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Futurama hasn't been too concerned with crafting overly emotional episodes this season except for the very first two, "A Farewell to Arms'" and "The Bots and The Bees" but last night's "Fun on a Bun" was a welcome return to the sentimental. Yes, even with the ridiculous(ly great) title. The Hermes and Zoidberg relationship thread in "The Six Million Dollar Mon" was sweet in its own Silence of the Lambs meets Jimmy Nelson kind of way but not like the great love stories for Fry and Leela (or Seymour). Could "Bun" find a place amongst the classics? Well, the episode certainly opens in the perfect place for love, Germany! There is no place like the Neander Valley during Ocktoberfest. At least, that's the way it used to be...
"WOOO! WOO! WOO! WO! WO! WOOOO! Bring on the beer! And the scantily clad barmaids! And the more beer! Hey, I don't smell Bavarian style vomit, where's Ocktoberfest?"
"Fun on a Bun" begins three months before the events of the rest of the episode with Professor Farnsworth entering the break room and interrupting some double-foot-dipping and crayon Krusty drawing with good news for everybody. The Professor suggests that the crew see each other in a social setting and that's probably not a bad idea since he doesn't even know his great (x30) uncles name. They call him... Orange Joe. Three months later they land in Germany for Oktoberfest where Fry is in for a rude awakening, there's nothing rude or crude about the beer festival anymore. It evolved into a sophisticated gathering for Jersey Shore socialites and even Bender won't get debauched with his fleshy friend and he instead heads to the festival's sausage competition.
"Aw man! I can't beat that with a Craigslist pig. Sorry, Grundy. I'll have to kill you later for some other reason."
The 'kompetition' is so stiff though that Elzar is not only a contestant but it's going to take some special meat to make the best wurst. Hummingbird, angel wings and 3000 year old (and entombed) pork is what Bender is up against. Meanwhile, Fry is trying darndest to get drunk but the mini-steins are not helping his cause. Leela once again stresses just how crude Fry and his (our) time are (were) but at least they (we) were (are) hammered. The De Niro-esque security officer guarding the cask quickly shoots down any plan Fry might have to rob the main supply but that's not the only suds sitting around. A few spit buckets of booze later and Fry is whipping his and hers chicken hats out of his trousers while dancing the chicken dance on the table. Instead of impressed, Leela calls her now ex-boyfriend a neanderthal before leaving him to contemplate their relationship. Now that he knows they were in one.
"It's tragedy on a bun."
The two dejected pals meet in the middle of the festival to share a good cry before Fry finds the boring video history kiosk that explains how woolly mammoths, or 'schnuffaluffagus,' once roamed the Neander Valley and could even be frozen in the nearby glaciers. Exactly 30000 year old or so mammoth meat might make for a mighty sausage and thanks to the ship's elephant detector, set to big and woolly, of course, Bender and Fry quickly find one. Using the jet's burner to create a hole was almost as clever as shutting off the engine in mid-hover was stupid, but Bender still manages to wrangle up a frozen mammal to shove in his Mammal Muncher. And Fry is just drunk enough to get sucked in right along with the other prehistoric creature. The mix makes for a delicious wurst and seeing the dog dressed as Fry (hair, coat and shirt) was one of many great visual gags in the episode.
"Why you stare at prehistoric pig butt?"
The Planet Express crew leaves the sausage looking like Fry for a funeral and there Professor Farnsworth does his best to console Leela for not just breaking up with but also eating her ex-boyfriend. She's so distraught that she pulls an Eternal Sunshine, visiting Annie's Forgettery to have her Fry related memory synapses cut. After going through a few choice moments, he's completely removed from her mind and the rest of Planet Express must do there best to not remind her of him. Cue the flashback to Fry successfully avoiding being munched, the same can't be said for his clothes, before finding himself in a hole and encased in ice. Once again our hero is unthawed in a different 'time,' something even the neanderthals think is stupid, and, like Leela, cannot remember his former flame. Or anyone. He's sporting a sweet new forehead ridge though.
"They may not have technology, like us, but we have something they don't have, technology. Behold, our latest weapon. A revolutionary fleet of unmanned drones, with men in them."
Leela's struggling with letting go of Fry almost as much as the rest of the crew is struggling to not bring him up in her presence. Doing inventory was especially trying for Hermes and while Leela is busy with sad chicken hat thoughts, Fry is learning a bit of his new group's history. The arrival of the homosapiens forced the neanderthals to retreat into a crevasse despite their protests of whatever and Fry is soon rallying the big brows to take back what is rightfully theirs. I'm not sure if this is supposed to be an allegory for the North American experience but, sure, let's go with that and arrive at the conclusion that we all need peace, love and interracial breeding. But, let's not get ahead of ourselves, Scruffy informs Bender that he's been requested to return to Ocktoberfest for the sausage finals. The rest of the crew gets oversensitive for Leela and I loved the way they shot the brief sequence like a horror spoof.
"Guys! Guys! Chef Fritz accidentally got thrown down an icy slope. I'm the sausage champion! Woooo! No further questions."
In the greatest injustice in German history, Bender's Frywurst, sorry, Mammothwurst comes in third place in the competition, probably because people like Zapp are the ones critiquing the sausages. Fry starts his plan to kill all modern humans (and Bender's "hey, this guy's alright" was perfect) which pretty much amounts to his troops smashing things and different things. "Fun on a Bun" takes a brief detour into space to follow Zapp's battle against (retreat from) the invading neanderthals but even that can't keep catapulted sabre tooth cats from reaching him, all while tanks and mammoths duel it out below. Not to mention the giant, oddly Star Wars-ish Sloth (one of my favorite things ever) and a game of chicken between Fry atop his steed and Leela in the Planet Express ship. Amazing. And finally, the sweet part I mentioned earlier invades what had been an action filled and steady joke streamed episode, as the lovers memories come flooding back with whispers of "Orange" and "Purple."
"No Leela, just this once, I'm going to let you embarrass me."
The kiss restores Leela's broken synapses and successfully clears the blood from Fry's concussed head making the pair a shining example for the rest of the two stages of humanity. But not robots. Bender is a stone, cold, sausage competition killing machine. Matt Groening and David X. Cohen's series has always been known for its unparalleled (save perhaps Parks and Recreation) ability to combine the irascible and irreverent with a lot of heart, not an easy thing to do, especially when you have to keep the audience laughing all the way along. "Fun on a Bun" never reached the emotional heights (or should I say, depths) of Futurama's softer classics like "Luck of the Fryrish," "Time Keeps on Slippin'" and "Jurassic Bark" but it struck enough chords to impart a lot of warmth and even more smiles. It was a very warm, breezy and enjoyable installment. The one liners were flying fast and there were a couple great visual gags, not to say a few bigger chuckles wouldn't have hurt but "Fun on a Bun" was still, uh, fun on a bun. Shut up, I said it first.
Futurama returns with “Free Will Hunting,” Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET on Comedy Central. It stars Billy West, Katey Sagal and John DiMaggio. It was created by Matt Groening and David X. Cohen.