Bob’s Burgers, Season 5, Episode 6, “Father of the Bob”
December 7th, 2014, 9:30 PM, FOX
The Belchers decamp to Bob’s father’s place for a Christmas Eve party, and Bob soon runs into conflict with his inflexible, critical and undemonstrative father. Thanks to his father’s lack of support, Bob Junior can’t stand to stay around him for more than fifteen minutes at a stretch, though the rest of the family adores him. After Linda tries to mend the rift between dad and son by convincing Bob senior to let his kid help him serve during the Christmas Eve rush, the twosome become enmeshed in conflict and a battle of wills over regular customer Henry’s order. Meanwhile, the kids realize they haven’t gotten Bob anything for Christmas (Tina being the only one to have come through with a gift for Linda) and spend the evening digging through the stuff in poppop’s basement to better construct a present for their dad.
Here’s one that manages to shoot straight for the heart. If previous Christmas episodes are entirely different in tone - “Christmas in the Car” being acerbic and referential and “God Rest Ye Gentle Man-niquins” being goofy, “Father of the Bob” shoots straight for the heart, surprising with a combination of show-typical humor and character-driven emotion. We’ve always heard that Bob’s dad’s never been able to support his son in a meaningful way; now we learn why, and the disappointments that secretly lie at the heart of their estrangement. The show accomplishes that with a lovely use of flashbacks, which are becoming more and more of a thing on the show, much to my delight.
If that sounds a little too serious for you, don’t worry – the denouement of the argument involves themed line dancing at the gay bar next-door. Add in an overly-enthusiastic Linda who just wants a little bit of holiday joy to descend on the family and for her husband to get along with her father-in-law provides a funny and sweet little twist.
There’s fine voice work as well; Bill Hader’s VA talents are so strong I absolutely assumed Big Bob was being voiced by Carl Reiner. And if you were waiting for the next big Linda Belcher holiday song, you will not be disappointed by this episode.
The story’s weakest link is definitely the kids’ plot. While it ends up flawlessly connecting with the adult’s storyline and is pretty funny, it also sits there sort of dully in comparison to the more compelling A-plot. And yet the sight of Gene taking a full-immersion bean bath will never not be terrific; it sits among the show’s weirdest, most off-the-wall moments. It’s really minor quibbling to call it the weakest, mostly because of how funny and off-center the plotline generally is.
In the end, the best part of watching Bob and his father compete over grill space and ultimately negotiating their own level of respect is seeing them unite fully with their flawed but wonderful family. It’s a moral of forgiveness and togetherness in spite of their differences that rings true and manages to be perfectly coherent to the viewer. A beautifully executed episode, their best Christmas outing yet and one of the best episodes of the year.
- Though we saw a picture of Bob as an adolescent in season three, this is the first time we’ve ever had a flashback to his youth. This episode also the first time we’ve ever seen Gene as a baby.
- Pete is voiced by Nick Offerman of Parks and Recreation fame, and the inimitable Carl Reiner voices Henry, and Big Bob is voiced by Bill Hader.
- This week’s credit gags: Building Next Door: Miracle on 34th Sheets: Sheets and Bedding in 34 Colors. Exterminator’s Truck: Not a Creature was stirring, Not Even a Mouse Pest Control Chalkboard: Cheeses is Born Burger (Comes with Baby Bell). We also get to see a wee Bob invent the “baby you can chive my car’ burger. Credits: Linda sings ‘Christmas Magic’ as Bob and his dad cook side-by-side. A bean-coated Gene makes a cameo at the very end.
- Next Week: Tina infiltrates her old Thundergirls troupe to figure out who’s been leaking cookie selling secrets and Linda dyes her hair in “Tina Tailor Soldier Spy.”
The shining star on the tree this season, this episode of Bob’s is the show’s finest Christmas episode yet