As the last episode of Bob’s Burgers in 2014, “Tina Tailor Soldier Spy” is a tip of the hat to the members of the Belcher family, what makes them weird, and the offbeat ways they connect with each other. It’s also a great showcase of how far the show has come with regards to Tina, who continues to be one of the strongest characters on TV (and certainly the strongest female character on TV).
Tina has such an internal goodness and self-confidence that she’s willing to go “undercover” to find out who the mole in the Thundergirls troop is, despite how ridiculous this scenario seems. It’s a bit like the “Mad Pooper” debacle in “Broadcast Wagstaff News”–petty and childish issues like a pooper running rampant and a girl scout cookie scandal mean a lot to Tina. Achieving justice and uncovering the truth is important to her. She may not be great at it (we’ve seen time and time again that her innate honesty prevents her from being believably sneaky), but she’s endearing because despite constant setbacks, she believes in her power as a “strong, smart, sensual woman.” And just like the Mad Pooper, a diabolical villain everyone assumed Tina made up, the mole is real, and the final unveiling of Troop 257’s plot is a thing to behold.
It’s important to note that this episode is a great benchmark for Louise’s character development, too. We all know that Louise is a master schemer and a fan of anarchy and chaos for fun’s sake. When we get glimpses of who she is behind this mask of megalomania, though, there’s a little girl’s anxiety. One of those anxieties is her reluctance to grow up, and the other is her need to bond with her older sister. Again, it’s a development hinted at before, as her hilariously violent crush on a member of Boyz 4 Now was at least partly a response to both fears. In this episode, we gradually catch that her hatred for the Thundergirls is motivated by her protectiveness towards the more naive Tina, and Tina’s response to her younger sister having her back is very sweet. I really like that the show moved in this direction, as early on Louise was the character most in danger of becoming a one-dimensional Stewie Griffin-like evil genius.
As for Gene, the jury may be out. Episodes that flesh him out as a human boy and not an eccentric poop joke machine are more frequent, but still few and far between. I do love Gene plots that focus on his ambiguous sexual orientation. It’d be easy to simply chalk up things like Gene’s love of musical theatre to possible homosexuality, but I like to think that the show posits this as something that really doesn’t matter. Gene is just comfortable in his own skin (maybe too comfortable), but it’s something to be lauded, even when it takes weird, gross turns. Gene and Bob bonding is something the show did quite well a few episodes ago, but it’s always great when it’s over something absurd. Gene’s newfound love of “trashion” is such a strange thing for Bob to get on board with, but he’s always so supportive of his kid’s eccentricities that perhaps it’s not so unusual after all.
It was recently pointed out to me that Bob and Linda subvert the typical sitcom dynamic of a wacky husband who gets up to hijinks with a supportive, straight-man wife. When Bob gets up to wacky hijinks, he’s usually pushed into them against his will. Linda, on the other hand, needs little persuasion to jump off the deep end into zaniness. It’s so rare to see a mother figure who’s legitimately a great wife and mom, but also really, really weird, and so wonderfully refreshing. Her constant attempts to seduce her husband after going blonde are so amazingly tone-deaf (she insists all her children call her “Blom” forever hence), so situated within a flight of fancy Linda has committed to.Linda doesn’t take change lightly, choosing to make even the most mundane new development a wonderful adventure. I agree with Bob, though–sex in a walk-in freezer doesn’t sound like the best idea.