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Recap / Bob's Burgers S3E16 "Topsy"

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Determined to stick it to a Thomas Edison-obsessed substitute, Louise sets out to recreate his infamous elephant electrocution.

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  • AcCENT upon the Wrong SylLABle: Mr. Dinkler is a Thomas Edison impersonaTOR and educaTOR.
  • Adult Fear: During the live reenactment, Tina, who’s playing Topsy, nearly gets electrocuted for real. Fortunately, Tina was just acting, but her family and the audience clearly thought she actually died for a few seconds. The sounds in the Belchers' voices when they see her are nothing but pure panic.
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  • All for Nothing: Jeremy gets Louise banned from the science fair so he can be the only one doing an Edison-based project. Then Dinkler takes a liking to Gene's love ballad idea and backs it, meaning Jeremy doesn't even get what he wants.
  • All There in the Manual: Mr. Ambrose debuts in this episode, but his name is only mentioned in the credits.
  • Artistic License – History: The episode repeats a popular myth that Edison used Topsy as part of his War of the Currents with George Westinghouse and Nikola Tesla.note  In fact, the War of the Currents occurred a decade prior, and Edison himself played little role in Topsy's death, beyond authorizing his movie company to film the execution (and Edison Company equipment was used in the electrocution). However, Edison had publicly electrocuted various other animals prior to Topsy, so Louise's portrayal of Edison remains accurate in spirit.
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  • Award Snub: In-universe; Bob is appalled that Andy and Ollie's project (basically just Andy ripping hairs out of Ollie's head) somehow got second place at the science fair.
  • Beautiful Singing Voice: Mr. Fischoeder and Gayle are cast as the singing voices for Edison and Topsy respectively, primarily because their singing is this.
  • Brick Joke: The Pesto twins are introduced with Andy ripping out Ollie's hair as a science project, with at least a hundred hairs plucked out of the side of his head. When they're next on-screen, Ollie is missing a lot more hair. By the end of the episode, when they somehow get second place at the science fair, Ollie is nearly bald.
  • Broken Tears: After Louise exposes Edison as Topsy's killer at the science fair, Dinkler makes a failed attempt to handwave it before he runs off crying, his idol's image permanently tarnished.
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  • Disney Death: For a brief moment, it truly appears as if Tina got fatally electrocuted by the generator. Then it turns out she's just acting.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Louise suggests using one of Gene's stuffed animals for the electrocution, as she's not willing to risk Tina's life to get revenge. It's Tina who insists on being there herself.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: While Gene and Tina practice their show, Gene tells Tina that she can’t sing good. When Tina asks him if he can sing, Gene sings the first few lyrics and quickly realizes that he's not any better at singing than Tina.
  • Funny Background Event: An angry Nikola Tesla is visible in the background during the end credits.
  • Hidden Depths: This is the episode that reveals Gene's obsession with music isn't just limited to playing fart sounds on his keyboard—he's able to compose and lyricize a song that is acknowledged in-universe as amazing, and probably wouldn't sound half-bad on Broadway. Bob and Linda are both impressed.
    Bob: Wow. Did Gene write this?
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: In-universe; Dinkler views Edison as a hero and completely ignores his less-admirable traits, like electrocuting animals. Maintaining this facade is the reason he tries to ban Louise from the science fair.
  • Incestuous Casting: In-universe. During the musical, siblings Gene and Tina play love interests Thomas Edison and Topsy.
  • Interrupted Intimacy: Mr. Fischoeder and Gayle are caught making out behind the curtain at the science fair.
  • Interspecies Romance: Electric Love: the greatest love ballad between a human and elephant Wagstaff has ever seen.
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Jeremy is a stuck-up snob and a selfish dick who only gets Louise banned to be the sole Edison project at the science fair, but Louise's project is pretty dangerous.
  • Kick the Dog: Mr. Dinkler might have been right to ban baking-soda volcanoes and stop Louise from recycling last year's entry, but knocking the model volcano out of her hands and "accidentally" stomping it to pieces was still a dick move.
  • Kick the Son of a Bitch: Dinkler is mortified and driven to tears after Louise tarnishes his idol's image in front of a live audience. But given that he's been a complete ass the entire episode, that Louise isn't just slandering his idol (Edison really did do the thing Louise exposes him for), and that there's other things to prioritize (namely how Tina literally could have died in front of an audience), nobody in-universe or out feels bad for him.
  • Musicalis Interruptus: Tina's attempts at singing are interrupted twice, first by Gayle and then by Mr. Fischoeder. The third time, Gene cuts her off and tells her she's bad at singing.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Louise is horrified that her efforts to humiliate Dinkler with the Topsy execution reenactment, while successful, almost killed Tina.
  • No, You: When Bob asks Louise to do a new project for the science fair this year.
    Bob: Shouldn't you just do a new project like you're supposed to?
    Louise: Why?
    Bob: Um, I don't know, to learn something?
    Louise: You learn something.
    Bob: (goes back to reading his newspaper) Okay honey, good luck with your volcano.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: Louise succeeds in getting revenge on Dinkler, even after getting banned from the science fair, and Edison's image is ruined in front of a live audience. But in the process, Tina nearly got fatally electrocuted, and for a second everyone actually thinks she did. While nobody actually got hurt, it's clear that Louise believes the mere chance that Tina could have been hurt was not worth revenge on Dinkler.
  • Romance on the Set: In-universe; singing "Electric Love" in a closed-off area quickly leads Mr. Fischoeder (Edison's singing voice) and Gayle (Topsy's singing voice) to start making out. They're caught in the act when the curtain they're hiding behind falls.
  • Sadist Teacher: Mr. Dinkler is a complete prick of a teacher. Also, despite being an Edison fanatic, he hates his hero's negative aspects like electrocuting animals which is the reason he tries to stop Louise.
  • Science Fair: The plot revolves around one. Louise wants to do the cliché volcano model she did last year, but substitute Mr. Dinkler bans them. After finding out about the Topsy execution, Louise decides to do a live staging of it as her submission to humiliate Dinkler. Bob and Linda even get in on it by trying to pitch "Spice-ceps" (a spice holder around the biceps) and "Spicerack" (a spice holder around the chest), respectively.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: At the science fair, Gayle proclaims that she's finally found love. Her would-be lover, Mr. Fischoeder, immediately leaves, never to be seen with Gayle again.
  • Shaped Like Itself: Louise describes her papier-mache volcano as "volcano-shaped".
  • Shout-Out: After realizing he and Tina can't sing, Gene decides to have someone else provide vocals while he and Tina lip-sync. Or, in his words, they'll "Milli Vanilli" the performance.
  • Shown Their Work:
    • Thomas Edison did indeed kill an elephant, though the episode's portrayal does take some artistic license (such as making Edison's involvement much more direct).
    • Tina correctly mentions that Topsy was chosen for the execution because she had trampled a few people.
    • Shortly before running off crying, Dinkler indirectly admits that Edison executed more animals than just Topsy ("So he electrocuted animals"). Edison had in fact publicly electrocuted animals (such as dogs and cats) prior to the Topsy incident to "prove" the danger of alternating current.
  • Skewed Priorities: Dinkler, so many times.
    • While Jeremy has a point in that Louise's project is dangerous, Dinkler cares more that she's trying to sully Edison's "good" name.
    • When Tina's acting makes it look as though she's been fatally electrocuted, the audience and especially the Belchers are understandably relieved to see she's okay. Dinkler, however, is more focused on trying to clear Edison's name (which doesn't even succeed).
    • Dinkler's not the only one. Fischoeder and Gayle are too busy making out behind a curtain to even notice something happened (especially concerning given Gayle's niece was involved).
  • The Unreveal: The episode ends before revealing whether it was Spice-ceps or Spicerack that won the blue ribbon.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Bob is the only one who notices (or indeed seems to care) that Gene and Tina sound like Mr. Fischoeder and Gayle when they sing.
    Linda: It's science, Bob. You're not supposed to understand it.

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