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"The Sting" is the sixty-sixth episode of Futurama, the twelfth of the fourth production season and the ninth of the fifth broadcast season. It aired on 1 June, 2003, on Fox. Fry dies after being stung by a bee queen while trying to save Leela, and the guilt of his death drives her crazy. However, not all is as it seems.
Act I: "We're just as good as any of those other crews you sent to their deaths!"
As Fry and Bender are playing virtual golf, the Professor comes in and explains that they are not good enough for their next mission: collecting honey from space bees, which claimed the lives of the old Planet Express crew. Leela insists that they are just as good and forces Fry and Bender to go on the mission.
The crew reaches the bees' hive and paints Bender's body like a bee, giving him a bee language cartridge that will allow him to communicate with the other bees to distract them while they venture deeper into the hive. They eventually come across the remains of the old Planet Express ship in the process (where the black box reveals the previous crew died due to the captain's insistence they prove themselves better than the Professor's expectations). The crew eventually discover the honeycomb stockpile, and a flow of royal jelly, into which Fry falls. Leela comes across a baby queen bee, which she takes, so that the crew can build its own hive in the future, and takes some jelly with which to feed her. Suddenly, Bender accidentally insults the bees, including the current queen, causing the enraged bees to chase them back to the ship.
On the way back to Earth, the baby queen wakes and threatens to kill Leela. Fry throws himself in front of Leela in defense, but is impaled in the spleen with the stinger, which passes through him and mildly stabs Leela as well. Bender picks up the defenceless dying queen and throws her into the air lock, ejecting her into space (where she is hit and killed by a space truck). Leela gets up with a minor wound from the stinger and is horrified to discover that Fry is dead.
Act II: "It was all my fault! He died because of me!"
Fry's funeral is held at the Orbiting Meadows, where many old acquaintances come to mourn. However, none is more woeful than Leela, who believes that it was her error that caused Fry's death, and is wracked with utter remorse. Towards the end of the processions, Fry's coffin is ejected into the outer reaches of space. Back in her apartment, Leela remains sorrowful as she goes through all of the belongings that Fry had given her. Having kept some of the space honey from the mission, she takes two spoonfuls to ease the pain and, after having a brief laughing fit, quickly falls into a deep sleep. She then finds herself floating in space with Fry, who seems to be alive. Leela is not entirely certain, especially since Fry still has a gaping hole through his abdomen, so Fry decides to prove he's alive by telling her that he left something for her in his locker, which only he would know. He then tells her that he wants her to wake up; it turns out that this experience was only a dream.
Leela tells the others about her dream and what she was told, explaining that if it's true, then he must still exist in some form or another. When she opens his locker, she is disappointed to find that it is completely empty. Bender then comes in, saying that he pawned most of the stuff in Fry's locker for closure, keeping only one item because it turned out to be a present for Leela: a one-eyed stress-relieving doll. Leela marks this as proof that Fry is still alive and is communicating to her in her dreams. However, a quick brain scan leads the others to conclude that Fry told her about the present before his death, and that she subconsciously blocked it out in her grief. In other words, they begin to think that Leela might be going crazy.
Later that night, Leela has another dream in which Fry is still alive. She is convinced, however, that Fry must still be alive, since he treats her very romantically, and that she couldn't be treated any more so by her own imagination. When Fry takes her sleigh-riding on the ice fields of Hyperion, he gives her his jacket before telling her to wake up once again. Leela is reluctant to accept that this is just another dream, but wakes up anyway. Her hopes are once again dashed until she discovers that, although she is very much awake, she is still wearing Fry's jacket. Since Fry was buried in this jacket, she is once again convinced that Fry is truly alive.
Act III: "Fry's alive! I have proof!"
Leela comes to the headquarters the next day to show the others the jacket, but it turns out she has her own jacket. Leela admits that she may be freaking out (especially after hearing Amy and Hermes speaking with the Professor's voice, and Bender with Amy's), and decides to take some more space honey. After hearing this, however, the others warn her that she must not take too many spoonfuls; one helps a person calm down, two help a person get to sleep, but three can place a person into a sleep from which they can never awaken.
As Leela cautiously takes a couple of spoonfuls of space honey, she becomes drowsy and accidentally knocks over the jar of royal jelly (which she also kept from the mission) onto the couch. All of a sudden, the jelly begins to take some sort of solid form, eventually transforming into Fry, who is completely naked and covered in jelly, but apparently very much alive. Leela presents Fry to the others; after examining him, the Professor concludes that Fry's DNA was imprinted into the jelly when he fell into it, and that a new body was formed when the imprint merged with his DNA in the couch. Leela is relieved that everything can return to normal and that she no longer has to carry the burden of guilt for his death, until Fry tells her to wake up again; it turns out that Leela merely fell asleep again after eating the second spoonful.
Leela realizes that she is comfortable in her dreams while her mind plays tricks on her when she's awake. This is evidenced when Leela hallucinates the crew performing a musical number, during which each member explodes after being stung by a bee. Afterward, Leela decides to go out into space to find Fry's coffin; her plan is to retrieve Fry's corpse and keep it under her mattress to remind herself that he's really dead, which means dealing with her guilt again. When she finds it, however, she wakes to find herself in her room once again, with the others' faces on the walls and floor, chanting the accusation that she killed Fry. After tearing the faces down like wallpaper (and vacuuming up Bender's face, which is on the floor), Leela finally believes that she is now insane.
She decides that she will take enough space honey to put her in the eternal sleep so that she can be in her dreams with Fry forever, as that is when she does not feel guilty. Just as she is about to take the final spoon, Fry's picture on her bedside table comes to life and tells her to fight her impulses, but Leela is so confused as to what to do that she breaks into tears. Fry continues to bolster her, saying that she's stronger than this. As Leela attempts to overcome her irresolution, a small space bee starts flying around the room. Leela throws the jar of space honey at it, causing it to turn into an entire swarm of smaller bees. With Leela hopelessly scared and confused, Fry admits his love for Leela and begs for her to wake up once more. Leela wails that she doesn't understand what Fry means. The scene then cuts to Fry at Leela's bedside in the hospital, crying and begging Leela to wake up.
It turns out that when the sting of the baby queen went right through Fry's body and Leela caught all the poison in her seemingly mild wound, putting her into a coma that lasted for two weeks. Fry, after getting a new spleen from a man who liked to ride motorcycles, never left her side while she was unconscious and kept talking to her in the hope that a familiar voice would guide her back, which came to her in her "dreams". The final shot shows Leela and Fry hugging each other...they then tell each other that they need a shower.
- This episode was nominated for an Emmy in 2004 for Outstanding Animated Program (For Programming Less Than One Hour).
- (Aside from Primary characters) Leo and Inez Wong, Michelle, Petunia, Sal and Scruffy appear at the funeral. Many of the women that Fry had previously been romantically linked with attend the funeral and sit in a group together, including the Radiator, but excluding Umbriel, who obviously can't breathe out of water. Scruffy also plays 'Walking on Sunshine' on the bagpipes at Fry's funeral.
- Cameos are listed in the Continuity section.
- Farnsworth has changed the logo of Planet Express a bit since his last crew died.
- Farnsworth is wearing slippers during the funeral.
- In this episode Fry is stung by a giant bee. Billy West, the actor who voices Fry, is also known as the voice of the Honey Nut Cheerios spokes-bee, Buzz.
- Multiple references are made to Honeycomb Cereal:
- Honeycomb Hideout is a location in these commercials.
- Hermes, in reply to a comment made by Fry, says "Honeycomb's big, yeah, yeah, yeah." to which Bender replies "It's not small?" then Hermes says "No, No, No." This is part of the product's jingle.
- This is the only time we see the Old Planet Express Ship.
- Atomic Raygun Attack made an album entitled 'The Sting' in which they wrote 6 tracks taking moments from the episode. They are available for free download.
- They do not use the correct colour of Royal jelly. This is because Royal jelly is a creamy-white colour and it was thought that colour would not work well.
- Among the many wreaths at the funeral, Bender's is easily the most obvious: "R.I.P. Meatbag", and still shows his typical focus on himself, as his name is larger than that of Fry.
- Leela uses only half a tissue to wipe away her tears, but not only because she has only one eye: it is an inside reference to David X. Cohen who had a bad cold at the time the episode was written and was fearing to run out of tissues, so he halved each one to make them last longer.
- Fry and Bender were on their 17th hole of virtual golf, par 4.
- The squishy toy from Leela's dream is on her bedside table at the hospital. Also, a picture of the ice moon Hyperion, where Fry took her in her dream, is in frame opposite her bed.
- Black Boxes usually have some form of armoring to protect them from impact. This also seems to be only a circa 1980s tape recorder. This could be explained by Professor Farnsworth's miserly approach to business.
- This episode started out as a sarcastic joke from one of the writers: "Why don't we kill off one of the major characters?"
- This episode is one of four featured in the Monster Robot Maniac Fun Collection, reflecting its popularity with both fans and the creators of Futurama.
- In the "Brother, Can You Spare Two Dimes?" episode of The Simpsons, Matt Groening's other show, Homer was on a vibrating chair going so fast that during a scene, whenever he blinked, his eyes and skin changed to different colours. The exact same thing happened in this episode, with Leela staring into the coffin. Both sequences are a reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Leela's singing visions may be a reference to Ally McBeal, who was parodied in the episode "When Aliens Attack".
- Leela says right before escaping the hive "This is where we distinguish ourselves from the last crew. Activate Emergency High-Speed Self-Contained Escape Pack Crisis Response Units." if you turn this into an acronym, it becomes EHSSCEPCRU, which when sounded out is roughly "Escape Crew".
- The sight-gag of the supposedly unremovable stinger's making the coffin lid difficult to close may be derived from a joke about a man's pre-mortem dose of the anti-impotence drug Viagra®'s having a similar effect.
- "Space Pilot 3000" (1ACV01)
- "The Series Has Landed" (1ACV02)
- The refrigerator magnet from Luna Park is in Leela's "Memories of Fry" box.
- "Love's Labours Lost in Space" (1ACV04)
- The unnamed girl from the '21st Century' appears at the funeral.
- "My Three Suns" (1ACV07)
- "Mars University" (1ACV11)
- Gunther appears at the funeral.
- "Fry and the Slurm Factory" (1ACV13)
- (Presumably) the winning Slurm can is in Leela's "Memories of Fry" box.
- "The Lesser of Two Evils" (2ACV06)
- The Radiator appears at the funeral.
- "Put Your Head on My Shoulders" (2ACV07)
- Petunia appears at the funeral.
- "How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back" (2ACV11)
- Morgan Proctor appears at the funeral.
- "The Cryonic Woman" (2ACV19)
- Fry's first Mustache is in Leela's "Memories of Fry" box.
- Michelle appears at the funeral.
- "Amazon Women in the Mood" (3ACV01)
- Kug appears at the funeral.
- "A Tale of Two Santas" (3ACV03)
- "The Luck of the Fryrish" (3ACV04)
- Orbiting Meadows reappears as the location of the funeral.
- "The Day the Earth Stood Stupid" (3ACV07)
- Chester A. Arthur's head appears at the funeral.
- "Insane in the Mainframe" (3ACV11)
- A can of π-in-1 oil is in Leela's "Memories of Fry" box.
- "A Leela of Her Own" (3ACV16)
- A couple of Cygnoids appear at the funeral.
- "Godfellas" (3ACV20)
- Father Changstein El-Gamal hosts the funeral.
- "Love and Rocket" (4ACV03)
- The conversation heart ("U leave me breathless") is in Leela's "Memories of Fry" box. However, the heart was yellow instead of pink like its previous appearance.
- "Bender Should Not Be Allowed on Television" (4ACV06)
- Bender's comment "You were in the best coma I've ever seen!" may be a reference to his inability to act out being in a coma in All My Circuits.
- "Jurassic Bark" (4ACV07)
- The still-fossilized Seymour Asses appears at the funeral.
- "The Why of Fry" (4ACV10)
- The flower Fry gave Leela is in her "Memories of Fry" box
- "They say a spoonful of honey helps to ease the pain" is a parody of the song lyric "just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down" from Disney's film, Mary Poppins.
- The demand to "wake up" echoed through the episode sounded similar to the "stop breathing" line from the Alejandro Amenábar film The Others.
- It could also be a reference to another Amenábar film, Open Your Eyes.
- Not only was the title taken from the 1973 film, Bender's outfit in the beginning is the same as that of Robert Redford in the film.
- The space helmets look similar to the ones from 1954 adaptation of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea.
- This episode is similar in some ways to the episode "Goodbye" in Katey Sagal's 8 Simple Rules. The episodes aired only five months apart.
- This episode bears some Star Trek similarities:
- Scruffy wears a Scottish outfit and plays the bagpipes at the funeral, a spoof of Spock's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan funeral scene where Scotty did what Scruffy did. Fry's funeral song is an arrangement of "Walking on Sunshine", which was established as Fry's favorite in "Jurassic Bark".
- This episode also bears similarities to the Star Trek episode "The Tholian Web", in which Captain Kirk is mistakenly presumed dead. Uhura sees him calling for help and thinks she is losing her mind.
- In the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Frame Of Mind", commander Riker is caught in a situation much like Leela's. He's rendered unconscious by aliens, and in a dream that's becoming increasingly weird, he start to question his own sanity, as nothing is what it appears to be.
- In the episode "Night Terrors", counselor Troi find herself floating in outer space, much like Leela, in one of her dreams. Slowly the recurring dream takes its toll on her mental health. In the end it turns out the "nightmares" was caused by aliens attempting to communicate with her.
- In the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Demon", the Voyager crew discover a biologic substance that can make replicas of humans/aliens based on a few strands of DNA, much like the Fry replica in Leela's dream.
- The tradition from most Star Trek series, the body being put in a torpedo and shot into space, happened with Fry's "corpse".
- Fry's funeral resembles Spock's funeral from Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and it also resembles Kathryn Janeway's funeral from the Star Trek: Voyager episode "Coda".
- When Leela has the second dream, Fry appears in a similar way to the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland, as a smile hanging in the air, only Fry's hair accompanies the smile.
- Fry pours Leela some Semitic Miss Cocoa, which is a reference to Swiss Miss Cocoa.
- Leela's on the brink of death, but her hallucinations make her believe she is living and Fry is dead. A similar occurrence happens in Soul Survivors with the main character believing her boyfriend is dead when he is staying with her at the hospital.
- Fry's remark "I thought that maybe if you heard a familiar voice, it might help keep your mind together. But who knows if it really got through" is an allusion to Nan Adams, a character who appeared in "The Hitch-Hiker", an episode of The Twilight Zone.
- When Leela picks up the baby queen bee, it seems to be a reference to Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card, when Ender finds a young Bugger queen.
- Hermes proclaims that he is from Jamaica, known as The Show-Me Island, which is a reference to Missouri's state motto, "The Show-Me State."
- The scene in which Fry regenerates from royal jelly that was spilled on the couch is reminiscent of Frank's regeneration in the movie Hellraiser.
- Leela pulling Fry's jacket out of her dream is a reference to Nancy Thompson pulling Freddy Krueger's hat out of a dream in A Nightmare on Elm Street.
- The scene where Leela looks into Fry's coffin in space and sees a colourful tunnel of light, to the music of Atmosphères by György Ligeti, is a parody of the scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, where David Bowman encounters the Monolith and it opens into the same Stargate sequence as in the end of the film.
- The song "Don't Worry, Bee Happy" is a parody of and/or homage to the 1988 hit song Don't Worry, Be Happy.
- Multiple references are made to Honeycomb cereal, such as the Honeycomb Hideout, and when Hermes, in reply to a comment made by Fry, Hermes says "Honeycomb's big, yeah, yeah, yeah." to which Bender replies "It's not small?" where Hermes says "No, No, No.".
- Zoidberg's set, during "Don't Worry, Bee Happy", is inspired by the Elvis Presley Special.
- The scene where Bender ejects the baby queen bee out of an airlock and where the queen bee wriggles its stinger in the Planet Express Ship's cargo bay are references to the film Aliens.
- When Hermes sees that Leela is awake, he exclaims "Sweet Three-toed Sloth of Ice Planet Hoth! She's awake!", referring to the ice planet from Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back.
- As Leela and Fry escape the Bee Hive a bee hits a wall, then explodes; the ensuing scene is similar to Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi when the Millennium Falcon escapes from the second Death Star.
- This episode bears similarities to the film Solaris, which featured an astronaut haunted by persistent and contradictory visions of his dead wife.
- This episode bears similarities to Philip K. Dick's novel Ubik, in which, after an explosion and narrow escape, the leading characters see evidence that they might be dead, while characters who are believed dead or in irreversible coma, "half-life" in Ubik, nonetheless participate unexpectedly.
- When Leela accidentally knocks the jar of royal jelly, it turns into the form of Fry, this is similar to Terminator 2: Judgement Day when the T-1000 jumps into a helicopter, then reforms itself.
Leela: What's the mission?
Farnsworth: Collecting honey. Ordinary honey.
Leela: That doesn't sound so dangerous.
Farnsworth: This is no ordinary honey! It's produced by vicious space bees. A single sting of their hideous neurotoxin can cause instant death!
Hermes: And that's if you're not allergic! You don't wanna know what happens then, oh no no, God no.
Farnsworth: Your insides with boil out of your eye sockets like a science fair volcano!
Hermes: I didn't want to know! [cries]
Fry: Oh, my god! The old Planet Express ship!
Leela: There's the black box.
[Leela picks up the honey-covered black box and presses play.]
Planet Express crewman: [on black box] Captain, the bees have us surrounded! Oh the Professor was right, we're not as good as his old crew!
Planet Express Captain: [on black box] Well, I aim to prove him wrong. It'll take more than a few deadly, deadly bees to... [The bees start buzzing loudly.] OH LORD!
[The captain screams in terror and agony. The crew wince before Leela presses stop.]
Leela: Uh... Couldn't make that out. Too much static.
Leela: Fry? [gasps] He's... he's dead!
Bender: Oh, who will make Bender waffles just the way he likes them now?
Fry: Leela, no! Listen to me! You don't wanna lie in bed like a vegetable and do nothing the rest of your life. I've tried it. Bedsores hurt!
Leela: [crying] It was all my fault! He died because of me!
Farnsworth: [comforting] No, no, no, no, no, no. [shouting to Bender] I'm lying to make her feel better! [Leela cries harder.]
LaBarbara: [After Hermes burns Fry's time card in his coffin.] Husband, can't you go anywhere without lighting something up?!
Hermes: It's an old Jamaican accounting tradition; we burn his time card. That way, his zombie doesn't come back, looking for his final pay check.
Leela: [twitching] I'll find Fry's coffin, get his corpse and keep it under my mattress to remind me that he's really dead. That'll prove I'm not insane!
Leela: Is this some sort of brain scanner?
Professor: Some sort, yes. In France, it's called a "guillotine".
Father Changstein El-Gamal: I barely knew Philip, but as a clergyman, I have no trouble telling his most intimate friends all about him. [general sobbing]
Hermes: Soothe us with sweet lies...
Bender: All those times I said "Kill all humans," I'd always whisper "Except one." [sobbing] Fry was that one, and I never told him so! [crying]
Amy: He's walking on sunshine now...
- In "Space Pilot 3000", the Professor has career chips from his previous crew in an envelope labeled "Contents of Space Wasp's stomach", rather than the space bees depicted in this episode.
- While the writer admits in the commentary their research found no relationship between bees and wasps, some wasps do invade beehives to host their larvae.
- This may not be a goof. When Leela hears of the mission, she claims "We're just as good as any of those other crews you sent to their deaths". One possible idea is that they were killed by space bees and then eaten by space wasps. Also, later, when they find the black box from the old Planet Express ship, one of the old crew says that the Professor was right, they weren't as good as the previous crew. This would make Leela, Fry, and Bender at least the third crew that the Professor sent to the Space Bee Hive. There could easily have been a fourth crew that died in the space wasp's stomach. Additionally, in "When Aliens Attack", the Professor is seen hiring a replacement crew for Leela, Fry, and Bender, thinking that they have died fighting the Omicronians.
- It is also possible that whoever recovered the career chips (presumably not the Professor) may have misidentified the Space Bee as a Space Wasp, a mistake commonly made with the insects' counterparts on earth.
- When Fry falls into the Royal Jelly, he tries not to drown by spiting out jelly. Even though he is wearing a space suit that prevents him from inhaling any.
- Fry and Leela are stung by a baby queen bee, then the stinger breaks off. Queen bees do not lose their stinger after they sting. A worker is killed by stinging, since the stinger is barbed and is ripped from the bee's body, along with its venom sac. Queens have less-barbed stingers and do not have them ripped free. A queen may sting multiple times without being injured.
- These are space bees, not regular bees, so this may be one difference between the two.
- When Bender jumps into the virtual lake to fetch a golf ball, the Prof. enters and gives the news. In the next scene, Bender is out of the water and on the fairway.
- When Leela, Fry, and Bender escape from the bees on the Planet Express ship, Fry's hair is messed up. When he tells Leela to look out, his hair is normal. Then when he defends Leela from the baby queen bee, his hair is messy again.
- The following goofs can be explained by the incongruous nature of dreams and hallucinations.
- At the funeral:
- Kug, the Amazonian who says Fry did "good snu-snu", actually snu-snued Zapp Brannigan.
- Kug may not have been able to tell the difference between two human males, or she may have switched places with Ornik (the Amazon who really snu-snued Fry).
- The garland's distance from the coffin varies.
- Seymour vanishes.
- In a wide angle shot, Leela's hair is black.
- The man to Dr. Zoidberg's right is shown with diferent hair and skin colors in the two shots.
- When Fry is stung, the stinger goes into him at a downwards angle and leaves facing up. At his funeral, the stinger has rotated.
- Kug, the Amazonian who says Fry did "good snu-snu", actually snu-snued Zapp Brannigan.
- In the scene where Leela opens Fry's coffin, the hinges have suddenly changed position. Now the casket opens from right to left, instead of opposite, regular left to right.
- Right after the funeral, Leela is on her bed. She tears a tissue in half and puts it on her night-table. The camera zooms in, then out; and the tissue is gone.
- At the funeral:
- Professor Farnsworth says "Leela's brain could be acting as a 5 pound Ouija board", however the Human Brain weighs on average less than 3 pounds.
- Fry says he got his spleen from a man who liked to ride motorcycles, which is strange, considering that wheels are obsolete in the 31st century and nearly all the vehicles shown in this series are hovercrafts (unless the man who liked to motorcycle is dead and Fry was told by the doctor that the donor lived during the era when vehicles still had wheels).
- 21st Century girl
- Bender Bending Rodriguez
- Father Changstein El-Gamal
- Chester A. Arthur's head
- Cubert Farnsworth
- Dwight Conrad
- Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth
- Philip J. Fry
- Hermes Conrad
- LaBarbara Conrad
- Turanga Leela
- Leo and Inez Wong
- Morgan Proctor
- Ron Whitey
- Santa Claus' Aides
- Seymour Asses
- Debut: Space Bee Queen
- Dr. John Zoidberg