This episode surprised me with how good it was, if only because it didn't seem all that spectacular from the promo material Comedy Central gave us beforehand. But damn if it didn't prove to be the second best episode of the season, after "Fry and Leela's Big Fling." I particularly appreciated how this episode did something a little different with the Fry/Bender friendship than what was done in "T: The Terrestrial" and "Forty Percent Leadbelly" (and myriad episodes in 6B). I don't really think that
it looks like Fry and Bender's friendship is dying
On the contrary, this episode well illustrates how important Fry is to Bender. That whole slapping-each-other thing at the end of the episode, and Bender sincerely calling Fry his best friend, was really sweet. In fact, Bender's characterization throughout this episode was strong: he was appropriately self-aggrandizing, but he became very sympathetic in act two with the (genuinely surprising) reveal that he had not, in fact, been setting fires to sate his own ego.
This brings me to the only critique I really have of this episode: the whole Flamo thing was kind of, you know, lame-o. I've never thought of Futurama as this villain-of-the-week sort of show; there are recurring antagonists, yes (like the Brain Spawn, the Robot Mafia, Mom, and the Omicronians), but I've never been overly fond of episodes that pick a bad guy out of nowhere and expect me to care about his presence bringing Earth to the brink of destruction. (Examples of this type of episode include the thoroughly meh "That Darn Katz!" and the slightly less irksome "The Beast With a Billion Backs.") That said, though, Flamo's presence in the story served as a vehicle for Bender's character growth, so I can abide the baddie in this instance.
That semi-complaint aside, I agree with everyone who found this episode really funny (I think the biggest laugh for me came from the anguished mother's baby being in the podium; also, it was great to see Zapp and Kif again) and really well-animated (the off-model weirdness of some season six episodes seems to have been eliminated in season seven). I'd say this is a solid 8.5/10
, which I'll round up to 9/10 for this poll.