Thanksgiving is the one American holiday with the same menu every year. The sides might vary, someone might bring a new recipe, but most celebrants are eating turkey. Not so for the Belchers this year. Linda wants to participate in the running of the turkeys, which is exactly what it sounds like, and the kids want to go to the carnival. Both events are part of the First Annual Fischoeder Turk-Tacular Turkey Town Festival. So instead of enjoying a family Thanksgiving, everyone leaves Bob home alone. What they don’t know is their rejection of holiday tradition is about to come bite them.
True to its name, “Dawn of the Peck” is a horror story. It’s unusual for Bob’s Burgers to go to the horror genre, but then again the second episode of the series riffs on The Shining when Bob’s stuck by himself in a crawl space. The Bob subplot in “Dawn of the Peck” is a spiritual sequel to that plot. At first he’s miffed nobody wants to celebrate Thanksgiving with him. Then he discovers the wonders of having the house to himself, like crossing his legs without judgment and talking to himself. “Hey, daytime whisky, wanna meet my CD collection?” From there it’s only a short wait until he’s drunkenly apologizing to the baster and deciding to make Thanksgiving dinner on his own.
The festival is where the real fun begins. The episode opens with the first two victims talking about the Turkey Trot turkeys outside their shipping container. When one of the guys tries to feed a turkey through the bars, his arm gets pulled in. Like the shark in Jaws, the turkeys get built up well before we ever see them. Mr. Fischoeder’s brother Felix talks about them being dangerous. Teddy says they don’t sound right. In a wide pan across the crowd, the only things moving are the doors on the cage as the flock prepares to escape. We never find out the full story on these incarcerated turkeys. Rumor has it they came from a bad farm, which is awfully suggestive. Felix confirms that a holiday-related turkey shortage forced him to improvise with some chickens and geese, too. As soon as the Turkey Trot begins, the birds go The Birds on the town. The best is a drive-by attack on the town roller-blader. As the birds remove his speedo, he helplessly shouts, “But I’m a vegan!”
Whether you believe, like Linda, that the town is being punished for abandoning Thanksgiving rituals, or whether you believe, like Teddy, that there’s a perfectly rational explanation for the onslaught of deranged birds, or whether you believe, like carnival worker Mickey, that this is simply the first step in a violent avian overthrow of the animal kingdom, the fact is a flock of wild birds turn the town into Dawn of the Dead. The stores are abandoned, and it’s every man for himself. And it’s hilarious.
Thanksgiving Dawn of the Dead is an inspired premise. There are some Christmas horror movies, but the most well-known Thanksgiving horror movie is the Eli Roth trailer in Grindhouse. Bob’s Burgers takes the opportunity to hit some surprising action and horror beats, though it’s almost always more funny than thrilling. When Bob starts listening to Donna Summer, there’s a short chase sequence at the festival where Linda, Teddy, and Mickey—armored in stuffed animals they’ve duct taped to themselves—race to rescue the kids on a spinning cups ride that won’t stop. “Dim All the Lights” plays as the turkeys gradually peck the stuffed animals away.
Next there’s a genuinely awesome hero moment for two characters who don’t often get to save the day. Unfortunately, the adults can’t stop the ride because Mickey threw the key into the ocean, lest the birds acquire the ride technology. So the adults have to try to reach the drunk operator override button in the center of the ride. They’re all too dizzy to get to the button themselves, but luckily Linda came to the race with a utility belt of nine cute mini water bottles they could throw. Her first try is a miss, and then we skip to her ninth and final water baby. She kisses it goodbye. “Little Timmy, you were always my favorite.” Louise begs her to let someone else throw, but Linda’s determined. She aims and fires, and all of a sudden Regular-Sized Rudy jumps into the air and alley-oops Little Timmy right at the button. Everything that happens on the spinning cups ride is a blast of animation with way more visual energy than usual for this show, but that moment is an all-out fist-pump.
Teddy gets a hero moment, too; he shows up with the Tickle Boat—a boat on wheels with giant animatronic hands that was shut down after it killed a guy—to drive everyone to safety. Unfortunately Bob is still in danger, the one guy who wasn’t at the fair and therefore doesn’t know about the attack of the killer birds. As he enters the store, it’s totally abandoned, but he’s way too gone to notice the goose that surreptitiously passes behind him. In the poultry section, there’s a great scene of him in profile reaching forward to pick out a turkey. When he falls back on his heels and turns around, the animation reveals a cyclops turkey staring him down, like Michael Myers suddenly appearing in the mirror.
By the time he gets to the front of the store he sees his family and friends, but they’re surrounded by the deranged birds. Suddenly Linda realizes Teddy’s right. There is a scientific explanation: The birds lost their pecking order. So Linda cheerfully and ferociously pecks everyone in her group and then walks up to the cyclops turkey and pecks it. “I’m the alpha turkey!” she cheers. Even though Teddy’s right, it’s no coincidence that victory comes as the Belchers both reunite and prepare to cook the traditional Thanksgiving meal. Like many scary stories, this one’s an allegory. There’s danger in upsetting the natural order. And apparently that includes eating turkey with your loved ones on Thanksgiving. That’s awfully traditional for Bob’s Burgers, but who doesn’t value a little tradition?
Of course it wouldn’t be a horror story without one last sting. So we sit down with Mr. Fischoede and Felix, who hears something outside the window. As Felix slowly approaches the glass, his brother ramps up the tension by babbling about the wishbone, and in the last second before the credits, a chicken explodes through the window and attacks Felix.
The end. Or is it?
– When everyone’s leaving the house and Bob rants about not having Thanksgiving this year, they ask if they should pick up Chinese on the way home, and Bob squeaks, “Yes.” Bob’s so upset about this that his voice cracks.
– Gene sees someone at the Turkey Trot: “Nice stems!” It’s Teddy: “Thank you. I’m wearing hose to compress my varicose veins.” It’s nice to see Teddy keeping up his basic physical fitness!
– Teddy tells Linda his theory that the birds have no pecking order. She says, “Oh, that’s terrible. It’s like the ladies on The View!”
– After Rudy’s game-winning throw, he manages to get out, “Rudy one, Asthma zer—” before a coughing jag.
– An excerpt from Bob’s soliloquy-fight with the baster: “That’s classic you, turkey baster, classic you! Not fitting in the drawer. Deliberately not!”