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Made By Hand (And Tentacle)
First, and most importantly, having literally never seen 'Bismuth' before last week's Futurama, I not only had the opportunity to use it several times in the recap for "Near-Death Wish" but I actually saw the word in the real world. Bismuth. The 83 element of the periodic table was right there, staring me in the face from the front of a bottle of Pepto Bismol one week to the day after seeing it for the first time. Life's funny. And my stomach is fine, thank you. Second, the production codes seem to indicate that “31st Century Fox” was supposed to be the episode to air last night and yet we saw "Viva Mars Vegas" instead. I'm not sure why they made the switch but the special 'hand and tentacle made' opening sequence for "Vegas" would have been a nice way to kick off Comedy Central's midseason finale next week. Oh well, I guess the simple, computer generated titles will have to do for Futurama's back to back episode closer, sorry, hiatus, while audiences get the special treat early. "Viva Mars Vegas!"
"Ah, yes. Better. A lonely weekend in my dumpster with a jar of pennies and tears."
Okay, fine. So the special titles were spoiled a few months ago when Comedy Central first started promoting this season but they're still excellent and looked even better on my television. Plus, I could actually hear the hilarious home-made sound effects, something I didn't really notice when it first went online. After the welcome display of artistry shook up the opening sequence, "Vegas" began proper and as any good mafia story should, with a heist, uh, cross-cut with a group of employees at a delivery service discussing a vacation. The Robot Mafia, one of the best group of recurring characters, is knocking over a 'Binks' armoured space vehicle and apparently yousa money is not safe with the Jar Jar run security company. While the Donbot brags about the eight million De Niros they just lifted, Amy 'saves' the Planet Express from sitting around on stupid old Earth by proposing a trip to her parents casino on Mars. But it's probably not the best place for the impulsive (and poor) Zoidberg and his life-savings of pennies. Poor!
"Oh, come now. God didn't get to be God by giving money away."
As Zoidberg prepares for that good, home cooked cry, the Robot Mafia are still engaged in a high-speed getaway and Joey Mousepad suggests ditching the loot in the nearby dumpster. You know, the one about 65 miles below and they almost crash into the Planet Express ship right before answering the doctor's halted prayers by dropping the cash in his lap. At the same time, the Wongs are showing the rest of the crew their casino, where they win over a million dollars every hour, and talking about the Native Martians who are a proud and grouchy people who didn't even have bingo parlours or prostitute choices before other species settled. The tour is also doing double duty as the audience is introduced to the inner workings of the casino as to set up the inevitable heist. Things like the weekly shrimp change, Blind Joe and the most secure safe in the universe that opens every day at 3:45 p.m. This is also the moment when the category five sucker, sorry, the real big lobster joins the rest of the crew at the Wong casino.
"Loosen up. You can't take it with you. Now, I'm heading down to the casino and I'm taking my money with me."
I wasn't a huge fan of the "Hey Big Spender" sequence, and not because it's been used on The Simpsons (as South Park proved, everything has) but it just seemed a bit obvious. Except putting Zoidberg in the Tony Montana jacuzzi, that was priceless. For us, it probably cost him quite a few De Niros. The crew barge into his suite demanding to know how the broke surgeon could possibly be swimming in so much dough with Amy, the silver spooner, is the most concerned for Zoidberg's 'new money' and, even though he lets it ride successfully on the roulette wheel a few times, she watches in horror as failure finally comes his way. 15 black. That's the God we know! However, even though Amy cannot possibly comprehend (yet) how Zoidberg's able to deal with the loss so easily, she'll soon feel it firsthand. Oh, and losing God's money is one thing, but the dumpster dweller isn't so fancy free once he finds out whose eight million he actually blew. And no amount of Sardinis will smooth things over.
"Mr. Wong. We have a mafia proposal for you: your casino, give it to us."
The Donbot orders Clamps to break something over Zoidberg's head but since everything is already broken that proves a bit difficult. Not to worry, after a quick Krantz-ing, the goons are positive that the dumpster owner is telling the truth and no longer of any value. If only there was a dumpster nearby to dispose of the soon to be dead body. Just in time, the crustaceans instinctual defence mechanism kicks in and Zoidberg inks his way out of the dangerous situation. Woop! The lighting during the dumpster scene was amazingly rendered and a testament to the increasingly impressive animation that Futurama has been delivering all season. Life on Mars is a lot like The Hangover and the Planet Express crew wakes up, uh, hungover with Fry rocking a face tattoo. Good thing Professor Farnsworth has a new, painful, invention that doesn't remove tattoos as much as make the ink invisible. The invention will in no sense help make the ink soaked Zoidberg invisible from the pursuing mobsters, except entirely.
"Nelson! Thank god you're here, Hermes."
After punching a smelly air pocket, Joey Mousepad (who's getting a lot of welcomed play this week) suggests the idea of just taking the casino and he's also stupid enough to allow the Donbot to claim it as his own. And to claim to Wong mansion too. Here's where the trip to Mars takes its familiar turn into an allegory for the Native American experience, this time with better equipped invaders taking over the land (rare servants and all) as well as forcing the former owners to move to the reservation. I mean, the 'Company Housing' dump that the Wongs now call home. As Amy has a good cry in the tub, at first she's unaware that the still invisible Zoidberg has snuck in for some bubble cakes but soon the two classes are finally seeing eye to eye having lived a day in each other's shoes. It also helps Amy see a solution to the mafia takeover so she calls a meeting in the chart room to go over the plans and answer any questions. Like why have they never been in the chart room, especially since it has so many useful charts. Okay, some are just pictures.
"Well, well, well. What have we here. Seriously, what is that?"
The next sequence takes on a full on Oceans 11 spin with Amy leading the group in the efforts to give the casino back to its rightful owners. She can only share a bit of the heist plans in advance though because, it's not only much more exciting but also an emerging staple of the genre. Like stealing show and tell. The Crew manages to work together sneaking the invisible stinking shellfish all the way into the uncrackable safe while the Donbot is distracted by Bender the Cowboy. Then, after some four alarm chile, Hermes the Nigerian Prince and email spammer. Then Professor Farnsworth the hoodie and flip flop wearing computer programmer. A whole cast of colorful characters really. Zoidberg struggles to eat the booty (wait...) and, while being snuck out of the building, beings to burp up cash a la Barney in The Simpsons. Simpsons did it! Right when they were about to get away, Blind Joe thwarts their escape but only to allow Amy to reveal the real contents of the burped up metal box. A piece of paper that returns that part of Mars to their rightful owners, those proud and grouchy Native Martians, and Zoidberg and Amy walk off into the sunset together.
"So what happens to the hero of our story? Zoidberg! Will I be invisible forever?"
I'm not sure why they made the scheduling swap because it couldn't be because "Viva Mars Vegas" was a sub-par episode of Futurama. It might not compete with the best of the best of the animated comedy but it did continue the recent rise in quality leading to midseason's end. "Viva Mars Vegas" was a fun genre mash-up, part gangster story and part heist flick, which mostly saw Zoidberg and Amy paired, which is a rare but not bad combination of characters to hang an episode on, especially when trying to highlight the topic of wealth and class distinctions. Oh, and seeing the crustacean in a variety of colors only added to the animated fun. Pink, black, white and Predator-translucent. "Vegas" was more than solid, mixing impressive visuals, successful sight gags and great dialogue. It even threw in an allegory for the Native American experience (as is often the case with a visit to Mars) with talk of their original raw deal before trying to come to an agreement and understanding with those that 'Wong-ed' them in the past.
Can you believe there's only one more week of left? The first half of Season 7 ends just as it began, with two installments in one night, and then, well, we don't know how long before the show comes back to Comedy Central for 'B' but don't expect it until at least the new year. In the meantime, the Futurama Season 7A finale airs next Wednesday with "31st Century Fox" and "Naturama” back to back at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central.