It sounds like it’s going to be a long weekend at the restaurant, because Linda grounds the kids for embarrassing her in public. As the family argues about the terms of the grounding, Linda’s sister Gayle comes with a crisis: Someone she was supposed to go on a date with bailed last-minute. Gayle needs a replacement ASAP before she dies of loneliness, so the kids write adoration essays about their aunt to vie for a chance to be temporarily un-grounded and taste the sweet freedom-air outside the restaurant. The episode then turns into three absurd mini-episodes, all of which are fantastically stereotypical of their authors.
Before any real drama, Gene discovers how much fun he can have with a stool (not his own, don’t worry), but Linda is having none of it because the kids crossed her too far this time:
Linda: Hey, hey, no having fun, you kids are grounded.
Bob: Here’s something fun: I need someone to run the old grease out to the dumpster.
Louise: Don’t talk about Mom that way!
Tina: Mom, are you still mad? You grounded us four hours ago. We’ve grown so much since then.
Linda: Yes, I’m still mad, and I’m gonna be mad about it forever.
Louise: But it’s the weekend!
Gene: Everybody’s supposed to go to Bernie’s!
[+1 point to Louise for dishing a dad joke to her dad and dissing her mom at the same time; +1 to Gene for being a cultural gem, and also for helping us to wax nostalgic about another one.]
Gayle barges in because she met a man named Stacy on Cat Chat (incredible, I know). He was great, apparently, until now, because he canceled their date, which was going to Yarnival — Cirque du Soleil with cats. The kids want to take Stacy’s spot so they can escape the restaurant, but there can only be one date replacement. Louise proffers competing for the spot, and Gene has his own competition in mind:
Louise: You have to let us compete for it, to the death!
Bob: No. No death, Louise.
Gene: Or we could, I don’t know, maybe go by who has the biggest ding-dong?
[+1 to Gene for thinking with his head.]
The solution, thanks to Tina, is writing essays that involve Gayle. The essays also have to involve Gayle hooking up with Scott Bakula because he was unfortunately not on Cat Chat. Gene goes first, with an essay about Lindette & Jo Gene, a famous singing duo with double dreams to go all the way to the top. This is what they sound like:
[+1 to Linda and Gene.]
As fate would have it, a fancy Hollywood agent (Louise) comes and steals Linda, who turns into Beyoncé and bails on Gene to go solo. Gene meets Gayle, a beautiful singing waitress, as he’s drowning his sorrows in root beer and chocolate.
Gene: Those pipes you got sound like they came straight from heaven.
Gayle: Ah, the bathroom pipes? Sorry, they’re clogged. People keep putting tampons down ‘em, even the sinks.
Gene: No, I meant your pipes. Your singin’ ones!
[+10 to that sink terrorist, probably Gretchen.]
Gayle joins Gene, and they perform at the Ole Opry House. A stage manager (Tina), at the behest of Lindette, puts a rattlesnake in Gayle’s guitar, but it actually helps them win the sing-off. Gayle turns into Beck, and she and Gene win. Unfortunately, there’s no Kanye to disrupt the proceedings, but the duo does move to Hollywood, where Gayle meets Scott Bakula on the Hollywood sign.
[+5 to Gene for using his musical talents and keytar to pen flawlessly funny vocal warm-ups, songs, and drama. The only things that were missing were fart jokes.]
Next is Tina, whose essay is about four poor seamstress sisters — Gayle, Tina, Eugenia, and Louisa — who live together and want to marry people with nice butts. The only problem is Gayle is too shy, and since she’s the oldest, she has to marry first for it to be acceptable for her sisters to marry (the law of the land).
Tina: Gayle, could you please pass me the bread?
Gayle [whispering]: Sorry, I can’t. I’m too shy.
[+1 to Tina for perfecting the art of redundant narration and dialogue; +1 to Gayle for playing hard to get with bread.]
To help out her family, Tina tries to set Gayle up with local suitors, the best of whom include Teddy, a blacksmith who has never in his life seen a house or a teacup and has trouble pronouncing new words:
[+1 to Teddy for being everyone’s favorite philistine.]
Then Bob, a rich lord throwing a ball, shows up and is smitten with Gayle and (parts of) her legs:
Bob: Your ankles are great.
Tina: Her name is Gayle, and she’s not married. And if you like her ankles, you should see her shins. Her shins go on for inches.
[+1 to Bob for keeping it in his pants; +2 to Tina for being Tinder incarnate.]
Of course the ball involved butt stuff:
[+1 to Tina.]
It turns out Bob was not single and was actually married to Linda in this story, so Gayle was heartbroken — so bad, she was on her deathbed, basically. After trying beaches, leaches, and screeches, the only solution was to send for the local time-traveling vicar, Scott Bakula.
Scott: I’m the vicar, Scott Bakula.
Gayle: Well, hello. I’m feeling much better all the sudden.
Scott: Oh, good. Well, let me whisper a prayer into your mouth.
Gayle: That was so good! Oh, I could feel Scott Bakula’s kiss whispers in my mouth!
[+1 to Gene for blessing dictionaries around the world with more life.]
Gayle probably made this music-video compilation shortly thereafter:
[+10 to Tina for writing Fifty Shades of Quantum Leap fan-fic.]
Then Louise comes out of nowhere with “Gayle of Thrones,” and it’s insane. There are cat-dragons and slapping swords and White Talkers (boring Teddies) and people who randomly meow. Also, Gayle is essentially Daenerys, but obsessed with breast-feeding cats and people:
[+100 to Gayle for setting the bar for true generosity so high.]
What happens is Linda steals Gayle’s cat-dragons, so she and Louise (a knight) have to go recoup them. After enduring a long journey and fighting off many enemies, Gayle and Louise find Linda, who is with her fool, Bob as Hodor, a.k.a. Bobdor. This confrontation ends kind of anticlimactically, with Louise just slapping the Morton into a pit of hungry porcelain babies. But then Sir Scott Bakula appears on a cat-dragon, so … there’s that.
[+20 to Louise for creating Catsteros; it was an amazingly weird place, and I already miss it.]
In the end, Stacy comes back and rescues Gayle and her fanny pack. With nothing better to do, Linda finally reveals why she grounded the kids in the first place:
[+3 to the kids for creating Freezer Frankenstein and for making Linda do a fear fart; +2 to Linda’s butt for two instances of hilariously heartbreaking betrayal.]
This episode was batshit crazy, in a good way. Everybody’s essays were so uniquely their own — bravo to the real writers. And yet it also maintained a semblance of realism: The kids were finally grounded for their high jinks. In such complex waters, it was comforting to see Linda confidently steer the family ship; however, it was sad to see her so vilified. I guess you can’t win ‘em all. Bob was very Bob, and Gayle was a joy to see again. Louise’s story was the best (this episode is an instant classic, thanks in large part to “Gayle of Thrones”), but Scott Bakula, Quantum Leap–ing into our hearts, was the real hero.
Bob’s Bonus Sliders
- Linda’s singing warm-ups were perfect: “The preposterous ostrich’s legs were monstrous; Sally Struthers’ other brother’s her mother.”
- Bobdor! (Watch “Gayle of Thrones” here.)
- The only thing that would’ve put this episode into perfect territory would’ve been a Regular-Sized Rudy cameo.