Kevin James, Gary Anthony Williams, and Sarah Stiles get thrown into a NASCAR pit.
Kevin Gibson (Kevin James) is the crew chief for Bobby Spencer (Bruce McGill) Racing, a low-ranked NASCAR team. He oversees chief mechanic Chuck Stubbs (Gary Anthony Williams), chief engineer Amir Lajani (Dan Ahdoot), and office manager Beth Paige (Sarah Stiles), as well as idiot driver Jake Martin (Freddie Stroma). The owner, Bobby, retires and puts his daughter, Catherine (Jillian Mueller), in charge of the program. An Ivy-leaguer, Catherine’s more sophisticated and by-the-books management quickly gets on the nerves of the more traditional pit crew, but when Jake and the crew start winning, it turns out that maybe this was just what they needed.
A while back, Netflix announced that it was using various computer algorithms to try and generate ideas for new shows. Some of those shows, like House of Cards, ended up being fairly successful. Some, like The Ranch, did fairly well with a targeted demographic, but didn’t receive critical acclaim. This show will probably end up in the latter category. It’s not particularly well written, nor is it very original, but it has just enough talents on camera to keep it going at just the right speed to be bingeable. It’s like a slow drip of morphine. You are not getting high off of it, you’re just getting numb for a little while.
This is not to say that it doesn’t have its moments. Kevin James, despite some of his career decisions in the past, does tend to make me laugh. Gary Anthony Williams, who I have always found to be pretty entertaining, makes a decent foil for many of the aspects of NASCAR that tend to give it a whitewashed reputation. The rest of the characters are mostly stock. Amir is the neurotic character who is often the butt of many of the jokes, Catherine is the elitist who tries to steamroll everything into her own image, Bobby is the old Southern boy, Jake is the moron who gets by on his looks and natural talent, and Beth is the only woman inside a boy’s club. I will admit that my natural fondness for Sarah Stiles, especially since she played Spinel in Steven Universe, made me enjoy the scenes with her character more than I might have otherwise, since I felt she was massively underwritten.
Overall, though, this show just felt so generic that it genuinely seemed to have been written by a computer designed to churn out mediocrity and inoffensive jokes. Skip it.
Welcome to the third episode. Out of all the episodes, this one is third-est. It also counts as the Rick and Morty Christmas episode, I guess.
So, the episode starts with Jerry getting into the spirit of the season by singing “Last King Christmas,” a version of “Good King Wenceslas” designed for morons. As such, Jerry sings it well. He comes out of the kitchen with a ham to find that his family are all on their electronic devices, something that annoys him as he wants everyone to be a family for his parents, who apparently haven’t visited in years for some reason. It’s implied that Beth doesn’t like them, but it seems weird that they don’t show up for years at a time when they have grandchildren there.
Jerry tries to get his family to celebrate a “human holiday,” but gets ignored until he takes all of their devices. Rick enters, accompanied by a senile, drunken, homeless man dressed as Santa Claus, who Rick introduces as Ruben Ridley (Jess Harnell). Rick says that every year he checks up on Ruben and gives him a medical evaluation, eliciting responses of admiration and suspicion from Beth and Jerry, respectively. Rick takes Ruben into the garage as Jerry’s parents arrive, followed by a young man named Jacob (Echo Kellum).
Jerry’s mother, Joyce (Pat Lentz), explains that Jacob came into their lives after his father, Leonard (Dana “Wait, Dana Carvey? Holy shit, Dana Carvey” Carvey), had a heart attack. She says that the three of them are learning to “live again.” Jacob, unfailingly polite and upbeat, quickly charms most of the family, aside from a still-confused Jerry.
Rick re-enters and grabs Morty. In the lab, Ruben is dying on the table, so Rick shrinks Morty down and sends him inside Ruben, where Morty finds himself at the entrance to Anatomy Park, a theme park in Ruben’s body. Rick explains that it’s a business venture he’s been planning in order to earn some sciencin’ money. At first it just appears to be mostly Disneyland-esque rides, including Rick’s problematic personal passion project Pirates of the Pancreas. Yeah, that’s alliteration.
Morty heads to Ruben’s liver, where he’s ambushed by Poncho (Gary Anthony Williams), the park’s head of security, and introduced to: Roger (Jess Harnell), a zookeeper; Annie (Jackie Buscarino), a churro-stand worker; and Dr. Xenon Bloom (John Oliver), who appears to be a sentient amoebic alien from the UK that runs the park. Bloom reveals that Anatomy Park is a collection of the world’s deadliest diseases, which are now running rampant throughout Ruben’s body. Also, they’re monsters, rather than, say, what any disease actually looks like, because that would be boring. The group is attacked by Hepatitis A.
Back at the house, the rest of the family is at dinner, where Jerry finally inquires about exactly what relationship Jacob has to his parents. Jacob is revealed to be Joyce’s lover, whom Leonard enjoys watching have sex with his wife, typically while dressed as Superman. Beth is supportive of this, while Jerry is horrified. Summer, still mad at not having her phone, feels some serious Schadenfreude at Jerry’s pain.
Inside Ruben, the group escapes from Hep A, finding themselves in the lungs, which aren’t producing enough air for Ruben’s brain, which apparently shuts down security. Whether this is because the security team lives in Ruben’s brain and are now dead or if Ruben’s brain actually IS the security system is frustratingly never answered. They’re joined by Alexander (Rob Schrab), who is a dog mascot for the park. Morty, trying to impress Annie, climbs up the alveoli in the lungs to check for blockage, but soon finds that there is a swarm of tuberculosis attacking them. During the attack, Poncho shoots Ruben’s lungs, causing him to cough. The team tries to evacuate the lungs, but Alexander is killed when Ruben takes a deep breath, with his corpse being coughed onto Rick’s forehead. Morty tells Rick that Ruben has TB, which Rick says he can cure, before Ruben suddenly dies.
Rick, apparently unable to cure death, tells the group they need to quickly get out of Ruben, before telling Morty to check out Pirates of the Pancreas, because the pirates are realistic and “really rapey.” The group tries to make its way out of the park through the digestive tract to the colon, where there is an emergency enlarging ray. Morty leads the team while still trying to hit on Annie and failing. They board the “It’s A Small, Small Intestine” ride, which is a parody of exactly what you think it is. They then get attacked by Gonorrhea, which is actually less horrifying than the singing dolls. Morty realizes that they’re surrounded by explosive gas and has Poncho ignite it, killing Gonorrhea. This finally gets Annie to really notice Morty.
Back in the house, the family is in a drum circle having a great time, except for Jerry who is still upset about Jacob. Beth even apologizes to Jerry and tries to get him into the holiday. Ethan (Daniel Benson), Summer’s secret boyfriend shows up, complaining that she hasn’t texted him in a few hours. Ethan snaps at Summer, not really listening to the situation, before Jerry asks if this is her boyfriend. Jacob remarks that Jerry really needs to connect more with his family.
In Ruben’s colon, the group arrives at the enlarging ray. Roger tries to power it up before the sphincter dam breaks and floods the colon with crap, but Morty notices a strange object in Poncho’s backpack. It’s revealed that Poncho has been stealing exhibits of Bubonic Plague to sell as bioweapons. Morty attacks him, allowing Bubonic Plague to get free and bite Poncho, resulting in his death. Then, the dam starts to burst. Roger gets caught trying to flee and ends up killed by the wave of shit.
Inside the living room, Jacob confronts Ethan over his anger, which is revealed to come from being molested by his brother. This emotional revelation is quickly parlayed by Jacob into personal growth for Ethan, which leads to he and Summer proclaiming their love and making out. Jacob and Joyce start making out while Leonard goes into a closet to reveal his Superman outfit. Jerry shouts that he hates this, but everyone else in the house seems to be on-board. Jerry then proclaims that he hates Christmas and leaves for the garage.
At the Anatomy Park theater, Morty and Annie are rounding first base, with Annie giving him the go-ahead to round second, while Dr. Bloom eats ice cream and watches an animatronic Ruben introduce himself. In the garage, Jerry apologizes to Rick for judging him as a crazy relative, which gives Rick an idea. He tells Morty to get to Ruben’s left nipple to get out. Dr. Bloom says that to get there, they need to ride The Bone Train, a monorail system attached to Ruben’s skeleton. Rick grabs a scalpel, Ruben’s corpse, and some dynamite and gets in the car, flying to space. Morty’s group is pursued by E. Coli. Dr. Bloom sacrifices himself to start The Bone Train before realizing there is an autopilot that renders his sacrifice stupid. Morty defends Annie with a fire extinguisher from the legions of E. Coli.
Rick flies Ruben to outer space and enlarges him to gigantic proportions. Newspeople all over the US report, with a fair amount of professional calm, about the giant man floating over America, though they do speculate about the size of Ruben’s penis over the Rocky Mountains. As Annie and Morty get to the end of the track and find the nipple, they are attacked by Hepatitis A again, before Hep A is dispatched by the larger Hepatitis C. The pair exit the nipple hole and are rescued by Rick, who dynamites Ruben’s corpse.
At the Smith house, the family is lamenting Jerry’s attitude when it starts to rain blood. Everyone panics until Jerry comes in with screens for them all, telling them that the media says not to worry. Jerry says they all learned something this Christmas, which Summer immediately denies. In the garage, Rick laments Dr. Bloom’s passing until Annie says that she could create a new Anatomy Park, leading him to shrink her again. Morty complains that Rick took Annie away, but Rick tells him Annie had a puffy vagina. The pair re-enter the house to find everyone on a screen, leading Rick to call them out for not paying attention to the holiday. In the post-credits scene, Rick is building a new Anatomy Park in Ethan, but finds that they are not going to include Pirates of the Pancreas, leading Rick to get pissed off and seemingly quit the project.
Okay, so, this episode is reference-heavy, even by Rick and Morty standards. So, let’s go through some of them.
JOKER’S “DID YOU GET THAT?” REFERENCE CORNER
First, Anatomy Park is a combination of Jurassic Park, Fantastic Voyage, and Disneyland. It’s actually probably closer to the park seen in Jurassic World than in the first Jurassic Park film, since the original park was more akin to a nature safari designed to show off the zoo, whereas there are actually rides and shows in the new park… prior to it getting destroyed. The whole shrinking and entering a body thing is from a lot of sources, but I think the idea of going into a body to fix a problem is most associated with Fantastic Voyage. The Jurassic Park thing is made pretty explicit. Xenon Bloom is clearly designed to look like John Hammond, down to the cane with what appears to be a fetus trapped in amber. Hepatitis A being caught in mid-attack by Heptatitis C who somehow wasn’t noticed until this point is a reference to the T-Rex eating the velociraptor at the end of the original film. Hep C then gives a thumbs-up to Morty and Annie, with Morty asking if they had any relationship with him, to which Annie says “I think they’re just like that.” This seems to be a reference to the fact that T-Rexes often save the heroes during the Jurassic Park films. At one point, Dr. Bloom tells the group that Gonorrhea can’t see them if they don’t move, but then admits he was thinking of a T-Rex, which is about as direct a reference as it gets.
According to the Rick and Morty wiki, Xenon Bloom’s name is a play on Jeff Goldblum, but with another element in place of gold. I also have seen people speculating that Xenon was chosen based on the fact that it can be used in anesthetics and neuroprotectives, referencing both Bloom’s boring nature and the fact that he works to keep Ruben alive. I myself first thought it was a joke in that Xenon is a noble gas that reacts to basically nothing, while Bloom panics constantly and seeks validation for jokes throughout the episode. However, I now realize that his name is a reference to the Disney Channel film Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century, a sci-fi movie which featured the musician Proto Zoa and the band Microbe. This is clearly the intention of the writers and will hear no other explanation. The spelling difference is clearly for legal reasons.
There’s also apparently a theory going around that Leopold, Jacob, and Joyce’s relationship is a reference to Ulysses, where Leopold Bloom is cuckolded by his wife, but literally nothing about this matches up except that Leopold is the husband’s name in both, and Joyce sounds like James Joyce, the author of the book. The relationship is completely unrelated to the one in the book, so I’m gonna just say it’s coincidence or the leftovers from a planned reference. Maybe they’ll even use it as one in the future, but it ain’t one here.
LEAVING THE CORNER
So, this isn’t my favorite episode of Rick and Morty, but it’s hard to articulate why. I guess I should say that I think the jokes in this episode are just too easy for a show of Rick and Morty’s caliber. The premise is funny, but it isn’t quite the level of subversion that we usually get from the show. Instead, it’s just “what if Jurassic Park were filled with diseases” and nothing else. Usually, this is the kind of thing that the show would use to show a different angle on the premise.
I also don’t think the jokes quite land as hard as other episodes, pretty much summarized with Bloom’s line “The digestive tract is the evacuation route. Get it?” He has several things like that where he’s attempting to do bad comedy, with Morty even asking him why he’s doing a bit while they’re going to die. Now, don’t get me wrong, this could have been hilarious and, in fact, probably should have been, but it just didn’t ever quite land for me. This is despite the fact that they cast John Oliver, who is a comedian you can absolutely envision saying “I made a joke. Did you get the joke? Oh god, why didn’t you get the joke. I shouldn’t do this. I shouldn’t have been a comedian. I should have been a haberdasher like my mother told me to.” Usually, I’d totally find that funny, but it never quite goes far enough out of the scene to really hit absurd.
Another joke that usually should have been the gateway to hilarity is Poncho’s rant, but, again, it just felt too easy of a joke. He says he could have sold the Bubonic Plague to “Al Quaeda. North Korea. Republicans! Shriners! Balding men that work out! People on the Internet that are only turned on by cartoons of Japanese teenagers!” I mean, this is just a list of people who society points out are angry bastards. This could be on any show. The humor in Rick and Morty is usually more distinct. It almost seems to get there when Poncho starts to say that it’s all because Bloom gave him an iTunes gift card as a holiday bonus, but that gets cut-off by Morty attacking him. Oh, and Bubonic Plague still exists in the real world, so that’s a stupid thing to try to sell. Could you not find smallpox?
Morty’s assertiveness in this episode is a little out of character, even for when Morty is trying to get laid. Usually Rick has to goad him more or pull him along, but since Rick isn’t in most of the episode, the show naturally has to give Morty more to do to move the plot along.
Also, and this one is weird, Rick’s role in the episode bothers me. First, Rick creating a theme park to make money is odd, because I have never understood why exactly Rick seems to constantly need money. He’s the smartest person in the universe, he routinely makes technology that crosses from science-fiction into fantasy, and yet we constantly see him doing things that suggest he’s broke. I honestly think it’s a play on the idea that engineers can’t do marketing as they think it’s pointless, so they can’t sell the great things they make. It also would explain why Jerry is in advertising, since, to Rick, that would be the most useless thing in the universe. Second, when Morty tells Rick that it’s TB, Rick just pulls a needle out of his own coat to inject Ruben, as if he has a TB cure on him. This is the kind of thing where Rick would normally lampshade that they’re on a TV show and that’s why he magically has a cure he couldn’t have used a few minutes ago, but it just plays it straight. Third, why the hell can’t Rick cure death? I know this is early on in the show, but I still find it weird when Rick says he “can’t” do something, since he literally lives to do things that are impossible. And he doesn’t even try to save Ruben by normal methods, let alone his superscience.
On the other side is the B-plot with the Smith family. This is actually the kind of subversion we usually want out of the show, because it’s taking the typical Christmas show message about the importance of family and instead making it about Jerry being freaked out by his mom and dad’s unorthodox sex life until Jerry finally gives everyone back their devices and allows them to ignore each other. Especially since the family is almost immediately on-board with the human holiday once Jerry’s parents are there, meaning that they learned the lesson from a typical Xmas movie, then immediately unlearn it.
I’m also going to say that I found it difficult to research parts of this episode because I ended up seeing the word “cuck” a lot, and I actually had to agree that this is a rare example of the word actually applying. Jerry’s dad Leopold enjoys watching his wife cuckold him, so he is, according to Urban Dictionary, a “cuck.” So, Jerry’s a “Beta Male” who is the son of a “cuck.” Add in that Ethan was molested by his brother (something that is literally just glossed over in an almost careless way) and I’d be shocked if this episode wasn’t listed on the Red Pill Reddit page as proof of the de-virilization of the media. But I wouldn’t even check for less than $200. Also, do NOT Google Image Search the word “cuck” with SafeSearch off.
Ultimately, this episode just seems like the crew hadn’t yet hit their stride on the show. Still, it’s got some fun moments in it. I definitely love the moment when Bloom says “Never mind, I wanted to sacrifice myself anyway” after finding out that it was needless and the premise is actually still pretty awesome. But, it definitely got better after this.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.