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.

SUMMARY

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.

END SUMMARY

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.

PickleRickFigurine.jpg
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.

LEAVING THE CORNER

Overall, I give this episode an

A

on the Rick and Morty scale.

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

PREVIOUS – 23: RickMancing the Stone

NEXT – 25: Vindicators 3: The Return of Worldender

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.

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Rick and Mondays – S1 E4 “M. Night Shaym-Aliens”

Welcome to Episode 4, where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.

SUMMARY

S1E4-1Rat.png
Look at that, doesn’t even have a Squiddlyspooge!

The episode opens with Rick dissecting a rat in his lab, stating that it’s sloppy craftsmanship. Morty comes in, remarking on the beauty of the day, but Rick makes cryptic comments on Morty’s statements to someone invisible. Beth appears, acting in a simple and robotic fashion, which Morty notes is “weird.” Rick tells the unseen observers they’re going to burn out the CPU with Morty’s sophistication. Morty tells Rick he’s also being weird, then walks into the wall, then leaves. Rick looks at him suspiciously.

At Morty’s school, Morty is asked a simple math question (What’s 5×9?) which he gets incorrect (“at least 40”) but is praised for his technical correctness. Mr. Goldenfold offers to have him teach the class for being such a genius, at which point someone asks him for the formula for concentrated dark matter, a fuel for accelerated space travel. The entire class seems strangely interested in this, including Jessica who offers to be his girlfriend if he makes it. Rick breaks in and pulls Morty out, even as Goldenfold threatens to fail Morty.

S1E4-2Jessica.png
Zigerions don’t like nudity, but apparently seducing a minor is fine.

Rick takes Morty to the showers and tells him to strip. Morty complies, though he’s still confused. Rick explains that they’re not in the real world: They’re in a simulation run by the Zigerion Scammers, the galaxy’s worst con-artists. Rick’s and Morty’s nudity is due to the Zigerions being super uncomfortable with naked people, apparently to the point that Rick believes that they will quit monitoring them if they’re naked. Rick ends up stealing Morty’s clothes to ensure they stay unwatched.

On the Zigerion Ship, the aliens are, in fact, refusing to look at the screen while Rick and Morty are naked. Prince Nebulon (David “I’m half of the Mr. Show” Cross) is alerted to the fact that Jerry is also in the simulation. In one of my favorite exchanges, every department aboard the ship blames another department until it forms a loop, preventing us from ever finding out how Jerry actually got on the ship. Jerry, being an idiot, doesn’t notice the obvious signs he’s in a simulation, which become even more absurd after the Zigerions set his simulation cap at 5%.

S1E4-3JerryStores.png
To be fair, this would be much easier.

Rick and Morty continue walking around naked as Rick convinces Morty that it’s a simulation by pointing out all the ridiculous elements, like an anthropomorphic PopTart living in a toaster house and driving a toaster car. Rick tells Morty that the two of them are going to scam the scammers, because dragging Morty in was a step too far.

S1E4-4PopTarts.png
I think the toaster oven would be the house. Fancier.

Jerry, meanwhile, tries to pitch an ad for apples. In typical Jerry fashion, it’s a completely banal slogan: “Hungry for apples?” However, the pitch is successful because his boss, Mr. Marklevitz (Dan Harmon), is caught in a loop of snapping his fingers and saying yes. Jerry runs out, elated, not noticing that the world is now populated by three people: an Old Man, a Hot Woman, and a Mailman (Maurice LaMarche, Kari Wahlgren, Brandon Johnson). Apparently, these are the easiest personalities to generate.

S1E4-5Trio.png
“Slow down” “Looking Good” “My Man!”

Rick and Morty are now preparing to put on a concert featuring their hit song “The Recipe for Concentrated Dark Matter.” They proceed to give the audience complicated instructions, overloading the computer generating the simulation and freezing it, allowing them to run past the edge and onto the Zigerion ship. At the same time, Jerry arrives home and has sex with a frozen Beth, which, apparently, is the best sex of his life. He lies in bed with her before telling her that he’s a fraud, having ripped off “Got Milk?” for his pitch. He never notices that she literally is frozen in place. Meanwhile, Prince Nebulon comments that now that they’re out of the simulation, it’s going to be a “mindf*ck.”

S1E4-6Mindfuck
This guy looks like he has discolored butthole flaps, like David Cross

Rick and Morty run through the ship and steal a ton of crystalline processing chips, even playing around with them, before easily escaping. Back in the simulation, Jerry meets with Mr. Marklevitz, who is still stuck in the same loop. Jerry talks himself into getting fired, then getting his job back, then getting an “Appley” award for commercials about apples.

Rick and Morty arrive home but when Rick enters the code to his safe, the Earth dissolves back into the Zigerion ship. Nebulon confronts Rick and explains that they already had the formula for concentrated dark matter but wanted the combination to Rick’s safe. Rick points out that he’s going to just change the combination, at which point Nebulon orders him captured. Rick pulls Morty’s pants down, repulsing the Zigerions, and the pair run for it.

S1E4-7Hologram2.png
If the Matrix ran on a Macbook Air.

Jerry is accepting his “Appley” award, citing it as the best day of his life and the thing that finally completes him, before witnessing the simulation glitch out as Rick and Morty run into the room. The duo drags Jerry, weeping, onto an escape ship. The Zigerion ships pursue, leading Rick to comment that they apparently DO have concentrated dark matter. Morty asks Rick to make some and Rick says they just need cesium, plutonic quartz, and bottled water, which all happen to be on the ship. When Rick lists the quantities, Morty freezes in place before dissolving, revealing that they are in yet another simulation.

S1E4-8AppleyAwards.png

Nebulon reveals that they had tricked Rick into revealing his secret formula. Rick is shocked that they could simulate Morty’s wang (and the audience is confused as to how Rick knew that it was accurate). Nebulon mocks Rick for his gullibility before taunting him with the possibility of still being in a simulation. As Rick and Jerry depart in a ship, Rick takes a shot at Jerry for the fact that “the most meaningful day of [his] life was a simulation operating at minimum capacity.” Jerry tries to counter that, since the Zigerions also tricked Rick, he’s just as foolish as everyone else. At that moment, Nebulon combines the Plutonic Quartz and Cesium with the water, causing a massive explosion. Rick tells Jerry that he blew them up, then starts vocalizing the saxophone part of “Baker Street” by Gerry Rafferty heard throughout the episode as they fly home.

S1E4-9Explosion.png
If only you could do this to internet trolls.

Later, Jerry pitches his “Hungry for Apples” idea in the real world and is immediately fired for incompetence. That night, Rick, completely hammered, breaks into Morty’s room and threatens to kill Morty for being a simulation, before accepting that Morty isn’t and passing out.

S1E4-10Jerry.png
Failing isn’t getting fired, Jerry. Failing is taking 2 seasons and aliens to get a job.

END SUMMARY

First of all, the opening line where Rick is observing the rat’s intestines is a great example of Rick and Morty’s particular brand of clever humor. When removed from context, it appears to be Rick criticizing the “craftsmanship” of a rat, which would be Rick basically taking a shot at God or guided evolution. In context, it later becomes obvious that he’s talking about the Zigerions, but the fact is that we could see Rick saying it either way.  Plus, it explains why Rick is so prepared for rat fighting in “Pickle Rick.”

S1E4-11RatFight
Yes… that explains it.

The episode itself is a brilliant subversion of all of the “simulated reality” movies that people come up with after reading Jean Baudrillard. Sure, it’s a fake reality, but it’s a fake reality that’s pretty easy to discern from the real one. It’s like you’re living in The Sims running on a crappy PC: Sure, most of the stuff is there, but it’s clearly not the real world. This really feeds perfectly into the show’s blending of sci-fi technology and the incompetence of sentient beings.

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

When exactly Rick realized it was a simulation of a simulation of a simulation is up for debate, but it seems extremely likely that he knew before he picked Morty up from the school. Rick explains to Morty that the Zigerions won’t monitor them when they’re naked, but nothing about avoiding the video would stop the aliens from listening to them talking. The fact that he then explains his plans to Morty would be a mistake if he wasn’t counting on them listening and being too stupid to wonder WHY he is still talking. It’s possible Rick didn’t know from the first time he saw Morty, because if he hadn’t been at least momentarily uncertain about the levels of the simulation, then he wouldn’t have threatened the real Morty at the end to confirm he wasn’t still in a simulation.

S1E4-12Knife.png

But, honestly, I’ll take a step back and say that I think Rick actually set this entire thing up because Rick just wanted the Zigerions to leave him alone and, as a bonus, he got to mess with Jerry. Think about it: None of the Zigerions know why Jerry is there. When Rick and Jerry leave, Rick indicates that he knows what happened in Jerry’s simulation AND that it was on minimum power, something even Jerry wouldn’t have known. Given that he apparently knew what was happening the whole time, Rick’s actions throughout the episode mostly appear to be just leading the Zigerions to believe that he actually fell for their scheme so that they wouldn’t question the formula he eventually gave them. A formula which contained Cesium and Water, two things that violently react when mixed. So why would Rick still threaten Morty at the end? Because, much like the film The Matrix, once you have the idea out there that you could be living in a simulation and not know it, it’s a hard thing to get out of your mind, particularly when you’re blackout drunk.

THIS HAS BEEN JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

This is probably the episode where I first decided I was going to love this show. The pilot was good, as were the next two episodes, but this was the episode where I first glimpsed the nested levels of brilliance they could put into the episodes by having Rick be so far ahead of the game, compared to a normal protagonist. That’s the thing about having a character who is basically a hyperintelligent being: Normally he’d be boring because he’d know what’s happening next or he’d have to be acting out of character in order to be challenged. If you give that character fourth-wall awareness (like, say, humming the episode’s musical score) it can be even harder to really find something to challenge them. But Rick is not just hyperintelligent, he’s nearly omnipotent and only seems to feel alive when putting himself at risk, so watching him play through the scenarios just for the hell of it becomes much more interesting. Hell, it’s part of why Rick and Morty has decided to avert any form of traditional character growth and focusing on a more nihilistic outlook, because watching Rick grow would be boring and out of character.

Overall, this was really when I felt like the show was starting to find its strengths, though it wasn’t until the next episode that I really think they started to prove how great this show could be.

Oh, and did anyone else notice that they don’t spell the first part of M. Night Shyamalan’s name right?

Overall, I give this episode a

B+

on the Rick and Morty scale.

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

PREVIOUS – 3: Anatomy Park

NEXT – 5: Meeseeks and Destroy

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.