In “Sexy Dance Healing,” our hero becomes plagued with his equivalent of writer’s block: an inability to brainstorm Burgers of the Day. The hurdle poses an ephemeral threat to the restaurant and its owner by making the $5.95 special not very special, which helps give the episode inventive territory to explore:
“What is wrong with me?” Bob asks, before slipping on a pool of massage oil and stumbling upon an entirely new problem. Rather than inspiration, he finds Jairo, the mystical capoeira instructor whom you might remember from season one. (Also, a torn labrum!) The chance meeting and injury almost cause Bob to sue Jairo, but because that would be as boring as it sounds, we’re treated to the Bob-Jairo Showdown: Round 2. (You can bet talk of bowel movements returns, but there’s much more therapy than fighting this time.)
After a series of meditations and massages, Jairo helps Bob realize that coming up with his Burgers of the Day is actually the biggest point of stress in his day-to-day life. (Makes sense!) His not-so-direct advice: Why stress about making money, when you can focus on having great bowel movements and an even greater body? (Doesn’t make as much sense!) But it’s still the kind of rattling revelation that forces Bob to pick between fulfillment and complacency. Is he an artist who needs to push his culinary vision, or is he a restaurant owner who just needs to pay the bills and live a healthier life? It’s probably a combination of the two, but that’s not a fun answer, so these questions lead to the kind of revelation that galvanizes Bob to change. Even though Jairo is in danger of losing his studio (and temporarily does), Bob buys into his more carefree lifestyle. He becomes chill, flexible, kind of aimless, and burger-of-the-day-less — in a move that hurts me to even type, the guy’s priorities shift so much he practices perfecting broccoli smoothies rather than burgers.
For a bit, Bob’s almost like Tina in the first Jairo episode; he’s hypnotized by the amazing dance moves, hair, and insight. This new Bob is one nobody can stand, one who makes his family and friends yearn for the Bob of old.
Though Linda primarily plays a support role, she’s ultimately the hero who gets Bob back to his former self and hits the reset button on the episode. Loving wife that she is, she knows Bob seeks fulfillment over complacency. Her first attempt to lure him back to creativity is to inspire him as his muse. (How do you do that? Don’t know. Her answer? Dance and make yum-yum sounds!) As usual, Teddy is in a similar background role here. His reasons for wanting the old Bob back are more selfish — this guy has to eat! — so his reaction to the burger-of-the-day-less chef is more aggressive. Tough love, maybe. But, like, really tough love. Neither of the two approaches is initially effective, for obvious reasons:
While recent episodes have shown lasting glimmers of character development for Louise, Gene, and Tina — characterizations that the other family members seemed to support — “Sexy Dance Healing” does not do the same for Bob. As Louise points out, the new Bob doesn’t care if they mess around with the Burger of the Day board. On a superficial level, that means less fun when the kids try to pester their Dad. But on a deeper level, that means he’s not really the dad they know and love, and they won’t stand for that kind of change. (And neither can we! Those are big, dangerous implications. How would Bob’s Burgers work with such a radically different Bob?) For the purpose of this installment, that means the kids have to function as one unit. Sure, they still get pitch-perfect personalized lines (Louise’s Teddy-punching-cars quip, for example, as well as Gene’s wiener-labrum one), but they’re mainly here to reinforce the opinions of Linda and Teddy.
As a result, that set-up also makes the kids feel more like devices for the main plot — but that doesn’t mean their subplot isn’t fun as hell. It’s hysterical watching as their phony law firm evolves from handing out cease-and-desist letters for tardy slips to netting a Mr. Fischoeder-approved break on Jairo’s money problems. The latter move isn’t just good for Jairo, but it’s also good for the family: It means his dominating personality won’t plague their household anymore. He’ll no longer be able to turn their dad into a healthy, laid-back, capoeira convert. (Also, for what it’s worth, it means we might be able to run into Jairo again, as he’s not going to get kicked off the Wharf.) With the Jairo end of things handled, Linda recalibrates Bob using a genius ploy to restore unhealthy balance back to the burger joint: They call in a fake order for four Burgers of the Day.
Because Bob still values his restaurant, the fake order puts last-minute pressure on him to rekindle his craft and creativity in the heat of the moment. The success of the Running Out of Thyme burger shows our hero that yes, the Burgers of the Day might be stressful, but they give him great satisfaction. Like any art form, Bob’s is an uphill battle to mastery, but he re-learns here that he’d rather be climbing than sitting out the challenge. What’s interesting is that Bob’s epiphany feels more like a funny reminder than the genuinely lovelorn lesson Gene learned last week. The situation never gets too deep or self-aware for Bob on a personal level — perhaps true to the circumstances, he doesn’t see that he was changing; he was just out of focus. And though Tina’s deadpan You’ve changed, man lines ring true throughout the episode, they also feel like tongue-in-cheek indications from the writers that nothing here should be taken as seriously as Gene’s heartbreaking nod to maturity.
The last few episodes had sown seeds for continuing story lines, a tactic that made previous installments feel like they were either building off each other or setting up blueprints for future episodes. This one, however, is more a reset or a nonsequitur in the grand scheme. With a less intense story arc to complete, it adheres much more to the classic Bob’s story structure: Bob encounters a problem, then he solves it, then everything goes back to normal. It feels like a bread-and-butter episode, one that’s very well executed, but one that might make you wonder if (or hope that) Bob still has the same character capacity to meaningfully mature and develop as his children — even if it’s just a little.
While all that might make “Sexy Dance Healing” sound like it embraces a stale set-up, its new dynamics and obstacles make it still feel somewhat fresh. To the Burger of the Day end, it’s fun to watch an episode in which something normally seen in the background comes to the foreground. (It almost feels like a meta note on the rigors of the creative process — as Redditors have pointed out, it’s easy to imagine how this story idea could have come about in the writers room.) And even though we know Jairo, we don’t know the healing side of his business or his pro-Bob mindset.
As this episode exemplifies, the Bob’s world and its inhabitants are flexible to varying degrees (sometimes for only one episode, sometimes for longer). But that’s what makes the show so consistently rich. Whether it’s Gene and his maturing love life, Jairo and his evolving business(es), or Bob and his fleeting penchant for sage, the idiosyncratic-but-malleable personalities of the Wharf are one of the major components of what helps this show avoid feeling formulaic, in both form and function.
Bob’s Bonus Sliders
- Teddy would definitely beat a car in a fistfight.
- Lettuce ketchup.
- Underwear face.
- Pretty much all of Jairo’s lines in this episode are gold, so you can watch or rewatch it for those alone — especially the Pshhh part.
- I love Jairo, but I feel like Bob’s shoulder is wrecked for life now.
- That cease-and-desist song was a gem.
- “Roman numerals? Must be real.” (True.)
- I wonder if Jairo is secretly a vampire.
- Gene name-dropping Beyoncé gives me hope that, one day, we will see Beyoncé in this universe.
- Though a legal episode would’ve been boring, it would be nice to see Steve Buscemi’s lawyer again.
- Also, even though the kids got in trouble for the fake legal letters, it didn’t seem like they learned their lesson, so hopefully this isn’t the last we see of Fromage, Schuster, and Pitz-Lopez.
- Semi-bad news: No new episode next week.
- Good news: The next one, set for March 6, is called “Sacred Couch.”