Episode Title: "The Butterjunk Effect"
Writer: Michael Rowe
Director: Crystal Chesney-Thompson
While the heart of "Futurama" has always been Fry's (Billy West) romantic pursuit of Leela (Katey Sagal) and his sometimes one-sided friendship with Bender (John DiMaggio), the relationship between Amy (Lauren Tom) and Leela has rarely been explored. For most of the series, the two leading ladies have been mercilessly snipping at each other. Both women are guilty of this, but Amy seems to do it more often.
In "The Butterjunk Effect," Amy and Leela explain that their verbal warfare is actually a part of their healthy friendship. Indeed, Leela suggests that a less cordial relationship between them would be characterized by false politeness. I don't quite buy Leela's argument, especially as she has had several looks that could kill in response to some Amy's choice insults over the years. But for the purposes of this episode, they're friends… so let's go with it.
On a routine mission to the moon, Amy and Leela are roped into becoming a Butterfly Derby team on the moon; which resembles a low gravity roller derby league. Amy and Leela have some good moves, but they inevitably lose to the reigning champions, the Murderflies… and to everyone else they go up against. At least until they start juicing with the illegal (and yet all natural) nectar; which pumps up their bodies with muscles and makes them more masculine and aggressive.
Yes, that's right. It's time for the obligatory modern sports parable on "Futurama." We've already had the Presidential election themed episode earlier this year, so I suppose that this was inevitable. However, it's not particularly funny nor as sharply written as the majority of the series' episodes. To be sure, there are definitely some amusing moments and Fry's transformation was very funny. But there was also a lack of substance in the friendship between the two women and their relationships with their respective lovers, Fry and Kiff. That could have been easily forgiven if "The Butterjunk Effect" had been hilarious throughout.
Unfortunately, it's not.
Part of that may stem from the way that Fry was strangely underutilized. While Kiff is actually abused and tormented by the overly aggressive Amy, the new Leela is largely indifferent to Fry. It doesn't help that Fry is saddled with some pretty bad material early in the episode, particularly his constant cat calls every time that Amy and Leela say anything to each other. Things start to pick up when Fry is doused with alien butterfly pheromones and he becomes suddenly irresistible to both Amy and Leela. It seemed like a missed opportunity to have Kiff let that betrayal go so easily, but it was probably one of Fry's longtime fantasies.
The highlight comes in the closing moments as Leela and Amy are over-matched in their championship duel-to-the-death with the Murderflies after kicking their nectar addiction together. It was a little on-the-nose when Amy and Leela have to hold each other to stay afloat, but I still liked that moment. However, it was Fry's metamorphosis into a giant butterfly that gave the episode its best jokes. The Butter-Fry ends up mating with the Murderflies as Leela and Amy feel left out.
As solutions go, Fry simply reverting back to himself immediately after the Professor deemed his condition hopeless was a little lazy, but I laughed anyway. Bender also had a few chuckle worthy moments throughout as he attached himself to the two couples in an almost desperate attempt to stay close to them.
There's rarely a "Futurama" episode that could legitimately be called a bad show by any stretch. But I keep waiting for "Futurama" to recapture its comedic heights this season and it just hasn't happened yet. I still think that "Futurama" will rebound from this slight creative downturn and find itself again. It's just a matter of time.