As the title suggests, this is a Three Shorts anthology episode of Futurama. The Professor uses his new invention, the "Fing-Longer", to reveal his other new invention, the "What If" machine. This is a device that shows a video of a hypothetical scenario after someone asks it a "what-if" question.
- Bender asks what it would be like if he had been a 500-foot tall robot. He is shown at first befriending Fry, but later destroys New New York. Bender is killed in a battle with an artificially enlarged Zoidberg.
- Leela asks what she would be like if she were more impulsive. Her first impulse (to buy a pair of boots with an additional stripe) eventually leads to even more impulsive behavior, causing her to kill everyone at Planet Express except Fry.
- Fry wants to know what would have happened if he'd never been frozen. It turns out his absence from the future causes a series of time rift that threaten the universe. Former US vice president Al Gore and his "Vice Presidential Action Rangers" (Stephen Hawking, Nichelle Nichols (Uhura from Star Trek: The Original Series), Gary Gygax (creator of Dungeons & Dragons), and Deep Blue the chess-playing robot) arrive to convince Fry that he has to be frozen. When Fry breaks the hibernation capsule instead of freezing himself, the entire universe is destroyed, leaving Fry and the Action Rangers floating in a white void.
At the end, it's revealed that the entire episode was the answer to the Professor's question, "What if I had invented the Fing-Longer?"
- Abnormal Ammo: In the first short, things quickly devolve into a Kaiju battle between a 500-foot-tall Zoidberg and Bender. The weapons they decide to use? Zoidberg decides to use a section of a subway as nunchucks, while Bender takes a section of the highspeed onramp and uses the people in it and around him as blow-darts.
- Actor Allusion: Bender announces "I'm a big robot, and I want a big cereal!" upon meeting Fry, an allusion to Billy West having voiced the Honeycomb commercials.
- Adam Westing: All the Action Rangers (bar Deep Blue) are doing this to varying degrees.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Played for Laughs. In his fantasy sequence, Bender is depicted as a giant who smashes up a city before being killed. As he lays dying, he laments he was unable to carry out his simple dream of killing all humans and expires on this line:Bender: Who's the real seven billion ton robot monster here? Not I... Not I...
Fry: Good night, sweet prince.
- Ambiguous Situation: The existence of the Fing-Longer in later episodes raises the question as to whether Farnsworth would go on to invent the Fing-Longer after watching the scenarios play out on the What-If machine, or if the Fing-Longer was invented by someone else and an envious Farnsworth was using the What-If machine to see what would have happened if he was the one who invented it.
- Anyone Can Die:
- In the first segment, Zapp, Kif and Bender die.
- The second has Leela kill everyone at Planet Express but Fry.
- And the third has the entire universe destroyed except Fry and the Vice Presidential Action Rangers.
- Apocalypse How: According to the What-If Machine, Fry refusing to be cryo-frozen for 1,000 years would cause a Universal-Scale Physical Annihilation. And it's not wrong, considering what happens in a later episode...
- Attack of the 50-Foot Whatever: The first story is about Bender being 500 feet tall. Later, he battles a 500 foot Zoidberg.
- Ax-Crazy: Impulsive Leela. Later episodes had this coming up much more often.
- Bait-and-Switch: When Fry realizes Leela is the murderer, she tearfully admits that she just wanted to be more impulsive. Then she ominously says she's going to be really impulsive with Fry, coming towards him. Cut to Fry and Leela in bed together.Leela: So, Fry, what do you think of the impulsive new me?
Fry: I like it!
Leela: (ominously) Good. Now let me just get the lights.
(Leela turns the lights off and Fry screams)
Fry: (breathlessly) I really like it!
Bender: As a robot living among humans, I've never really felt accepted at parties or nude beaches. So I've always secretly wondered... WHAT IF I WAS 500 FEET TALL?!
- Bender's question:
- Be Careful What You Wish For: Apart from this being the theme of the whole episode, there's Planet Express super-sizing Zoidberg to get rid of Bender, which he does - destroying more of New New York in the process. In fact, who gets to trash the city is what they start fighting over in the first place.
- Big Applesauce: "Terror at 500 Feet".
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, Nichelle Nichols, Gary Gygax, and Deep Blue are revealed to have been part of a secret group tasked with defending the space-time continuum against temporal paradoxes.
- Berserk Button: Al Gore doesn't like it when people forget his vice presidential duties include "protecting the space-time continuum". He's also not fond of Gary Gygax's incessant use of D&D dice.
- Best of All Possible Worlds: All three of the shorts lead to the death of several main characters, the last one even destroying the universe with the only survivors being Fry, Al Gore, Stephen Hawking, Deep Blue the chess-playing robot, Nichelle Nichols, and Gary Gygax.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Giant Zoidberg wins his fight with Giant Bender by cutting both his feet off and impaling him on the Empire State Building.
- Big Little Man: Bender's story begins with what appears to be Giant Bender, but turns out to be a regular-sized Bender, seen from below, one of many robots building the real Giant Bender.
- Blackmail Backfire: After Bender finds out that Leela killed Hermes, he confidently tries to get some money out of it, assuming her hack-and-slash methods won't work on someone made of metal. They won't, but a microwave will.
- "Blackmail" Is Such an Ugly Word: Bender prefers the term extortion. The X makes it sound cool.
- Bowdlerise: The second story ("What if Leela were impulsive") was (pardon the pun) butchered in syndication (in America and in the United Kingdom):
- Professor Farnsworth getting eaten by the anteaters after his line, "I just told you: You've killed me" was cut.
- The entire scene of Leela chopping up Hermes was deleted.
- The accusing parlor sequence no longer has Leela stabbing Cubert, Scruffy the janitor, and Nibbler in the dark.
- Buffy Speak:Fry: What if I never fell into that freezer-doodle and came to the future-jiggy?
Prof. Farnsworth: That question is less stupid, though you asked it in a profoundly stupid way.
- Cameo Cluster: The last segment features Stephen Hawking, Al Gore, Nichelle Nichols, and Gary Gygax as a team investigating Fry.
- Captain Oblivious: Fry and Zoidberg, in "Dial L for Leela". Zoidberg doesn't even realise Leela's the murderer as Leela violently hacks Hermes to pieces in the next room, or when Nibbler desperately points at Leela. Fry, meanwhile, doesn't even seem to care that much that his co-workers, last living relatives and best friend are all killed.
- Correspondence Course: Zoidberg has mail-order degrees in murderology and murderonomy.
- Continuity Nod: Bender uses "axe" instead of "ask", referring back to "Xmas Story" where Leela said that using "ask" instead of "axe" was archaic.
- Crippling Overspecialization: Deep Blue has no business on a crack team of geniuses when all it can do is dictate chess moves. Rule of Funny has it be part of the team anyway.
- Department of Redundancy Department:
- Zoidberg finds the "murdered body of Amy's dead, deceased corpse."
- Al Gore calls Fry a "foolish fool" when the latter breaks the cryogenic freezer.
- Did Not Think This Through: On seeing Giant Bender's rampage, the Planet Express team decide to make Zoidberg giant to fight him, except they don't tell him they want him to fight Bender, so Zoidberg starts lashing out at people and institutions who slighted him before.
- Disproportionate Retribution: Leela kills Amy for saying that she's not hip and sexy.
- Does Not Like Shoes: Invoked by Leela in "Dial L for Leela". Doctor Zoidberg reveals he has an incriminating boot print from the killer. Leela hastily lies that it can't be hers because she never wears boots. She immediately takes off her boots under the coffee table and puts her bare feet on display atop it, wiggling her toes to emphasize her absent footwear.
- Dwindling Party: The main plot element of "Dial L for Leela"
- Easily Forgiven: The Action Rangers don't hold Fry destroying the universe against him very long.
- Establishing Character Moment: Scruffy's gimmick of being a Forgettable Character is established in this episode.Leela: Who are you?
Scruffy: Scruffy, the janitor.
Leela: I've never seen you before.
Scruffy: I've never seen you before neither.
- Fate Worse than Death:Nichelle Nichols: An eternity with nerds. It's the Pasadena Star Trek convention all over again.
- Foreshadowing: The Reality-Breaking Paradox of the "Fry never gets frozen" scenario foreshadows both his importance to the universe, and an important revelation in "Roswell That Ends Well".
- Related to the first point, we see no shadow from under the table as Fry topples.
- Good Night, Sweet Prince: Fry says this to 500 foot tall Bender after he is impaled by a skyscraper.
- He Knows Too Much: Anyone who figures out the identity of the murderer immediately becomes their next victim.
- His Name Is...: When Leela, Fry, and Zoidberg were the only people still alive in "Dial L for Leela":Zoidberg: A letter from Bender, my good friend. "Dear Dr. Jerkberg, if you're reading this, I'm already dead. The person who killed me was ... was—" My God! It can't be! The murderer, it was—
Fry: (yawning) I'm bored. You're boring, Zoidberg. I'm gonna go watch TV.
Leela: Could you get the lights on your way out?
(Fry shuts off the lights in the accusing parlor.)'
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice:
- How the giant Bender dies, when the giant Zoidberg chops off his feet, causing him to stumble backwards onto the Empire State Building.
- Leela kills Cubert, Scruffy and Nibbler — all with the same sword, and impaling each one on the same sword every time the lights go out.
- I Am a Humanitarian: Okay, Zoidberg's not human, but he's still a co-worker, and Leela and Fry casually munch on him. Fry doesn't seem to notice who he's eating, though.
- I Resemble That Remark!: After Fry tells Leela to be more impulsive:Leela: I can be really impulsive! It just takes me a while.
- In Spite of a Nail: In the world of the first short, the initial absence of Bender doesn't seem to have thrown off the plot of the series too badly, given that Leela still joined the Planet Express crew. Then again, it's ambiguous whether Fry did, and it's hard to imagine how it would happen that Leela joined the crew and Fry didn't. (It's anyone's guess how the events of "Space Pilot 3000" went.)
- It's Been Done: After Bender's request is played, Fry suggests, "What if Bender was really giant?" When Leela calls him out for suggesting something they've already seen, Fry admits he liked it and just wanted to see it again, until Farnsworth forces him to ask something less stupid.
- Jerkass: Nichelle Nichols and Professor Stephen Hawking are portrayed as such, Nichols having no problem beating a person senseless with a tennis racket (and outright admitting the Action Rangers have committed murder before), and shoves Al Gore down when he suggests taking a different action, while Hawking is a rude, smug, egotistical, credit-stealing jerk.
- Jumping Off the Slippery Slope: Leela goes from killing the Professor in a fit of anger and with a pretty clear motive, to killing Bender because he seemed ready to extort her, to killing Amy because she said she wasn't hip or sexy.
- Mech vs. Beast: In Bender's segment the Professor uses a growth ray to make Zoidberg as big as Giant Bender.
- Mike Nelson, Destroyer of Worlds: Fry destroys the entire universe using a time paradox.
- Murder Is the Best Solution:
- Impulsive Leela's default reaction to being upset or threatened is to kill the offender. Unless it's Fry.
- The Action Rangers apparently default to murder as their usual solution. Unfortunately, with Fry, it doesn't work.Nichelle Nichols: Something's wrong! Murder isn't working and that's all we're good at!
- My God, What Have I Done?: Parodied when Leela kills the Professor.Farnsworth: Oh, you've killed me! You've killed me!
Leela: Oh God! What have I done?!
Farnsworth: I just told you, you've killed me!
- Nested Story Reveal: The events of the episode turn out to be a what-if simulation based on Farnsworth asking it, "What if I invented the Fing-Longer?"
- Plagiarism in Fiction: Fry discovers the "Fry Hole":
- Reality-Breaking Paradox: Fry being frozen for 1,000 years is, according to the What-If Machine, a critical component of the universe's continued existence; by refusing to enter the cryo-tube, Fry ends up threatening all of existence, and then destroying it.
- Recursive Reality: Turns out the whole episode was itself a what-if story from the What If machine.
- Schizo Tech: Farnsworth considers the Fing-Longer (essentially a glove with an extra-long pointer finger) to be a far more impressive invention and beyond his abilities, compared to the What-If Machine, which can generate elaborate simulations based on a single vague question.
- Sex for Services: Leela has sex with Fry in order to make sure he won't tell anyone of the murders.
- Ship Tease: An early hint at the Fry and Leela relationship. Leela kills everyone, implying that murder is her default solution to a problem, but her first idea for silencing Fry is to have sex with him.
- Giant Bender's flying to Earth is accompanied by the opening riff from Black Sabbath's Iron Man.
- Given Nichele Nichols' presence in the episode, they make sure to include a reference to Uhura, with her manning the Action Rangers' telephone, informing Al Gore about an incoming transmission.
- Bender saying he's a big robot and he wants a big cereal is a reference to Honeycomb cereal ads.
- Smelly Feet Gag:
- Zoidberg: ...You see, the killer left one fatal clue: This boot print on the Professor's lab coat!Leela: Uh, couldn't be me. I never wear boots. [hastily takes off her boots] See?Fry: Ew! What smells like boot feet?
- The Summation: After investigating the string of murders at Planet Express Zoidberg has everyone gather in "The Accusing Parlor" so he can deliver one of these. Leela keeps interrupting to murder people as they're about to reveal that she's the one responsible.
- Summon Bigger Fish: To battle a giant Bender, Professor Farnsworth turns Zoidberg into an "even more equally big monster."
- Suspect Existence Failure: Parodied, where Zoidberg's summation is repeatedly interrupted by this. Further twisting it is that the new victims each figure out who the real killer is seconds before their deaths (which is why they get killed).
- They Wasted a Perfectly Good Sandwich: When Stephen Hawking learns about the "Fry Hole," he leaves the pizzeria and tells Mr. Panucci to toss the pizza in the garbage. Unsurprising, given his opinions on Panucci's.
- This Billboard Needs Some Salt: Giant Bender picks up the smokestacks from a cigarette factory and smokes them.
- Twist Ending: The entire episode was a "what if" that Farnsworth was looking at.
- What If?: The whole point of the What-If Machine.
- Who Writes This Crap?!: Farnsworth is so disgusted at the implausibility and baffling plot twists of the last scenario that he throws the What-If Machine in the garbage. "Stephen Hawking in a pizzeria..."
- Would Hurt a Child: Leela murders Cubert to cover her tracks.
- "X" Makes Anything Cool: Trope Namer—it's why Bender prefers "extortion" to "blackmail."
- Your Size May Vary: Bender and Zoidberg, perhaps unsurprisingly, are all over the place in size during their fight. They're apparently 500 feet tall, but they end up being anywhere from half that to twice that, depending on the shot.