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Futurama: "The Silence Of The Clamps"

Illustration for article titled Futurama: "The Silence Of The Clamps"
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Yup, that's an image from an earlier episode. Blame Comedy Central. Blame them so hard.

It's weird—I can't really pinpoint exactly why I think "The Silence of the Clamps" is a substantially better episode than "Law & Oracle." I mean, I can think of some reasons, but both episodes go for a lot of obvious gags, and neither offered, to my mind, much in the way of surprises. (Even the final reveal that Bender was actually hiding across the street at the pizzeria wasn't all that big a deal.) And neither episode achieved that classic Futurama mix of humor and heart, that sudden shock of sincere pathos in the midst of cruel wit. But I laughed a lot watching "Clamps," which is something I didn't do much of during "Oracle," and that's really the main point right there. The best eps are the best eps, and I love it when they come along, but they don't come along that often. If this is what we get in the meantime, I'm happy to wait.


Maybe I'm just a sucker for mafia jokes. It's a vein of humor you'd think would've run dry ages ago; The Simpsons did a lot of mining there, with Fat Tony and the rest, and it's not as though Futurama has found some new comedy edge for Donbot, Clamps (real name: Francis X. Clampazzo) and the rest. But the gags here were just silly enough and clever enough that nearly all of them land, and even the dumb ones weren't painfully dumb, or pandering. When Planet Express delivers Clamps' new clamps during the Donbot's oldest daughter's wedding, Bender decides to crash, because that's what Benders do best. Well, apart from the bending and the burgle-arson-arceny. Bender strikes up a relationship with the Donbot's other daughter, and while they're hooking up in the stables, Bender witness Clamps taking Calculon apart for failing to make good on his loans. So Bender has a choice: either he hides from the wrath of the Robot Mafia, or he tells his story to the police, and risks said wrath. It would be an easy decision, except the police are offering a fifty dollar reward.

"Clamps" is weirdly put together, which is coming to be the norm for the series. While the first third of the episode focuses on Bender's involvement with the Mafia, and his subsequent need to get away from Donbot and the rest after things go badly in court (Futurama has had its fair share of trials, but this one was pretty solid—I especially liked that Bender was, while testifying at one trial, currently the defendant in another case), once Bender goes into the Witness Protection Program, the story focus shifts to Clamps. He takes a job at Planet Express to get closer to Fry and track Bender down, so we get a montage of Fry thinking Clamps is his new best friend, while Zoidberg grows increasingly territorial about Clamps's clamping magic. Then, while making a delivery on the moon, our heroes find a robot who looks exactly like Bender, living and working on the farm from way back in the show's first season. This new "Bender," who says his name is Billy West, is married to the Crushinator, and claims he's lived on the moon his whole life. Nobody believes him.

It's all sort of messy and occasionally half-assed, but, like I said, I laughed throughout, and Zoidberg and Clamps' showdown was a nice change of pace from Zoidberg's usual incompetence. (Great sight gag: Clamps falls into a hardware store, comes out covered in clamps; Zoidberg falls into a water trough, comes out covered in lobsters.) And where "Oracle" sometimes felt (to me) like the show going through the motions, this is more like everybody goofing off, and I enjoy watching that a lot more. I've got a lot more quotes this week than last, which is always a good sign. This is the sort of episode I want to watch again right now, not because it moved me or because it blew my mind, but just to make sure I caught all the gags. I'm almost positive I didn't. No stone cold classics yet this season, as its early yet, but the general writing seems more consistent than it did at the start of last year. Here's hoping that isn't a fluke.

Stray Observations:

  • I wanted more Crushinator. That's not a criticism of the episode, I just… miss her.
  • This review is a little light on the analysis. I suspect we could all use a break from that. So, quote time!
  • "Who likes good news? Everyone? Then good news, everyone!"
  • "You forget—I'm Bender, owner of disguise."
  • "Oh Bender, this is all happening too slowly. Let's get married!"
  • "I'm scared and great at sex!" (I said this on Twitter, and I reiterate—I'm not sure it would work out of context, but I'd wear a T-shirt with that line, and proudly.)
  • "Your honor, the prosecution roosts."
  • "No. Just until the Robot Mafia finds and kills you. They're good at that."
  • "I knew Bender would turn up purely by coincidence." (It's a lampshade line that lampshades a non-existent lamp!)
  • "Folks say my mama was a hoe."
  • "You're sure you don't want to kill all humans?" "I love all humans." "Sniff. He really is gone."

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