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The Lesser of Two Evils

September 7, 2012

Original airdate: February 20, 2000

Written by Eric Horsted; Directed by Chris Sauve

Two Benders? This is the kind of thing which could have gone horribly wrong. Instead it is utilized well, with double the brashness, double the jerkiness and double the mystery. Well, not ‘double’ the mystery, but that sentence would have sounded weird without it. Anyway, “The Lesser of Two Evils” is easily amongst the best Bender and Fry episodes.

During a visit to the horribly anachronistic “Past-O-Rama” theme park, Fry, Leela and Bender hijack a 20th Century car and accidentally crash into Flexo, a bending unit from the same template as Bender, and thus identical in every way (save for his stylish goatee). Fry instantly dislikes Flexo on the basis of his brash behaviour, numerous insults and life-endangering pranks and is suspicious of his motives. Seeing as this is behaviour is entirely in line with Bender’s, Fry’s suspicions seem to be born only out of envy that his best friend now has somebody new to hang out with. But Fry is adamant that Flexo is pure evil. Meanwhile, the Professor charges the crew with delivering a tiara topped with the extremely rare and valuable Jumbonium atom, which will be awarded to the winner of the Miss Universe contest, and which if stolen, will bankrupt Planet Express. As a result, Flexo is hired as additional security (“Flexo’s great and all…/Flexo’s great you say? Well that’s good enough for me.”) Fry decides to stay with Flexo throughout his shift in order to prevent him from stealing the atom (“Eight hours of solid boredom. Nah I’m kidding you’re a wonderful man.”) This works, but like all of Fry’s plans, has a fatal flaw: namely that Fry now has to complete his own eight hour shift as well. He of course promptly falls asleep and the atom is stolen. Fry blames Flexo, who has mysteriously disappeared. But Bender is also a suspect, and he has for some reason begun wearing a scarf, map and turtleneck… which obscures exactly where Flexo’s beard is… So what follows is a pretty good comedy-mystery, as we discover who stole the atom and which bending unit is which.  The Austin Powers-esque timing of the whole Bender’s lower face-obscuring-part really is brilliantly, frustratingly animated. It turns out to just be the writers screwing the audience, as it is actually just Bender, and he’s just wearing the various items for a “little thing called style”. Fry, Leela and Bender track Flexo down at the pageant, the two robots fight, and Flexo is apprehended. But, of course, it’s revealed that the true thief was actually Bender (“I can explain: it’s very valuable”) and Flexo was just going to report him. Is this the end of Bender? Of course not. Due to their identical appearance, Flexo gets arrested for the crime instead (“Oh yeah, that looks like him, whatever.”) Leela is mistakenly declared the pageant’s winner, before losing her crown to the amoeba, Miss Vega 4, leaving both her and Bender to rue their loss of the tiara.

So, another enjoyable, well-written and directed episode, with some good jokes and character bits for all three of the main characters. Leela’s feminism, Bender’s lust for wealth, and Fry’s well-meaning idiocy. Good stuff.

Trivia and Quotes

  • “Arachno Spores: The fatal spore, with the funny name”. And a fantastic COPS parody (“unblur your face!”)
  • All of the Past-O-Rama stuff is spot on, not just for how inaccurate it is (much like the Lunar Park in “The Series Has Landed”) but for the fact that Fry’s ‘corrections’ are essentially reflective only of the lifestyle of a homeless drunk. A load of gold, ranging from the nonsense (Cowboys, on speeders, with spears, “Time for the mammoth hunt dudes!”) to the far too accurate (“Leela, get a picture of me being ‘mugged'”) and more besides (Wall Street suicide/jetpacks and the “ancient and mysterious tablet” of a parking sign)
  • “I’ve gotta say, I’m really enjoying the day out with you people. Hahey, a suicide booth! So long suckers!”
  • The attention to detail in this show is outstanding: in the traffic of New York hologram, there are two old-timey cars, continuing the whole feel of the park’s total inaccuracy. “It all started with Gerald Ford’s famous invention: the auto-ma-car, which was powered by a tank of burning fossils.” Great infomercial voice from Maurice LaMarche there. Primitive robots. “No one in New York drove, there was too much traffic.”
  • Great hospital surgery/waiting/pacing/clock progression bit. “We did all we could/Huh! You mean he’s…?/Good as new, yes!” Flexo shares Bender’s in-your-face interface, so is thus as much of a brash, insult spewing jerk. (“That’s some face though, I think they got a cream for that. Nah you’re great.”) The whole “insult, nah you’re great” tactic works well in real life.
  • “I don’t like this place: It’s 120 degrees and there’s very little oxygen.” The only downside of a robot strip club. As well as the face-crushings.
  • “Everyone get in bed with me, I have something to show you” – this whole segment only works with someone as old, immodest and somewhat perverted as the Professor.
  • Love the latest chapter in Amy and Leela’s slight contempt for each other, this time over Amy’s childhood dream of being Miss Universe, which Leela doesn’t share. At least until the end when she’s mistakenly awarded the crown by a distracted Zapp, who couldn’t actually open the envelope.
  • Fry’s failed attempt to stop Flexo getting the shift before him: he fails at the alphabet, and is for some reason outranked by Flexo. This is a good episode for Fry as, for whatever reason, he is actually trying to do a good job for once. Shame he’s such an idiot. “He must have used a sleep-ray on me. Sleep rays exist in the future right?/No/Oh, then I must of fallen asleep.”
  • “Halt who goes there!/Don’t point that at me/Fry who?” Also, much love for Bender’s very literal keeping an eye on the safe.
  • “Did you hear maracas?/No/Then it wasn’t space banditos.”
  • And this is of course the origin of the famous Fry “Not sure if” meme, with the shot of Fry squinting his eyes at Bender’s lower-face covering map and turtleneck (“And leave me high and dry in case of a scavenger hunt? I think not.”) But it’s just the image, because Fry doesn’t actually say anything similar at any point in the episode.

  • The pageant entrants are all great, but particular praise for Miss Unnamed Planet and the bodiless entity that is Miss Heaven. And it’s great to see Trisol’s favourite alternative comedian Florp on the judging panel alongside Calculon and Zapp.
  • Love the angry and exasperated Bob Barker (“Okay, let’s put an end to this pathetic hoedown”). Good guest voice usage.
  • “You mean Bender is the evil Bender? I am shocked, shocked! Well, not that shocked/I’m sorry we suspected you Flexo. It’s just, what with the beard and all.” The total dismissal of Fry mourning the death of his understanding of morality due to this incident is classic Futurama ambivalence.
  • “There it is, Miss Universe. There it is, looking weird.”
  • And we end with one of the show’s most brilliant jokes of all: “Well, you guys might both be losers, but I just made out with that radiator women from the radiator planet./Fry, that’s a radiator./Oh, ahem, is there a burn ward within ten feet of here?” I mean, could anything possibly capture Fry’s pathetic nature more than this? I love his pride at this ‘conquest’ but most of all I love that he doesn’t feel the need to enquire about the emergency burn ward until after he discovers he just shagged a literally hot inanimate object. He was so proud, so he failed to notice the immense pain until he realized how much of an idiot he’d been.
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One Comment leave one →
  1. Pumpkinhead permalink
    October 16, 2012 5:26 pm

    “He’s much worse. He drinks and smokes and he posts naked pictures of me on the Internet.”

    “That’s Bender, alright.”

    “I’m talking about Flexo!”

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