Review: Bob’s Burgers “The Fresh Princ-ipal”

Just west of the Wonder Wharf, born and raised. In the restaurant was where I spent most of my days.

Overview (Spoilers Below!)

Louise won a school-wide candy selling competition, and her grand prize is serving as principal for a day! Louise hurries to school, overjoyed to begin her reign of terror—but she soon learns that her position is more of a ceremonial one. Instead of being granted access to fabled cabinet of confiscation, which holds all the goodies Principal Spoors has confiscated from students over the years, she spends the first hour of her day supervising the raising of the flag and watering a plant.

Hungry for some real power, Louise picks the lock on Principal Spoors’s office door. Ms. Schnur catches her in the act, but when she spies Principal Spoors’s private bathroom—that he doesn’t allow anyone else to use—she decides to overlook Louise’s transgressions in favor of a good BM. The cabinet of confiscation is locked, but Louise steals Spoors’s official school stationary to draft a series of proclamations—that the school will have double recess, that all teachers must speak in Italian accents, that PE will now be “sensual reggae dance hour,” that it’s wacky hat day.

Despite the fact that Louise’s changes have actually made students more productive, Frond is desperate to shut her down. But a man named Don arrives, claiming that he’s the new guidance counselor—Frond is going to be fired. The ignorant Frond provides an orientation for Don that ends in his termination by Ms. Schnur. While they’re occupied, Louise and her siblings finally break into the cabinet of confiscation, but Louise feels bad for Frond.

The Belchers plan an assembly to see Frond off. Louise turns the microphone on Don, putting him on the spot as the students of Wagstaff seek guidance on a whole host of uncomfortable topics. Don panics and quits. The Belchers catch Frond as he’s packing up his office, and Louise uses her last few minutes of power to rehire him.

Back at the restaurant, Teddy asks what process Bob uses to flip burgers, and Bob realizes that he can’t explain it. Suddenly, Bob has forgotten how to do it completely. Teddy declares that he has “the yips,” and Bob frantically attempts to relearn his technique. Finally, Bob is cured when Teddy steals Jimmy Pesto’s dirty underpants for Bob to wear while he’s cooking.

Our Take

It’s nice to see an episode where Frond isn’t being used as a punching bag, where his earnest desire to help the students of Wagstaff is actually acknowledged. Even better, it’s always a treat to watch a genuinely funny episode of Bob’s Burgers. It’s amazing how the show manages to essentially repeat the same few themes over and over again—in this case, it’s Louise conducting a scheme for purely selfish reasons only to do the right thing in the end—but each iteration still feels fresh due to a completely original set of plot elements.

Some of the tastiest moments include:

  • When Linda asked Bob how to tie a tie and suddenly he couldn’t remember how to do it for five years
  • Rudy declaring “How you like our educational system now, Norway?” when Louise instates second recess
  • Louise asking Frond to come back during her office hours and him actually falling for it (and taking a lollipop when she offers)
  • Don can tell that Louise isn’t Spoors firstly, because she’s a kid, and secondly, because Don is Spoors’s brother-in-law (but Don isn’t sure whether he married Spoors’s sister or Spoors married his sister)
  • When asked for assistance, Mr. Branca offers his work crowbar or his “personal” crowbar, but fair warning—his personal crowbar is haunted
  • Schur takes Frond on a devastating walk to fire him, and Gene declares, “That’s how I feel when I have to walk anywhere!”
  • The hilarious montage of bizarre and heartbreaking student concerns: from Rudy who believes his “friend’s” asthma caused his “friend’s” parents’ divorce, to Jimmy Jr.’s rage at the unfairness of existence (“Where’s MY twin?!”)

This episode doesn’t feature a moral in the traditional sense so much as a lesson about America’s public schools: that we could do a lot better by children if we let them have some say in their schooling experience. Rather than setting off a ridiculous chain of childish mayhem (I’m thinking of kids’ foolhardy behavior when their parents disappear in cartoons such as Jimmy Neutron and The Fairly OddParents), Louise actually makes substantial improvements to the school: after extended recess time, students are able to concentrate better on quizzes and actually improve their test scores. Louise makes school fun and therefore gets students actually invested in the process of learning. This episode also speaks to the importance of teachers who care about their students—Frond may not be the most intelligent or socially adept man out there, but he’s passionate about his work, unlike the incompetent Don, who seemed to arrive at his job purely through nepotism.

I do wish Tina and Gene had a bit more to do in this episode, though. Other than two one-off jokes about their requests for changes to the school, they really don’t get involved in Louise’s plans at all, which is disappointing. Gene, especially, is let down by this episode’s writing—sometimes when he isn’t the focus of episodes, Gene can become simply a mouthpiece for whatever random jokes the writers didn’t feel like giving anyone else, and his unique character isn’t allowed to shine through. The “wacky hat day” joke—and his sudden desire to be “prance”-ipal for the day in order to prance throughout the halls—are maybe a little too random, and I’d like Gene’s bits to be a little more substantial.

The B plot, however, is pretty clever. The idea of randomly forgetting how to do a basic motor task you do every day just because someone asked you to intellectualize it is uncomfortably, hilariously real. The dirty underwear plot twist, while it sounds crass on paper, walks the line of being too absurd and manages to stay on the side of charmingly silly.

All in all, this principal indeed stays fresh.

Score
8.5/10

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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