This is an episode that I basically forgot existed, despite it being one of the funniest episodes in the series. It focuses on the fall and somehow rise of Zapp Brannigan (Billy West)
Bender (John DiMaggio) and Fry (West) are playing futuristic holo-chess, which Bender wins by having his pieces attack Fry. Later, the Professor (West) sends Fry, Leela (Katey Sagal), and Bender on a delivery to the headquarters of the Democratic Order of Planets (DOOP), a futuristic United Nations that orbits the Neutral Planet. The crew tries to deliver the oversized ribbon-cutting scissors, but Zapp Brannigan intercepts and arrests them for being part of a plot organized by the Neutral Planet, which Zapp hates for increasingly stupid reasons. However, since Zapp was supposed to use those scissors to cut the ribbon, he decides to improvise with the ship’s laser, which destroys the station. Zapp is then court-martialed, but so is the innocent Kif Kroker (Maurice LaMarche) due to Zapp being a jerk.
The pair are now homeless and briefly replicate scenes from Midnight Cowboy before showing up at Planet Express begging Leela for a job. Leela refuses, but the Professor overhears and hires them to distract from their horrible safety record. While Kif immediately proves to be extremely competent, he won’t stop complaining about Zapp to Leela’s constant irritation. Zapp, meanwhile, is even less competent than Fry and Bender, while also feeding into their laziness. Soon, Zapp convinces the pair to mutiny against Leela so that they can get drunk in their underwear.
This works until Zapp resumes his plans to attack the Neutral Planet, choosing a suicide bombing will result in everyone dying but him. Zapp takes Kif with him, after Leela forces Kif to go. Leela works with Fry and Bender to prevent the crash. At the hearing, Zapp tells the DOOP that he heroically prevented the attack, something that Leela confirms, even “the parts that made no sense,” just to get rid of him. Zapp and Kif are reinstated and the crew returns to the status quo.
I love this episode for the amount of time they spend on the complete idiocy of Zapp Brannigan. It’s basically comedy gold, including his wonderful accusation that the safety scissors could be used to attack the Yarn people of Nylar 4. It’s a perfect example of Futurama absurdity.
Zapp in this episode is shown to not only be incompetent and lazy, but also to have an insidious nature that manages to save him. He has no qualms about leading a mutiny against Leela and lies blatantly to get the others to support it, but then complains when a completely reasonable mutiny is held in response to him trying to kill the crew and millions of innocents. He hates the Neutral Planet more than his enemies because he’s paranoid about what they’re up to and completely unfamiliar with the concept of Neutrality. When he is confronted at the end with his attempted attack, he responds by concocting such an over-the-top lie that most of the people seem to buy it out of belief that no one would make such a stupid lie and then Leela supports it solely because she doesn’t want to deal with Zapp anymore. If you haven’t met someone who tries the “Big Lie” technique… you’re probably the one doing the lie.
This episode is also the debut of the Hyper-Chicken (LaMarche), who is another of the best characters in the series. He’s a completely incompetent pastiche of a Southern Matlock-esque lawyer… although apparently he’s supposed to be Jimmy Stewart from Anatomy of a Murder, which predates Matlock. Having been a lawyer in Florida, I can tell you that there are indeed lawyers who play up being the “humble country lawyer” for the jury, despite the fact that they are actually anything but. Matt Groening apparently hates this character due to the simplicity of the joke (he’s just a chicken and therefore the basis of chicken puns, but there is no actual joke about Chickens and Lawyers), but frankly, I find those jokes Finger-Licking good.
Everything the Neutral President says is basically perfect.
When asked to give the opening speech at the DOOP headquarters, he says “I have no strong feelings one way or the other.”
When he is told of Zapp’s suspicious acts, he responds “All I know is my gut says: “Maybe.”
When told of the attack, “If I don’t survive, tell my wife ‘Hello.’”
It’s insane to think of someone being this truly neutral, but it’s more insane to think that this is the guy who runs the planet. You’d think that “President” implies that he ran in a democratic election, something that usually requires a platform (insert laugh track), but apparently his platform is that he doesn’t do anything… something that is itself a platform. Still, I think it’s great that he subverts every opportunity for drama.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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NEXT – Episode 16: A Head in the Polls
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