Poor, boy-crazy Tina. It’s bad enough that her heart gets yanked around by that beautiful idiot Jimmy Pesto Jr. (who happens to be the son of her father’s restaurateur arch enemy), but in the season 5 episode of Bob’s Burgers called “Tina and the Real Ghost,” she’s also dissed by her spectral crush, Jeff.
Or maybe, like Tina’s brother Gene suggests, she was just catfished by a shoebox?
That seems like a weird place to keep a ghost, but when an exterminator comes to Bob’s and senses “an otherworldly presence” in the basement, he says the family needs to make contact with the entity, and “catch it and get rid of it.” A shoebox is a fitting “vessel,” because you can just throw it away in the trash. Exorcism was never so easy!
Of course Tina’s mom Linda is all about this, and busts out the Ouija board. She and the kids sit down to talk to the being haunting their basement, armed with their chosen vessel. “It used to hold the world’s most comfortable heels, now it’ll hold a ghost,” Linda says.
Everyone puts their hands on the Ouija board’s planchette, which wondrously begins to slide when they ask the spirit questions. The group argues over who’s moving it, but in truth, none of them has to consciously be moving it. Ouija boards operate by something called the ideomotor effect, in which small, unconscious muscle movements cause motion. So the people touching the planchette are moving it, but not intentionally.
Through the Ouija board, the entity reveals itself to be a 13-year-old boy named Jeff. Once the family decides he’s been captured in the shoebox, Linda tries to dispose of it, as instructed, but Tina protests. “You can’t just throw Jeff out!” she says. “Ghosts are people, too.” Somehow naming the “ghost” has created an attachment, a pitfall laboratory researchers and farmers already know to avoid with their animals.
It only ramps up when Tina takes Jeff (and the Ouija board) to school, where everyone starts ascribing attributes to her new, disembodied beau. Jimmy Jr.’s friend Zeke sees Jeff as a prankster who needs some guy time. Social climber Tammy sees Jeff as a chance to raise her station, and fakes Jeff’s confession on a steamy bathroom mirror that he’d rather be with her.
“He’s buried, not married!” Zeke shouts.
By the end of the episode (even before her sister Louise admits she had been moving the Ouija board’s planchette), Tina figures out that everybody had just been seeing whatever they wanted to in “Jeff.” Zeke wanted to believe there’s more than just this life. Gene wanted someone to watch Kitchen Nightmares with. And Tammy just wanted something she could take from Tina, because she’s a terrible person.
The hidden gem of “Tina and the Real Ghost” is Bob’s interaction with the “ghost hunting” crew that appears equally as mysteriously in the restaurant as soon as word gets out. Amid phrases like “beta wave test” and “subsonic metaphysical phenomena,” the pair pick up “EMF traces.” Which shouldn’t be too surprising, since we’re surrounded by electricity all the time.
“It could be cell phone interference. Or an AM radio. Or a microwave,” one of the ghost hunters admits. “But I bet it’s a ghost.” Bob’s characteristically dismayed at first, until he learns what the proprietors of plenty of “haunted” locations have figured out — ghost tourism sells.
“We have at least one in every booth!” Bob tells a customer.
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