Futurama Fridays – S3E22 “The 30% Iron Chef”

Bender decides to be the greatest chef in the universe without a sense of taste, a title formerly belonging to Guy Fieri.

SUMMARY

Bender (John DiMaggio) is watching Good Morning Earth with Morbo (Maurice LaMarche) and Linda (Tress MacNeille) and special celebrity guest chef Elzar (John DiMaggio). Desiring to be a cook, Bender tries to make brunch for the crew as the Professor (Billy West), shows Zoidberg (West) and Fry (Still West) a bottle with a tiny ship in it. Zoidberg promptly breaks it after the rest of the crew leave the room to go to brunch. It’s revealed that Bender’s cooking is completely inedible, something he overhears the crew complaining about. Hurt, he runs away and tries to convince Elzar to teach him to cook. Elzar refuses, so Bender joins a group of hobos riding the “space rails.” At the same time, Zoidberg attempts to frame Fry for breaking the Professor’s bottle.

S3EM - 1Morbo
I would watch this show every day.

Eventually, Bender lands at a hobo jungle named “Bumbase Alpha,” where he meets a homeless cook named Helmut Spargle (David Herman), who used to be a celebrity chef and the teacher of Elzar, until Elzar replaced him. In order to get revenge on Elzar, Helmut trains Bender to cook. Bender finally attempts to prove his skills by making a meal for Helmut, but the food is so awful that it kills him. Before he dies, the old cook gives Bender a diamond vial containing the “essence of pure flavor.” Bender challenges Elzar to a battle on the program Iron Cook. Meanwhile, the Professor falls for Zoidberg’s ploy to frame Fry via fake confession and an “I Hate Bottles” shirt, so Fry pays him $10 for the broken bottle. Zoidberg begins to feel guilty.

S3EM - 2Training.png
If they’re literally -5 lbs, they shouldn’t just float, they should fly.

On Iron Cook, Bender and Elzar are ordered to cook a meal with the secret ingredient of Soylent Green (probably not the one that’s made of people… probably). Elzar makes a delicious looking meal that includes its own bribe, while Bender’s food resembles burnt piles of mud. Bender secretly adds a few drops of the “essence of pure flavor” to his dishes. Despite the horrifying appearance, everyone agrees Bender’s dish is superior. Bender gives a speech which leads Zoidberg to confess to framing Fry, trying to kill himself (what the hell, show?), then framing Fry for his suicide attempt breaking a sword. The Professor reveals that the vial contained only water… laced with LSD. 

END SUMMARY

This episode is one perfect example of how Futurama can take a tired trope and make it hilarious. This is the traditional hero’s journey a la Star Wars and Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, except that everything in it is broken. 

S3EM - 3Monomyth.jpg
If your story doesn’t follow this, congrats, you’re averting the most common trope.

Bender’s motivation for going on the journey is based on him supposedly being offended that his friends (accurately) describe his food as horrible. This is less a call to adventure and more just being petty. He tries to find a mentor only to have Elzar refuse to teach him, which Bender accepts, and for Helmut to teach him but not improve his abilities at all. He undergoes a challenge against Elzar and wins, but unlike the monomyth, he’s completely unchanged at the end. He gives a speech indicating that he’s realized that fame is unimportant, only for it to be revealed that he’s recorded it and forcing everyone to watch it repeatedly. He hasn’t even become a better cook, he just has a vial of LSD that will never be referenced again. I honestly think this kind of episode inspired the version of the journey that Dan Harmon uses as a model for Rick and Morty that I covered in “The Ricks Must Be Crazy.”

  1. The main character
  2. notices a small problem,
  3. and make a major decision.
  4. This changes things
  5. to some satisfaction, but
  6. there are consequences
  7. that must be undone
  8. and they must admit the futility of change.

Admittedly, the subplot about Zoidberg breaking the bottle and framing Fry is pretty weak and honestly only seems to be in there because they wanted to have Zoidberg do some Vaudevillian slapstick with the bottle. He does deliver the fun line of “Oh, no! Professor will hit me. But if Zoidberg fixes it, then perhaps gifts!” but aside from that, not much to it.

Overall, the Bender plot is strong enough and has enough fun elements to make this episode a solid finale for Season 3.

FAVORITE JOKE

I think it’s the future railroad names. The ones we see are: “Baltimore and Orion,” which is a take off of “Baltimore and Ohio,” the famous B&O Railroad from Monopoly; “Wrath-of-Conrail,” a reference to the rail system that serves the Northeast US; and “Starlight Express,” a reference to the musical about a steam engine which is performed on roller skates. I dunno why, but those make me laugh every time.

S3EM - 4Conrail

Well, that’s it for this week.

See you next week, meatbags.

PREVIOUS – Episode 53: Future Stock

NEXT – Episode 55: Kif Gets Knocked Up A Notch

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

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