It’s the grey goo scenario, but the goo is drunk off its nano-butt.
The Professor (Billy West) unveils his newest invention, the Banach-Tarski Dupla-Shrinker, a machine that can create two smaller copies of anything that it scans, and can be fueled by any other matter. The Professor asks Bender (John DiMaggio) to fold his sweaters, but Bender decides to duplicate himself so that each of his copies will only have to fold a single sweater. Bender places the Dupla-shrinker into his torso, eats a bunch of matter, then duplicates himself. Bender tells each of the smaller duplicates to fold the sweaters, but they don’t, instead just hanging out and drinking with Bender. The three join Fry (West) and Leela (Katey Sagal) on a delivery, where they mock a giant’s (Patton Oswalt) ugly appearance. Fry, naturally, tries to console the giant, which enrages it, making the crew have to escape. Back on Earth, Bender asks his duplicates for cigars, so they make copies of themselves using the copy of the scanner in their torsos to divide the work further. These four, similarly, keep finding reasons to divide themselves, resulting in Planet Express being overwhelmed by small Benders.
Bender is fine with the army of mini-hims, but the Professor explains that the Benders will keep duplicating until they consume the entire planet. The Planet Express crew hunt down all of the mini-Benders and believe they got them all, only to find that they missed one. That Bender quickly multiplies into a ton of subatomic Benders, which move as a grey goo. Eventually, the Bender army consumes all of the alcohol on Earth, which leads the Professor to hypothesize that they’ll soon die from lack of booze. However, the Benders start making alcohol directly at the molecular level, eliminating all the potable water on Earth. As a result of water becoming booze, the Earth gets wasted. The giant arrives on Earth and is insulted by all the drunks, leading him to go on a rampage. Fry asks Bender to save them, since he’s still sober. Bender contacts all the nano-Benders and tells them that he’ll fold the sweaters if they help him get rid of the giant. They form a giant bender and defeat the monster. Bender asks them to help him defeat other monsters, like poverty and disease, which leads them all to abandon Earth to avoid dealing with it. The day is saved, sort of.
I’ve always been a fan of media dealing with the Grey Goo scenario, because it seems like one of those inevitable threats in the future. There are more of them than you would think. As exemplified here, the Grey Goo scenario is the idea that a series of microscopic robots, able to alter matter on the subatomic level, could, in theory, duplicate to the point that they consume all of the available matter on Earth. It’s often viewed as a cautionary tale about the dangers of creating nanotechnology or artificial intelligence. This episode creates a humorous twist on a sci-fi apocalypse, something that is pretty much perfect for Futurama.
Perhaps the most bizarre thing in the episode that I keep coming back to is how Bender defines work. Bender views folding two sweaters as doing 2 things, whereas beating the giant is somehow only doing one-quintillionth of a thing, because the Benders all do it together. It’s like an embodiment of the idea that “The lazy man works hardest.”
Overall, not a bad episode. I do like Patton Oswalt’s portrayal of the giant with anger issues, although he doesn’t get used enough.
In a rarity for the series, I think the best joke is the device that drives the episode, the Banach-Tarski Dupla-Shrinker. The name is a reference to the Banach-Tarski paradox, which states that if you split an object up into a finite number of pieces composed of an infinite number of sets of points, then you can reassemble the object into two separate copies of itself that are equal in size to the original. Obviously, we cannot get this to work in reality because of conservation of matter. This episode would seem to solve that by having Bender consume matter in order to make the clones. While instinctively you might think that you’d have to use the material of a full-sized Bender in order to make 2 half-sized copies, that’s not the case. Since each of the clones is ½ of each of the previous generation’s dimensions, that means each one is, in fact, only ⅛ of the volume (½ length x ½ width x ½ height = ⅛ volume). So, to create 2, you only need ¼ of the mass of the previous model. It’s a fun play on an existing math paradox, so it was a gimme for the best joke.
See you next week, meatbags.
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