Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Bob’s Burgers: “The Unnatural”

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While watching this episode of Bob’s Burgers, I realized it’s rare that I actually watch a sitcom on a weekly basis starting from its premiere. Usually, I let episodes pile up and then binge-watch them all in one afternoon. For the most part, it’s because I watch a lot of canceled sitcoms so every episode is available at that moment but it’s also because of this weird impatience where I’d rather wait months to watch an entire season than wait a week in between episodes. Sometimes it’s odd because there are so many programs that slowly get better (and alternatively, many that rapidly decline toward the end) so racing through two or three seasons in one weekend often results in watching a show mature within a matter of hours. I bring this up because Bob’s Burgers is one of the few shows I’ve watched on the night it airs, since the very first episode, and it’s made me realize how much fun it is to watch a show gradually get better in real time.

This isn’t to say that Bob’s Burgers started off bad—I think it was strong from the pilot—but, as with any other program, it had a few kinks to work out. The easiest example is the show’s early struggles with Gene and Linda. Gene’s a fun character when he’s running around and doing weird stuff in the background but he’s not the best Belcher child to center an entire episode on. Linda is charming and hilarious but because the writers never delve too deep into her character, it’s rare that she’s at the forefront of any storylines. Recently, however, Bob’s Burgers has worked wonders with both so it’s great to see them featured so prominently in one episode and have it work.

Bob’s Burgers really hit its stride this season by becoming a show that is so confident in itself, despite being this eccentric little gem stuck in a line-up so often dominated by Seth MacFarlane’s brand of comedy. Maybe that’s why it was so fitting that “confidence” is a theme running throughout “The Unnatural.” Gene joins a baseball team and is awful at the sport but learns to be confident in his abilities—with the help of a con man. Tina, through a quick and extreme addiction to espressos, learns that caffeine boosts her confidence to the point where she doesn’t even think twice about asking Jimmy Pesto Jr. out on a date. Bob’s confidence in his restaurant (and therefore himself) comes from the pride he feels after buying the fancy espresso machine (from Italy!). Linda’s confidence that she did the right thing for her children is confirmed when Gene finally gets a hit, thus proving Bob wrong. As for Louise, well, she’s always been the Belcher with the most confidence in herself so it was cool to see her back to her usual Louise self after those last two adorably heart wrenching episodes.

There’s a lot happening in “The Unnatural” yet it zips by too quickly and doesn’t feel too crowded. The storylines all work individually but also naturally intersect each other at various points, the dialogue is as snappy as ever, there are callbacks to earlier episodes, and there’s even another appearance by Regular Sized Rudy! The catalyst of “The Unnatural” is Gene joining the baseball team. He’s not exactly great, mainly due to being scared of the ball, and Bob’s not exactly a great teacher—their attempt at playing catch together quickly and hilariously leads to them pelting each other with garbage in an alley. When Bob refuses to pay for a ridiculous baseball camp, Linda (under Louise’s suggestion) secretly sells Bob’s new espresso machine to foot the bill.

This sets off a whole new chain of events. Bob is furious at Linda when he finds out she paid a con artist with the money and Tina is furious that she can no longer drink espressos. Tina’s full-blown caffeine addiction is one of the highlights of the episode. She becomes slightly less monotonous and more animated, believes she can hear her hair growing, and talks a mile a minute while asking Jimmy out. The only thing better is her caffeine withdrawal—the cold-hearted smashing of Linda’s porcelain babies, snapping at Jimmy (“I have a speech impediment, Tina.” “Well, fix it!”), and that super creepy Trainspotting reference.

For most of the episode Bob is, as Linda so eloquently puts it, “such a dick.” It was a little odd watching him enthusiastically root against his son but it made watching him eventually lose—and watching Linda really hold her own in an argument—that much funnier. By the end of the day, Linda and Bob are screaming each other, their car is soaked in soda, and Tina is chugging coffee and cigarette butts straight out of the pot because hey, they’re not a family that’s known for quiet dignity. It’s a weird and great ending to a weird and great season.


Stray observations:

  • “Of course I love Gene.” “Ew.”
  • Last week there was a Kate Nash joke and this week, Toad the Wet Sprocket? I love this show.
  • Gene has the heart of a baseball player but the body of a manager—an office manager.
  • Honestly, there were so many great lines tonight that I couldn’t even write down half of them.
  • I need a .gif of Tina running past Jimmy as he rides his bike, Tina diving into a cup of espresso, Tina licking soda out of the vending machine, Tina chugging coffee. Basically a .gif of everything Tina did tonight. Get on that, Tumblr.