Zapp Brannigan decides to date his ex’s mom.
Leela (Katey Sagal) hosts a party for her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Unfortunately, as Leela talks about their lives, her mother, Munda (Tress MacNeille) becomes angry at her husband, Morris (David Herman), for never taking her into outer space. She’d always dreamed of seeing the universe, going so far as to get a degree in alien languages, while Morris just wanted to surf the sewers. This leads them to divorce quickly. Leela takes her mother out with Fry and Bender (Billy West and John DiMaggio) where they run into Zapp Brannigan (West), with whom Leela had a one-night-stand. Twice. Zapp almost starts an intergalactic war, but Munda’s knowledge of languages saves him. They soon begin dating, infuriating Leela. Zapp even hires Munda as his translator so they can travel the universe together. Morris goes on a surfing trip with Bender and Fry in order to cope with the divorce.
Leela attempts to break up Zapp and Munda by seducing him, but he rejects her and proposes to Munda, who accepts. Fry convinces Leela to accept Munda’s decision and support her, but when Zapp reveals that he is planning to massacre a peace summit, Munda calls off the wedding. Unfortunately, she tells the aliens what Zapp intended, so they start shooting up the ship. The Nimbus’s controls are disabled, but Morris arrives and uses his surfing skills to help the ship ride the aliens’ energy wave attacks. Morris and Munda then remarry.
This episode has one of the strangest title choices in the show’s entire run. “Zapp Dingbat” is a reference to Zapf Dingbats, a wingdings-like font composed entirely of symbols, as well as a reference to the fact that Zapp is an idiot. I’m thinking that the fact that it’s about a font relates to Munda’s study of alien language like the symbolic languages that the show used, but I still find it a bizarre choice. The working title of the episode was “Blue Munda,” which, honestly, is a much better choice. Blue Munda would be a reference to Blue Monday, a day in January which is considered the most depressing day of the year, which would reference the fact that Munda is depressed and wants change. It was also a song by New Order that contains multiple lines that could reference this episode. It’s like they had a solid idea then went with a bizarre pun instead.
The idea of one of your exes, even just a person you had a brief fling with, dating a parent is probably horrifying to almost everyone. This episode combines that with a story about parents splitting up due to their differences. The former plotline feels a little forced, particularly since everyone in Leela’s circle of friends is aware that Zapp is an incompetent idiot and Munda doesn’t seem to be a fool herself. However, the latter actually makes a decent amount of sense. Munda has been dreaming of getting out of the sewers for most of her life, whereas Morris always seems to be happiest at home or with his friends. That’s been apparent since the reveal of their characters and throughout the series since.
Overall, though, it’s an okay episode.
While I don’t think there are a lot of great stand-outs in this episode, I will say I always chuckle when Leela says “I don’t want to put a rat in your face cage, or whatever you kids say nowadays…” to her father. First, referring to her father, who is going through a midlife crisis as a kid is pretty funny, particularly since he just asked if he could call her “dude.” Second, Leela, who is herself not that old, using the phrase “whatever you kids say nowadays,” is ridiculous. Lastly, though, “rat in your face-cage,” which has never been an expression, is a reference to one of the most infamous scenes in George Orwell’s 1984, in which Winston Smith is threatened with having rats put in a cage around his cage which ends up breaking him of his independent worldview. Given that she wants her father to quit his new lifestyle and return to his previous state with Munda, this is an apt expression.
See you next week, meatbags.
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