‘Bob’s Burgers’ Season 4 Episode 18 Recap: “Ambergris”

In this week’s Bob’s Burgers, Louise encounters the limitations of her age as the kids go all pulp noir and try to sell whale poop on the black market. Meanwhile, Bob and Linda allow Calvin Fischoeder’s eccentric brother Felix to remodel the Bob’s Burgers bathroom into a high-end club: all flash and intimidation, hellish when it comes to getting around. Both plotlines mixed the gross with the high-end, in the process reasserting the Belchers’ clear position within that dichotomy. We also saw a few top-notch performances from Zach Galifianakis and Bill Hader, both seemingly heavy on goofy and dramatic improvisation. Plus a plethora of great one-liners the characters tossed like bombs and immediately abandoned, including a Steve Zahn joke. All in all, “Ambergris” was equal parts comedy, character development, and stylistic experimentation — the best of Bob’s Burgers.

As the kids discover Ambergris, the sperm whale digestive byproduct used in high-end perfumes, on the beach, I’m reminded of Jennifer Lawrence’s character in American Hustle. Her obsession with “that perfume you can’t stop smelling even when there’s something sour in it,” the one that’s “sweet and sour, rotten and delicious, flowers but with garbage” was at the front of my mind as Tina (somehow) knew all about the disgusting wonder of nature that is Ambergris. It’s sort of like poop, so obviously Gene loved it, and the ever-scheming Louise envisioned a profit in it. “I can’t stop smelling its enigma of gross-great,” Louise says, and Gene’s response is priceless before a quick cutaway: “Is that what sex will be like?” Tina, truly the brains behind this operation, discovers that Ambergris has to be sold — for tens of thousands of dollars, mind you — on the black market because sperm whales are endangered species. Of course, Louise “has a guy.” They hit up ex-con Mickey, played by Hader, down at Wonder Wharf, who says that The Nose, aka the fried dough guy, specializes in this kind of thing. “Everyone working at Wonder Wharf is a criminal,” Mickey says, “especially Sally the Snowcone lady (*who’s pictured violently stabbing her product with an ice pick*).”

Meanwhile, Bob and Linda are left to babysit Felix Fischoeder (Galifianakis), whose first duty as partial landlord is to fix the broken plumbing in the restaurant bathroom. Felix is like the cartoon amalgamation of one of Nathan Lane’s snootier characters and Martin Short’s wedding planner role from Father of the Bride. His solution to the bathroom problem is black marble and high-end sheen, complete with a launch party DJ’ed by a Brazilian dude. “In its place we will build a bathroom where anything can happen,” Felix proclaims. “Babies will be born, men will die. It’s a new day!” I think Linda especially feels a pressure to go with it given Felix’s initial reaction to their existence, which in itself was an amusing bit of dialogue: “OMG, is it always like this, does it always take this long, is there always this much talking?” It’s an amusing B story that gives Galifianakis a chance to do what he does best in comedies: steal the scene with bizarre behavior. The bathroom ends up unusable, but like most problems in insular fictional worlds like Bob’s Burgers, it will find a way to work itself out by next week’s episode and we’ll never hear about it again. I would like to see more from Galifianakis on the show, however.

Back in the main plotline, we see Louise lose her mind over the Ambergris, guarding it with her life and giving up sleep. Her thought is that she can cut out Mickey and make more money by going straight to The Nose herself. Tina, becoming more and more mom-like by the episode, knows this is a bad idea, so she switches out the Ambergris with a cantaloupe surrounded by dirty socks, which is a weird thing to type but it actually worked in tricking Louise. When The Nose tries to play Louise ($12!?!) because she’s a little girl without Mickey there to protect her, all he gets is the decoy bundle (which Tina would like back, thank you very much). For some reason Louise is furious, which I don’t really understand because Tina totally saved her ass from getting played.

Tina and Gene run to Wonder Wharf to loop in Mickey, who’s oddly meh until Tina offers to just give him the Amerbgris to stop this evil madness. At which point he decides he can’t “go straight” with a “a monkey and/or crow-themed bar” and deny his criminal ways; instead he’ll use the Ambergris profit to buy a tank to rob a bank (“Mickey Tank Bank”). Gene has one of the best lines of the episode somewhere in here, though it goes unacknowledged: “Buy a juicer, it’ll change your mornings. Or buy cowboy boots, they’ll change your evenings.” Soon Mickey, The Nose, and Louise are chasing Tina in hot pursuit of the Amerbgris.

In the end, we see the force of good — Tina — destroys the object of greed, though she does it in a way that the superheroes this is reminiscent of never would have employed: death by deep fryer. There’s a Harvey Dent/Two-Face joke in there somewhere, but like Tina, I’m better than that.