The Planet Express crew finds themselves crawling with parasitic worms again in Futurama season 11 episode 4. “Parasites Regained” was written by Maiya Williams and directed by Corey Barnes.
Nibbler (Frank Welker) and Turanga Leela (Katey Sagal) arrive at the New New York Central Park Scoopy-Poo Dog Park Tube Station. As she walks Nibbler around, he eats a Yale Law alumni and his dog. Later, Bender Bending Rodriguez (John DiMaggio) and Philip J. Fry (Billy West) are watching Linda (Tress MacNeille) and Morbo (Maurice LaMarche) on TV in the Planet Express building break room. Nibbler and Leela enter, and Nibbler hurries into his litter box. Leela explains that Nibbler prefers his litter box, which contains sand with essential minerals from his homeworld.
Fry isn’t interested in seeing the new subtitled movie Quizblorg, Quizblorg ℵ1 (“Winner of the Palme D’oorknob”). But once remembers Nibbler can talk, the duo head to the Loew ℵ0 -Plex movie theater. “Laughter,” the subtitle says in Alienese, and the audience sobs. “Sorrow,” says the next subtitle, and the audience laughs. Later, Nibbler and Leela discuss the film over tea at the cafe across the street from the PlanEx building (as previously seen in season 3’s “Parasites Lost”).
At Leela’s apartment, Nibbler helps Leela complete an answer for her three-dimensional crossword puzzle. She declares him her B.F.F. (Best Furry Friend). Nibbler throws up a hairball with the Yale Law guy’s hat, but then falls off the table. Leela decides they should visit the vet.
At the Animal Clinic (see also: season 2’s “I Second That Emotion”), Vet Jeffrey Grant (David Herman) diagnoses Nibbler with worms. He informs Leela that without treatment, the worms will attack his brain and leave Nibbler with the IQ of a Boston Terrier. Fortunately, Nibbler can be cured with the powerful de-wormer Ivermectin.
Back in the PlanEx building break room, Leela convinces Nibbler to take his pills by hiding them in cheese. “Maybe gouda, or a nice brie,” Nibbler says excitedly. But in spite of the medicine, Nibbler isn’t interested in a game of Quantum Wordle, instead preferring Tic-Tac-Toe with Fry. Leela suggests Nibbler take more medicine and offers him some Manchego. But to Leela’s horror, Nibbler requests a slice of American.
Nibbler wonders why he’s still losing his intelligence in spite of taking his pills. Professor Hubert J. Farnsworth (West) enters with some sad news. He informs them that while the medicine kills the worms in his body, the ones in his litter box re-infect him every time he uses it. But Leela protests that he needs the ancestral litter to survive. Farnsworth says the only course of action is to shrink down and face the worms personally. Amy Wong (Lauren Tom) says that sounds gross. John Zoidberg (West) says at least it’s simple. Farnsworth says he’s wrong.
Soon, Farnsworth is demonstrated his complicated shrinking ray to the PlanEx crew. He demonstrates by shrinking the Planet Express Ship to toy size. Nibbler immediately begins gnawing on it. Farnsworth explains to the crew that they’ll use water guns filled with liquid Ivermectin to kill the worms. In order to enter the litter box, they’ll travel inside a toy tank Farnsworth enlarged with his enlarging ray.
The Litter Box
Fry, Leela, Bender, and Zoidberg get in the tank and Farnsworth instructs Amy to shove it. As the tank rolls down the track that came with the tank, Farnsworth fires the shrink ray wildly. The consequences include shrinking the Manwich of Hermes Conrad (Phil LaMarr). Eventually, Farnsworth hits the tank. It shrinks before traveling a burning hoop and landing in the litter box.
Farnsworth tells them not to leave the tank, as it is the only protection against the desert-like conditions of the litter box. However, they are forced to leave almost immediately as the tank sinks. Leela says Nibbler is counting on them. Zoidberg concludes they’ll need litter box food. Fry wonders if they could eat those “weird pygmy hyena moles.” He attempts to grab one but it bites him and burrows away. Zoidberg inhales the “orange sparklies” that result. This triggers a hallucinogenic state.
The PlanEx team is confronted by a cadre of dung beetles (pronounced like “Dune,” – “the ‘g’ is almost silent”). Leela, Zoidberg and Bender nearly fire their squirt guns at them. But Fry is too busy peeing. The Queen of the beetles (Ego Nwodim) thanks him for his gift of moisture. Leela explains they’re searching for the worms in order to exterminate them. The Queen explains that the worms are also their enemies.
One of the soldiers notes that the ancient prophecy speaks of a Messiah. He points to Fry and asks, “Could he be the Quiznos Cadillac?” The Queen consults an ancient tome as Fry zips up his pants. “Nope,” she concludes. However, she invites them to join her in the Hall of Dung.
The Hall of Dung
In the Hall of Dung, the Queen explains that the worms congregate near the “great sphere” (Nibbler’s dark matter turd). However, almost every path ends in death. In order to help them navigate, the Queen will enter the “Glitter Chamber,” which allows her to see all realities simultaneously. The Queen says only shaman can use the chamber, lest the user experience “a medical-grade freak-out.”
In the PlanEx break room, Farnsworth trips over the chewed-up PlanEx ship and comes face-to-face with Nibbler. Nibbler is chewing on Farnsworth’s slipper. Farnsworth reclaims it but finds it ruined. Nibbler blames the worms. Hermes puts him in the “cone of shame” against his protests. Nibbler sobs from within the cone.
In the Hall of Dung, the Queen emerges with knowledge of the path they must take (and a serious craving for Betty Cockroach brand pink frosting). The Queen tells the PlanEx crew how to navigate the mounds of litter. The crew declines the use of the Roachthopter (wise choice). The Queen assigns them their second-best guide, Bilgar.
As they travel, Bilgar advises them that the worms are attracted to the sound of Dung Beetle footsteps, so don’t walk like a Dung Beetle. Bilgar points out life thriving in the litter box environment. This includes the veiny puss fungus and the hairless sand pigeon. The PlanEx crew is disgusted. However, Zoidberg finds some microscopic crabs on the fungus he believes are cute.
The Final Expanse
Bilgar pauses to pay his respects at the grave of the best guide. Then he activates a “pounder,” which simulates beetle footsteps to serve as a distraction for the worms. Bender notes his grandfather was a pounder and observes that this makes him a quarter pounder. Suddenly Bilgar is attacked and eaten by a giant sandworm. The PlanEx crew screams and flees. After falling off a cliff, Leela hallucinates from inhaling the dust. She foresees a sandstorm before it is caused by Nibbler’s use of the box.
The PlanEx crew laments that they’ll never reach their destination. But that’s when they finally reach the turd. They arm their squirt guns. Fry says that they no longer have the pounder. However, quarter-pounder Bender fills in by tap dancing (see also season 10’s “Stench and Stenchability“). The giant worm is revealed to be the swarm of worms that infested Fry in “Parasites Lost.”
Leela proposes the worms inhabit Zoidberg instead of Nibbler. They decline and a battle between the worms and the PlanEx crew ensues. This kicks up a cloud of hallucinogenic dust that draws Nibbler’s attention. He shrinks down and uses his Nibblonian ship to enter the litter box. The Queen arrives and identifies Nibbler as their Messiah. The picture in the book looks almost just like him.
Nibbler laments that he lacks the time to properly appreciate the litter box ecosystem. He waxes poetic on how the various life forms that inhabit it live in harmony and rely on one another. Nibbler surrenders, saying how he will play his part by allowing the worms to eat his brain.
The Final Stage
The PlanEx Crew returns to regular size and escapes the litter box via Nibbler’s ship. Leela begs Nibbler not to allow the worms to eat his consciousness. However, Nibbler’s intellectual capacity continues to diminish. Later, Leela laments that she can’t open her mind to the beauty of which Nibbler spoke. Using the shrunken Nibbler-gnawed PlanEx ship, Leela, Fry and Bender return to the Hall of Dung.
Leela begs the Queen to allow her to use the Glitter Chamber. The Queen warns about possible side effects but the PlanEx crew insists. Soon Leela is hallucinating, and witnessing the imagery described by Nibbler. Leela emerges from the chamber and declares she sees the way. She continues that Nibbler was right about everything. However, she says he overlooked one thing. The worms should be making him smarter, as they did when Fry was inhabited by them.
The Worm King asks why they aren’t making Nibbler smarter. Leela reveals that they have been weakened. They’re infested by the same sub-parasites that Zoidberg declared “cute” earlier. In fact, Zoidberg is feeling on worm juice alongside the mites as Leela reveals them to the worms. Leela says, “There are levels within levels within levels. But that’s too many levels. We’ve got to kill those mites.”
Fry asks about the sanctity of life. Leela says the line must be drawn somewhere. “Stomp those suckers,” declares Leela. “Kill them all!” After brushing themselves free of mites the worms join the PlanEx crew and beetles in smashing the mites.
PlanEx, Home Again
Back in the PlanEx break room, Leela says Nibbler will be okay as Nibbler chews on a Bart Simpson chew toy. Fry asks if Leela’s senses got scrambled from being in the Glitter Chamber. A POV shot reveals she perceives Fry to be an insect. But she says, “Eh, it’s fine.”
In bed, Nibbler communicates with the Nibblonian High Council and updates them on the events of the episode. Then he runs to the kitchen and climbs into Leela’s lap.
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