"Love's Labours Lost in Space" is the fourth episode of production and the fourth broadcast episode of Futurama. It originally aired in North America on April 11, 1999. The episode was written by Brian Kelley and directed by Brian Sheesley. This episode introduces the recurring character Zapp Brannigan when he attempts to prevent the Planet Express crew from completing their mission. It also introduces Nibbler, whom Leela adopts as a pet.
Minutes after an unsuccessful attempt by Amy to introduce Leela to eligible bachelors at The Hip Joint, a New New York nightclub, the crew gets sent on a tax-deductible charity mission. The uninhabited PlanetVergon 6 has been mined hollow for more than 25 years and is about to collapse. The crew is sent to recover two of each kind of animal native to the planet for breeding purposes.
Unfortunately, Vergon 6 has been declared restricted due to its undeveloped status, under Brannigan's Law. The Planet Express crew are arrested by the legendary space captain Zapp Brannigan, who immediately attempts to seduce Leela. Leela initially rebuffs Brannigan, but eventually succumbs to pity for the desperate fool, a fact that Brannigan brings up in every later appearance in the series.
The sexually-satisfied Brannigan allows the Planet Express crew to depart for Vergon 6 and the crew proceed to collect the strange animals. While working on their checklist, they discover a small black and white creature with a third eye on a stalk. Leela decides to rescue it as well, names it Nibbler and places it in the cargo hold with the other animals. When Bender, Leela, and Fry return with the last animal, they discover that the mystery creature has devoured all the other animals.
The planet begins to collapse and break apart. When the crew try to escape, they discover that the ship is out of fuel. Leela refuses to beg Brannigan for assistance and the crew settle in for their inevitable deaths. The ship shifts to one side and the crew discovers that Nibbler has defecated a small pellet of dark matter, which is the fuel the ship runs on. Bender tosses the ultra-dense pellet into the engine and the crew returns safely to Earth.
Fry and Leela
Leela is looking for a date and shows no interest in Fry. This is particularly significant of her feelings, or lack thereof, for Fry at this point, as she later appears to be interested, in an elderly, unpleasant looking, janitor at the end of the night.
Fry doesn't really show any interest in her either, but it's somewhat hinted at when he says she shouldn't rule out a man with a low IQ, seemingly suggesting himself.
Later on, he even, rather immaturely, teases Leela for her crush on Brannigan. A rather rude act, and one unlikely to endear him to her.
Although it must be remembered that children, and immature adults, such as Fry, are known to use teasing to flirt with their crushes.
Fry interrupts Leela's initial flirtation with Zapp Brannigan. Though apparently he does this out of pure curiosity, jealousy may well also be a factor. The non-descript nature of Fry's enquiry, and the fact that Zapp answers with information already known to Fry, and the viewer, might seem to support this.
When plotting to escape, Fry entirely fails to consider Leela in his plan.
In this episode Leela claims the prison would be referable to one evening with Brannigan. This is similar to her claim, in "The Series Has Landed", that she would be unwilling to spend a week with Fry. It should be noted, even though she is still far from falling for Fry, that Leela already seems to prefer Fry's company to Zapp's.
While languishing in the brig/steam-room Fry shows some concern for Leela, noting that she's been gone for a while.
Against her better judgment, and entirely out of pity, Leela sleeps with Brannigan. She regrets this soon after.
Leela is particularly defensive about what happened between her, and Brannigan, when Fry asks about it.
Upon realizing that Leela had slept with Brannigan, Fry was particularly shocked, and - judging by his expression - somewhat disappointed.
Although this disappointment might be more due to the shattering of his belief that Leela had standards.
In a possible instance of jealousy, Fry confesses that he thinks the shame Leela already feels over having slept with Brannigan is insufficient.
Despite this, Fry, and Bender, show no objections to Leela trading in her dignity, and flirting with Zapp, in order to get him to rescue them.
As the episode concludes, we see Leela begin to consider Nibbler her substitute for romance. Evidently, she has no interest in Fry at this point, at least not consciously.