In a cardboard box, no one can hear you scream

Bob’s Burgers – “Fort Night”

Bob’s Burgers always puts its best foot forward for holiday episodes, and this year’s Halloween episode is no exception. After tackling trick-or-treating in “Full Bars,” “Fort Night” slips into psychological horror territory. Instead of a straight homage, the episode uses the tropes of the genre brilliantly, and with returning guest Aziz Ansari and first-timer Molly Shannon on board, it’s a home-run installment all around.

The Belcher children (plus Ollie and Andy) are going trick-or-treating as a Chinese dragon (their plan: to say there’s ten of them under there to double their treat total), and a Devo’d out Darryl joins them, bringing his map of the neighborhood’s top treat-givers. Tina’s even accepted the fact that this is her last year as a trick-or-treater. But something sinister lurks behind them: Millie (Molly Shannon), a creepazoid young girl who is convinced that she and Louise are best friends. (She even claims that she and Louise made costume plans, Louise as dust, her as a bunny.) The kids ditch her and head to their fort, a cardboard clubhouse built beside the dumpster in the alley behind their house, and it’s there that the spooky fun starts to kick in.

After a truck parks in front of the fort and traps the kids inside, it’s only a matter of time before Millie shows up. They ask for her help, but Louise freaks out, going off on Millie and telling her how she really feels. The creepy smile fades from Millie’s face, and she decides to torment the kids as punishment for Louise’s indiscretions. First, she pours spiders into the parlor of the fort, causing the kids to abandon the room and seal it off, accidentally trapping Andy inside. (Fortunately, they’re only plastic spiders, which is especially great for Darryl, who has a thing about spiders.) Shortly after, the top floor of the fort collapses, but Tina’s suddenly wet butt leads them to a discovery: a rusted out hole in the dumpster next to the fort. It’s just small enough for Ollie to climb through, but once he reaches the top, Millie’s right there waiting, and slams the top down. Louise realizes there must be a rat amongst them, and Darryl breaks down, revealing that his claustrophobia and desire for candy combined in a perfect storm of weakness, and he agreed to be Millie’s man inside the fort.

Darryl is punished with Burp ‘n Blows (which disgustingly consist of Andy and Ollie alternately burping into his face), and Louise sees the buttons on the back of the truck that control the metal flap blocking them in from the top. Using a wire hanger, Darryl pushes one of the buttons, but it’s the wrong one, and the ceiling begins slowly coming down on them. Ollie and Andy get some sturdy garbage from the dumpster to stop the metal flap from crushing them, which causes the back of the truck to raise up, creating an opening for the kids to escape, before the metal flap finally crushes the fort for good. (Andy’s shoe gets left behind, so Ollie throws his in as well. “Now our shoes can be together!”) Unfortunately, they didn’t escape in time to trick-or-treat, and the houses all shut off their lights. When Millie comes back to torment the kids some more, she sees the crushed fort and pair of shoes, and assumes they must be dead. It’s then that the ghostly voices of Gene, Louise, and Tina reprimand her for killing them, then demand that she give them all her candy. Millie runs away terrified, and the kids get their loot after all.

Bob and Linda get their own adventure again this week. At the beginning of the episode, they’re furiously gluing sequins onto the kids’ Chinese dragon costume, even enlisting the help of Mort and Teddy to help finish. But once the costume is completed, the kids are nowhere to be found, and as Bob and Linda go to check the fort, who else but Millie comes bounding up to steer them away. Millie says the kids went trick-or-treating without the costume, so Bob and Linda, not wanting it to go to waste, don the costume and go trick-or-treating themselves. Obviously, everyone sees through the costume, but they bring home a decent loot anyway. And when the kids come back home after their failed attempt at trick-or-treating, Bob and Linda try to keep all the candy for themselves, leading to a family wrestling match and Tina’s best line of the night: “I thought I was done with Halloween, but Halloween’s not done with meaaaaaaahhhh!!!!”

Everything that Bob’s Burgers does right was on full display in “Forting Around,” bringing in some of the great secondary characters, adding another new corner to the wonderful world they’ve built with the fort, and giving each Belcher at least one moment to shine. I was especially surprised to see a toned-down Andy and Ollie, which made their extended role in the episode more relaxed than their bizarre humor usually would. Darryl is one of the best recurring characters on Bob’s, so any chance for him to return is welcome. And there’s a timeless quality to someone spilling a bunch of small objects, especially in the road, that’s only made better by H. Jon Benjamin’s line readings.

After a lukewarm premiere, it’s nice to see Bob’s back in top form, and hopefully it’ll be smooth sailing from here on out. According to future episode titles, we’ve got Thanksgiving and Christmas episodes to look forward to, which are sure to be treats as well. I do hope we break out of the “kids in one adventure, Bob and Linda in another” mold of these first two episodes, but it’s a formula that works well, so its use is understandable. I’m honestly just really happy to have Bob’s Burgers back in my life. There’s definitely no other animated sitcom that’s as consistent, and there’s a large handful of live-action ones it beats out as well. If the fourth season is full of more episodes like “Fort Night,” Bob’s Burgers might even be able to take the crown for “Funniest Show on Television,” at least for a little while.

Stray Observations:

  • “Cool, I collect porcelain horses. I experiment with where I put them on my dresser.”
  • “Butts get wet Tina, that’s just what they do!”
  • Darryl got his candy map from a blog he follows called Candy Randy, which is a Tom Haverford joke in disguise.
  • Speaking of, Aziz was absolutely amazing in this episode. I’ve gushed enough already about Darryl, but he’s just so great.
  • Also, kudos to Molly Shannon, for taking a creepy character and pushing it to the next level.
  • The old couple from “Art Crawl”!!!!!!!
  • Where the hell is Jimmy, Jr.? At the very least, I’m ready to see Tina get back onto the dating scene.
  • About halfway through the episode I became convinced that Sarah and Laura Silverman weren’t the voices of Andy and Ollie anymore, but they totally were.
  • And lastly, sorry about missing last week’s premiere. Family matters got in the way and it just wasn’t possible. But the rest of the season is a go, so stay tuned.