Fry and Bender join the Earthican Army to get discounts at convenience stores, and end up getting drafted in a war against a planet of bouncing balls. Meanwhile, Leela poses as a man named Lee Lemon so she can protect Fry and Bender.
- Ambiguously Bi: Zapp is mildly troubled by the idea of being attracted to "Lee Lemon", but at the same time he's not necessarily resistant to the idea either. He is relieved to discover at the end that Lee is really Leela.
- Appeal to Force: Bender has a bomb implanted inside his body and it will "detonate the instant the robot unwittingly speaks a certain word", wiping out an entire planet. It's the one word he uses more than any other: "ass". After finding that out he starts a game of "Make Bender happy or he blows up the planet!" because he's frustrated with the Brainballs' constant talk of bouncing.
- Armed Farces: Zapp and his army (which Fry, Bender and a disguised Leela have joined) go to war against a species of bouncing ball aliens.
- The Artifact: The southern-fried private refers to Fry as an "emu-bellied coward", a holdover of the character's originally larger part, where he was an emu farmer.
- Bait-and-Switch: The fifth through second most commonly used words by Bender are "Bite", "My", "Shiny"... "Daffodil". (The first is "Ass", naturally.)
- Batman Gambit:
- The bomb planted onto Bender is wired to detonate when he says his most commonly-used word, "ass".
- Attempted by Farnsworth when he discovers he cannot defuse the bomb; he instead reprograms it to detonate when Bender says the word he is least likely to say. Unfortunately, he makes the mistake of revealing this fact to Bender, causing him to try to guess the word. It ends up being "antiquing".
- Bilingual Bonus: Keen observers of Alien Language 1 will note the tent in the M*A*S*H shout-out instead states "M E A T".
- Boot Camp Episode: Fry and Bender enlist in order to take advantage of a discount for recruits, just as war is declared.
- Bowdlerization: On Channel 4 in the UK, the list of Bender's trigger words was edited to remove "pimpmobile" and replace it with "of course".
- They also shortened Bender saying "I'm catching the next pimpmobile out of here!" to "I'm out of here!"
- Brick Joke: The episode begins with Fry and Bender admiring Big Pink, the only gum with the breath-freshening taste of ham. After joining the military, Fry complains that it's mostly just bones. When he arrives to save Bender and the Balls, Henry Kissinger notes he has the bravery of a hero, and "breath as fresh as a summer ham".
- Bug War: Spoofed, with the enemy being a race of bouncing balls.
- Cannibalism Superpower: The Professor's parting words are, "Be careful, Fry, and if you kill anyone be sure to eat their heart to gain their courage. Their rich, tasty courage."
- Catch Phrase Interruptus: Fry stops Bender from saying the last word of his Catchphrase ("Bite my shiny metal ass" ) from triggering the bomb.
- Cerebus Syndrome: Discussed by Dr. Zoidberg: "This is how it starts: first with the jokes, then comes the heavy stuff," which is how the TV show M*A*S*H operated (at least before the later episodes directed by Alan Alda, which were mostly heavy stuff with little to no jokes).
- Deadly Closing Credits: Subverted. The bomb planted in Bender's chest explodes Behind the Black, followed by Bender's remark of "I'm alright!"
- Dirty Coward: Fry is called out for it when uses the only charged phaser to blast himself a hole to hide in. Though at the end of that episode, he does ride a bouncing ball to the peace meeting to save the life of his best friend.Zapp Brannigan: Look at this sissy, Kiff. While others were fighting and dying pointlessly, he was hiding in a hole, wallowing in a pool of his own cowardice.
Fry: That wasn't cowardice!
- The Ditz: When Leela drops her Lee Lemon voice, telling Fry he knows her, he initially thinks she's Hermes.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The mysterious Brain Balls. They got a lot of brains, and a lotta... chutzpah.
- General Failure: When Zapp Brannigan's in command, every mission's a suicide mission! His army's sci-fi tech ends up getting completely routed by a race of aliens with no apparent weapons besides bouncing.Zapp: As you all know, the key to victory is the element of surprise... Surpise! (A trapdoor open, dumping the troops into battle.)
- Go, Ye Heroes, Go and Die: Zapp Brannigan tells his troops, "Men, you're lucky men. Soon you'll all be fighting for your planet. Most of you will be dying for your planet. Some of you will be forced through a fine mesh screen for your planet. They will be the luckiest of all."
- Hero with an F in Good: Zapp is this for the episode, as ever (bordering on Nominal Hero).
- Hugh Mann: Leela's attempts to blend in with the male soldiers and act like how she think a man would act leave a lot to be desired. Fortunately for her, everyone in the army is too stupid to see through her.Fry: Mind if we sit with you?
Leela: (hesitantly and while disguised as Lee Lemon) Uhhhh, hey, why the hell would I? We're all guys here. Sweaty, hairy, gassy guys.
Fry: Good point...I guess.
- Hypocrite: Zapp accuses Fry of being a coward, when he himself did nothing but ride on his horse on a hoverplatform in the sky.
- I Would Say If I Could Say: Bender gets annoyed by the Brain Balls, but does not know where they can shove it.Bender: If they don't stop bouncing and jiggling, I swear I'm gonna shove this treaty up their—wait a second. Where do you shove things up a ball?
Henry Kissenger: This isn't a productive area of discussion.
- Innocently Insensitive: Done repeatedly in which Leela is pretending to be a macho guy, and Bender unknowingly "compliments" her on the macho stereotypes least suited to a woman:Bender: You're my kind of soldier, Lemon. A foul-mouthed, barrel-chested, beer-bellied pile of ugly muscle....But sweet girls aren't for you, eh? You hard-fighting, hard-farting, ugly, ugly son of aLeela: Stop! Stop flattering me!
- I'll Kill You!: Zoidberg gets upset over iHawk the medical robot stealing his joke.Zoidberg: That's my joke! I'll kill you!
- It's Quiet
Too Quiet: The soldiers opinion of Spheron-1, at least at first.Grizzled soldier: This is the worst part: The calm before the battle.
Fry: And then the battle's not too bad?
Grizzled soldier: Oh, right. I forgot about the battle. (quivers)
- Jerkass Has a Point: For all his wise-cracking, iHawk raises a fairly valid point that Zoidberg's medical expertise leaves a lot to be desired.Zoidberg: Scalpel. Blood bucket. Priest. Next patient!iHawk: Jeez Zoidberg, leave some for the enemy to kill!Nurse: You leave Doctor Zoidberg alone! He has twice the training you do!iHawk: Yeah, he's a doctor and a butcher! [cackles]Zoidberg: I'm afraid he's gone. [pulls a sheet over his patient's head]Soldier: Whoa Doc, I ain't dead!Zoidberg: Excuse me, I believe I'm the doctor.iHawk: Believe it all you want, that won't make it true! [cackles]
- Jumping on a Grenade: Bender covers a bomb with his body to save the other soldiers, and as he is a robot he survives and is decorated for his actions.
- Kavorka Man: Henry Kissinger.Nixon: Accompanying you will be our top peace negotiator, Henry Kissenger.
Bender: Is he any good?
Nixon: Looking like that, he talked his way into Jill St. John's bed. 'Nuff said!
- Laser-Guided Karma: Fry and Bender join up to the army with the sole intention of getting a discount on 40 cent chewing gum. Naturally, the minute they do so, Earth declares war on the Balls, and the two get drafted.
- Mission Briefing: Zapp Brannigan briefs the troops in front of a large Earth Government flag, a parody of the opening scene of the movie Patton. Richard Nixon's head also joins in.
- Mood-Swinger: The iHawk robot has two settings, irreverent and maudlin.
- Noodle Incident:
- Though "Yours," "Up,", "Chump," "Chumpette", and most of the words listed under Bait-and-Switch above make sense, the Top 10 List suggests a lot of unseen occasions where Bender said "pimpmobile" and "daffodil." Joking on this, when he's picked for the mission, he announces "Hot diggity daffodil!"
- We catch the tail end of a story Nixon tells Zapp, which ends with him for some reason smuggling a panda in a crate, only to find out it died in transit.
- Not So Above It All: It turns out Kif can be just as much of a Mean Boss as Zapp is to him when Fry becomes Kif's assistant. Years of pent up frustration at Zapp are no doubt being released since he has someone to pick on himself.Zapp: Private Fry, you shall henceforth serve as Kif's assistant.Kif: You'll speak when I tell you to, you filthy worm!
- Paper-Thin Disguise: Leela's disguise. Thank goodness that Fry, Bender and Zapp are complete idiots.
- Pet the Dog: Zapp reassuring his horse Felicity after Fry spooks it. It's the most compassion Zapp shows to anything, anywhere, ever. Points for actual petting.
- Politically Incorrect "Hero":
- Not surprisingly, Zapp's rampant sexism has meant the DOOP armed forces no longer allow women.
- And as it turns out, the DOOP are the ones invading the peaceful, if irritating, Ball's home planet.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Zapp rides a horse on a hoverplatform into battle. A horse called Felicity. A male horse called Felicity.
- Shaped Like Itself: In honor of his bravery on the battlefield, Zapp proposes that they melt the wounded Bender down and make him into a statue of himself.
- Ship Tease: Leela seems overjoyed when Fry mentions in the presence of "Lee Lemon" that he has a thing for the cyclops he works with, even asking Fry if the girl is "blonde or Chinese or cyclops".
- Fry says that "Lee Lemon" makes Speedy Gonzales look like "Regular Gonzales".
- Starship Troopers: The whole premise of the episode (a disastrous expedition by the Earth's military to a desert-like alien world) is very reminiscent of the film. Funnily, its portrayal of the military as laughably incompetent and the aggressors in the conflict is one of the most popular readings of the film as well.
- Patton: Zapp's speech, mentioned up top, is made in front of the Earthican flag.
- M*A*S*H: Abounds. The DOOP base camp resembles the one from the show, uses the same unseen announcer, the same opening cue as the theme song, has a robot based on Hawkeye...
- Silly Reason for War: The start of the episode establishes that Earth really had no reason to invade the planet.Soldier: So what makes this planet worth dying for?
- Sitcom Arch-Nemesis: Zoidberg's rivalry with the medical robot who goes from cracking jokes about war to lamenting how it turns people (and robots and aliens) into savages.
- Southern-Fried Private: One of the bit characters is one.
- Starfish Aliens: The spheres and their leadership the Brain Balls.
- Stealth Pun: "These Balls are making me testy!note "
- Sweet on Polly Oliver: Zapp Brannigan finds private "Lee Lemon" intriguing in very uncomfortable ways, to the point that he's visibly relieved when Leela drops the disguise after beating him up.Zapp: Leela! So it's you I've been attracted to! Oh God, I've never been so happy to be beaten up by a woman!
Leela: Let's do it again sometime.
- Tempting Fate: The recruiter tells Fry and Bender they can get their military discount cards then quit, playing the army for chumps, unless of course "war were declared". Immediately after he's said that...
- Top Ten List: Of Bender's most frequently used words, done in the same style as on The Late Show with David Letterman.
- Trigger Phrase: Bender is fitted with a bomb that will explode when he says the word "ass," which in a reversal from the norm is specifically selected as the word he says most often. At the end, Professor Farnsworth tries to defuse the bomb but can't and instead resets it so it will be detonated by the word Bender is least likely to say - which Bender immediately tries to guess. It takes at least three tries. The word? Antiquing.
- T-Word Euphemism: "If you say the A-word, you'll blow this whole planet straight to the H-word!"
- Umbrella Drink: Subverted.Zap: Damnit, Kif, where's the little umbrella? That's what makes it a scotch on the rocks!
- Unsettling Gender Reveal: Inverted. Zapp is so relieved to find out Lee Lemon is actually Leela, he stops caring about the fact that she just kicked his ass.
- Why Am I Ticking?: Bender unknowingly has a bomb implanted in him. It's set to explode if he utters the word "ass", which is his favorite word. He's then sent along with Henry Kissinger's head to a peace summit with the intent of blowing up the enemy high command along with the rest of the planet... long story short, he repeatedly averts the use of the word in question for no apparent reason. When Bender DOES find out, however, he cackles evilly and puts it to good use: blackmail. They eventually change the trigger word to one they would never expect Bender to use. Antiquing. Of course he says it.