The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz

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Season 3 episode
The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz
The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz.jpg
Production number3ACV05
Written byDan Vebber
Directed byJames Purdum
Title captionNow with Chucklelin
First air date4 March, 2001
Broadcast numberS03E09
Title reference"The Birdman of Alcatraz", the nickname of famous Alcatraz inmate Robert Franklin Stroud
Opening cartoonBubbles


Season 3
  1. Amazon Women in the Mood
  2. Parasites Lost
  3. A Tale of Two Santas
  4. The Luck of the Fryrish
  5. The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz
  6. Bendless Love
  7. The Day the Earth Stood Stupid
  8. That's Lobstertainment!
  9. The Cyber House Rules
  10. Where the Buggalo Roam
  11. Insane in the Mainframe
  12. The Route of All Evil
  13. Bendin' in the Wind
  14. Time Keeps on Slippin'
  15. I Dated a Robot
  16. A Leela of Her Own
  17. A Pharaoh to Remember
  18. Anthology of Interest II
  19. Roswell that Ends Well
  20. Godfellas
  21. Future Stock
  22. The 30% Iron Chef
← Season 2Season 4 →

"The Birdbot of Ice-Catraz" is the thirty-seventh episode of Futurama, the fifth of the third production season and the ninth of the third broadcast season. It aired on 4 March, 2001, on Fox. Farnsworth has agreed to an extremely controversial mission, at which Leela refuses to remain captain and joins Penguins Unlimited, meanwhile Bender is assigned captain, and manages to pilot a tanker full of dark-matter oil into a penguin reserve on Pluto and as punishment is forced to clean them up. During his punishment, his system accidentally reboots, causing him to take on the behaviour of the penguins. He then leads in battle against the penguin-hunting Penguins Unlimited.

The Story

Act I: "I'm sending you on an extremely controversial mission!"

Although Fry's cookies are freshalicious, they produce lots of trash. And although the aerosol head spray makes Bender's antenna smell nice, it causes damage to the atmosphere. The Professor enters and announces that the crew is to haul the Juan Valdez, a super-tanker full of Colombian dark matter. The ship's primary protection from leakage is its six thousand hulls. The Professor's routing, however, takes the ship within three feet of a penguin preserve in order to avoid a toll booth.

Fry finishes restocking the ship's mess with emergency jam, and Leela decides not to participate in the mission. She chooses instead to join the a group of environmentalist protestors. The Professor then gives command of the ship to Bender. Zoidberg goes along as the ship's steward.

Fry is griping about not being chosen as captain, and mentions that Leela let him sit on her lap and steer. In a comic he drew, which Zoidberg seems excited about.

Leela is with the Pengins Unlimited "econauts", who are being instructed in the art of protesting by Free Waterfall Sr. He instructs the protestors to form a non-violent peace ring around the tanker, but Leela wants to use more drastic measures, such as ass-kicking.

After hitching to the tanker, the PE Ship simply goes around the protestors by moving upward. Apparently, Free Waterfall, Sr. didn't realize spaceships could move in three dimensions. After this minor failure, the protestors head to the penguin preserve to intercept the tanker again.

Free Waterfall, Sr. gives a brief tour of the facility, and Leela is smitten with the young penguins.

Act II: "You're nothing but a big blowhard!"

Back on the ship, Fry is still insenced over not being chosen for the position of captain. Fry toasts Bender, but it quickly turns to insults. Bender's inappropriate behavior and power-tripping has only added to Fry's anger, and Fry storms out.

Bender, in a depression, is piloting the ship without having had a drink in some time. His reckless course takes the tanker dangerously close to Pluto, while flying upside-down. Zoidberg tries to convince Bender to take a drink, but Bender refuses.

The protestors await the ship with homemade signs, when Leela notices Bender's erratic flying. The Juan Valdez strikes an iceberg, and all six thousand hulls are breached, spilling huge amounts of dark matter oil across the penguin preserve.

Morbo and Linda report the story, as dark matter spreads throughout the preserve. However, to lessen the tragedy, ridiculous sound effects have been added to the footage. Morbo reports that Bender's alcohol level was well below the legal limit when he crashed. Bender consults the Hyper-Chicken, who has gotten him off with community service. He might've done better, but he's awaiting his own trial for incompetence.

On Pluto, the econauts and the PE crew are cleaning the dark matter oil off the penguins. Smitty and Url supervise Bender's community service, and Leela goes to check on him. Smitty and Url are chatting, and then embrace in a long hug. Bender sees his opportunity to escape, and puts on a tuxedo. After retracting his arms and legs, he blends in "perfectly" with the penguins. After the embrace, Smitty and Url realize that this may be the reason their chief has told them not to hug.

Act III: "I declare penguin hunting season officially open!"

On the way back to the penguin preserve, Leela notices Bender's disappeared. Fry and Zoidberg are playing video games, because they got sent inside for doing a bad job, and eating penguin eggs. Leela expresses her concern and Fry decides to go with her to try and find Bender.

Bender is sleeping with the flock of penguins, when they all wake up and move into the water. Bender is unable to fight against their movement and is pushed into the water. Before he can get out of the water, he is attacked by an orca, who spits him onto the ice shelf. Bender lands on his head, and the impact resets him. He reboots in penguin mode, the main tasks of which are to acquire food and frolic. The penguins decide to all go fishing, and Bender is immediately accepted as one of them.

Fry, searching for Bender, has travelled far beyond Pluto and blames the bad navigation on Zoidberg.

Bender, meanwhile, is interested in starting a penguin family, but is at first foiled by a larger penguin. However, he soon finds an attractive mate. Bender then partakes in all the activities of the penguins, with varying degrees of success. After successfully incubating several penguin eggs, he feeds the chicks by puréeing fish and regurgitating it for them.

Free Waterfall, Sr. gives a presentation on the effects of the dark matter oil on the penguin population. The effects include increasing egg production to six eggs every fifteen minutes, which hatch in twelve hours. Additionally, the male penguins are laying eggs. After this last revelation, a man in the audience passes out from over-gasping. Free Waterfall, Sr. concludes by saying that the penguins will soon exhaust their food supply and starve to death. Leela asks how they can help, and Free Waterfall, Sr. declares penguin hunting season open.

Act IV: "Cold showers don't work on antarctic creatures!"

In the penguin preserve lodge, the econauts are cleaning and loading their weapons, preparing for the hunt. Leela is reluctant to join them, though. However, after being shown the extent of the overpopulation, Leela agrees to help. Leela is outfitted with a weapon and sets out. After some last reservations, Leela is finally convinced to kill the penguins.

Fry and Zoidberg, meanwhile, are completely lost, and being attacked by a giant space squid.

Leela finds a flock of penguins, and prepares to fire into it. She forces herself to fire, though she cannot look while she does it. After she fires, she feels terrible, and rushes to see what the damage is.

Act V: "Attack!"

She finds she has shot Bender, and once again rebooted him. Although Bender tries to put on a callous façade, the penguins have clearly developed an attachment to him. A chick approaches him, and he regurgitates puréed fish into its beak. However, the rest of the Penguins Unlimited econauts come into range and begin firing randomly into the flock of penguins. They confront Leela, who almost convinces them to stop, but they've already prepared the batter for penguin tempura. While they were distracted, Bender and the flock of penguins flanked them and attacked, driving the econauts off. Free Watterfall, Sr. is the only one who doesn't survive, and his father appears and swears to avenge his son's death. Leela laments the birds' having turned violent, and Bender tells her that he taught them to attack anything that isn't black and white. He then removes his tuxedo. The penguins spot him and charge, as he is no longer black and white. Bender rides on Leela's back to safety, and although Bender breaks off a piece of ice, which begins to float away, the penguins simply swim over to them and continue the assault. At the last moment, the PE Ship lands on the floating piece of ice and it tips severely. An orca places its mouth at the edge and lets the penguins slide down its throat. Bender almost slips in as well, but Fry grabs his hand and pulls him aboard the ship.

Bender, Leela, and Fry then begin the flight back home. But back on Pluto, two penguins find weapons left behind by the Penguins Unlimited econauts. After struggling to pick them up, they aim them at each other and cock them.

Additional Info


  • The Juan Valdez is named both for the Exxon Valdez, an oil tanker that ran aground near the Alaska coastline, and Juan Valdez, the mascot of Colombian coffee. Hence the phrase "rich Colombian dark matter."
  • This episode was named #22 on IGN's list of top 25 Futurama episodes.
  • Free Waterfall Sr. is holding a sign that says "Free Chilly Willy!"


    Bender: I once knew a guy... you look like 'im... but he wasn't either.

    Bender: [singing] Greenland is a barren land, a land that bears no green; where there's ice and snow and the whale fishies blow...

    Prof. Farnsworth: Good news, everyone! I'm sending you on an extremely controversial mission.
    Fry: Controversial?
    Prof. Farnsworth: Oh, my, no. [The crew is now viewing a hologram in the meeting room.] For this highly controversial mission you'll be towing the Juan Valdez, an orbiting supertanker full of rich Colombian dark matter.
    Leela: Dark matter oil? What if we hit something? The tanker could leak.
    Prof. Farnsworth: Impossible! The tanker has 6,000 hulls. So, unlike me, it's entirely leak-proof. Now, once you've hauled the tanker past the protestors--
    Leela: Protestors?
    Prof. Farnsworth: Correct. 6,000 hulls.
    Leela: Why do we have to fly within three feet of this penguin preserve on Pluto?
    Prof. Farnsworth: [whispering] To avoid the tollbooth.

    Free Waterfall Sr.: If you're cold, rub your bodies with permafrost. It's nature's long johns. [He picks up some snow, puts his hand down his pants and rubs it around.] If rubbing frozen dirt in your crotch is wrong, hey, I don't wanna be right!

    Free Waterfall Sr.: Good way to avoid frostbite, folks: Put your hands between your buttocks. That's nature's pocket.
    Leela: Uh ... I think I'll go check on Bender.
    Free Waterfall Sr.: Watch that he doesn't pick your pocket.


  • The title is reference to Robert Franklin Stroud who was known as "The Birdman Of Alcatraz."
  • The entire incident is a reference to the Exxon Valdez disaster, which killed thousands of animals on the Alaskan coastline.
  • After being thrown by the orca, Bender makes the same sound as R2-D2 makes in Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back after being spit out of the water by a creature in a swamp on Dagobah. His subsequent landing in the ice references when R2 got stunned by Jawas.
  • Penguins Unlimited is somewhat based on the group Ducks Unlimited, a wetland conservation group founded by and supported by hunters. The group advocates population control by hunting and collects donations and membership dues to be spent on wetland conservation and education on the subject.
  • Bender's speech "We will fight them on the beaches! We will fight them on the glaciers!" is based off of Winston Churchill's famous "We will fight them on the beaches" speech before the House of Commons.
  • The song Bender sings when flying the Planet Express ship sober is "Greenland Whale Fisheries", a traditional sea shanty that dates back to 1725. A version of the song can be heard here.
  • When Leela enters the Penguins Unlimited HQ and sees Fry and Zoidberg playing videogames, she calls them "Kong donkeys", a clear reference to video game character Donkey Kong (who would appear in "Anthology of Interest II", in his 1981 arcade incarnation).
  • Fry eats the Oreo-like cookie only for the frosting which Bart in the Simpsons episode "Das Bus" does as well.


  • In the scene that takes place on the penguins unlimited ship the hands of Free Waterfall Sr. regularly turn green.
    • In the same scene, whether or not everyone else is wearing gloves varies from shot to shot.
  • In the dinner scene, Zoidberg says that he sees "Some ravioli with only two shoeprints on it", however the only meal that was thrown was Fry's, and he's clearly having spaghetti.
    • It was probably there from before Fry threw his spaghetti, maybe even before the episode.
  • In the beginning of the episode, Leela tells Fry that the cookies he's eating produce a large amount of garbage, but in "A Big Piece of Garbage", Leela tells Fry that in the future the world recycles everything, making her observation irrelevant.



(In alphabetic order)

Episode Credits