When comedies escalate, there’s always the risk of things toppling over the peak, getting to the point where everything stops being funny, and you start to wonder why the writers didn’t have the self-control necessary to pull back on their ideas just enough to keep things working.
That was not the case in “Tina-Rannosaurus Wrecks.” The episode started off small and then grew bigger and then scaled itself back as it reached the end of its story. It was expertly constructed and there was some really stellar voice work to boot.
Even within the narrative of the episode itself, the story started off small, with Tina slowly crashing into the only vehicle in an otherwise empty parking lot and ruining the Belcher family car. Goodness knows that I had similar nerve-racking experiences when I learned how to drive (I think I groaned like Tina the entire time, too...), and I think it’s a sort of universal anxiety, one that isn’t specific to Tina’s various neuroses.
Tina was ready to come clean about the whole thing with the insurance agent, Chase (voiced by Bob Odenkirk), but Bob instructed her lie about it and say that he was the one who hit the car. It was easy enough of a lie for easy enough of a situation, but Tina, incapable of lying, needed a backstory... which she then embellished with a butterfly, and then there was a cormorant (“What an auspicious sign!”) to try and cover for nervousness.
So there was a small thing, and then escalation with the lies. But then Chase invited Bob to cater a barbeque. It seemed fishy to be sure, but we felt like we were in the clear. And then Tina burned down Chase’s house. It was hysterical, really, everyone’s concern about keeping up the insurance lie while they fretted about the smoldering wreck of Chase’s home.
That's where things could’ve gone too far with Tina being a jinx and a klutz and her doing something equally absurd and Chase just turning out to be the world’s most understanding insurance guy ever. Instead, the episode pivoted and had Chase looking to commit massive amounts of insurance fraud as he had seen through the story about the car collision. It wasn't much of a narrative surprise, but it helped the whole house-burning thing not seem less over-the-top.
Which allowed that deliriously staged reaction to the kids pretending to have drowned in the flooded basement to be massively overplayed, complete with Bob tearing his shirt in anguish, and still not feel like too much. It was all carefully built, and when the show tossed in Gene’s keyboard as the way out, it was an organic solution since Gene is never without that device.
So this top-notch script also gave Dan Mintz his Emmy submission episode. He’s never been better as Tina than he was here, and his exchanges with H. Jon Benjamin were simply pitch-perfect. There was a mix of everything that’s quintessential to Tina, including the groaning, the sighing, the wistful sexual longing, and the anxious shouting. It was a perfect sample of everything Mintz does well all in one episode, and it certainly deserves to be recognized.
Notes & Quotes
– "Burger of the Day" board: Open Sesame Burger (served open face on a sesame seed bun); Don’t Give No Chive Burger, and Pickle My Funny Bone Burger. THIS SHOW MAKES ME SO HUNGRY. I AM STARVING RIGHT NOW FOR A BURGER.
– Mort driving Gene and Louise around had some nice moments, culminating in that open house scene, but the story was massively overshadowed by the A-plot.
– “I call shotgun!” “I call coffin!”
– “He plays lacrosse and he loves me. But he loves lacrosse more.”
– “I would kill for that hairline!” “I believe you would!”
– Tina’s “Everything’s okay” faces? Priceless.
– "But you're playing fire... and water, literally."
– Linda's diarrhea song was not as good as her other songs. Eugh.