Futurama, Season Ten, Episode Four, “Parasites Regained

Written by: Maiya Williams
Directed by: Corey Barnes

“Is your dog friendly or just ugly?”

This is the first one that I think hits ‘classic’ status this season, and I’d definitely put it up with “The Deep South” or “War Is The H-Word” in terms of pure laughs. Once again, I was worried about the premise; the idea of another sequel to a beloved episode so soon after the last one had me wary they were running low on ideas, and when I realised this would be another parody of Dune, I was worried from the perspective of them riffing on relatively contemporary culture. Both fears turned out to be unfounded; this is a genuine new riff on the concept of the parasite worms. Indeed, I enjoy how our knowledge of how the worms work is part of the ‘puzzle’ of the episode; I spent the whole time wondering why the worms were making Nibbler stupider when they made Fry smarter, even speculating that there was a specific level of intelligence they make you (with Nibbler dragged down and Fry dragged up).

“Sad news, everyone. Oh, good, you’re already crying.”

I did enjoy the emotional arc of “Parasites Regained”. The fact that the characters ‘remember’ Nibbler is a sentient being who can talk makes me laugh every single time, with this delivered at its most bald-faced stupid; the shift from that to an adventure story about saving Nibbler works very well for me, with the show doing an excellent ‘half-assed adventure plot’ quite effectively, and even shifting to real emotion elegantly. I’ve complained in the past about the show trying to tug heartstrings with the vague idea of emotional attachments, and in this episode I have an effective counterexample.

“With just a few minor adjustments, it becomes an all-new kind of ray that keeps things the same size.”

Nibbler’s cognitive decline reminded me very strongly of my own father’s decline due to dementia, and I found myself able to sympathise with Leela’s grief through that. But Nibbler is also his own character, making his own decisions all through the show and having his own jokes (ones that even relate to his high intelligence!), and he and Leela already had a real relationship before the episode. I was even briefly tricked into believing that Nibbler would stay like this forever, mainly because it would technically be Futurama reverting to the status quo from before the revelation that he was intelligent. I did click on that there were still four minutes left in the episode, but I felt a sense of relief over that.

Title Card: Find the hidden story!
Cartoon Billboard: “Betty Boop’s May Party”, 1933

“The sun grows hot and my deodorant grows weak.”

Ego Nwodim guest stars as the Duuuuuun-g Beetle Shaman, and she slid so comfortably into the Futurama ethos that I genuinely wondered if the character was voiced by a regular. She reminded me of Alec Baldwin as Jack Donoghy in 30 Rock – just sincere enough to be funny. Kyle MacLachlan also guest stars as a duuuuuuuuun-g beetle, and I admit I hadn’t noticed him.

“Then prepare for me to say fire! Fire!”

I’ve been keeping an eye out on fellow fan responses, and I admit to being puzzled by the muted reaction this season and especially this episode has been getting. I’m never one to tell people they’re wrong about how they feel about something, but I am coming at this from the ‘is this making me laugh’ perspective before anything else, and I suspect other people are not. I also suspect having spent the better part of four years breaking down how the show works factors in here.

“How dumb are you on a scale of one to Fry?”
“I can’t even count that high anymore!”

The title is a parody of John Milton’s Paradise Regained. Much of the episode parodies the book and films Dune. The dog park is named in parody of Scooby-Doo. 2001: A Space Odyssey is an answer to a crossword clue, which itself is a parody of 3D chess in Star Trek. Nibbler chews on a Bart Simpson doll.

Biggest Laugh: “Listen to him closely. And do most of what he says.”