May 3rd, 2015, 7:30 PM, FOX
Linda’s forty-second birthday dawns with great reluctance from Linda, great celebration from the kids, who bring her breakfast in bed, and great planning from Bob, who tries to create a home spa day for her. When preparations run long a frantic Bob encourages Linda to leave the house on a shopping expedition so he can set up the spa surprise; the kids blind-fold her and Bob encourages Linda to go to the market on the opposite end of town to give him some extra time. Linda does head to the market across town but there she runs into frustration after frustration, culminating in an hour-long bus trip out of town that leaves her regretting her birthday more and more with each passing step. As the mishaps pile up and her reluctance blows up into full-borne hatred for her natal day, her lateness worries Bob, and when she doesn’t answer her cell phone he, Teddy and the kids set out in search of Linda, hitting all of her favorite haunts beyond the city block in hope of tracking Linda down and turning everyone’s favorite mom’s unluckiest birthday into her best.
This episode is split directly down the center between two plot threads: Linda’s lonely and humiliation-filled sprint back home, which plays as an over-the-top burlesque of misery, and Bob, Teddy and the kids’ neighborhood-wide search for their lost mom, which canters more toward the show’s fondness for equipping the world of Wonder Wharf with the oddest of characters and letting them bounce off of each other and the Belchers. The best example of the latter involves the family converging on a fancy hotel where Linda often spends contemplative afternoons in the ladies room. The friendly hotel staff’s on a first-name basis with her, the song ‘BM in the PM’ is introduced, and the show’s love of the scatological crashes into its love of musical silliness, providing a delirious highlight.
Don’t worry – among the poop jokes and the chalk and the dried out pumpernickel there’s genuine Belcher family heart to be found, though perhaps the kids aren’t as worried as they should be about Linda’s whereabouts. Meanwhile, Linda’s humiliation conga is occasionally uncomfortably mean until she finally decides to stop passively accepting her bad luck and kick fate square in the nuts. The end result is a mixed bag of truly delicious character moments, some hilarious action (Linda’s chase through the chalk festival is particularly brilliant) and that previously-mentioned off-putting meanness, which is a tad stronger than normal in the show’s makeup. That means it’s a rough ride for anyone who can’t stand to watch characters deal with a rather sizable bit of humiliation, though Linda’s endurance is eventually rewarded with a queenly spa day that makes all of that suffering more than worthwhile.
While “Eat Spray Linda” isn’t perfect by a long shot, it’s got a lot of humor and delightful wit holding it together at its heart, keeping the audience properly entertained and wanting more happy days at the Wonder Wharf.
Sweet-tempered and dirty-minded, this episode provides good character humor, though it may be an uncomfortable fit for audience members who dislike character humiliation.