Bender finds out he has a Star Trek mirror universe-esque twin, complete with goatee.
Bender (John DiMaggio), Fry (Billy West), and Leela (Katey Sagal) go to visit “Past-O-Rama,” a theme park which celebrates the 2000s, but with an insane amount of anachronisms, such as Einstein and Hammurabi being in a hot-air balloon. As they go through the park, seeing various exhibits of the hilarious inaccurate interpretation of the 20th century by the 31st, until finally Fry tries to drive a car, despite never having driven much, and runs into another Bending unit named Flexo (DiMaggio).
Flexo, who looks identical to Bender except for his goatee, quickly becomes close friends with Bender. Fry immediately comes to dislike him due to his pranks and insults, despite the fact that they’re basically the same as the ones that Bender does to him. The rest of the Planet Express crew, probably accurately, chalk this up to jealousy, but Fry insists that Flexo is evil.
Later, the Professor (West) reveals that Planet Express has been hired to deliver the crowning Jumbonium atom for the tiara that is awarded to the winner of the Miss Universe pageant. The Professor determines that they need more security, which results in him hiring Flexo as the extra muscle. Leela orders Bender, Fry, and Flexo to watch the atom in shifts. Fry tries to warn Bender that Flexo is going to steal it, but Bender accuses Fry of being prejudiced against people with goatees. Fry chooses to stay up and watch Flexo during Flexo’s shift, then falls asleep during his own. When he awakens during the ship’s arrival, Flexo has disappeared and the atom is gone. Fry thinks that Flexo is disguising himself as Bender, but it turns out that Bender just chose to cover his chin with things for random reasons.
They go to the pageant and report the theft to the pageant host, Bob Barker, who threatens to skin them if they don’t find the atom. Fry spots Flexo and Bender starts to fight him, resulting in a classic “I don’t know which one to shoot” scenario. Eventually, Leela knocks them both down and the atom is found… in Bender’s chest. It turns out that Flexo was going to tell Bob Barker about the theft. However, Barker mistakes Flexo for Bender and has him arrested, letting Bender get off scot-free.
This episode seems to have been crafted out of three fun ideas they came up with and just blended together. That’s probably actually how writing works on a show like this, but I’m impressed that it works so well.
I can’t go skip talking about the opening sequence featuring “Cop Department,” the parody of Cops that the show definitely needed to do. The exchange between the Centipede Man and the two cops, Smitty and Url (West and DiMaggio), is like watching an actual episode of the show.
Centipede man: C’mon, man, I didn’t fire off no laser.
Smitty: Then why is there a smoking hole in your ceiling, sir?
Centipede man: What? Crazy upstairs lady must’ve been shooting down.
URL: Sir, you’re on the top floor of this particular domicile.
If you haven’t seen Cops, this exchange is like 90% of the show. I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen at least one person in a trailer argue that his upstairs neighbor was shooting at him.
Past-O-Rama is pretty funny for the massive anachronisms, but it’s also an accurate shot at how the past is often butchered in media portrayals. Sure, the hover-bike riding cowboys harpooning mammoths are inaccurate, but are they less accurate than, say, putting Stonehenge on a coastal island in King Arthur, or that the Scots in Braveheart wear kilts which wouldn’t exist for centuries, or that the maps in Raiders of the Lost Ark show the country of “Thailand,” even though that country wouldn’t exist for 3 more years? Well, yes, they ARE less accurate, but that’s the point of satire. It’s just good to know that people 1000 years from now are just as bad at history as we are. I also love that Fry longs for the “good old days,” but is immediately mugged, something that apparently was so common in the “good old days” that he doesn’t realize that it isn’t an act. This is another great shot at the romanticization of the past that occurs in movies or theme parks: They either ignore the horrors of the past or they turn it into “part of the fun.”
What I mostly appreciate about the Bender/Flexo plotline is that everyone keeps pointing out that Flexo is not more evil than Bender and that Fry is just jealous. When Flexo appears to have actually committed the crime, it seems to vindicate Fry’s accusations, even if he was doing them for the wrong reasons, but this is perfectly undercut by the, unsurprising, revelation that Bender was the criminal. During the episode, Flexo’s dialogue, while annoying, is mostly harmless, as opposed to Bender who admits that he did “something” to the coffee Fry is drinking that resulted in him being on a police procedural reality show. And then didn’t warn Fry about it. The fact that they give Flexo the Star Trek “Mirror, Mirror” goatee (although, it’s not really the same shape as Evil Spock’s) just pokes fun at the cliche of an evil-twin plot.
The Miss Universe pageant is a joke that you knew they’d do eventually and I applaud the restraint in waiting until the second season. The aliens were appropriately creative as well. I also like that the winner is the Paramecium from Vega 4, a species that is consistently described as trying to wipe out humanity within the series.
Bender and Flexo bond over the fact that Bender’s Serial number is 2716057 and Flexo’s is 3370318, both of which are expressible as the sum of two cubes. Specifically, Flexo’s is 119^3 + 119^3 and Bender’s is 952^3 + (-951)^3. This is a clue from the beginning that Bender is the evil twin, because one of his cubes is negative. Additionally, the sum of two cubes is a reference to a number that comes up frequently in Futurama: 1729. See, 1729 became famous in mathematical circles because of a story related by Mathematician G.H. Hardy when visited the famous math prodigy Srinivasa Ramanujan in the hospital. Hardy came in cab 1729, which Hardy lamented was a boring number. Ramanujan countered that it was an interesting number, because it’s the smallest number which can be expressed as the sum of two cubes in two different ways: 1729 = 13 + 123 = 93 + 103. Basically, this is a great joke if you love math and math history… which I do.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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NEXT – Episode 20: Put Your Head on my Shoulders
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