Professor Farnsworth finds out that one of his heroes isn’t quite what he expected.
Fry (Billy West) goes on a gameshow called “Who Dares to be a Millionaire” and misses the first question, which affirms his stupidity to the crew. The Professor (West) explains that he particularly dislikes Fry’s stupidity because great minds have inspired him, including his hero Leonardo da Vinci. When Fry plays with da Vinci’s beard, he finds a scroll with da Vinci’s lost invention on it. Fy offers to help the Professor decode it, but is knocked out by a hoverbus when walking across the street. When he gets home two weeks later, the Professor has been working non-stop on the invention. Bender (John DiMaggio) arrives with “The Last Supper,” which the Professor analyzes, only to determine that St. James was a robot. The crew then heads to Rome to find the remains of the Saint.
In the catacombs under the Vatican, the crew finds a clockwork robot in St. James’ grave. The robot reveals that he is Animatronio (David Herman), who was built by da Vinci to be an artist’s model. Animatronio says that he was guarding da Vinci’s biggest secret for the Shadow Society of Intellectuals. Realizing that the Professor was not a member of the Society, the robot chooses to die rather than say more. The Professor deduces where the next clue is and the crew heads to the Trevi Fountain, where Bender finds a giant coin with the Vitruvian Man on it. They end up in the Pantheon where they find a hidden laboratory. Animatronio attacks the crew, having faked his death, but is knocked out by Bender after he reveals that all of the devices in the lab fit together. The Professor and Fry end up getting caught up by the mechanism which is revealed to be a spaceship that launches with them inside.
The pair land on Planet Vinci, where they are greeted by Leonardo da Vinci (Maurice LaMarche). It turns out he was an alien from a planet of hyper-intelligent humans, who look down on him because he is the stupidest person in the world. Leonardo explains that he quit inventing and left Earth when he lost the plans for his masterpiece, the Machina Magnifica. Fry shows him the sketch he found in the beard, which turns out to be the Machine. Fry and Leonardo build it together while the Professor tries to learn from the people of Vinci, who ridicule him as an idiot. Finally, Fry and Leonardo unveil the Machina Magnifica, which is revealed to be a doomsday device. The Professor supports Leonardo killing the population, but Fry ends up stopping the machine, which kills Leonardo. The Professor bonds with Fry over having been perceived as a moron.
To me, this episode is bottom-tier Futurama. It’s not a particularly fun or clever parody of the source material, it doesn’t have much emotional appeal, and I don’t find most of the jokes funny. The concept of Leonardo da Vinci being an alien isn’t bad, and the concept of a planet of people so smart they give the Professor a complex should be funny, but mixing them together just made the whole thing feel jumbled and rushed, like they only had two half-ideas rather than a whole one. It doesn’t help that for this episode Fry’s intelligence seems even a level or two below his normal stupidity. While Fry is usually lampooned for being an idiot, the fact that he twice mistakes a hammer for a nail in this episode is below even Homer Simpson level dumb.
I do admit to liking the character of Animatronio a lot, mostly because Fry keeps greeting him with “Hi Animatronio,” but it still falls flat eventually. I also wish that the show would explain how the hell Fry and the Professor survived a month flying in a small, sealed capsule when they could just have said the trip was instantaneous. Overall, just not a great episode.
Pretty much all of the actual clues of the The Da Vinci Code parody. The first one is the revelation that St. James the Lesser was originally painted as a robot based on a series of completely ridiculous statements based on the painting of the Last Supper. The second is when they find the Roman Numerals in the catacombs that indicate the paces to St. James’ tomb. It’s 2^11 – (23×89)… which is just 1. The last is when the Professor is trying to identify the fountain containing the secret laboratory. He sees a statue of Neptune and says that Neptune has a trident, which has three, or trey, points and a V in place of the U in Neptune. He puts together Trey and V and arrives at the Trevi Fountain. Even the crew questions this logic until the Professor just shouts it down, but it turns out he’s right. These are all great shots at the weird deductive reasoning found in the source material, which I appreciate.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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