If you’ve liked the Louise territory Bob’s has explored this season, you’ll probably enjoy “Sacred Couch.” The first 75 percent of this episode puts the youngest Belcher in the role of hitwoman, as she executes the family’s treasured fart catcher, also the font of their fondest memories.
How could she do such a thing? Their sofa is sullied, uncomfortable, and smelly from years of use, making it unfit to remain the Family TV throne:
Deep down, everybody — even Linda — has acknowledged the couch’s festering. But the youngest Belcher is the only one with a callous selfishness strong enough to do something about it. Or is it detached maturity? On a surface level, Louise notes she wants a better couch. But as the story unfurls, there’s a genuine part of her that also wants a newer, better couch, because she believes that will force everybody to move toward closure and more enjoyable family time.
This story line is a rich setup for Louise, if only because it’s so tailored to her character. It also sounds like it could lead to another of her illuminating life lessons, right? Yes, but slight problem: The premise, from the get-go, errs on the distracting side, and the ensuing fitful plot muddies a potentially emotional payoff. Are those entirely bad things for Bob’s? Not necessarily.
The couch issue is introduced as a replacement campaign that’s been building in the past. The truth is it hasn’t — at least not with the sense of urgency we see here. That makes this week’s Bob’s another non sequitur, similar in some ways to last week’s: Gone again are the hints of serialization we saw earlier this season, and this ultimately functions as a reset. Last week’s Burger of the Day riff worked well because Bob’s board is something we’ve encountered in the background of the show for six seasons. It was given new life, in a sense, and led to an episode that contained drama for everybody, as well as a nice existential reminder for Bob. This couch? Sure, it’s been around. But it’s never felt as alive, important, or unique to the Belchers’ world as the Burgers of the Day.
That’s the bad news: “Sacred Couch” feels like a forced idea, and the ensuing drama between Linda and Louise, unearned. The silver lining? Bob’s never set out to quench your prestige-drama cravings. Instead, as in “Beefsquatch” and “Family Fracas,” this random development translates to surreal comedy, and necessitates a delightful introduction to a weird new world with weird new characters. So if you’ve liked the experimentation Bob’s has shown this season, this installment might be a little disarming at first, but you’ll enjoy the randomness of it all.
For example, Linda’s goal is to preserve everybody’s early memories. (Louise crushes her mother’s hopes of this when she secretly files down the wooden frame of the couch so it snaps.) These are memories we’ve never seen, so the writers use this as an opportunity to show them, the cute likes of which we weren’t prepared for and will never forget:
It’s not that the other Belchers don’t care about these memories. Aside from Louise, everyone is just torn into inactivity: Bob, Gene, and Tina recognize Linda’s connection to sentimentality, but they also identify with Louise’s distaste for the poor couch. Bob is then inadvertently dragged onto Louise’s side because he inspires her with his Something might happen to the couch throwaway during their kitchen tête-à-tête, while Gene and Tina pair off with Jordan Peele’s Sofa Jester to undercut the couch drama as jesters themselves (their participation turns into a highchair-jumping contest). The latter isn’t a fulfilling or relevant subplot by any means, but it’s hilarious to see Tina, Gene, and the salesman panic when they’re confined to their infant prisons, as if they’re trapped in Saw Jr.
The new paper-towel habit is also touching, Linda’s obsession with Wanda Sykes’s Sofa Queen is strange but amazing (ditto for the whole sofa world), and the band’s haughty photo shoot is a laugh-out-loud finishing touch. Again, is it bad for a show like Bob’s to be random and unexpected? No, as noted, that’s how Bob’s lands many of its hilarious jabs. And who wants a predictable show, anyway? Bob’s needs to buck predictability and to experiment to maintain longevity. The only downside is that when it bucks hard, the deep emotional hooks it usually serves can get lost amid the twists and turns.
As previously mentioned, the first 75 percent of this episode plays like a chance for Louise to justify her deed, almost like her and Bob’s version of letting go of something they love. But it turns into one big play on You don’t know what you’ve had until it’s gone, once the replacement couch is purchased and the broken one is seized by a local band that needs to burn it for its album cover. We learn Louise does cherish her childhood memories — and, to an extent, it seems she learns not to take things for granted, or that that’s at least a possibility. (Or maybe that’s what you want to believe when Linda winks, Oh now you miss the couch.) It’s not that the 11th-hour change of heart isn’t a good or believable move, it’s just tough to digest. The epiphanies are overshadowed by a coda that, like the couch premise, comes from out of left field.
“Sacred Couch” is filled with those slight deviations that might lure some fans and turn off others. It plays as more offbeat than usual — a risk that will either make this an episode that’s skipped during repeat marathons or cherished as a zany, underrated classic.
Bob’s Bonus Sliders
- Need that windsurfing episode ASAP.
- Although I missed the bits of continuity that have cropped up in other, less contained installments, I have a feeling this is one that’s going to grow on me.
- “Ew, a beard.”
- I wonder if Louise is going to be super well-adjusted by the time she’s a teen.
- I also wonder if she’ll ever get grounded.
- Girth Brooks
- Boi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oi-oing — thank you, Peele.
- John Stainmos.
- “Gene motorboated his pasta again.”
- One underrated aspect of Bob’s is how well it forces viewers to visualize offscreen action: Teddy shooing someone with shorts off the couch, self-conscious Teddy going to a rock concert, Gene tilting the couches. All gems we never actually see, but work well because they’re so fun to imagine.
- “Finders keepers, keepers burners.”
- R.I.P., Bob’s savings account.
- Come back next week for something called “Lice Things Are Lice,” which may or may not be thanks to this couch.