncommon for Bob’s Burgers, as their differing energy levels mean Gene’s the child he connects with the least—especially when the latter’s efforts to connect with him often fly off the rails. Here though, it’s almost as if Gene internalized something since the last time he went above and beyond to get a special ingredient for his dad’s burgers. There’s a fun rapport between father and son we don’t often see, be it a discussion of sock-cheese, or the fact that they get equally winded climbing over and under a giant log. They’re both out of their element and trying to cope with it in their own ways, and because of it they feel closer than usual.
The enjoyable nature of their rapport carries over a series of mostly predicable beats: bumbling through a hunt for the mushrooms, subsequent discovery of a magic garden of mushrooms, falling into conflict with a group of mushroom hunters, having a near-escape, and then eventually losing the bounty of mushrooms regardless. The failure to secure the Wooly Neptunes doesn’t come as a surprise—Bob’s Burgers doesn’t typically allow Bob to have even a win as minor as this—but it is rewarding to see Bob take at least a little agency in his inevitable defeat after being treated largely as a rube. And it’s equally rewarding to see Gene figure out his desire for snacks can save them, cheesy finger marks his breadcrumbs to guide them home.
The other story is somehow even more low-stakes of a plot, but in its own way is equally comforting. While it’s fair to argue that most of the craziness of the show grows out of the craziness of its main characters, a lot of credit goes to the fact that Bob’s Burgers isn’t the most exciting place to work. Between its low foot traffic and limited menu, there’s little in the way of day-to-day variety, and it’s no wonder that the Belchers are frequently willing to let the first thing that comes through the door dictate where things go next. In this case, it’s the delivery of Tina’s new glasses (sadly without the charcoal grey frames she’d asked for), and a stronger prescription that she thinks has taken her vision to the next level—a belief Louise is only too happy to feed.
The “slow day at work” vibe of this plot winds up working in its favor, as (knowing what we know about the Belchers) you could see it going too extreme in one direction. Here, no one feels the need to do so. Tina’s oft-overwhelmed practicality could easily be convinced by a belief that she could be a real-life superhero outside the restaurant, but she’s stopped at the window by the lure of super-sharp butts and the elusive tighty-whitey lines. (Thumbs up to Dan Mintz for the internal war Tina wages over realizing how comfortable she is with being a voyeur.) Louise could amplify that attitude and wind her sister up for her own enjoyment, but she’s content to simply use Tina’s so-called powers as an excuse to get Tina to do all of her work. And while you’d expect Linda to feed the enthusiasm beast, she’s the one who inadvertently puts a stop to the fun when she tries to get in on the lip reading action and kills Tina’s special feelings.
In the end, “Boys Just Wanna Have Fungus” is a conventional episode of Bob’s Burgers that manages to deliver the comedic beats you’d expect, and pulls enough together to end on what the Belchers can count as a win. Bob and Gene manage to get just enough mushrooms to cook up a concept burger, and Linda crafts a quick song that brings Tina’s spirits back up. If anything, the true startling development of the week is the reveal that Teddy is willing to break his long-standing devotion to Bob’s Burgers to eat Jimmy Pesto’s fried pizza balls. And if a reveal that minor can elicit an outraged gasp from the viewer, Bob’s Burgers is still doing something right.
- Burger of the Week: The Hunt For Red Onion-Tober Burger
- This week’s business: Whine Country Marriage Counseling
- This week’s exterminator: Mice Try Exterminators
- RIP to Linda’s basket. She was gonna put toilet paper in there! Ah, dreams.
- While the Belchers’ poverty can be a sore spot for many, the degree of how outdated or broken their home technology is always makes me laugh. Bob on the printer: “The toner’s low. It’s always low. I’ve maybe never changed the toner. I just shook it again.”
- “Remember that Wooly Neptune mushroom I had years ago?” “I’m gonna lie and say yes.” Linda knows the secrets to a successful marriage.
- “You look like a glamorous Henry Kissinger!” Teddy wins best line this week.
- “I was born ready. I mean, not really, I was born a baby, and over time I became more ready.”
- “Someone dropped a log! Probably God.”
- “An off-center stem?” “Like something I know.” “And velvety blue gills?!” “Like something else I know.”
- “Call me Draco Malfoy because I am slitherin’!”
- Thanks to Alasdair for letting me tend the grill this week!