For this year’s Advent Calendar, I thought I’d start off by reviewing the now-classic Bob’s Burgers episode “God Rest Ye Merry Gentle-Mannequins.”
Most of the show’s Christmas episodes, from the iconic “Christmas in the Car” to last year’s touching “Father of the Bob” centralize the action on the Belcher clan and their calamitous but rock-solid familial connection. “God Rest Ye Merry Gentle-Mannequins” is different; it takes an outside figure and brings him into the Belcher’s world and gives us their reactions to him.
The family happens upon this character by total accident – they’ve inherited a storage shed through Bob’s dead Uncle Ernie (“Uncle Ernie died?” remarks Linda, in a classic example of the show’s cockeyed sense of sentimentality. “Aww, but it’s Christmas!”). Going to check through what they’ve been left, the family stumbles instead upon Chet, a vagrant who has been living in the structure for years.
Linda, who infamously loves Christmas and the Christmas spirit more than nearly anything in the world, immediately suggests they move Chet into the house for the holidays, an idea Bob’s resistant to. Bob’s ultimately convinced when he watches Chet build a Christmas display that draws the attention of the local media and the townsfolk. But Chet is so alienated from the rest of society that he believes he’s a mannequin, and in typical oddball Bob’s Burgers style, he’s in distress because he’s been separated from a mannequin he’s in love with, Nadine. He tells Bob that he only turned into a human being because of the disappearance of his love. When Bob snaps and mocks him, Chet’s trauma overtakes his intentions - Bob and Linda argue over whether they should continue to shelter the guy until Chet turns the once-peaceful holiday set piece into a violent expression of his anger, complete with squirting ketchup blood - leaving the family to search for Chet’s discarded girlfriend in the hope that he’ll create a more conventional Christmas display. They end up in an adult emporium, which, if you know anything about the show, provides a perfectly ridiculous, perfectly magical place for the action to crest (Cue Gene, Louise and Tina releasing a horde of vibrators as a hilarious and memorable distraction so Bob and Linda can free Nadine). Chet and Nadine are at last reunited, but the owner of the adult emporium won’t give her up without a fight.
“God Rest Ye Gentle-Mannequins” is a great little encapsulation of how the show presents itself – sweet natured show that’s tinged from root to tip with black comedy, a show that’s achingly funny and ribald ad yet believes that its off-kilter characters deserve love, compassion and their own time in the spotlight – and that every single person deserves a happy Christmas. Yes, even if you think you’re a mannequin.