Kate Frydman ’16/ Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Copy Edited By: Lindsey Buttel
After starting off Bob’s Burgers’ sixth season with a pretty lackluster premiere, “The Land Ship,” paints a much more colorful horizon in the way of a promising sixth season and starts to effectively balance out what was lost in the first episode. Sending Tina Belcher (Dan Mintz) on a mission of self-discovery while having a boy obsession is a reliable formula for Bob’s Burgers, and one that the writers obviously have a lot of fun repeating. Aside from his flawless ability to optimize sincerity as an endless supply of humor, Mintz created one of television’s most transcendent characters in Tina Belcher. Tina is a kind, hormonal, fan-fiction writing, butt-obsessed teenager who always relies on her heart to guide her, and she never stops trying to realize her truest self. Viewers have seen in previous episodes how easily influenced the passionate, love-starved Tina can be. Jimmy Pesto Jr. (H. Jon Benjamin) keeping his tight butt just out of reach from Tina’s soft, caressing hands, has been enough teenage hormone fuel to drive some of Bob’s Burgers’ strongest episodes such as “Sheesh! Cab Bob,” “Bad Tina,” “Two for Tina.”
“The Land Ship” combines the promise of a love interest for Tina with another of her powerful but fleeting identity crises. The episode opens with the Belcher kids sitting through another school assembly run by Mr. Frond (David Herman) on The Land Ship, a story of heroic town trickery. The heroine of the story – played in the assembly by a grown man in a blond, pigtailed wig – tricks the English invaders into thinking that a docked boat is actually out at sea, and subsequently compromises their landing. After repeatedly asking her classmates to be quiet during the assembly, Tina is called out by Tammy (Jenny Slate) for being a “goody two-boobs,” and her peers, Jimmy Pesto Jr, Zeek (Bobby Tisdale) and the gang, agree that she’s “like if school and news had a baby.” Tina tries to convince them that she’s spicy, but before she knows it, the group has ditched the assembly. Mr Frond also gives the students an update on the mysterious graffiti artist known only as “Ghost Boy” who has been tagging his signature ghost drawing all over Wagstaff School. There have been no leads, and Frond reminds the students that graffiti still isn’t cool.
Meanwhile, Bob Belcher (H. Jon Benjamin) and Linda Belcher (John Roberts) prepare for the Land Ship parade, raving to an ever excitable Teddy (Larry Murphy) about the amount of business it’s going to bring in. However, their dreams are quickly flushed down the toilet when the parade’s designated porta potties are placed at their front door step. Bob is flus(h)tered and Jimmy Pesto, yelling smugly from across the street, is thrilled.
Everyone in Tina’s life starts to confirm her Tammy-born fear of being bland. Louise Belcher (Kristen Schaal) offers that people probably don’t even think about her, after which their high energy librarian (Billy Eichner) asks Tina, “what’s WRONG with [her],” when she renews a library book that’s not due for three days. But Tina ignores his tormenting, as she is now distracted by a newly discovered ghost drawing in the top, right-hand corner of her safely renewed library book. She finds that the only other person to ever have checked out the book is Jordan Kagen (Nathan Fielder), who wears sweaters and drinks whole milk, and is therefore, in Tina’s opinion, an unlikely suspect. Tina follows Jordan until she catches him in the act and, trying to break free of her boring streak, decides not to turn Jordan in. Instead, she starts to accompany him on his late night tagging.
It’s great to see Nathan Fielder brought back to voice another love interest for Tina — the first being in “Beef Squash” when Fielder plays Tina’s manipulative boyfriend, Nathan. Tina refers to Nathan in this earlier episode as, “My Boyfriend, Nathan.” Suffice it to say, it’s thrilling that Mintz and Fielder get to once again tag team their colorful, monotone personalities in the Bob’s Burgers universe.
Jordan is quickly enamored by Tina’s willingness to break the rules and by her new-found spicy side. He shows his affection with an open-mouthed kiss, his first, so wide that it covers most of Tina’s expressionless face. Jordan then tells Tina about their next hit: The Land Ship. Tina is hesitant about defacing such an important piece of history for the town, but before she can finish sharing her concerns, Jordan covers Tina’s nose and mouth with his mouth to shut her up.
Tina is torn, but she realizes that Jordan “is a bad kisser. But he’s a bad boy, and maybe bad boys are bad kissers.” Louise and Gene Belcher (Eugene Mirman) are very suspicious of Tina’s recent behavior: eating lunch with Jordan, constantly feeling fatigued, and the fact that she’s searching “sails” on the internet. But despite their suspicions, the two of them are nowhere close to figuring out Tina’s secret.
Louise and Gene are left hanging by the writers in this episode; they’re uninvolved in Bob’s efforts to get rid of the porta potties, and instead they wait patiently on the outskirts of Tina’s bad-girl story. Of the three Belcher kids, Tina is probably the most capable of carrying such a bulk of the episode, but the three of them scheming together almost always results in the best payoffs. It’s difficult to throw all three personalities together and not have a stronger episode as a result.
Tina half-heartedly decides to go ahead with Jordan’s plan to tag The Land Ship, but her ever- reliable conscience catches up with her. Later that night, she admits what she did to Gene and Louise. The three of them head back to the ship where they paint over the giant ghost with white paint before any of the reenactors show up. The next day at the parade, the tag-less sails drop and Jordan is shocked to see the sails completely spotless. Jordan rightfully accuses Tina, who quickly concedes that the tag-reversal was her doing and that she may not be the bad girl that Jordan wants. Jordan quickly finds solace in a girl who thinks ghost boy is cool, and Tammy tells Tina being a “tag-hag” makes her have way more respect for her. Jimmy Jr., jealous that Tina had interest in a boy that wasn’t him, asks her if they can watch the rest of the parade together. Officially together, he explains, as opposed to before when they were just standing together.
Although it’s a familiar choice for the writers, a story when Tina learns something about who she really is is still a solid episode. The porta potty story line doesn’t always hit the mark of a fleshed out subplot. The resolution that customers buy burgers while in line for the porta potties, for example, feels like a rushed ending. Also, ew. But it has its moments. Teddy asking Bob to keep him well updated with the “on-hold” music while Bob is on the phone with the porta potty company is great for some ever-optimistic-but-sort-of -sad Teddy bits. “They’re playing all the hits!” he exclaims when Bob tells him which Police song is playing.
It will be exciting to see this season level out with a better balance of Belcher time and town time. While the first episode lacks conflict from town members, this episode misses a pinch of Belcher-flavored madness. Bring on a Belchers vs. Frond, Belchers vs. art store lady, or Belchers vs. a new [enter voice actor] villain.
Episode Grade: B+