Fry dooms humanity to die in a plague. This is timely.
Fry (Billy West) catches a cold from an ice fishing trip, recalling the time that he fell through the ice when fishing with his father Yancy (John DiMaggio) and got sick. However, it turns out that the common cold had been eliminated several centuries prior, meaning that humanity has now lost all immunities to the disease. The Planet Express building is quarantined as everyone gets sick and Bender (DiMaggio) is asked to take care of the crew. He quickly gets fed up with feeding people and breaks out of the quarantine, infecting the surrounding EMTs, medical staff, and police. It quickly starts to infect everyone in New New York and everyone blames Fry for it. Richard Nixon (West) orders that the entire island of Manhattan be shrink-wrapped and thrown into the Sun in order to eliminate the virus completely. Farnsworth (West) reveals that he can make a vaccine, but they’ll have to find an unmutated strain of the virus, which only exists in Fry. In order to get it from him, the Professor will have to grind Fry into a paste.\
Flashing back to when he was getting over a cold as a kid, it’s revealed that Fry, having been put down by his father, decided to try and win the Science Fair and defeat his rival, Josh Gedgie (David Herman). The winner’s experiment would be sent into space. Fry tried to train his guinea pig to be an astronaut while Gedgie ended up winning by doing a study on virus propagation.
Fry realizes there’s a sample of the virus on the Nerd Search satellite containing the science fair winners and the crew busts out of containment to find it. They find it on the moon Enceladus and discover that Gedgie’s virus was so well-preserved that it is still viable. Farnsworth successfully makes the vaccine. The episode ends on a flashback to ice fishing with Fry and his father and a sincere moment of bonding between them.
This is one of those Futurama episodes that kind of sucker-punches you with the emotional finale. It’s particularly surprising since Fry’s father, Yancy, has always been such a hard-ass towards his son. This episode recontextualizes all of the times he seemed to abandon Fry to his future as Yancy really just having faith that Fry will be okay. I sometimes feel like this was part of the Comedy Central run’s attempts to rectify the more harsh parts of Fry’s backstory the way that “Bender’s Big Score” tried to soften the impact of Seymour’s fate. This would come up again in the next season towards the final run of the show with “Game of Tones,” where Fry gets to try and fix his relationship with his mom.
As for the future plot, I didn’t find it to be one of the funnier episodes, but the concept was actually pretty solid. There’s no advantage to developing antibodies if you aren’t exposed to disease, meaning that mothers won’t transfer antibodies to their children, so eventually resistance would break down. It’s a little ridiculous that there wouldn’t be any saved vaccines archived somewhere, but after a few centuries, particularly with the implied periods of Earth being overthrown by aliens, it’s not the craziest proposal.
Overall, I have a soft spot for this episode.
Fry’s experiment in the past was to try and make his guinea pig into an astronaut. During his attempts, we see a montage of Fry subjecting the pet to a number of simulations of NASA training exercises. First, he’s bounced into the air via trampoline and given a tiny parachute to land. Then, he’s shot into the air in a shampoo bottle. Then he’s spun around on top of a record player at high speed. During this montage, the song “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” keeps playing. At the end, the record that the guinea pig is riding is revealed to be the soundtrack to Mannequin, the film for which the song was written by Starship, the band that spun off of Jefferson Starship. So, the guinea pig’s space training montage is set to Starship, which I just find hilarious.
See you next week, meatbags.
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