Review: Bob’s Burgers “Better Off Sled”

This is why you should never invade Russia in winter.

Overview (Spoilers!)

It’s winter break, and the Belchers, Rudy, and Darryl are looking forward to sledding at the park—but when they arrive, Logan and his friends have monopolized the hill for their snowball fight. When the kids try to sled anyway, Logan pelts them with snowballs. None of them are great at throwing, but Rudy’s cousin Mandy is on the high school softball team. As it turns out, Logan used to torment Mandy at school, so she has no qualms about using her talent to drive Logan and his friends away.

The next day, the Belchers return to the slopes, but enormous snowballs start raining down from the sky. Logan’s crew has enlisted a varsity basketballer, and his attacks are so vicious that Mandy turns tail and heads home.

At the restaurant, Teddy recalls his childhood friend Ryan, who would mercilessly bully him with snowballs. Evoking this traumatic memory, Louise manipulates Teddy into agreeing to plow the hill. Although he’s terrified of getting caught, he does clear the area of snow.

The next day, Louise is sure her plan is foolproof—until she hears that another massive snowstorm took place that morning, undoing all Teddy’s work. Covering themselves in armor made of kitchen appliances, the Belchers confront Logan. In return, the teens greet them with snowballs made out of unforgiving ice.

When all hope seems lost, Mandy reappears with her friends from the girls’ softball, basketball, and lacrosse teams. They charge on the boys, but in the spirit of Christmas, Louise offers Logan a sporting head start.

Meanwhile, Linda rediscovers her old knitting tools and decides to knit scarves for each of her children in time for Christmas. She imagines herself as a ballerina in “The Knitcracker,” a master knitter who will start selling her creations on Etsy. But she’s… not very good at it. When Bob tries his hand at the craft, his stitches are surprisingly speedy and regular, and Linda is so jealous that she gets nightmares. In the end, Bob produces two perfect scarves, and Linda makes one thin and uneven one. But lo and behold, when Linda and Bob present the gifts to the kids, all three of them want Linda’s scarf, because it’s the only one with character.

Our Take

In true Bob’s Burgers tradition, this episode takes a mundane childhood experience and turns it into a harrowing—and hilarious—parody of a serious adult situation. In this case, a disagreement between sledders and snowball fighters turns into a fierce war zone, complete with sheds for shields, full-body armor, and soldiers moving forward in formation while Louise shouts, “ADVANCE!” over and over again. It’s a little childish, but funny and exciting all the same.

Some jokes that tickled my fancy:

  • Teddy says his snow plow looks “ten pounds heavier on TV”
  • Gene is tormented that he can’t reach a marshmallow at the bottom of his hot chocolate, and Tina says “That’s life”
  • Logan’s one friend just wants to enjoy the day
  • “Santa, look away. This isn’t for your delicate eyes.”
  • “Like Dr. Scrooge.” “Scrooge was not a doctor.” “Not a medical doctor, right.”
  • Teddy’s childhood bully Ryan volunteered at a homeless shelter, and Teddy likes to imagine the homeless people laughing at him
  • Bob offers to shovel the sidewalk, and Gene calls it “the butchest thing he’s ever said”
  • Logan asks if the kids robbed Williams-Sonoma
  • Louise claims her butt is shaped like oven mitts because of “genetics”
  • Linda’s Etsy shop would have been called “Scarving Children”

I applaud Bob’s Burgers, too, on its ability to make unoriginal jokes funny again through well-executed delivery. Darryl throws a snowball; it lands behind him and he asks, “Where’d it go?” This isn’t a particularly funny moment on paper, but the timing and delivery still made me chuckle out loud. The same goes for the kids asking “Is he dead?” when one of Logan’s friends gets nailed with a snowball.

Another thing I love about this episode is that it doesn’t fall into the trap of saying that all participants in a fight are in the wrong, no matter who started it. It would be easy for this episode to end with Louise calling off the battle because she doesn’t want anyone to be sad on Christmas, but when it comes down to it, Logan is a bully who hurt a lot of people. Instead of trying to sell the message that we should just turn the other cheek in every situation, “Better Off Sled” encourages fair play, but at the end of the day, it preaches that bullies get what’s coming to them. Plus, it’s so funny to see people throwing snowballs out of lacrosse sticks.

As for Linda and Bob’s plot-line, I struggle to understand why The Nutcracker was evoked at all. As far as I can remember, there’s no knitting anywhere in that ballet, and it feels like a forced addition to draw this largely secular story back to the Christmas theme (although after so many Bob’s episodes that explicitly focus on Christmas, I see no reason we can’t have a generic winter story for a change). Watching Linda struggle with her knitting needles is entertaining, and the conclusion to her story is rewarding. But I’m not sure it needed the weird dreams and fantasies—it’s in-character for Linda, but it steers too far away from the plot to make sense.

All and all, this is a solid episode. It’s not as inventive or moving as last year’s “The Bleakening,” but it’s a cute story with good laughs that’ll warm your heart like hot chocolate.

Score
8.0/10

Bodie Shanis

Bodie is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia. You can often find him in odd costumes, either because he's at an anime convention or performing in a musical. He's currently working on his first novel.

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