Review: Bob’s Burgers “The Helen Hunt”

Are you Team Helen or Team Kathleen?

Overview (Spoilers Below!)

Teddy returns from working on Helen’s beach house, explaining that he was helping her look for an expensive Japanese “netsuke,” a figurine of two snails mating that her husband Larry hid before he died. Linda suggests that they all look for the netsuke in the apartment building Larry owned, hoping that finding it will give Teddy a shot at Helen’s love.

The group splits up, and Bob and Gene pretend to be plumbers arriving to look at the pipes of a blind man—but their cover backfires when the man expects them to actually fix his clogged sink. Meanwhile, Teddy searches the apartment of Kathleen, a sweet widow in sweatpants. Tina realizes that the two have chemistry; she confides in her family that she might ship Teddy/Kathleen instead of Teddy/Helen. Linda asserts that she’s determined to see Teddy and Helen end up together—and suddenly, Helen arrives.

Helen offers the kids a $50 reward for finding the netsuke. Linda and Tina compete to get Teddy’s attention in increasingly ridiculous ways in order to push him towards Helen or Kathleen. Helen discovers that Larry had a secret apartment in this building. Louise realizes where the netsuke is hidden, but Tina tells her to keep quiet about it to give Teddy and Kathleen more time.

Linda helps Teddy locate the netsuke, when Helen calls for him, Linda jumps and drops the figurine on top of the broken elevator. Teddy climbs on to grab it, but the elevator falls and he ends up dangling in the empty shaft!

After an emotional rollercoaster of fixing—and then breaking—and then not-quite-fixing-again the blind man’s sink, Bob and Gene run to the roof, where they can pull a lever to bring the elevator back up to Teddy’s feet. Helen doesn’t want them to do it, however, if it means they’ll risk breaking the netsuke. Linda realizes that even if Helen’s rich, she’s kind of a monster. Helen gets her netsuke and refuses to reward Louise for it. Bob saves Teddy, but Helen trips on the way down the stairs, and a cat breaks the figurine.

Back in Larry’s apartment, the gang hangs out with Kathleen—perhaps love will still blossom for Teddy after all!

Our Take

This episode charms me from beginning to end. The snappy dialogue consistently lands, the characters each have something unique to do, and the plot is compelling and original. It’s nice to see Teddy in high demand for once, actually appreciated for his considerable handyman expertise—and Helen’s terrible priorities make her immensely fun to hate.

Some moments that tickle my fancy:

  • “It’d be cool if these menus wiped us for a change.”
  • “… lookin’ at chimneys and air ducts.” “Is that a euphemism?”
  • “Her late husband Larry, who she definitely didn’t kill…”
  • “Wow, that’s beautiful.” “I wouldn’t say beautiful, but it seems… consensual?”
  • “A lot of buildings are [older than Bob].” “Not in this country.”
  • “What are you eating?” “Cold pasta.” “Hot damn.”
  • Kathleen accepts that it makes sense for kids to be plumbers because Louise says so
  • Kathleen suggests that Teddy would rather not have a herniated disk, but rather a “hisneated” one

Nothing about this episode is particularly surprising, yet heart and humor run throughout, making every moment enjoyable. The show utilizes Teddy’s harrowing dangle, not to grip us on the edge of our seats (it’s a bit obvious that he’ll end up okay, so the moment doesn’t carry much potential for suspense), but to reveal crucial details of Helen’s character and advance the main message of the story. Likewise, Gene and Bob’s plot is extraordinarily simple, yet watching them hug and cheer after apparently fixing their first sink is incredibly rewarding.

The message here is clear—in matchmaking, the real interpersonal connection is more important than good looks and money. Kathleen is a bit of a loser: she wears sweatpants and messy hair, eats weeks-old pasta for dinner without heating it up, and spends her time watching TV in a decrepit apartment. But at the end of the day, she’s a better match for Teddy than Helen, and that’s okay. There’s no lamenting that he missed out on a “great catch” or anything, and it’s very refreshing.

Each moment of this episode is significant; every detail mentioned in passing comes back. The blind man mentions that a stray cat sometimes wanders into his apartment, and presumably that same cat destroys the netsuke. The water from Bob and Gene’s botched sink operation seeps into Larry’s secret apartment in the end, just as the gang settles down to take a crack at Larry’s collection of vintage board games. During the credits, Bob and Gene sing a duet about the joys of plumbing, and whether or not this was intentional, their enunciation makes the word sound a lot like “loving,” which sums up this episode perfectly. Sometimes all the foreshadowing and clever connections make events a little too easy to predict—such as Teddy’s elevator tumble—but it’s easily forgivable here because watching this episode is just so much fun.

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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