A Tax Refund leads everyone on Earth to go a little spending crazy.
Zapp Brannigan (Billy West) leads Earth to victory over the Spiderians of Tarantulon 6, seizing trillions in the spoils of war. Richard Nixon (West) decides to give every citizen of Earth $300 due to literal Voodoo Economists. Each member of the Planet Express crew gets one $300 bill and they all spend it in different ways: Leela (Katey Sagal) decides to swim with a whale, Scruffy (David Herman) gets a $300 haircut, Zoidberg (West) tries to live like a wealthy person, Fry (West) decides to buy 100 cups of coffee, Bender (John DiMaggio) plans to buy a cigar, but instead buys burglars tools in order to steal a better cigar, Professor Farnsworth (West) buys stem cells which make him look younger, Hermes (Phil LaMarr) buys his son Bamboo Boogie Boots, stilts which immediately malfunction, and Amy (Lauren Tom) buys a talking tattoo. Kif (Maurice LaMarche) buys Amy a watch which falls into the mouth of the same killer whale Leela is scheduled to swim with later in the week. The Professor also meets a young woman named April (Tress MacNeille) and starts a romance with her while pretending to be 25.
Kif’s depressed about losing the watch, but Leela agrees to wear a suit filled with rotten fish for her swim so that the whale will eat the fish and vomit up the watch. Bender breaks into the cigar shop to steal the Grand Cigar, but is caught on camera and pursued by Smitty and URL (West and DiMaggio). Leela’s swimsuit gets eaten, along with the rotten fish, resulting in Mushu the whale vomiting up the watch, but Kif gets arrested for taking museum property. Zoidberg tries multiple “rich person” activities, but rejects them all. Fry becomes addicted to caffeine.
The staff all attend a party to celebrate Zapp’s victory at the Silk Surplus. Zoidberg tries to buy some art, but finds out that $300 is not that much. Kif gets free when it’s revealed that he was being kept for the ambergris that covers his body. Bender lights his super-expensive cigar. The Professor and April reveal that he is super old and she is heavier than she appears, but they continue to be attracted to each other. Hermes and his son, Dwight (LaMarr), still stuck on their Bamboo Boogie Boots, end up breaking into the party and knocking Bender’s cigar into the silk tapestries, setting the whole party ablaze. Everyone is about to die when Fry drinks his 100th cup of coffee and enters a state of hyper-enlightenment, allowing him to evacuate everyone at super-speed, though they don’t realize it’s him. Out back, everyone finds Zoidberg cooking hotdogs and they all enjoy a meal while saying that they got a few good stories out of the tax rebate.
This episode is Futurama’s version of the celebrated The Simpsons episode “22 Short Films About Springfield,” which itself was based on the film Thirty-Two Short Films About Glenn Gould. In this, rather than just observing how a normal day in the lives of all of the characters on Futurama would go, the episode focuses on what the cast would do when given a windfall. Notably, none of them actually try to invest the money, both because that would be boring and also because the purpose of a tax stimulus is to encourage spending.
The strength of this episode is how flawlessly they keep each story feeding into the next one. The plotlines shift according to geography, theme, or even the previous line spoken, which makes everything feel extremely cohesive and allows for a large amount of storytelling within a short time. Each of the stories explores a different aspect of the characters, ranging from Bender’s thievery to Farnsworth’s amorous ambitions to Leela finally doing something spontaneous. It’s a nice way of giving us a large number of character moments in a short time. Perhaps the most impressive thing is that at the end of the episode, Fry gets superpowers and it somehow feels completely earned and not like a cheap deus ex machina. I think it’s because everyone secretly believes caffeine can give you hyperfocus rather than a coronary.
Overall, this is definitely one of the best Futurama episodes, mostly because it doesn’t really feel like any other episode.
The Whale Biologist. He’s one of my favorite unnamed characters. Everything we learn about him just makes him more hilarious and absurd. First, we find out that he hates whales, especially Mushu, but refuses to explain why he became a whale biologist. Second, he believes that whales kill for at least five reasons, one of which is just for fun. Third, he believes that his job requires him to be brutally and needlessly honest, but excuses it by saying “I’m a whale biologist.” Fourth, law enforcement has to listen to him due to his position. Last, he is intensely devoted to Aquarium property, including ambergris, a whale byproduct. His character has so many hidden depths… because whale biologist.
See you next week, meatbags.
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