Bob’s complicated relationship with his dad has been hinted at before on Bob’s Burgers, but it’s never been fully confronted. The closest the show has gotten to actually focusing an episode around this before was in season three’s “Bob Fires the Kids.”
Bob: “Lin, I just realized something. I had a bad childhood.”
Linda: “Yeah, I know.”
Bob: “What do you mean you know?”
Linda: “Look at you.”
Bob: “What do you mean look at me?”
Linda: “Look at how you stand. People who had good childhoods don’t stand like that.”
In that episode, we learn that Bob’s father constantly made him work, resulting in a bad childhood and Bob resenting him. In “Father of the Bob,” we finally get to meet Big Bob. This should be a major episode. Instead it’s a pretty standard episode of Bob’s Burgers, but it’s also among the best of the season.
The episode opens with a flashback to 14-year-old Bob Belcher, working in Big Bob’s Diner, the restaurant owned by his dad. This is the teenage Bob we saw in “Bob Fires the Kids,” forced to speak to inanimate objects due to constantly working—this habit still persists when he’s an adult, although usually only when he’s been drinking. Left to run the diner by himself, Bob tries to serve regular customer Henry one of his special burgers, the “Baby You Can Chive My Car” burger, instead of his usual order of a tuna melt. Although Henry doesn’t seem opposed to trying the burger, Bob’s father comes back and throws it in the trash.
Flash forward to the present, and the family is going to the diner to see Big Bob for Christmas Eve. Bob has established a 15-minute rule where he only sees his father in 15 minute intervals, since that’s the amount of time they can see each other before his dad says something insulting.
Linda, meanwhile, is hopeful that “Christmas magic” can help bring father and son together. At the diner, she volunteers Bob to help in the kitchen, hoping that it will allow the two to bond. Instead, it opens old wounds, with another flashback showing how Bob and his father had their falling out, 20 years earlier. Big Bob surprised Little Bob by changing the restaurant name to Big Bob & Sons Diner, resulting in Bob’s bottled up anger coming out. He tells him that he doesn’t want to work with him. He calls him overly critical. He says he feels unable to express himself creatively in the kitchen. He leaves the restaurant and his father behind.
In present day, Bob runs his own restaurant—semi-failing, sure, but it’s his—and is finally able to express himself the way he never was in the diner. Now, standing in that same kitchen, with the man he still has some serious issues with, all of these old memories start flooding back, which only gets worse when Henry, still a regular customer, orders his usual once again. Bob is now determined to give Henry the “Baby You Can Chive My Car” burger that he never got to try, as he rushes to make the burger before Big Bob can finish the tuna melt. When Henry, forced to choose between his usual and Bob’s burger, chooses the burger and loves it, Big Bob leaves the diner, heartbroken.
The b-plot, involving the kids making their dad a Christmas present out of stuff they find in Big Bob’s basement, is underwhelming (a surprising number of the kid’s b-plots, in fact, have been pretty forgettable this season). But it does result in them finding a newspaper featuring the first ever review of Bob’s Burgers, which Big Bob had hidden away. Upon seeing that his father has kept the review for all these years, Bob realizes that his dad loves him.
I know I come across as a softy in these reviews. Bob’s Burgers is a show that requires it, since so many of its finest moments exist outside of the comedic elements. More than other adult animated show since Futurama, Bob’s Burgers is incredibly sentimental. Even still, I wasn’t expecting the show to successfully make me feel sympathy for Bob’s father. Obviously, that was the route they were going to go in, but throughout “Father of the Bob,” his father seems judgmental, cruel, and unsupportive. But when Bob goes to the gay bar owned by his dad’s friend Pete (voiced by Nick Offerman) and finds his dad drinking alone—furthering a line from “Bob Fires the Kids” hinting at Big Bob being an alcoholic—and then makes up with him (during a country and western line dance, no less), it was genuinely moving.
The previous Christmas episodes of Bob’s Burgers have been very good. Unlike the other holiday episodes aired this season, “Father of the Bob” lives up to them.
“So that’s what a prostate exam is. Did you guys know what it was?” “I think it’s more fun if it’s a surprise.”
“That reminds me. I’m supposed to go to Midnight Mass tonight. Either that or midnight basketball. I got my shorts in the truck. What do you think I should do?” “Combine them. Massketball!”
“I was still breastfeeding.” “No you weren’t.” “Not with you.”
“Hey, father issues. We all got ‘em. I’ve got mother issues, too. I’ve even got cousin issues. Beautiful, blonde cousin issues.”
“Stronger and gayer than ever. That’s our motto.”
“Grandpa, you don’t look a day over grandpa age.”
“Here, Bob, have some Christmas magic.” “Wait, Christmas magic is wine?” “It’s whatever you want it to be. It can be snow, or Santa, or beer, or gin, or rum, or schnapps.”
“They both look good.” “You son of a bitch.”
“Bathroom spill’s my middle name.”