War Is the H-Word

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Zapp Brannigan briefing his troops

Production Number: 2ACV17
First Aired: November 26, 2000
Title Reference: General Shermans words "War is Hell"

The Story

Act I: War were declared

Fry and Bender are visiting a 7-11 where they see an army sergeant get a 5% military discount, which they do not get as they are not in the military. So they both sign up in order to get the discount and then immediately quit the army, which is unfortunately thwarted by the outbreak of war - they are stuck in the army. The crew accompagny them to South Street Starport where the Nimbus under the command of Zapp Brannigan is made ready for the expedition. Leela wants to enlist, but Zapp refuses as the military has a strict men-only policy. The ship leaves for Spheron 1, the target of the operation, although no specific reason for the conflict becomes apparent. While the recruits go through their training, one is surpassing all the others: a purple-haired and purple-bearded man who always wears goggles, known as Lee Lemon. Zapp is instantly interested in him for reasons unclear to himself. The Nimbus reaches its destination, and the soldiers are unloaded onto the surface.

Act II: The enemy - they're balls!

It turns out that the enemy are enormous crowds of living balls who attack the Earthican troops by bouncing up and down on them. The soldiers defend themselves and inflict casualties with the enemy, Fry excells by an act of cowardicec through which they are overrun. As a bomb is rolling into the Earthican lines, Bender throws himself onto the bomb so it detonates harmlessly inside his chest cabinet. The wounded are brought to a field hospital that has an air of M*A*S*H around it, Zoidberg is part of the surgical team and having his differences with iHawk. Zapp Brannigan makes Fry Kif's assistant for his cowardice. Meanwhile Bender is not too well, but Richard Nixon's head orders him fixed as he has some plans with him. Once Bender is whole again, he is sent on a mission of peace to the enemy leaders, the Brain Balls, and with him goes Earth's top peace negotiator, Henry Kissinger's Head. However, in the shower Fry and Lee Lemon overhear Zapp and Nixon planning to blow up the whole planet with a bomb hidden inside Bender, whic is activated by Zapp with a remote control as Bender and Kissinger are already negotiating witrh the Brain Balls.

Act III: Make Bender happy or he blows up the planet!

The Earth troops are preparing to leave the planet, but Lee Lemon wants to know when the bomb will explode. It turns out it is voice-activated, and will trigger when Bender says the word that is on the first place of his Top Ten of most-used words: ASS. Lee Lemon and Fry steal a chopper to save Bender, but Zapp Brannigan tries to stop them. Lemon beats him up (giving him a black eye) and reveals himself to be Leela. She pilots the stolen chopper to the place of the negotiations, where she pushes Fry out of the vehicle so he can land and save Bender. Fry is just in time to prevent Bender from saying the A-word so he won't blow them all to the H-word. Bender promptly uses the new situation to put the screws on the Brain Balls, who give in to Earths demands in order to prevent Bender from blowing up the whole planet. The balls leave Spheron 1, the war is over. Back at Planet Express, the Professor and Zoidberg are unable to remove the bomb, so they reset the word that triggers it - a word from the list of words Bender almost never uses. Bender is curious to know what word it is, but the crew think it is better if he doesn't know. Bender, however, is now set on finding out the word, and as he finds it, the bomb goes off.

Additional Info


  • The episode’s original east coast airing was interrupted by a special news bulletin. Unfortunately, the interruption came a minute before the very end of the episode, right before the audience was to learn Bender’s fate after supposedly triggering the bomb on Earth.
  • 'Bender’s Top Ten Most Frequently Uttered Words’ in full:
    • 10. 'Chump'
    • 9. 'Chumpette'
    • 8. 'Yours'
    • 7. 'Up'
    • 6. 'Pimpmobile'
    • 5. 'Bite'
    • 4. 'My'
    • 3. 'Shiny'
    • 2. 'Daffodil'
    • 1. 'Ass'
  • Bender believes his least frequently uttered words to be:
    • 8.'Please'
    • 7.'Thanks'
    • 6.'Sorry'
    • 5.'Funderful'
    • 4.'Non-alcoholic'
    • 3.'Compassion'
    • 2.'Shrimp-Toast'
    • 1.'Antiquing'
Round Hips Sink Ships
  • At the end, Bender says “I’m all right,” but the captions say “Hootenanny?”. The Region 2 DVD shows the correct words.
  • At the beginning of the episode, Fry is shown looking at these gum brands, contemplating which to buy:
    • Spider Yum
    • Hubble Bubble (A cross reference between the Hubble Space Telescope and Dubble Bubble Gum, plus a possible reference to Hubba Bubba)
    • Liquid Nitrogum (A parody on Liquid nitrogen)
    • Big Pink (A parody on Big Red ) - Fry chooses this because it is the only gum with the breath freshening power of ham. And according to Bender it Pinkens your teeth while you chew.
    • This is the second episode in which the words "ding dong" is mentioned in the same room as Nixon, the first being A Head in the Polls.
  • The recruiting poster outside the recruitment centre says "Join the Army - What are you, chicken? Buk buk buk". Inside we see a poster of a coffin labeled "Employee of the Month".
  • The army's men-only policy is accentuated by propaganda posters, slogan Round hips sink ships - a reference to World War II posters saying Loose lips sink ships warning against possible German agents.
  • On the hull of the Nimbus a poster says "Buy bonds - sell stocks".
  • Outside the Officer's club stands a sign that reads "We don't know but we've been told our beer on tap is mighty cold".


  • Fry: Oooh, Big Pink - the only gum with the breath freshening power of ham!
  • Zapp Brannigan: Alas, after a series of deadly blunders caused by distracting low-cut fatigues and lots of harmless pinching, the Army decided women weren't fit for service. Not when I’m in charge.
  • Zapp Brannigan: Men, you're lucky men. Soon you'll all be fighting for your planet. Many of you will be dying for your planet. A few of you will be forced through a fine mesh screen for your planet. They'll be the luckiest of all.
    Bender: Great. We're gonna die.
    Fry: And this ham gum is all bones!
  • Fry: Uh, just so we'll know - who's the enemy?
    Zapp Brannigan: A valid question! We know nothing about their language, their history or what they look like. But we can assume this: they stand for everything we don't stand for. Also they told me you guys look like dorks!
  • Zapp Brannigan: Lee Lemon, you're a man's man. You're a man's man's man. And more importantly your hand, while strong and masculine, is soft as a velvet child.
  • Zapp Brannigan: Private Lee Lemon may well be the finest recruit I've seen in all my years of service. That young man fills me with hope. And some other emotions which are weird and deeply confusing.
    Kif: Eeh!
  • Zapp Brannigan: As you all know, the key to victory is the element of surprise. Surprise! (pushes button, the soldiers fall onto the surface of Spheron 1)
  • Zapp Brannigan: (about Bender) This is the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it. I hereby order that in Bender's honour, he be melted down and made into a statue of himself.
  • Fry: (about to parachute down to rescue Bender) OK, this is it. My best friend's life is at stake. I can finally prove I am not a coward. (hesitates) Will you push me?
    Leela: I already did.
  • Henry Kissinger's Head: Young man, you have the bravery of a hero. And breath as fresh as a summer ham.

Alien Language Sightings

Location: Hospital Tent
Language: AL1
Translation: M*E*A*T

Outside References

  • A sign outside the shop Fry and Bender are in at the start of the episode reads "Free bag of Ice-9 with 6-pack", a reference to the substance Ice-9, created by Kurt Vonnegut in his novel Cat’s Cradle.
  • Zapp Brannigan briefs the troops in front of a large United States of Earth flag, a parody of the opening scene of the movie Patton.
  • The Piñata lightsaber scene parodies the scene where Obi-Wan Kenobi trains Luke Skywalker in the first Star Wars movie.
  • Bender is treated by a robot doctor named iHawk — a parody of Alan Alda’s Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce (voiced by actor/impersonator Maurice LaMarche), and the Apple line of iProducts. At one point, the robot flips a switch from “irreverent” to “maudlin,” a reference to the duality of Alda’s character portrayal. Additionally, Todd Susman provides the voice of the P.A. announcer as he did in M*A*S*H.
  • An extended M*A*S*H joke is played in the episode when Bender is evacuated to a mobile hospital. A “Suicide Is Painless” soundalike appears in the score, and many of the ensuing jokes are in M*A*S*H style. The alienese on the tent says *M*E*A*T, hence “mash meat.” Also, the first time that iHawk and Dr. Zoidberg in the tent it's a parody of Hawkeye fighting with Major Frank Burns, with Zoidberg as Frank, the unnamed nurse as Major Margaret Houlihan, and iHawk as Hawkeye.
  • Bender’s Top Ten Used Words list is a reference to David Letterman’s Top Ten.
  • There are numerous references to the ball aliens as testicles: “These balls are making me testy!”; Brannigan's referring to the “Brain Balls” as having a lot of brains, and a lot of chutzpa (which he says while cupping his hand and raising it); and the formerly mentioned newspaper headline, “Balls Thoroughly Licked,” are a few.
  • The war on Spheron 1 and the equipment of the Earthican troops seems to be inspired by the movie Starship Troopers.


Episode Credits