Thanksgiving is Bob’s kryptonite. If there’s anything the last few seasons have shown, it’s that this guy needs to avoid the holiday at all costs. You might recall how nearly fatal things were at the Wharf in “Dawn of the Peck,” or how well things went in “Turkey in a Can.” Like mixing Diet Coke and Mentos, surprisingly bad things happen when you pair Bob with turkey.
This year’s episode did not signify any sort of deviation: In “Gayle Makin’ Bob Sled,” the Belchers plan to spend Thanksgiving at home, Bob attempting yet another turkey; however, good sister that she is, Linda invites the recently single Gayle over for the family meal so she’s not alone. Thanks to a snowstorm, Bob feels he must be the brave husband and pick up his sister-in-law, rather than have Linda risk it on the roads. (Aww, chivalry, kind of.) So far this might sound like a what-could-possibly-go-wrong?-type plot, but if you’re familiar with both Gayle and Thanksgiving in this universe, you know something bad must be around the corner, and as Linda reveals, yep, that’s quite true: When Gayle’s psychologically distressed, she’s also oftentimes physically injured — even if she has to fake it for extra attention:
Accordingly, Bob finds an emotionally crippled Gayle with a pretend physically crippling injury. Which means, yes, this episode was very Gayle-heavy and involved lots of Gayle sabotage. If you’re a fan of her, you probably made the sound Tina makes when she gets excited; if not, you probably did the one when she’s more whiny. If you’re in the former camp (I am!), you might have relished in Gayle’s long-running, completely inappropriate pseudo-attraction to Bob and Bob’s genuine hesitancy to be within five feet of Gayle. From Bob scatting for Mr. Jim Business to Gayle making gassy snow angels with Bob, the awkwardness and semi-horror of every frame they shared was gloriously palpable.
The only true downside you could argue here is that for Bob and Gayle’s scenes to achieve the right emotional punches, we naturally had to sacrifice some of Linda and the kids. But the former remained strong in the episode, and the kids had a handful of gems: Louise saying they could blame their messed-up turkey on playing with fireworks; Gene mixing up your opinions with Europeans; and Tina being as deadpan-sassy as ever. As a whole, though, the homefront served as Bob’s motivation to put up with Gayle and keep the episode going — well, them and the turkey:
Look at those directions! Such vision, such talent. Bob is the Magic Johnson of turkey. No, the Steve Jobs. Unfortunately, while Bob might be a strong cook, he is not the Jobs of Thanksgiving. He is more like the Job of Thanksgiving. Take these hilariously tragic instances for example:
If Bob were Job, I think you could argue Gayle was his God for a portion of the episode. I’m not sure I would say Bob had any faith in Gayle, but he, as a favor to the family, seemed to blindly devote himself to her every whim and directive. Whatever would make him get her home, to salvation. Which led to another reason I loved the focus on Bob and Gayle: Quite simply, their interactions gave me such visceral reactions. Bits like Gayle making a last-minute salad or pulling a Little Britain and running on her perfectly fine leg were all so pitch-perfect I actually found myself cringing — such moments were equally frustrating, obnoxious, and funny. In a way, it was all very absurdist: Bob’s terrible luck with Thanksgiving being amplified by Gayle’s own odd luck and behavior (even Teddy and Teddy’s mom have better luck on Thanksgiving).
Although the premise of the episode was predictable, the writing and voice acting, and all the beautiful quirkiness therein, saved “Bob Sled” from becoming a forgettable episode. Sure, it’s another 20-minute installment of Bob-Thanksgiving sadism. Sure, most of the Bob we saw in this episode was the Bob we’ve seen in many other episodes, especially the Thanksgiving ones. (Truly nothing new there.) But the zany exploration of Gayle made it worthwhile: We learned she’s an underrated manipulator, she’s great at making toasts, and, most important, she’s either really into Mr. Frond or her infatuation with Bob is yet another psychotic joke just for her own amusement.
The surreal hijinks that ensued made the familiar story that much more enjoyable. In a way, you have something to expect here — these Thanksgiving episodes are Bob’s Burgers’ version of The Simpsons’ “Treehouse of Horrors.” You know Bob’s going to have a rough time, you know you’re going to derive pleasure and laughter from his pain, but you don’t know exactly how, and that’s the most fun part.
This year Gayle was Bob’s downfall, but in the end, she took a page out of the Belcher playbook: Try as you might to raise hell for your loved ones, you ought to be there for them. Hopped up on salad, dragging broken Bob through the snow, Gayle proved herself to be a genuine stand-in for Gene and/or Louise this episode. She even had an on-the-nose declaration at the end of the episode: “I’m eating dinner,” she stresses, “with my family.”
As for the patriarch, we might have been led to believe that the holiday is all about the turkey for Bob. But Gayle — I can’t believe I’m saying this — kind of brought him back down to Earth with more than one backbreakingly sobering realization: The holiday is about family. As for the turkey, of course there’s always next year, Bob.
Bob’s Bonus Sliders
- “Shove it, sides!” Dis of the year.
- Low Blood Sugar Booger. Thank you.
- Although it wouldn’t have made sense, I would’ve killed to see more of Teddy and his mom.
- That purple scooper is a jerk.
- I’m beginning to worry about the lack of Regular Sized Rudy this season.
- Things would’ve taken a truly dark turn if Gayle really did Star Wars Bob and sleep inside his body for warmth.
- Survival of the sweetest; it’s nature’s way.
- Mr. Frond and Gayle. I just don’t even want to know. (But there is going to be another episode next week, before actual Thanksgiving, FYI.)
- “It’s Thanksgiving for everybody — except for Europeans.” That credits song was too good.