Rick and Mondays – S3E3 “Pickle Rick”

An insane concept somehow becomes not just a great episode, but one of the most fun episodes of the series.


Rick (Justin Roiland) turns himself into a pickle in order to avoid going to therapy with Beth (Sarah Chalke), Morty (Roiland), and Summer (Spencer Grammer). It turns out that Summer has been huffing enamel and Morty has wet himself in class, so the school has mandated they attend some form of treatment. Rick claims just to have forgotten about therapy and changed himself into a pickle in order to prove he could, but Morty quickly spots a syringe rigged to turn Rick back to normal after the family leaves. Rick says that it’s nothing, so Beth takes the syringe and leaves. A cat knocks Pickle Rick off the table and onto the outside sidewalk where he almost dies until it starts to rain and washes him into the sewer. He manages to kill a cockroach with his mouth, the only part of his body he can move, then uses his tongue to manipulate its corpse.

S3E3 - 1PickleRick.jpg
To be fair, he drank enough to pickle himself already.

At counseling, the Smiths meet Dr. Wong (Susan Sarandon), who, rather than listen to Beth’s attempts to make the session about Morty’s pants-wetting and Summer’s enamel-huffing, immediately makes the session about Rick’s impact on Beth and the family. Beth perpetually attempts to defend Rick as a genius and that he didn’t try to avoid counselling, but Dr. Wong and the kids both keep rebutting her. Dr. Wong eventually points out that Beth’s relationship with Rick leads her to punish vulnerability and emotional connections, something that wrecked her marriage and may be hurting her children. Beth just responds with “F*ck you.”

S3E3 - 2DrWong.png
This is actually a grown up Janet Weiss.

Rick, in the sewers, manages to kill enough cockroaches to build a primitive exoskeleton which he uses to build a number of complex mechanisms that give him a techno-organic body composed mostly of rat parts. He kills a number of rats and then escapes the sewers through a toilet which is revealed to be inside of a Russian facility, likely a spy agency posing as an embassy. The agents attack Rick, who starts to kill them off despite being a pickle using rat limbs. The Director (Peter Serafinowicz) discovers that his forces are not able to stop “Solen’ya,” a pickle-man figure from Russian mythology that Rick resembles, and recruits captive freedom-fighter Jaguar (Danny Trejo) to do the job.

S3E3 - 3Director
Why he has a British Accent is unclear.

At therapy, Dr. Wong and Beth continue being at odds, with Beth claiming that Dr. Wong is trying to just avoid addressing the divorce and the kids. Ultimately, Beth does talk a little bit about Rick after some manipulation by Dr. Wong, admitting she admires Rick for not needing anyone.

Rick is confronted by Jaguar, who is apparently fighting because the Director has his daughter hostage. The two fight, sustaining brutal damage, until Rick appears to win. The Director offers Rick a fortune and reveals that Jaguar’s daughter is dead. Rick refuses and the Director kills the other employees before trying to flee, only to find Rick and Jaguar waiting for him. Rick blows the building up, killing him, as Jaguar takes him to the therapy session. Along the way, Jaguar tells Rick to tell Beth he loves her, but Rick responds that they don’t really do that and admits he even abandoned his original Beth.

S3E3 - 4Jaguar.png
These two are both insane.

Rick arrives at therapy and admits that the syringe Beth took is an anti-pickle serum and he lied. Dr. Wong asks why he did it and Rick asserts that he doesn’t think therapy matters and that it’s counterproductive to his lifestyle, basically trying to own Dr. Wong with his intellect. Dr. Wong proceeds to deliver a blow far more devastating than Jaguar ever could have, saying:

Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.

You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control. You chose to come here, you chose to talk -to belittle my vocation- just as you chose to become a pickle.

You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces. Your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.

I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die. It’s just work. And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.

Each of us gets to choose.

The family then leaves, with Beth and Rick trying to play down what just happened and make a small amount of amends to each other and Morty and Summer asking about going back, seeming to think that it actually WAS helping. However, ultimately Beth and Rick decide to grab a drink rather than contemplate what Dr. Wong said.


There’s an episode of Doctor Who where River Song (Alex Kingston) describes an event as the moment that the Doctor rises higher than ever before and then falls so much further. This is Rick’s version of that. Throughout the episode, we are shown exactly how amazing Rick is. He turns himself into a pickle, something that is impossible on a hundred different levels, then manages, as a pickle, to survive being in the sewers, moving his way rapidly up both the technological and literal food chain, until finally he takes out a building full of mercenaries while still being a combination of pickle and rat parts. This whole sequence is, to an audience, absolutely amazing. He even says “I love myself” after murdering a giant rat in single combat.

S3E3 - 5Rat.gif
This is Rick celebrating his killing of a group of rats that were not really a threat to him.

That’s why it’s so amazing when Dr. Wong just flat-out tells him that everything he has just done is all a sign of his illness and his reckless desire to live on the edge rather than just be happy or healthy. Rick tells her that he’s a scientist and that when he doesn’t like something, he doesn’t learn to accept it, he just changes it, and he compares people who accept things to cattle, but Wong counters that the thing Rick refuses to change is actually himself.

S3E3 - 6RickWong
People worship the pickle-rat man but not the woman who destroys him.

This is something that the show really does appear to be trying to convey to everyone, particularly fans of Rick: Rick’s not healthy, Rick’s not happy, Rick’s not a good person, and even if he does appear to be a bad-ass at times, the only reason he does anything is because he’s trying to avoid dealing with himself. Despite his claims of being superior and intellectually dominating, even trying to belittle Dr. Wong, Rick is constantly on the edge of dying just because he can’t handle the simple act of talking about his feelings. Rick even points out that he abandoned his daughter and replaced her with another version without really caring about it. He’s a miserable asshole.

S3E3 - 7Suicide
Yeah, remember this?

In terms of story structure, this episode is nearly perfect. We get to watch Beth’s futile attempts to fight back against Dr. Wong’s psychoanalysis intercut with Rick’s progressive victories over the rats and the agents gives both more emphasis. We finally see her start to make a little growth when she forces Rick to tell him what’s in the syringe, just as he starts his decline at the hands of Dr. Wong. However, as part of the “darkest season,” the episode ends with Rick and Beth both choosing to learn nothing from what just happens and instead go get drunk. It’s the same kind of wonderful rejection of traditional character progression that the show does so well.

Frankly, this is one of the best episodes of this show. Its only major drawback is that it leads so many people to shout “Pickle Riiiick” to the point that you want to smash their face in with a sledgehammer.

Also, I won a Pickle Rick.

Joker’s Theory Corner

Dr. Wong specializes in Family Counseling and Coprophagia Recovery. The episode could have just made this a background joke, but instead repeatedly informs us of what this means: Eating sh*t. Dr. Wong is helping people stop eating sh*t. We even have Mr. Goldenfold (Brandon Johnson) asking the Smiths how long they’ve been eating poop.

S3E3 - 8GoldenFold
Awkward level: 9001

Two things are notable about this gag. First, while Dr. Wong is technically helping Mr. Goldenfold and others like him stop eating literal crap, she’s also trying to help Beth stop taking sh*t from Rick, metaphorically. Beth is constantly manipulated by Rick and, more tragically, she is completely aware of it but chooses to ignore it out of fear that he’ll leave again if she doesn’t. She’s metaphorically eating shit and liking it because she doesn’t want to admit she could do better. This doesn’t really have a theory attached, I just love the analogy.

Second, Dr. Wong has enough patients with coprophagia to merit a specialization, a book of coprophagics, and even a different motivational poster for her lobby. Normally, coprophagia almost exclusively affects people with Pica or Schizophrenia, and even then only a relatively small percentage of those groups, so how many patients could she possibly be seeing? Well, note that I said “normally.” See, there’s one potential circumstance that could drive a number of people to coprophagia… being forced to live in the sewers during an alien invasion that lasted months.

In the season premiere, we see Goldenfold lead a group of people to try to reclaim the surface from the aliens by rising from the sewers. Presumably, these people might have been living in the sewers for a long time… sewers that were full of poop. Yes, it’s disgusting, but I think that a number of people in the city probably were forced to survive on alien dung and developed coprophagia. Enough to give Dr. Wong a second specialty.


Overall, I give this episode an


on the Rick and Morty scale.

Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.

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Reader Bonus: Extremis (Doctor Who)

Is there anything that is a genuinely selfless act? If you teach a child to read, you benefit from a more educated population. If you make the world a better place, you get to live in a better place. Even if you’re doing something good in private, the feeling of reward you get is still providing you a benefit. So, when is something truly good, if goodness requires seeking no advantage? This episode came up with one of the most creative answers in television.

Quick Recap of the show:


The premise of the show is that there is a being called the Doctor that travels through time and space with various companions to fight evil. He’s an alien from a race called the Time Lords who lives and journeys in a 60s British Police Box called the TARDIS (Time And Relative Dimensions In Space). Sometimes he fights aliens, sometimes he eats hot dogs, sometimes he meets famous historical figures. Honestly, he just kind of travels, but the TARDIS tends to take him where he needs to be. Sometimes he changes history, sometimes he can’t, depending on the writing. At the time of this episode, there had been 12 doctors, and the current one was played by Peter Capaldi. His companion at the time was a woman named Bill Potts (Pearl Mackie) and a humanoid alien named Nardole (Matt Lucas). In the episode before this, the Doctor was rendered blind and uses sophisticated sunglasses to pretend to see to hide his condition.


At the beginning of the episode, the Doctor receives an e-mail titled “Extremis” and begins to read it through his sunglasses. It’s then shown that the Doctor is cleaning up his classroom (he’s temporarily teaching) and is surprised by a group of cardinals and the Pope himself. They’ve come concerning an ancient book found in the Vatican Library called Veritas (the Truth). It turns out that every person who reads the book commits suicide afterwards. They ask the Doctor to read it.

He loves it when they call him el Papa. And do good works.

The Doctor picks up Bill (and humorously interrupts her date with a very attractive woman by showing her the clergy) and, together with Nardole, heads into the secret Vatican library which houses Veritas. They are led to the reading cage which houses the book and find the only translator of the book who hasn’t killed himself rambling about having “sent” it. The translator runs off and commits suicide, and Nardole and Bill see that he had e-mailed a copy of the translation to CERN.  The Doctor uses a high-tech device to temporarily restore his sight so he can read the book, but the exertion knocks him out.


Nardole and Bill, going through the library, find a portal. They step through it to find themselves in a broom closet in the Pentagon. They head back through the portal and are suddenly in a hub room with a large number of portals projected to various important locations. They pick another and emerge in CERN, where the workers are all having a raucous party. It’s revealed that they’ve set up an explosion to destroy the entire facility and kill them all.

I challenged a Sicillian while death was on the line.

When the Doctor wakes up, a figure emerges that he can’t quite see yet. The figure steals the book and tells the Doctor that what they are doing is just “a game.” The Doctor responds: “Good, because I win” and escapes with the laptop containing the book’s translation. He finds a corner, opens the laptop to read it, but his eyes fail. The figures come for him until a bright light surrounds him.

Back at CERN, Bill and Nardole ask one of the heads what is going on. He explains that they are saving the world. They ask him how. He asks them to select a random number. As they answer, in sync, he says the same word, then challenges them to pick more. Every time they say the number, he says the same. He apologizes, then prepares to blow up CERN. Bill and Nardole escape into the hub, but discover that they aren’t truly portals: They’re projections. None of the places they’ve been are real, they’re just projections. Nardole, horrified, reaches past the projector and dissolves into pixels. Bill, shocked, follows a blood trail through another portal.


Bill finds herself in the Oval Office with the Doctor. The Doctor tells her that he read Veritas, and it’s a story of a Demon that wanted to take over the world. The Demon decided to create a Shadow World filled with Shadow People who think and act like regular people, and to observe this new world to figure out how to take over the real one. In other words, it’s a computer simulation. The random number test was to confirm whether the reader is in the real or fake world: If you’re in the real world, you can come up with a real random number, but in the fake world, everyone answers the same sequence. The Doctor and Bill both failed the test, so they’re both in the simulation. They aren’t real. This means the most noble thing for them to do is to kill themselves, because that will stop the simulation from matching the real world and hurt the Demon’s chances of taking over the real world.

After the Doctor finishes explaining, Bill dissolves, revealing the figure behind the simulation to be a desiccated alien dressed as a monk, one of many. The Doctor says that he’s going to stop them. The monk explains that they have run many simulations for centuries and that they have killed the Doctor many times, ensuring that he will not stop them. The Doctor counters that the problem with running a computer simulation this good is that it has allowed the Doctor to interfere. The monk counters that there is nothing he can do. The Doctor informs him that, in order to simulate the computer networks of Earth, the monks had tapped into the computer networks of Earth, allowing him to do exactly one thing: Send an e-mail. The simulation Doctor titles it “Extremis” and sends it to the Real Doctor who got it at the beginning of the episode.


Throughout the episode, there have been flashbacks to the Doctor attending the execution of his life-long nemesis The Master (currently “The Mistress” or Missy, played by Michelle Gomez). While the Doctor watches the executioners set up the proceeding, he is met by Nardole, who reads to him the last words of the Doctor’s Wife, River Song (Alex Kingston):

Goodness is not goodness that seeks advantage. Good is good in the final hour, in the deepest pit without hope, without witness, without reward. Virtue is only virtue in extremis. This is what he believes, and this is the reason above all, I love him. My husband. My madman in a box. My Doctor.

The Doctor then prevents the execution of Missy, believing that she can change, and the Doctor agrees to watch over her. In the present, the Doctor asks Missy to help him stop the monks from invading.


So, this episode contains an answer for the question in the beginning: Virtue is only virtue when there is no possibility of reward. In other words, the only true good is sacrifice. In this episode, we see a number of people living up to that by killing themselves in order to disrupt the simulation and help stop the aliens from keeping up the simulation, but that’s only because those people realized that they weren’t real. Ultimately, it also didn’t make much of an impact because they have millions of simulations running. The Doctor, instead, goes a step further and, rather than kill himself, figures out a way to actually make a real difference, even though he himself is not real. Basically, the Doctor doesn’t just beat death to do something good, he beats reality.

With an e-mail, no less.

Honestly, I love the fact the episode really recalls a running question during the Doctor’s Twelfth incarnation: Is the Doctor a good man? The Twelfth Doctor can be callous, can be rude, can be unkind even, and definitely can be judgmental, but this episode finally draws that question to a close. He is not just a good man, he is a man willing to do what is good without any reward being promised or even possible. The fact that the episode also features the Doctor saving one of his most hated enemies from death, knowing that she will likely try to kill him again in the future, just in case she can change, is equally significant. The end of the episode shows why it may have been the right decision: Because only Missy might be able to stop the monks.

The episode kind of invokes the simulated reality movies like The Matrix, eXistenZ, or even Dark City, but is really closest to The 13th Floor, because the main character is also not real in this story, but is a copy of someone in reality. The movie connections pretty much end there, though, since this is about overcoming the limitations of being stuck in a virtual world not by breaking it (as the CERN workers try), but instead by using it.


This is one of my favorite episodes of Capaldi’s run, though it didn’t really approach the beauty of “Heaven Sent.” Still, he’s in my top three Doctors, for now, and this episode really helped.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.