- "This chronological wang-dang-doodle could destroy the very matrix of reality."
- ―Ethan "Bubblegum" Tate
The crew of Planet Express is relaxing near Central Park Lake, when suddenly a U.F.O lands in the park. A Team of Globetrotters step out of the vessel and their leader, Ethan "Bubblegum" Tate challenges Earth to a Basketball tournament "for no reason," and with "nothing at stake, beyond the shame of defeat".
Professor Farnsworth accepts the challenge with his team of Mutant Atomic Supermen, who're unfortunately, currently "superboys". In order to speed up their growth he orders the Planet Express Crew to pick up chronitons, which destroyed an entire civilization from the Tempus Nebula.
In the nebula, it's obvious the harvest is causing some sort of tear in space, but the crew pays no attention to it. Fry tries get Leela to go on a date with him by showing her that his face can survive decompression multiple times. She simply tells him to cool his jets, literally since his jet pack was melting Bender's face.
When the crew returns to Earth, Farnsworth notes they got back "none too soon" since while they were gone the Globetrotters held a news conference stating he was a "jive sucker" and feeds the mutant boys the chronitons. The results are immediate and drastic. They all age into adults: Grotrian grows to nearly double normal human height, Armo gets three extra arms, Thorias gets a cannon in his chest, Arachneon turns into a human/spider hybrid, and Lazar the ability to shoot energy beams from his eyes. Farnsworth rejoices at his creations, Amy flirts with the spider superman.
In Madison Cube Garden, the game begins, with Marv Albert's head as the commentator, who thinks it "promises to be a by-the-numbers athletic competition with no surprises whatsoever."
By halftime, the score is Globetrotters: 42 Supermen: 48. Albert again notes how dull this showdown is. The game resumes shortly after, but suddenly there's a flash and everyone is in different places. After another flash occurs, Farnsworth calls a time-out and realizing time is skipping ahead, assumes his use of chronitons is ripping the seams of time and space.
Thorias, the mutant with the chest cannon, panics on hearing this and fires accidentally, pulverizing his human/spider team member. Wanting to impress Leela, Fry offers to take the dead mutant's place, noting that they are 35 points ahead with two minutes left in the game, so there's no way putting him in would cause a problem. Unfortunately, there's another time skip and they find themselves at the end of the game: the Globetrotters win 244 to 86. Albert finishes with the comment that it's a dark day for humanity: losing in basketball. The Globetrotters gloat and Leela notes that she doesn't know what Fry did during the time skip, but thanks to him all the other planets will be cracking wise about their mamas. Hermes breaks down in tears, thankful his "fat, ugly mama isn't alive to see this day."
However, despite the apparently severe humiliation, Farnsworth immediately reminds everyone that the time skips are far more serious. Tate offers his assistance since he's the senior lecturer in physics at Globetrotter U. After some technobabble, it is concluded that the universe is doomed unless something is done soon. They are forced to leave the stadium when a time-skip puts them in the path of a charging elephant, part of the circus that takes place the day after the game.
Back in the Planet Express Building, time skips are becoming more frequent and oddly plot/humor relevant. Farnsworth observes that people act normally during the time skips, but end up having no memory of what they did. Bender starts sucking up to Tate hoping to become a Globetrotter.
Fry continues to try and romance Leela, stating a romantic bed in a closet is a time-proof shelter "cause when we're together in here, baby, time will stand still". Time skips and it's apparent she hit him and refused to join him in bed. Leela later complains about Fry's many flaws to Zoidberg, but due to a skip it is not shown. Zoidberg guesses it was boring anyways since after the skip he was watching television while Leela talked. Leela summarizes that while she likes Fry's kindness and boyish charm, his immaturity is far too annoying. Zoidberg simply says, "you don't wanna end up old and lonely like Zoidberg" and breaks down in tears, but immediately recovers his composure.
Meanwhile, using the Smell-O-Scope, Farnsworth has located "time leaks" in the Tempus Nebula. He surmises that when the crew removed the chronitons, it destabilized the nebula, disrupting time throughout the universe. Tate summarizes that when the nebula bounces time particles on matter, bouncing basketballs on Benders head as an analogy, it causes dents, or time skips. He realizes that diverting a bunch of stars could redirect the time particles to the empty side of the universe via their gravity. Unfortunately, such an undertaking would take all of Earth's money, and months to build and install on the Planet Express ship. Thanks to convenient skips however, it all gets done in seconds of perceived time.
Near the nebula, we see Leela moving the last sun into position, surrounding the nebula with a circle of suns and apparently stopping the skips. Fry congratulates her with a moderately priced, domestic, non-vintage champagne and showers her with compliments in his quest to get a date, but she still refuses. With advice from Tate he tries again by showing her he learned how to operate the Planet Express ship. This does impress her, but also makes her utterly exasperated and forces her to state in certain terms that "they'll never ever..." but time skips interrupt her and the two find themselves married.
An angry Leela accuses Fry of tricking her into marriage, but neither has any idea how this happened. Fry denies being capable of such things and makes a heartfelt speech about giving the marriage a chance. One skip later finds them divorced. A heartbroken Fry first tries to figure out what exactly he did to win Leela's heart.
Farnsworth determines that Tate's math was utter nonsense since chronitons can't be moved. Meanwhile, time skips are getting worse with isolated areas moving forward decades. Luckily, the skips allows him and the best minds in the universe, which happen to be the Globetrotters, to come up with another solution quickly. Farnsworth suggests destroying the entire nebula but "Curly" Joe states that it would take out half the universe. "Sweet" Clyde suggests that they implode the nebula into a black hole, to prevent more chronitons from escaping. Tate hesitates, noting they'll need a Doomsday Device to pull off something like that, but the Professor simply responds by pulling six devices out from his collection, musing he could part with one and still be feared. Tate, elated, makes everyone in the room honorary Globetrotters, but, to his chagrin, Bender isn't there. In a final act of desperation Bender pleads with Tate before they leave, but is forced to admit he's not funky enough to be a Globetrotter.
Back at the nebula, a heartbroken Bender sets the doomsday device and a heartbroken Fry apologizes for the possibility that he tricked Leela into a marriage, since he still doesn't know what happened. Leela tries to cheer him up, stating they'll always be friends, but it doesn't work, so she tries again by letting Fry move the ship to a safe distance while she preps the doomsday detonator.
At the helm, Fry realizes he previously moved the stars to spell "I LOVE YOU, LEELA" as an ultimate declaration of love. That was the thing that finally won Leela's heart. Unfortunately, the implosion device sucks up all the stars a few seconds later. A frantic Fry asks Leela if she saw "it", but unfortunately she didn't. A depressed Fry simply says, "it" was nothing, and the credits roll.
Even the diehard Futurama fan may find it a bit strange that the series has progressed all the way to the end of the third season before the first actual time-travel. There was the appearance of time-travel in "Anthology of Interest I", but that was "fictional", being the product of the "What If" machine. The chronotons move time forward only, never backward: this principle is echoed much later in "The Late Philip J. Fry", where Farnsworth bullies Fry into testing his time machine, which also can go forward only.
Fry and Leela
Fry is suddenly in love with Leela again. He starts off cool, offering Leela a romantic ride in one of the swan "boats" that aren't actually swans. While they're in space collecting chronotons, he comes on again, suggesting that she and his face get to know each other better. When she rejects him, he says, "Come on, Leela, why won't you go out with me? We both know there's something there." This is sudden, of course. Other than the one-episode fling of "Parasites Lost", Fry has expressed little more than lust and occasional, loneliness-induced desire.
When the Earth basketball team loses Arachneon to a cannon incident, Fry volunteers to replace him, expressing a desire to show Leela his skills. Later, Fry lures Leela to a love nest, claiming that it's a time-proof chamber that will protect her from the time skips. A time-jump occurs just after he says something crude--now Leela is gone and Fry has a black eye.
Leela talks to Zoidberg about Fry, indicating that she likes him but is turned off by his immaturity. Again, other than the short-lived fling of Parasites Lost, this is the first positive sign of any kind from Leela. Still, when Fry barrages her with flattery and asks her out, she says that they are just too different, he being a man and she being a woman. She walks away from him without hesitation when Bender asks her to teach him to make cupcakes.
Fry makes another attempt to impress Leela by showing her that he has learned how to pilot the ship. She is impressed with him, but she is totally turned off to think that he learned the skill strictly to impress her. Just in the middle of her exclamation that there's no way they could ever be together, time skips forward to their wedding ceremony. But Leela is convinced that she has been duped and after time skips forward a couple more times, they are divorced.
They have one last conversation about their relationship, in which they agree that Leela will never feel about Fry the way he feels about her, under any circumstances. Fry obsesses about and eventually discovers the means by which he convinced Leela to marry him, but Leela never gets to see it.
Hermes and Zoidberg
In the opening scene, Hermes and Zoidberg play frisbee together.
Death, near-death, mutilation
Fry decompresses his spacesuit, causing his head to comically swell to fill the helmet (though without seeming harm to Fry, except a slight coughing fit).
Bender's face is subjected to heat blasting from Fry's propulsion pack jets.
Arachneon is gruesomely liquefied during a timeout by an accidental blast from Thorias' chest.
Pop singer Wendy's career is reported by Linda through a series of time skips, ending after the third skip with the news that she has been found dead.
Bender is obsessed for the duration of this episode with the idea of being a Globetrotter.
Bubble Gum refers to Bender as "hot plate", but it is clear that the term is a deliberate pejorative.