Episode Title: "The Silence of the Clamps"
Writer: Eric Rogers
Director: Frank Marino
On a rare Earthbound delivery, the Planet Express team finds itself at the wedding of the Donbot's daughter. The package in question is a new pair of clamps for Clamps; the twitchy and psychotic member of the Robot Mafia. Only Bender (John DiMaggio) dares to sneak into the wedding and proceed to not only hit on the bride but also the Donbot's wife; with whom he had a previous affair. Soon enough, Bender finds the Donbot's other daughter, Bella and messes around with her before witnessing the robot actor, Calculon on the receiving end of a savage clamping by Clamps.
While some of the initial "Godfather" and mafia jokes fell a little flat, the episode picks up some steam with the introduction of a robot police detective; who in the absence of a better name I'm going to call him Elliot Nessbot. The Nessbot even had one of the funniest lines of the night when he tells Bender that he enjoyed the tasteful recollection of his love scene with Bella. Nessbot promises Bender a $50 reward if he testifies against the Donbot; which nearly leads to a conviction after "a steamy 12 way deliberation;" according to Hedonism bot. The courtroom gags were pretty effective, from the return of the chicken lawyer to the open execution of the first anti-corruption robot judge, who immediately makes way for a more corruptible model of robot judge.
But a shaky distortion mirror and Bella's own words reveal Bender's identity to the court. And when Calculon is forced to deny the attack, the Donbot is freed and he plots his revenge against Bender. To save his life, Bender is placed in a spaceship that looks like a hat (!) and he sent away into witness relocation. This leads to the meat of the episode: Clamps joining Planet Express in order to get close to Fry (Billy West) and find Bender when he inevitably shows himself.
What follows is an odd commentary on Bender and Fry's relationship that seems to suggest that Fry is so used to Bender being an a**hole to him that Fry interprets Clamps' anti-social outbursts and antagonistic behavior as forms of of friendship and affection. Clamps (of Francis, as he doesn't like to be called) clearly can't stand his new human teammates, but they seem to love him unconditionally… Everyone save Zoidberg, who is annoyed that Clamps can do more with his clamps than with his claws. Zoidberg tries to be friendly to his new rival, but Clamps barely hides his murderous intentions.
Finally, the crew encounter Bender while on the Moon for another delivery. Much to their surprise, Bender introduces himself as Billy West, the new husband of the Crushinator. The real Billy West even gets to comment on this through Fry, "What a silly name." And yet Billy is completely truthful when he explains that he doesn't know who the crew is. The Professor discovers that Bender must have had his hard drive removed and replaced with a new personality. But that doesn't stop Clamps from attempting to murder the former Bender the minute he gets away from the crew.
Bender's unlikely savior is none other than Dr. Zoidberg, who fights Clamps in one of the better animated fights on the show since Zoidberg's battle with Fry in the second season. Even the music and backgrounds were suddenly reminiscent of the best Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns. In the end, Zoidberg is victorious, but Bella arrives and executes Bender for cheating on her by marrying the Crushinator.
Back on Earth, the crew actually shows more emotion to Bender's latest fake demise than his actual death a few episodes back. That's right, the real Bender was working at the pizza place across the street all along and Billy was just an innocent robot who was killed the Robot Mafia. The crew realizes this and then shrugs it off to celebrate Bender's return.
I'm not sure why the writing staff thought it would be a good idea to "kill" Bender twice within the last three episodes. Again, this "death" was actually effective because Fry and the Planet Express team really seemed to care this time. There's also an odd trend of the Planet Express team leaving innocent victims dead in their wake. A couple of episodes back, Bender's sub-atomic robot duplicates essentially murdered a poor, misunderstood giant, and this week the crew was also partially responsible for the death of Billy. Those jokes usually work on the first pass through the episode, but they were just kind of sad the second time through. It's a little disturbing how the cast of characters are becoming so openly callous.
"The Silence of the Clamps" was an enjoyable episode of "Futurama," even though it felt a little hollow and it had a severe lack of Hannibal Lecter jokes. It may be unrealistic to expect the "Futurama" writers to deliver home runs every week. But it seems like this season has been made up of a lot of singles and ground rule doubles. And "Futurama" can be so much more than that…
Crave Online Rating: 7 out of 10.