The schedule for Bob’s Burgers’ fifth season has been pretty weird, with a nearly month-long break following the season premiere, “Work Hard or Die Trying, Girl.” Coupled with the fact that the premiere was one of the show’s weaker episodes, this is a bit concerning. Now that the season’s second episode, “Tina and the Real Ghost,” has aired and the show is taking another break (three weeks this time), one has to wonder: how are things looking for this season of Bob’s Burgers?
“Tina and the Real Ghost” continues the series’ pattern of making the second episodes of its seasons Halloween centered, after season three’s “Full Bars” and season four’s “Fort Night.” Those episodes are both among the funniest the show has ever done. And along with being a Halloween episode, this is also a Tina episode, always a good sign.
Ultimately, though, this is the weakest of the three Halloween episodes.
The episode begins as many do, with Tina trying to woo Jimmy Jr. As great as their relationship is, it does get a little tiring when overused, and we thankfully don’t return to it after the opening scene. In fact, this scene only seems to exist to supply us with information that will come up later on: every year, the older kids at Wagstaff go to the town cemetery and break into the mausoleum as, according to Jimmy Jr., a rite of passage.
Meanwhile, the restaurant has a bug problem and Bob calls a pest control company, Hugs Not Bugs, who send Marcus (somehow the first exterminator to make it into an actual episode). Marcus is the funniest new character in “Tina and the Real Ghost,” as he sets off the plot by panicking and refusing to exterminate the bugs because he feels there’s a presence in the basement.
Bob: “You cannot be a real exterminator.”
Marcus: “I’m licensed. And I’m running away.”
To Bob’s annoyance, the family attempts to catch the ghost in a shoebox. Using a Ouija board, they find out that the ghost is 13 years old and named Jeff. (Tina: “So, the ghost is a 13-year-old boy. That’s interesting… to all of us.”) They catch the ghost in the shoebox and, the next day, the kids bring the box to school, intriguing all the other kids and making Tammy jealous.
Now, as Tina begins developing a crush on Jeff, it becomes clear just how far we’ll follow Tina at this point. As the show’s breakout character, Tina is someone we sympathize with and want to see succeed. With this episode, the show puts her in a situation where there is no chance things will work out. After all, mechanical shark attacks and all, this is not a supernatural universe. In spite of that, however, the scene where Tina takes Jeff to the butterfly sanctuary is as heartwarming as it is funny, and it’s tempting to hope that Jeff actually exists.
When Tammy steals Jeff away by attributing a message on a bathroom mirror to him, this leads to Tina’s inevitable heartbreak. Louise then reveals to the family that Jeff isn’t real and that she was the one controlling the Ouija board. Of all the relationships on the show, that of Tina and Louise might be the most substantial. Louise’s genuine love for her sister is wonderful whenever it’s brought up. So, her decision to get revenge on Tammy at the mausoleum is a great character moment, even if her plan is merely putting bugs from the restaurant into the shoebox.
Tina’s final speech about how, even though Jeff doesn’t exist, what he represented to everyone was real adds some character depth to the episode (particularly for Zeke, to whom Jeff gave faith in a world beyond our own). It’s a touching moment, and ends things on a surprisingly deep note.
As good as “Tina and the Real Ghost” was, it wasn’t quite up there with the previous Halloween episodes. This is partially because the fact that it’s set on Halloween is less relevant to the plot, but it’s also because Bob and Linda’s subplot—involving ghost hunters investigating the restaurant—was very forgettable. Still, there were plenty of hilarious moments and, like any good Bob’s Burgers episode, it makes you want to see more. Now, we wait.
“Bobby, calm down. We caught the ghost. His name is Jeff. Everything is fine.”
“You’re just a box, aren’t you? I’m on a date with a box. Oh my God.”
“The spirit appears to be a bit of a player.”
“Tina’s gonna be okay. I made her a PB&J, she said she didn’t want it, so I ate it. She was still sad, so I made her another PB&J. She didn’t want that one either, so I ate it. Anyway, Tina wants to be alone for a little while and we’re out of peanut butter.”
“She got catfished by a box.”
“My butt is dry, and strong.”
“A part of me always kind of thought Jeff was fake. But then last night, when I heard my family talking about how fake he was, I realized that he definitely was fake. Also, it’s crazy. It’s a box.”