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How ‘Bob’s Burgers’ Talks About Divorce

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at U Conn chapter.

It’s very hard to deal with divorced or dysfunctional parents. Because they can’t solve their issues, you can’t help but feel it’s your job to solve your parents’ problems and bring them together. Trying to solve and deal with adult problems at such a young age weighs heavy on a kid. Rudy deals with this in the Bob’s Burgers episode, “The Amazing Rudy.”

The episode centers around Louise’s friend, Regular-sized-Rudy, a child of divorce. It starts with Rudy talking to his stuffed flounder, Pancake, remarking that it’s Saturday night and he’s feeling “stressed.” His dad calls him for breakfast, and we find out that this Saturday night entails going to a restaurant. Rudy’s dad sounds a little nervous, too, though he tries not to show it. He tells Rudy he needs to get the car washed and exchange a shirt at the mall, asking Rudy if he’d like to come. Rudy says yes and asks if they can stop at the magic store on the way to the mall so he can get a new trick to perform tonight. His dad agrees, saying it’s “the main event of these dinners, tableside magic by the Amazing Rudy.”

They stop at the magic store, and Rudy tells his dad to stay in the car because “a magician never lets people come with him into a magic shop.” Rudy goes in, and the store clerk, Esmerelda, greets Rudy. He tells her he is looking for something that can “really wow a group and work in a restaurant situation.” He says it needs to “bring all of humanity together, even in the most awkward of fine-dining experiences,” showing he is worried this dinner won’t go well. He eventually settles on packaged sodium polyacrylate.

Later, at the mall, Rudy goes to buy a hat to wear for dinner. While at the hat kiosk, Rudy spots the Belcher siblings playing at the fountain. Bob and Linda round up the kids to take them to buy an anniversary gift for their grandparents, and unbeknownst to them, Rudy follows them to the store. Rudy greets the Belchers and tells them he was looking for hats. Gene reveals they’re having a special dinner tonight because he managed to get his science grade up from an F+ to a B-, and they’re having the most disgusting food ever: loaded baked potato lasagna with a cornbread crust. Louise invites Rudy over to try this strange concoction of Gene’s, but Rudy says he has plans.

The next scene shows Rudy at home with the hat he purchased, and we finally learn why Rudy was so determined to bring all of humanity together in the most awkward of fine-dining experiences. According to Rudy’s dad, this is not just any dinner, but their monthly “We’re still a family dinner with Rudy’s mom.” But there’s a twist. Not only are Rudy’s divorced parents going to be there, but their new partners too. Rudy’s dad’s “friend,” Vicki, and his mom’s boyfriend, Paul. Even though his dad is trying to hide it, he sounds nervous AF about the whole experience, and his energy is rubbing off on Rudy as they both fuss about whether their outfits are appropriate for the night.

Amidst the awkward silence, Rudy can’t help but reminisce about all the times he performed magic tricks for his parents at restaurants while they were still together. Throughout the flashback, his parents grow further apart, but even when they are at their furthest apart and not talking to each other, they still smile and clap for Rudy. To break the awkward silence, he decides to perform his trick, which involves showing the adults at the table an empty cup, pouring water into it, secretly pouring the sodium polyacrylate into the cup, saying a few magic words, turning the cup over, and voila! The water is gone! But uh-oh, something goes wrong! Rudy doesn’t wait long enough for the S.P. to absorb, so everything spills over the table and on Vicki’s suede slacks. Rudy’s mom tries to comfort him, saying she loves it, but Rudy also makes the mistake of revealing his trick, which is the biggest no-no for magicians. His dad says he can perform the trick after dessert, but Rudy only brought one S.P. packet. Rudy says he needs to go to the bathroom, but instead, he ends up fleeing the restaurant and crying.

The flashback shows that as Rudy’s parents’ marriage fell apart, he felt it was his job to bring his parents together and keep them happy. When it wasn’t his job, and their problems were out of his hands, he had no control over whether his parents stayed together. He was a pawn in a grown-up game bigger than him, too complicated to understand and navigate. Many people with divorced or emotionally immature parents can relate to this, as they were exposed to a lot of their parents’ problems and felt like they had to “fix” their family. Just know this: It was never your job to fix the problems of the adults in your life, to make them stop fighting, or to bring them together. It was and should have been the adults’ job. Rudy still feels this way, so he performs magic tricks for his parents at these monthly dinners. He still feels his job is to bring his parents together and help them get along. When he messed up the trick, he felt he failed at helping his parents come together and get along, even though it wasn’t his responsibility.

After wandering around, Rudy eventually comes upon the Belchers’ restaurant and sees them cleaning up. Louise notices Rudy and Linda, being the supportive mom she is, and immediately invites Rudy inside. Louise asks if he got “stood up,” but Rudy says it just got “moved around.” Linda asks if his parents dropped him off, and Rudy says they did. Louise invites him to have “gross lasagna with us.”

Once the lasagna is ready, Gene asks everybody to describe it in one word. When it’s Rudy’s turn, he accidentally lets slip that he was at dinner with his family when he says, “It’s definitely better than what I ordered.” Linda asks if Rudy’s parents know where he is, and Rudy lies again, but she calls them to make sure. Back at the restaurant, his parents worry about how long Rudy is in the restroom, but his dad misses Linda’s call because his phone is vibrating. Back at the Belchers, Linda’s call goes to voicemail, and Rudy attempts to leave. Bob and Linda ask why, and Linda worries about how he will get home since it’s too late for him to walk alone. That’s when Rudy reveals that he walked out for dinner with his parents and their partners. Bob offers to drive Rudy back, and Rudy, starting to cry, leaves the room to wait for Bob.

As Bob struggles to find the keys, Linda comforts Rudy. But just as Bob finds the keys, Louise offers to walk Rudy there and stay with him for dinner. Louise helps Rudy devise a new trick he could perform with her at the restaurant as her mom proudly watches on from the window. They finally arrive at the restaurant, where Rudy’s parents hug him and bring an extra chair for Louise.

There’s a lot to unpack here. First, when Rudy first sees the Belchers after he runs away, we can see him staring longingly at them. He misses and craves the kind of family dynamic the Belchers have, one where they are loving, tight-knit, and happy. Poor Rudy just wanted a break from his awkward family dynamics, and consciously or not, he was drawn to one of the places where he felt the safest. The Belchers may not have much, but they do have a loving family, inviting all their kids’ friends and making them feel wanted. I also like what the Belcher family does to make Rudy feel welcome and comfortable in their house. For example, Linda comes out to Rudy instead of making Rudy come inside, and they have Rudy sit in one of their regular seats while Gene sits in a spare seat. They also make sure he has someone to take him back to dinner, and Louise, noticing how upset Rudy is, offers to walk him back and be his dinner date for moral support. This is probably another reason why Rudy was drawn to the Belchers. They are a family that works to make their kids and their kids’ friends (including Rudy) feel happy and comfortable. This is unlike Rudy’s family, in which he felt it was his job to make his parents happy.

I also liked how Louise walked Rudy to the restaurant and was his dinner date. Louise tries hard to put on this “tough girl” persona, but she is more empathetic and intuitive to other people’s feelings than she would care to admit. She was the first to notice Rudy outside the restaurant; she was the first one to catch on when Rudy let slip he was at dinner with his family, and after seeing how nervous Rudy is about his new family situation, she offers to accompany him to dinner to calm his nerves. Even though Louise likes to act tough, she cares more about the people close to her than she lets on.

In summary, “The Amazing Rudy” shows how divorce can affect kids. While it often feels like it’s your job to fix the issues in your family, it’s not. You can’t. It’s impossible. They’re your parents’ issues. They’re the ones who started them, so it’s their job to fix it. You can’t make people fix anything they don’t want to fix. All you can do is focus on your own mental health and set boundaries with the people in your life. And it helps to have a friend like Louise by your side.

Nicole is a senior at the University of Connecticut studying communication and gerontology. Her hobbies include crocheting, writing, playing the flute, and biking. Her favorite TV shows are Bob's Burgers, Bluey, and The Simpsons.