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Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?

August 30, 2012

Note: Due to the disc issues I didn’t actually capture this myself, but took it from here. But it’s basically what I would have chosen.

Original airdate: February 6, 2000

Written by Eric Kaplan; Directed by Brian Sheesley

So after finally getting some good Zoidberg in the previous episode, in “Why Must I Be a Crustacean in Love?” we finally – 18 episodes into the series – get a Zoidberg centric. Seeing as we know virtually nothing about the good lobster, it’s nice to flesh his character out a bit. This is achieved by once again paying homage to the king of sci-fi TV that is Star Trek, with this ridiculous parody of the classic Trek episode “Amok Time” (a.k.a. the one where Spock has to mate and he has to fight Kirk with the things). This episode doesn’t really enhance Zoidberg’s character in a massive way, but it provides an extended look at him, with a greater focus than his usual one-line weirdness. Now we get to see that his weird rituals and behaviour are entirely common to that of the rest of his species.

It’s another well-plotted character story. Zoidberg is incredibly frisky and runs amok during a trip to the gym. It must be mating time, so he – and Fry, Leela and Bender – journey back to his home planet Decapod 10, in order to fertilize a female Decapodian’s clutch of eggs with his male jelly. However, it seems that while his appearance and behaviour are matched by his peers, being a failed doctor and pitiful loser on Earth also makes you a pitiful loser on Decapod 10, as Zoidberg fails to attract a mate. This is despite performing exactly the same absurd mating ritual as every other male (“I’ve heard that line before”). Decapodian women can presumably smell failure (“I’m sorry Zoidberg, you’re just an inferior male specimen”). It’s up to Fry to win him a mate, which given his own successes with women is surely going to only end one way. Fry tells Zoidberg about love and romance – alien concepts for the Decapodians, who care only for simply reproducing. He teaches a hilariously baffled Zoidberg the human way to woo, focusing on disingenuous feelings and compliments rather than direct desire to mate. Zoidberg’s attempt at this proves surprisingly successful, as his persuades Edna – apparently the most desirable female with the largest clutch of eggs – to go on a date with him. This goes well and Zoidberg does fall in love with her. But then Edna accidentally falls in love with Fry. Despite Fry having no interest in her, Zoidberg invokes Claw-Plach, the Decapodian tradition of fighting to the death over pointless issues. As the Decapodian ruler puts it – in a line which sums up the humour of the episode – “once invoked, the sacred tradition of Claw-Plach cannot be taken back. It is a recent tradition, only 18 years old, but it is a tradition nonetheless.” Claw-Plach is as insane as to be expected, with the usually docile Zoidberg now maniacal and fighting a giant nutcracker wielding Fry, who is once again thrust into a situation of utter incomprehensibility. It’s a great comedy fight which Fry is about to win before dropping his weapon to give a heartfelt speech about why he doesn’t want to kill his friend. Zoidberg takes this opportunity to cut Fry’s arm off, leading Fry to reverse his decision. But before either can actually kill the other, they realize everyone else has already gone to the mating frenzy, with Edna picking the leader as her mate. So Zoidberg gets no action, but on the plus side, he remains alive, as Decapodian reproduction results in death.

It’s an odd episode, which is to be expected for such an odd creature as Zoidberg. It’s nice to see another alien culture and there are a lot of great jokes here. And once again the crew don’t actually do any work. This really adds to the overall brilliance of the show, explaining the crummy failure that is Planet Express.

Trivia and Quotes

  • The episode starts almost exactly the same way as “When Aliens Attack” does, with an ultra-lazy Fry and Bender sitting watching TV, exploiting the Year 3000’s many new avenues of laziness (“What is this the Middle Ages?”) and Amy and Leela coming in and telling them to get up and go somewhere with physical activity. “No offense Fry, but you’ve become a fat sack of crap./Sack?!” In this case it’s the gym, which leads to some good little gags: Windowless rooms for ugly exercisers, the co-ed steam room bit, “Somebody must have turned down the gravity”. But the star here is the randy, head-fined Zoidberg, busting some serious weights and then terrorising the mothers-to-be in the Pregnercise pool. His maniacal facial expressions are very well drawn. “Is there a doctor in the gym?/I’m a doctor!”
  • “I wonder why Dr. Zoidberg is acting this way? Out of all of us, he always seemed the most normal.”
  • Yay for more irrational Hermes’ Zoidberg hatred: “Maybe it’s a parasite?/Maybe he is a parasite.” And yay for ditzy Amy continually releasing Zoidberg. (“Moron!”) And triple yay for Bender looking forward to cooking Zoidberg, fin rot and the Professor’s friendship with his doctor.
  • “You didn’t have to call attention to his speech impediment” is such a great little joke. Take that alien language.
  • Like the Vulcans, the Decapodians have no love. Not because they have no emotions, but because they literally have no concept of ‘love’ and all they care for is species reproduction, after which they die. Also, Claw-Plach is fought over matters of honour, and whether abbreviations count in Scrabble. And the mating ritual looks like an Arrested Development chicken impression.
  • I love the beautiful shot of Zoidberg against the sunset, capturing his lonely failure. Emotion alert. Also wonderfully drawn is the shot of Fry realizing in horror that he has a choice between death and being forced to mate with a fish. He’s pretty popular with sea-life isn’t he? And a third animation point for the excellent 360 degrees shot of Fry and Zoidberg strangling each other. Lovely stuff from Brian Sheesley.
  • Fry’s love class is great, destroying Leela’s self-esteem and “It’s all so complicated, with the flowers and the romance and the lies upon lies!” And the whole “Now ask her how her day was/Why would I want to know?/You wouldn’t, ask anyway” exchange is a perfect analysis of the pointlessness of lame socially required small talk. “Well, first I got up and had a piece of toast. Then I brushed my teeth. Then I went to the store to buy some fish…/Fry, look what you did! She won’t shut up/That’s normal. Just nod your head and say ‘uh huh’.”
  • “I’m confused Fry, I feel a strange, new emotion. Is it love when you care about a female for reasons beyond mating?/Nope, must be some weird alien emotion.”
  • The Decapod 10 national anthem being the “Amok Time” underscore is utterly brilliant – just to drive home the absurdity of what’s about to happen, the mix of seemingly ordered, civilized people with fights to the death.
  • Having prepared to cook Zoidberg earlier, Bender now is of course taking bets on his two friends’ fight to the death, and of course hoping his best friend dies so he can make some money. If this isn’t Bender I don’t know what is. Same with him being offended by the process of human reproduction. Although, him telling Fry to lose makes no sense. Surely everyone bet on Zoidberg, so Bender would want Fry to win so he won’t have to pay-out?
  • “Far be it from me to question your stupid civilization and dumb customs, but is squeezing each others’ brains out with a giant nutcracker really gonna solve anything?”
  • And we end with Zoidberg revelling in the new emotions he’s experienced: love, jealousy and the passion for disembowelling. Before proving once again just how competent a doctor he is by detaching more limbs from Fry than he was meant to reattach.
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