‘Bob’s Burgers’ Season 4 Episode 13 Recap: “The Frond Files”

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Bob’s Burgers takes a month and a half off and comes back as Community meets The Simpsons?! Sunday’s episode was unlike any we’ve seen in the series’ three and a half seasons so far, experimenting with heavy genre play and extended cultural references á la Community, and three mini-stories (for each Belcher child) in the vein of Simpsons‘ “Treehouse of Horror” episodes.

I was looking forward to finding out what the burger of the day would be after all this time apart, but in general it’s nice to see the Bob’s Burgers crew trying new things outside of a family-focused plotline. That said, I feel a bit dazed after that viewing. So many styles, so much action crammed into 22 minutes. Overall, entertaining and risky, though not a terribly satisfying watch. I’m not sure the setup of the whole thing was all that compelling, and some of the details of the three stories were hard to follow (Louise’s in particular). So let’s dissect these one by one. But first, the setup.

In “The Frond Files,” Bob and Linda head to Wagstaff for what’s becoming an annual celebration, “Why I Love Wagstaff” night. That translates to student essays on display, though none of the Belcher children’s stories seem to have made the cut. At the Belchers insistence, Principal Frond takes them into his office to share Tina, Gene, and Louise’s essays, each of which reflects the author incredibly well. In that way, this episode was a series of character sketches, in which all but Gene show their growth. More on that and all the farting it entails, though his vignette was easily the most hysterical.

Louise’s essay comes first, and it immediately felt like some stunt sci-fi Community would go for: Principal Frond is actually a time-traveling robot (well, a robot with a time machine, both created by Real Frond), who ends up acting out the terrifying raptor kitchen scene from Jurassic Park before crumbling at the hands of a vat of creamed corn. Sans the creamed corn part, I mean, this is positively Dean Pelton. Anyway, all of this intel re: Frond’s robot identity comes to Louise via Darryl (voiced by Aziz Ansari), who makes a needed (albeit not spotlighted enough) return to Bob’s Burgers. How Darryl knows about Frond’s identity is the best part of the whole mini-story, though the least logical aspect: Darryl’s also working on a time machine and spends time on the same time-travel message boards as Frond, whose machine is much better than Darryl’s. Also, Darryl is older and thus has a crustache that Louise spends a solid minute shitting on (“Do they not have razors in the future?!”). She asks, “You came back through time to tell me this, just to be a narrator, and you didn’t bring any special weapons or anything, just a bucketload of exposition and a stupid mustache?”

After a thrilling chase scene and a top-notch Ollie and Andy moment (“Mr. Frond, your skin burned off, we made you a get-well card, it’s a banana peel!”), the Belcher kids escape to Belize, presumably to live on their days wearing “un-Belize-able” baseball caps. Like I said, there are some gaps in logic, but it being Louise and all, the focus is on action. And berating people (poor Darryl).

Gene’s story involves, but of course, flatulence and his keyboard. The musical treatment/Rock ‘n’ Roll High School vibe made it shine, but I’d like to see something else from Gene besides his two defining interests. In his essay, he’s the de facto leader of a “Fart School for the Gifted,” where he and his fellow fashion victims debut his new song, “Gas Class.” Until Frond, styled here as a Ms. Trunchbull-esque schoolmarm, puts Gene’s instrument of choice in “keyboard jail.” Worry not, in Gene’s dreams his Celine-esque pipes can break locks, so they easily get his keyboard back. But not before luring away Frond’s secretary with the episode’s best joke: “There’s a Brendan Fraser DVD just sitting in a bush outside.” Gene’s vignette ends with a Belcher jam of “Gas Class” as powerful as his own farts, which is to say that Frond is blown out of the school by sheer force. The whole thing’s below; yes, Fox made it available as a standalone music video, because apparently they love us.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buQCCSvYfIc]

Tina rounds things out with an erotic tale (in black and white no less) in which the butts of teenage boys play a prominent role. So it’s 100 percent The Tina We Know, culminating with The Tina She Could Be — if she flirted with fearless abandon and hair-flipped more gracefully. We can dream. In her world, Tina is a hall monitor who saves Wagstaff from the zombie JV basketball team by making them fall in love with her. This is, of course, only after the zombie school nurse devours Frond (“I wonder if they can taste his sadness?” Gene wonders aloud). How they became zombies in the first place is pretty great: a vaccine to permanently end jock itch, gone horribly awry. The outbreak inspires this great comedic gem: “Stop eating my shoulder, now I can’t wear halter tops, you stupid zombie,” Tammy says; “Oh no, zombies are attacking the school, and I already bought Tammy a halter top for her birthday,” Tina responds. Tina’s story ends: “Butts, butts, I love butts.” Once again Bob’s not exactly comfortable with his daughter’s burgeoning sexuality, but isn’t that a big part of what makes Tina such a fascinating character?

What it comes down to is that Frond doesn’t like that he’s a villain in their stories, and he’s not a very good principal (I mean, we knew that already). Chicken nuggets and email are how he guesses he can relate to students. Bob and Linda are left scratching their heads — seeing as they do seem to understand their odd kids — and Frond is left with egg on his face. I mean brownie on his butt. Louise strikes again!