The Planet Express crew finds a delicious foodstuff and strikes it rich… right until the bill comes due.
Bender, Fry, and Leela (John DiMaggio, Billy West, Katey Sagal) are on the way back from a delivery only to realize that they have no food. After foraging on a planet they discover tiny motionless animals that resemble chicken nuggets. Upon trying one, Leela finds that they’re delicious and the crew takes a load of them back to Earth. They decide to sell them under the name “Popplers,” because that is one of the only Trademarkable names left. They’re quickly discovered by “Fishy” Joe Gilman (Maurice LaMarche), who offers to sell them at his restaurant “Fishy Joe’s.” They soon make a fortune, selling millions of the creatures. The only seeming downside is protests by Free Waterfall, Jr., an annoying hippie (Phil Hendrie). However, Leela finds a week-old Poppler (Lauren Tom) that ends up calling her “Mama.”
Leela tries to stop people from eating the now-revealed-to-be-sentient creatures, but Fishy Joe refuses. Then, the Omicronians invade Earth again and inform the world that the Popplers are actually baby Omicronians. To make things even, they ask to eat 198 billion people, but Zapp Brannigan (West) and Kif (LaMarche) negotiate Lrrr, ruler of Omicron Persei 8 (LaMarche), down to just one human… Leela.
At the eating, Zapp tries to disguise an orangutan as Leela, but Free Waterfall, Jr. saves the ape by exposing the ruse. Leela is sent to be eaten by Lrrr, but the baby Poppler, now called Jrrr, tries to stop him. Lrrr instead eats the hippie, which gets him super high, leading the Omicronians to leave. There’s a celebratory feast, but Leela is offended at eating dolphin, because they’re intelligent. Bender counters that this dolphin played the instant lottery.
This is one of the bigger continuity-referencing episodes thus far in the series. We have Zapp Brannigan, Kif, and the Omicronians, all featured with relatively little re-introduction. Additionally, this episode gets referenced several times in the future, including having Jrrr become recurring in the later seasons. It’s also the first episode that tells us Leela’s and Fry’s first names, Turanga and Phillip (though Turanga is actually Leela’s family name). It’s fitting, then, that this episode is consistently listed among the best episodes of the show.
Part of what makes this episode so good is that it ratchets everything up to 10. First, the crew finds the Popplers, then quickly starts making a fortune off of them by selling them at Fishy Joe’s. Second, while the title promises a problem with Popplers, it’s hard to guess that the problem is that THEY’RE SENTIENT BABIES. Third, the response from the Omicronians is complete genocide, which is reduced down to Leela. Fourth, in the stinger, it darkly parodies ideas of eating certain animals by having it be okay to eat a dolphin as long as it was a particularly stupid dolphin.
The whole episode is a parody of all the discussions about ethical food consumption. I remember some talk on TV from the year before this episode aired, most of which just kinda involved people yelling at each other about the inevitability of eating otters and pandas versus the inevitability of eating mung beans for every meal. This episode points out both of the extremes: The Hippies trying to force a lion to eat tofu versus Fishy Joe’s assertion that we only don’t eat humans because “it tastes lousy.” In the meantime, we have Leela who is actually trying to find a reasonable ethical compromise.
The Fishy Joe’s Poppler jingle.
It’s absurdly honest about the product and is sung to the “Sailor’s Hornpipe” song, which is the common intro to the Popeye the Sailor Man song. The lyrics go:
Pop a Poppler in your mouth,
When you come to Fishy Joe’s,
What they’re made of is a mystery,
Where they come from, no one knows,
You can pick ’em,
You can lick ’em,
You can chew ’em,
You can stick ’em,
If you promise not to sue us,
You can shove one up your nose.
I mean, it’s openly stating that the product is completely unknown and that the company doesn’t really care about any consumer beyond avoiding lawsuits. Despite this, it’s set to a montage that shows them being sold by the millions.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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NEXT – Episode 29: Anthology of Interest I
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