After several episodes heavy on the journey that is character development, Bob’s Burgers focused on a singular wacky adventure this week. In “The Kids Rob a Train,” The Belchers are contained to one setting outside the restaurant. As usual, when the Belcher kids aren’t amused, they — ahem, Louise — scheme to better the situation. In fact, all the kids played their parts to a T: Tina made jokes about the human sexuality section of the book store and fell in for the one adult male she interacted with; Gene made little sense, dressed like a member of “Come On Eileen” one-hit wonder Dexys Midnight Runners (way to slip an inside joke in there, writers room); and as a consolation prize for not being able to take over the universe, Louise tries to control her own world for a while. Oh yeah, and Bob drinks spit.
Try saying these words aloud without hearing Linda’s voice: We’re going on a wine train! The matriarch of the Belcher family was particularly dopey in this week’s episode. I hate when the writers do this; I know Linda’s supposed to be one of those grating personalities that we love in spite of it (her heart is too big not to), but she just seemed stupid this episode. First she packs wine to bring on the wine train, which Bob mansplains to her would just be a train if they had to bring their own wine. Once they’re on the train, she invites this wine aficionado to sit with them so he can tell her which wines she likes. When Bob protests under the guise of just wanting to be alone, Linda doesn’t even take the opportunity to slip in a romantic cliché and a “Baaaaw-beeee!” She sucks right up to the “pinot grouchio,” a creepball who tells them he likes Japanese women (WE GOT AN ASIAN FETISH, EVERYONE) and looks a little like the cartoon version of Ted from Mad Men, turtleneck and all. So it makes sense that Bob is miserable until the very end of the episode, when he wins a wine-off against “expert” Rick, whom Linda tells for some strange reason, that she “loves showers and mornings and bologna and turtles.” I mean, Bob enjoys drinking wine out of the spit bucket, but Linda’s the dumb one? C’mon.
The adults’ plotline is pretty standard sitcom fare: a third wheel to change a married couple’s dynamic, another aggro male to agitate the protagonist. Which isn’t to say the kids’ plotline isn’t a little generic too: the kids get into trouble, ultimately save themselves without the adults ever knowing, are rewarded with chocolate, kids vs. adults forever, etc. But it’s forgivable when it’s not only funny, it’s tension-filled, action-packed, and includes a decent toilet joke to boot. Which is exactly what happens when the Belcher kids are resigned to the “juice caboose” while their parents get wasted (again, this is a sign of Linda’s stupidity — she didn’t even consider why it would be a bad idea to bring the kids). In this children’s prison aboard the wine train, they encounter Regular Sized Rudy, the asthmatic little freak classmate of Louise’s who made two appearances last season (“Carpe Museum,” “The Unnatural”). With the passionate bromance between Rudy and his beanbag chair, there’s almost three plots going on in this episode — and the beanbag plot was not the least entertaining of them. (No, actually, there’s four plotlines — what happened to Ramon?!)
In the juice caboose, the kids are banned from the “largest chocolate fountain on a train in both North and South America.” It takes approximately five minutes for Louise to scheme a way to get the chocolate. As she sneaks onto the juice cart to make her way towards the front of the train, there’s a bit of tension. I could have done with more of that — really play up this mission like it’s an action flick, and the consequences are dire. Ultimately the kids get the chocolate, get it on the train… and then they all fall off the train because Tina thought a toilet paper roll would make a good anchor for her to hold on to.
At this point, the episode goes somewhere we’ve rarely seen from Bob’s Burgers: a spacious adventure that could be stretched to take up feature length. The kids must get back on the train. Again, lots of tension. Except this time, the writers play it up fully, turning up the drama with Gene’s impending death by cliff fall. Ultimately his Dexys bandana is the only victim, and we see a different kind of film play out for the remainder of the episode: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The kids pulled the whole “when you have nowhere to hide something, just put it on the ceiling and pray they don’t look up” trick, stashing the chocolate on the roof. And as we knew from earlier in the episode, when Louise burns her hand on the roof handle, it’s very hot up there. The gourmet chocolate rains down on the children like a rebirth. Meanwhile, in another car full of rage and highbrow quarreling among middlebrow folk, their parents are doused in wine. I wouldn’t call the latter a rebirth, but all parties did leave the train stained and full of relief.