In retrospect, it makes sense that Hermes would want to transform himself into a robot; his entire purpose in life is to be as perfectly bureaucratic as possible, and there are few things more technically correct than a machine. “The Six Million Dollar Mon” (oy that pun) takes a two pronged approach to justify the Jamaican’s decision to go bionic. First, after a routine performance review, Hermes realizes he’s the least valuable employee at Planet Express, and does the only logical thing: he fires himself, only to be replaced by a more efficient ‘bot. Then, while he and LaBarbara are taking a walk in the park, they’re attacking by the psychotic, skin-obsessed Roberto, another machine. Roberto is dispatched by the police (the robot cop makes the arrest, naturally), and Hermes decides that the only way he can be happy is with a little upgrade. It’s an effective progression, one that explains why the character is having a change of heart now, while still being built on top of aspects of his personality that have long been established.
Something else that makes sense: Hermes hates Zoidberg. This has been a small but consistent part of the series for the entire run, because of course the man who insists that everything runs according to routine is going to loathe the giant lobster who can’t do anything without wrecking it. So Hermes is constantly and viciously insulting to the (not so) good doctor, which means, of course, that Zoidberg thinks they’re best friends. The crustacean makes a habit out of misreading the contempt thrown his way, and given the passion and consistency of Hermes’ contempt, Zoidberg only naturally believes they have a special bond, more than anyone else at the company. When Hermes leaves, he’s outraged and despondent, heartsick that no one will hurt his feelings so thoroughly ever again. (“I’ll insult you, you fat sack,” Leela offers, but Zoidberg isn’t appease: “Sure, when it’s convenient.”) This point in the show’s run, it must be hard to find character pairings which haven’t been beaten into the ground, but while I’m sure Zoidberg and Hermes have dealt with each other before, I think (emphasis on “think”) that this is the first time their relationship has been so integral to an episode. It feels fresh, anyway, and for most of the half hour, it delivers.
“The Six Million Dollar Mon” was funnier and smarter than the season’s managed so far; the engine of the Hermes and Zoidberg conflict helps keep things moving, and also works to make the story feel more relevant and fun. Hermes various robotic accoutrements (building until he’s finally machine, but for his brain and scalp) are a hoot, but the funniest aspect of the episode is, at least for me, Zoidberg’s desperate attempts to fill the Hermes-shaped hole in his life. He asks for the discarded body parts after each operation, and it’s natural to assume that he wants to eat them; gross, but character appropriate. It turns out, however, that he’s using the parts to build a life-size Hermes ventriloquist doll, which he uses for his dynamite stage show. And his jokes—which are just riffs on insults Hermes used to throw him—are top notch. It’s a great concept, and the sort of thing Futurama does so well: gross, darkly comic, a little creepy, and strangely sweet.
The only flaw in the episode comes at the climax, which does all the basic moves you’d expect, just not quite as smartly as I was hoping for. Zoidberg saves Hermes, and Hermes love of his wife’s curried goat (which is really, really, really, really, really, really spicy) helps defeat the evil Roberto, but it’s all a little too neat. Mainly, I’m thinking of the way Zoidberg inserts Hermes’ brain into Hermes’ sown together corpse. It’s no surprise that Hermes is restored to his regular meatsack by the end credits, and I don’t even mind that Zoidberg’s careful rescue of the accountant’s fleshy bits was what saved the day, but I just needed some kind of extra step to justify how it makes any sense. I’m not asking for medical accuracy, or anything remotely like that, but after the great writing building up to the end, I was expecting something a little smarter than, “Oh, right, he’s better now.” It’s a moment of laziness (intended or otherwise) that, fortunately, doesn’t undo what was, all things considered, a pretty great half hour. Plus, the bad guy melts after eating a piece of the hero’s skin, and there aren’t many other places on TV I can go to see that.
- I also didn’t really need Zoidberg’s explanation of why Roberto melted at the end, but that’s probably just nitpicking.
- Nobody fires Scruffy. Also, “Ain’t a boiler nor a toilet. Pass.”
- “Oh no, the firing tie!”
- “Good luck everybody but Zoidberg.”
- “When I fight machinery, machinery always wins!”
- “Hermes! Boy am I indifferent to see you.”
- It’s a quick gag, but I love Zoidberg accidentally using the wrong hand once when trying to speak through the dummy. Also, Amy’s right; it is creepy when he sings harmony with himself.
- “Your wife’s moving plea has made me realize you might have litigious survivors.”
- Nice “Monster Mash” riff.
- “It’s funny because it’s mean!”