Everything old West is new again in Futurama. season 11 episode 3, “How the West Was 1010001,” an episode all about assaying shiny metals for bitcoin mining. The episode was written by Nona di Spargement, directed by James Kim and “based on an actual UFO sighting.”

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Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth (Billy West) has some bad news, everyone. Planet Express is bankrupt because he borrowed money to invest in Bitcoin. After the price crashed, he sold at a huge loss. Then he realizes Doctor John Zoidberg (West), Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal), Bender Bending Rodriguez (John DiMaggio), Philip J. Fry (West), and Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr) are watching television.

On the screen, news monster Morbo (Maurice LaMarche) and co-anchor Linda (Tress MacNeille) report on a “bitcoin bounce.” The price of the “virtual ‘money’” is soaring again. This has caused a “high-tech gold rush.” Prospectors head west in search of cheap electricity. Farnsworth says they’re heading west. Leela asks if he hasn’t learned that Bitcoin is a pyramid scheme for rubes. Farnsworth answers that he has, and plans to exploit said rubes. 

Farnsworth explains that new computer chips use element 81, Thallium (plus “1010001” is “81” in binary). He plans to literally mine the mineral out west and sell it to the bitcoin “miners.” Farnsworth needs the money to repay his loan brokers. The door opens and reveals these brokers to be the Robot Mafia. The entire Robot Mafia: Donbot (LaMarche), Joey Mousepad (DiMaggio), and Francis X. “Clamps” Clampazzo (LaMarche).

The Donner Trail

Soon the crew including Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) are inside the PlanEx ship heading west. They’re accompanied by Hermes’ son, Dwight Conrad. Farnsworth explains that the bitcoin mines use so much power they’ve ionized the atmosphere in the surrounding area. This means that they’ll need to land and drive the rest of the way. Leela says she’ll set her down on the Donner Trail. 

Futurama season 11's "How the West was 1010001." The PlanEx ship flies over the desert towards an ion sphere on the western horizon.

Photos by: Matt Groening/Hulu

Soon the PlanEx ship is being pulled by oxen (which they don’t always bring). Fry says he’s learning a lot from The Borax Kid young adult book series by The Borax Kid. The one he’s reading sees the Kid (LaMarche) facing off against Maxwell’s demon. Hermes tries to bond with Dwight, who is more interested in his handheld video game.

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The ship approaches Doge City. There’s so much Thallium in them thar hills, Bender scoops some up off the road. Farnsworth bites the shiny metal to test if it’s Thallium. Amy points out Thallium is toxic but Farnsworth’s wearing his prospecting dentures.  They arrive at the outskirts and a local prospector adjusts the population sign accordingly. Leela says it’s lawless so they’ll need to wear protective headgear. They all don old West-style hats. 

They arrive in the heart of Doge City. Amy observes it’s kind of old-fashioned for a town built on high-speed computation. Farnsworth says that every watt of electricity goes to bitcoin mining, so for everyone else, it’s like living in the old west. Furthermore, since they’re bankrupt, they’ll all need to do “old west stuff” to get by. 

Sweatwater Saloon

Futurama season 11's "How the West was 1010001." The PlanEx ship and crew outside the Sweatwater Saloon.

The crew arrives at the Sweatwater Saloon. Leela ties up the oxen outside, next to a Shiba Inu. They enter and are warmly greeted by the bartender, Delilah (MacNeille). Amy comments that Delilah seems nice. However, the mechanical pianist cautions them that Delilah’s mood fluctuates like the price of bitcoin. Soon Delilah is throwing another patron into the street. However, she nevertheless invites him to use the brothel behind the saloon.

That’s when Roberto (David Herman) arrives. He’s also wearing old west clothes, and armed with a knife-gun. He stab-shoots the barmaid. Delilah hires Leela in her place. Outside, Rusty the donkey (Dee Bradley Baker) is being auctioned off. He’s purchased by Bender. Later, Hermes and Dwight are searching the wilderness for a place to make camp. Dwight says he wishes Roberto were his dad: “He’s cooler than a green snake smoking a sugar cane vape!” Hermes replies that no self-respecting green snake would do that.

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At the assayer, Farnsworth has his nugget assayed via a metallurgical analyzer (which bites down on the shiny metal with dentures connected to various lengths of wire). The nugget is .3% Thallium. The assayer offers Farnsworth 100 micro bitcoin. Bender says they need a million times that amount to avoid being clamped. Bender allows his shiny metal ass to be bit so as to be metallurgically assayed for Bitcoin, but it contains no Thallium. Still, he asks if his ass might be of value to him some other way. The assayer says it could make a decent frying pan and returns it to Bender. He also transfers the Bitcoin for the nugget.

Bender (John DiMaggio) get bitcoin'd.

Farnsworth asks who turns the Thallium into chips. The assayer says he does. He processes the nugget into a chip. Then he puts it in a high-end server and says, “Blam! You’re mining crypto.”

Doc Fiesta Zoidberg

Futurama season 11's "How the West was 1010001." Roberto (David Herman) bursts in.

Zoidberg arrives at the offices of Doc Fiesta, “Only health care west of the Pecos.” Fiesta is reading The Borax Kid Vs Doc Fiesta by The Borax Kid. Zoidberg asks Fiesta about his survival rate. Fiesta, a psychiatrist, says it’s “pretty high.” A patient is arriving for anger management. Roberto arrives. Zoidberg’s presence enrages Roberto, who stab-shoots Fiesta and then leaves. Zoidberg crosses out Fiesta’s name on the door and replaces it with his own.

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At the saloon, Leela laments to Fry that she’s only gotten thirty cents in tips and one request to visit the back room. “I mean, I wouldn’t go, but it’s nice to be asked.” Fry spots The Borax Kid and his sidekick, Mumbles. Leela warns Fry the Kid’s not actually a hero like in his books. He’s “a poker cheat and a low-down base mineral.” Fry is awed nevertheless. He approaches the Kid and declines a hand of poker, but accepts an invitation to a hand of “Colorado Chump.” He puts a $10 bill adorned with Nixon’s Head on the table. Fry asks if the Kid is in town helping people or fighting evil. The Kid says there’s not much money in helpin’ folks. Then he claims Fry’s money after declaring his hand a “double chump.”

From beyond the saloon’s swinging doors, Roberto literally calls the Kid out. The Kid instructs Mumbles to investigate while wearing the Kid’s hat. Mumbles is soon stabbed-shot by Roberto. In spite of his protestations, Zoidberg declares Mumbles dead. The Kid notes his sidekicks die regularly, “and in brutal fashion.” He offers Fry the position and Fry accepts.

The Borax Kid and Orange Joe

The Kid and Fry arrive at the Kid’s spacious tent. In spite of the extra room, the Kid says Fry will sleep outside. Fry asks if he can sleep in the private library. The Kid notes this would mean it wasn’t private. At the PlanEx camp, Dwight declares he hates the outside and also limbo. Amy discovers that Bender didn’t fulfill her request to pack shovels. Farnsworth says they’ll have to find Thallium by panning. They use Bender’s ass as a pan. 

Bender (John DiMaggio) rides Rusty the donkey towards the setting sun.

An instant clASSic!

Meanwhile, an assless-chaps-clad Bender rides Rusty. They have an ass-inspired musical number (Jake the Dog would be proud). However, it ends in tragedy the fact that Bender outweighs Rusty by a factor of three causes Rusty to collapse. Due to the conveyor belt on which Rusty was walking during the musical number, the ass ends up on top of Bender anyway.

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At the saloon, the assayer harasses the pianist. Leela smacks both of them upside the head. Delilah says Leela handles the menfolk well, then threatens her if she ever messes with her customers again before complimenting Leela’s boots. Leela asks if she’s considered seeing someone about her mood swings. Delilah shouts “no” but concedes it’s a good idea.

Across the saloon, 12-year-old Dwight approaches Roberto and proposes they collaborate. Roberto accepts, as he needs a kid for a job he’s been planning. He’s going to intercept a Wells Crypto stagecoach headed up the coast with a USB stick containing the company’s weekly haul of bitcoin credentials.

Rusty Rescue

In his office, Zoidberg laments his lack of patients. Bender bursts in with the injured Rusty. Zoidberg says he can save Rusty if it’s something that can be cured with a bone saw. Elsewhere, Roberto reveals why he needed a child for his plan. He ties up Dwight and leaves him in the path of the stagecoach, with the assumption they’ll yield for a cute child. However, the stagecoach simply runs over Dwight. Roberto guesses he must not have been cute enough. Dwight stands and his spine immediately bends backward.

Fry (Billy W), Leela (Katey Sagal), and The Borax Kid (Maurice LaMarche) outside the Kid's tent.

Later, Leela is walking Fry back to the Kid’s camp at night. They’re menaced by a mountain lion. While they hope to get the Kid’s help, the Kid hides in his tent. Fry fires his gun several times and scares the lion off. The Kid emerges from his tent and claims credit. Then he begins flirting with Leela. Fry says it’s nice to see them getting along so “intimately.”

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Elsewhere Zoidberg, Bender and Rusty arrive at the PlanEx camp. Zoidberg delares, “I performed surgery on Bender’s ass! Zoidberg is the hero!” But Amy declares Bender’s butt-ass to be the hero. She reveals that panning with Bender’s ass has yielded a giant nugget of Thallium. It’s enough to pay off Farnsworth’s debts. However, the assayer is closed until morning. They’ll have to take turns staying up and guarding it. Farnsworth would go first, but he tears off his old West outfit and reveals, he’s “already in my pajamas” before heading into his tent and immediately beginning to snore. However, Roberto robs the nugget at knife-gunpoint during Bender’s shift.

The Worst Brothel

The PlanEx camp.

Amy, Zoidberg, Hermes and Farnsworth awaken the next morning to find Bender and the nugget missing. They discover Rusty tied to a tree. After untying the donkey, Rusty picks up Bender’s scent. Rusty follows the trail into Doge City, through the saloon, and to the back room. After kicking down the door, they discover the “worst brothel [Amy has] ever seen”: a single room with an empty bed. 

But behind a “Reg’lar Door” in the back of the back room, they discover an immense Bitcoin mine. Instead of servers, someone is using robot heads to mine Bitcoin. Hermes says this is a reasonable use for robot heads. Then Zoidberg locates the heads of Bender and Roberto. Roberto states he was peacefully stealing their Thallium when he was suddenly kidnapped by Delilah. At that moment, Delilah arrives.

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Delilah asks if they never wondered who was getting rich off of all the Bitcoin nonsense. She says servers are expensive but kidnapping robot heads is cheap. Farnsworth declares this evil. Delilah says she donates the proceeds to a local orphanage. However, she is sealing the crew in the mine so they can’t reveal her generous scheme. But she will bring them snacks every day. 

At the Kid’s camp, Fry cleans and makes the Kid’s bed. But then he discovers the Kid’s private library contains two shelves: one with white spines and one with blue spines.

Crypto Mine

The imprisoned PlanEx crew restores Bender, who declares that crypto mining was total hell. Bender suggests they “burro” out of the mine. But Rusty knocks Bender on his ass when Bender attempts to get the donkey to execute the plan. 

In Doge City’s main street, the Kid name-drops as he walks with Leela. But the Kid is confronted by Fry, who reveals he found the Kid’s collection of Buffalo Bill Cobalt novels. The Kid has been copying Cobalt’s tales and replacing Cobalt’s name with the Kid’s. However, the Kid explains this is legal. The Cobalt stories are public domain, so the Kid changes up a few words and claims the copyright for himself. Leela declares this evil. 

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Fry calls the Kid out. Then, in the intersecting street, the assayer arrives and calls out the pianist. Delilah walks onto the wooden walkway that crosses above the intersection. Then a hole appears in the ground below her and the PlanEx crew escapes. But Bender and Hermes remain in the hole. Bender calls Delilah out. Doge City erupts in a simultaneous shootout across three different axes.

Hermes is paralyzed by fear. Dwight limbos-in to rescue him. Hermes says Dwight’s spine is magnificent. Dwight cites his father’s influence and the stagecoach accident before limbo-leading Hermes to safety. The assayer and the pianist shoot each other. Robert emerges from the hole and laments that gun violence must end. Then he stabs the pianist.

One-Star Brother

Three of the four remaining shooters holster their guns. But Fry accidentally shoots Leela’s arm. The Kid offers to disinfect it with the kiss of borax. He further offers to escort her to the brothel to lie down. Leela says she’s never been so offended yet slightly flattered. The Kid excuses himself and leaves to engage in more plagiarism. Fry offers to disinfect her wound and Leela accepts.

The Robot Mafia. The entire Robot Mafia: Donbot (Maruice LaMarche), Joey Mousepad (John DiMaggio), and Francis X. “Clamps” Clampazzo (LaMarche).

While Delilah has taken a bullet to her bustle, she was protected by the shiny metal nugget, which she concealed beneath. She returns the nugget to Farnsworth. The Robot Mafia immediately appears. Farnsworth leaves to sell the nugget so as to repay his debt. In the meantime, Delilah offers the Robot Mafia a trip to the back room. Hermes and Dwight reaffirm their father-son relationship.

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In the Bitcoin mine, the heads of the Robot Mafia are revealed. The Donbot declares that if he ever escapes, he’s giving the brothel a bad Yelp review.

New episodes of Futurama are available for streaming Mondays on Hulu.

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