[This is a review of Bob's Burgers season 6, episode 1. There will be SPOILERS.]
In its five years of being on the air, Bob's Burgers has garnered a dedicated fan following, critical acclaim and won the Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program in 2014. The series follows the Belcher family -- Bob (H. Jon Benjamin), Linda (John Roberts), Tina (Dan Mintz), Gene (Eugene Mirman) and Louise (Kristen Schaal) - who run a hamburger restaurant in a seaside town.
In the season 6 premiere, ‘Sliding Bobs,’ Bob and Linda finally tell the story of how they met -- through a fateful encounter that includes Bob's mustache. The episode opens on Bob working out on a stationary bike, with the kids offering words of encouragement (or, at least, their versions of encouragement), but later, while taking a shower, Bob notices that he's losing hair in his mustache. The discussion of his facial hair leads Linda to tell the story of how she and Bob met: when she was engaged to Hugo (Sam Seder), her ring got stuck in Bob's mustache in a bar and the encounter led to her leaving Hugo for Bob.
However, with Bob possibly losing his mustache, Tina, Gene, and Louise speculate about what their lives, or rather the lives of their parents, would have been like if Bob hadn't had his mustache. The structure of the episode is reminiscent of previous episodes ‘The Frond Files’ and ‘The Gayle Tales’ in that it allows each of the Belcher kids to spin wildly fantastic stories. In this case, one story draws inspiration from RoboCop, while another offers a Big-inspired curse and the final one allows for a parallel universe to the Bob's Burgers fans know.
Gene's story of what would happen to Bob and Linda is the first up, and he posits that Linda's ring would cut Bob's lip and while at the hospital getting stitches, he is pulled into an experimental program within the police force. When he wakes up, Bob has a robotic mustache on his face, equipped with various Inspector Gadget-like gadgetry, and lists his directives: "Serve the public trust, protect the innocent and dance like no one's watching" -- plus a mysterious fourth directive.
After meeting Linda again, though, Bob questions Bosco (Gary Cole), the cop in charge of the program, and discovers a secret plot for the police to drive residents out of town, so Mr. Fischoeder (Kevin Kline) can build a large amusement park. Bob cannot arrest Bosco because of the fourth directive, but when Bosco reveals he's actually Fischoeder with a robotic eye, the two fight and Bob loses, the removal of his robotic mustache causing his brain to explode. Though an abbreviated parody of RoboCop, both fans of the original film and of Bob's Burgers will be able to appreciate the humor of this particular story. It certainly epitomizes Gene's character and his outlandish humor, though it's lacking in his usual musical flair.
Louise's take on Bob and Linda's is perhaps the most forgettable of the episode, largely because the other two are so memorable, but it does play to the youngest Belcher's twisted humor. When Bob and Linda meet in the bar, it's love at first sight for Bob, but wholly unrequited as Linda tells him he needs to grow a mustache to win her heart. After failing to do so, Bob asks an automated carnival attraction, The Swami, for a mustache. Instead, he develops uncontrollable hair growth and is forced to become a freak show act at the Wonder Wharf, while Linda becomes a nun, gets kicked out, and goes to jail. Though Louise's overall story is the least memorable of the three, the exchange between Linda and Bob in the bar has some of the funniest lines of the entire episode, including: "A gentleman down south but a bad boy above the mouth."
In terms of storytelling, Tina's version of her parents' meeting is the most integral to the overarching theme of the episode, which is whether their life as a family was the consequence of fate or a random encounter. Throughout the episode, Tina asserts that "it's called fate and it's great" and that Bob and Linda were destined to be together so there is no universe in which they wouldn't wind up married with Tina, Gene and Louise.
However, when she's forced to explore what would have happened if Bob and Linda hadn't met, she takes the Belcher family into a parallel universe in which Linda married Hugo, as she had originally intended, and had three children: boy-hating, horse-hating Mona; introverted and shy Dean; and princess-loving sweet Charlize. The family runs a hot dog establishment named Hugo's Hot Dogs while Bob takes Hugo’s place as a health inspector alongside Ron (Ron Lynch). Even when Bob is forced to shut down Hugo's Hot Dogs because the main menu item is made with real wiener dogs, Bob and Linda can’t be together because they have missed their chance to be happy.
Though, at the end of the episode, Tina's question about whether it was fate or Bob's mustache that led to the life they all know, she arrives at a happy medium of "random fate" to explain the way the universe works. Of course, Bob's Burgers isn't about the answer, but rather more about the journey to that conclusion through the Belcher kids' stories, which are both heartwarming and humorous, asking the viewer to pose the same question while not diving too deep into the philosophy. Bob's Burgers is at its best in episodes like 'Sliding Bobs' when the show mixes a serious subject with its own brand of quirky humor that fans have come to know and love.
The episode does answer one question, though: Bob is losing hair in his mustache because of testicular failure caused by his stationary bike exercise regime.
Bob's Burgers continues next week with 'The Land Ship' at 7:30pm ET on FOX.