This is the episode that has Bender (John DiMaggio) singing a parody of Rose Royce’s “Car Wash” as “Bot Wash.” This is simultaneously an extremely lazy joke and also hilarious, proving that the two don’t have to be mutually exclusive. I appreciate that, since all of my jokes are lazy.
Bender is watching a cooking show featuring Elzar (DiMaggio), a parody of some chef who says “BAM!” a lot and expresses a desire to be a chef. Hermes (Phil LaMarr) points out that Bender doesn’t technically do anything at his job, so Bender agrees to be the chef’s cook. While buying ingredients in Little Neptune, a neighborhood near Little Uranus and Little Italy, Fry (Billy West) wanders off and almost sells his lungs to an organ dealer. Leela (Katey Sagal) saves him, but he’s ungrateful.
Back at the Planet Express building, the Professor (West) sends the usual trio, along with Amy (Lauren Tom) and Dr. Zoidberg (West), on a delivery to the planet Trisol. Along the way, Bender serves a dish that’s made almost entirely of salt, causing everyone to be thirsty. When they land on the planet, Fry heads off to make the delivery, but becomes delirious with thirst walking through the desert of the planet with three suns. He eventually reaches a castle and drinks a bottle of blue liquid to quench his thirst, which turns out to be the Emperor Bont (Maurice LaMarche).
Surprisingly, Fry is made Emperor of the Trisolian people. It turns out that the Trisolian Emperor is whoever slew the previous one. Leela finds this alarming, but when she discloses it to Fry, he thinks she’s worrying for nothing and insults her. However, when Fry takes the oath of coronation, the suns of Trisol go down and reveal that Bont is still alive inside Fry’s stomach. The Emperor orders the population to cut Fry open and release him, leading Fry to lock himself and the crew inside the castle. The crew decide to have Fry cry out Bont, but he can’t cry. Bender calls Leela for help, then claims she’s killed, making Fry cry two drops. Leela then shows up unharmed and presents her own plan: Beating Fry physically until he cries. Bont ends up free, but also takes a turn kicking Fry’s ass.
So, the emotional core of this episode is the distance between Fry and Leela caused by Fry’s irresponsibility and Leela’s frustration towards him. A lot of why it bothers Leela so much is because she cares so much about Fry, including having romantic feelings for him, but she knows that his behavior keeps them from ever being together. That’s why it’s so much sweeter of a moment when Leela does agree to save him and when Fry’s feelings of sadness at the thought of losing her prove to be the only thing that can make him cry. It’s an episode giving them circumstances to exacerbate the problems in the relationship, but also giving them an opportunity to recognize that their feelings haven’t changed since the tender moment in the pilot.
Aside from that core, we also have an episode that deals with an interesting society, similar to episodes of Star Trek and its progeny. The Trisolians and their Emperor succession are examples of the Sword of Damocles principle taken to a huge extreme. If you’re the Emperor, you are literally always a target and, due to the nature of the Trisolians, you’re really easy to kill. Rather then deal with elections or parties or ruling houses, the Trisolians just let whoever is sitting on the throne be the leader. Weirdly, it doesn’t seem to be hurting much of their society, probably because it seems like the Prime Ministers carry on between all the administrations and the Emperor doesn’t appear to actually run the country aside from appointing the Prime Minister. It’s possible that, in the past, the Emperors have all nominated or maintained the Prime Minister that best administered the planet. Or maybe their planet just sucks a lot, but not as much as you’d think for a society where the leadership is changing, on average, every week.
I should pick this as the episode to discuss Alien Language 1, because this is the episode that really made it easy to figure out. Apparently, a bunch of people had figured it out from the pilot, but I don’t think they’d actually shown all of the symbols until this episode. The language is pretty easy, it’s just a substitution cipher for English. It’s found all throughout this episode in easily translatable messages. I appreciate that the writers went as far as to include something like this, but, they got ticked off that too many people figured it out too fast and made the much more complicated Alien Language 2, which I’ll address later when it shows up. Apparently, they also designed an Alien Language 3 and it is even crazier.
As another note, I have to point out that in the commentary for this episode, Matt Groening makes the startling admission that he never has seen an episode of Star Trek. However, David X Cohen, the show’s co-creator, states that he is basically never NOT watching Star Trek, so it evens out. I just find it funny that a show so filled with Star Trek references has a creator who wasn’t familiar with the series.
Oh, and this is the first episode where Professor Farnsworth says “Good news, everyone!” which will be his catchphrase. Prior to this, he’d said variations on it, much like Scotty in the original Star Trek. Not that Groening would get that.
I’m gonna pick Fry’s telling of “The Grasshopper and the Ant.” See, in the original Aesop version, the grasshopper is foolish and doesn’t store up for the winter, then comes to beg for food from the ant and is refused, killing her. They’re both girls because the words for the animals are feminine in most languages. However, as Christianity started to take over Europe, most of the revised versions changed the story so that, even though the grasshopper was foolish, the ant still gave her food out of a sense of charity or goodwill. That was even further revised by at least one author to having the ant give her food out of an appreciation for the grasshopper’s music. Another version, weirdly, portrays the ant as being in the wrong and in that one the ant is a thief, but I’m now way off track.
Fry’s version, entitled “The Grasshopper and the Octopus,” is insane. He tells it to Leela thus:
It’s just like the story of the grasshopper and the octopus. All year long the grasshopper kept burying acorns for winter while the octopus mooched off his girlfriend and watched TV. But then the winter came and the grasshopper died and the octopus ate all his acorns and also he got a racecar.
So, Fry, rather than taking the original story that would criticize his behavior or the version that would encourage Leela to help him despite it, instead crafts a version in which he can behave badly and he will not only be rewarded but Leela will be punished. However, the rest of the episode plays out both the original and the revised versions. At first, Leela refuses to help Fry after he tells her off, but then she realizes that, even though Fry has done nothing to deserve it, she’s going to help him anyway. That’s why I think it’s funny that, rather than lampshade either of those as the outcomes, they instead have Fry turn the fable into an insane rant.
Well, that’s it for this week.
See you next week, meatbags.
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