Rick and Mondays – S2 E3 “Auto Erotic Assimilation”

It’s Invasion of the Body Snatchers meets every sitcom where the main character runs into their “unhealthy ex” on this week’s episode.

SUMMARY

Rick (Justin Roiland), Summer (Spencer Grammer), and Morty (Roiland) are in space when they pick up a distress beacon. Rick follows it so he can loot the ship, but they find survivors who tell everyone that there is an entity taking over the minds of those it infects. They’re immediately infected themselves. Rick prepares to fight, but it’s revealed that the hive-mind entity is actually Unity (Christina Hendricks), his ex-girlfriend.

S2E3 - 1Unity
It’s weird to be hit on by 6 bodies at once… I imagine. 

They return to the planet that Unity has recently taken over. Summer immediately is put off by the nature of Unity’s expansion by enslaving people to her will, despite the fact that Unity has improved the quality of life massively. Morty and Summer go off to explore the planet while Rick proceeds to rekindle his relationship with Unity. When another hive-mind named Beta-Seven (Patton Oswalt) comes to trade with Unity, Rick mocks him until he leaves, at which point he and Unity use Beta-Seven’s supplies to make mind-altering drugs and alcohol.

S2E3 - 2Beta7.png
Notice that Beta-7 Prime is looking at Unity’s rack(s?).

Back on Earth, Jerry (Chris Parnell) discovers that Rick has a secret basement lab under the garage. He and Beth (Sarah Chalke) get into a fight over her being unable to stand up to Rick until they find a captive alien. The two of them begin fighting more and more about Rick’s behavior until the alien, revealed to be Blim Blam the Korblock (John “I’m the f*cking Cryptkeeper” Kassir), escapes and tells them that they are the “f*cking worst” even by the standards of him, a baby-eating alien murderer with Space AIDS. He tells them that their marriage is terrible because they hate themselves and each other and Rick has nothing to do with that. He then leaves the planet forever just because he hates them too much to stay.

S2E3 - 3BlimBlam.png
Also, he has penis-fingers. 

Back on the Unity Planet, Unity’s alcohol and drug use has reached the point where she’s not able to maintain her control over the population and several people start to gain their freedom back. Unfortunately, this immediately leads to a race war between the people of the planet over the shape of their nipples. Morty and Summer are rescued, barely, by Unity. When they rejoin Unity and Rick, Summer tells Rick to leave with them, because he’s a terrible influence on Unity. He refuses and sends them away, only for Unity to realize that he’s bad for her, even though she loves him, and leave him in a letter.

S2E3 - 4RaceWar.png
Morty has seen this play out before, apparently.

Rick returns home and is confronted by Beth over the basement lab, which he immediately apologizes for and concedes the point to Beth. He then tells her he’s not going to leave and tells the kids that he left Unity. Immediately afterwards, in one of the bleakest sequences in the show, Rick then goes to the lab and attempts to commit suicide. He survives by passing out slightly before the death ray fires. Later, he confronts Beta-Seven in order to see Unity again, but Beta-Seven stops him and Rick leaves.

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Rick, mid-suicide attempt. Yeah, this is not a happy show.

END SUMMARY

We actually learn quite a bit about Rick in this episode. First, we learn that he has actually had relationships other than his failed marriage to Beth’s mother. Well, one relationship, at least. Given how much Rick continually disdains marriage and the idea of love, it makes sense that he might seek out relationships which, by their nature, almost certainly can’t lead to marriage. As for love, Rick certainly doesn’t seem to actually care about Unity in any loving manner and he very much uses her love of him to manipulate her into doing what he wants. However, at the end of the episode, Rick’s reaction to Unity’s break-up and the accompanying note leads him to be so depressed that he cries and attempts to kill himself, suggesting that he either actually did have feelings for her, or at least realizes that she didn’t deserve to be treated the way that he treated her. Literally any of those reasons would be a revelation about Rick’s character.

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Look at that anguish.

Second, we learn that Rick really has a thing for redheads, is pansexual, and has daddy issues. Given that Beth is a blonde, Rick has blue-grey hair (and, since his 14-year-old clone did, too, apparently always has), Jerry has brown hair, and Jerry’s mother has blonde hair, this means that Summer’s red hair is likely a recessive trait inherited from her grandmother, Rick’s ex-wife. As such, Rick’s insane lust over redheads, telling Unity to get all of them naked in a stadium, could be a sign that he still has repressed feelings for his wife, or maybe that’s part of the reason he fell for her in the first place. Additionally, we get a sign that Rick has some father issues when he tells Unity that he wants to have sex with her in front of any man that even remotely resembles his father. We even, disturbingly, get to hear this later when the stadium chants “go, son, go!” The idea of Rick, who is borderline amoral and an admittedly terrible father, being the product of another terrible parent is believable, but sadly common and mundane. Still, this is a revelation about Rick.

S2E3 - 7Fathers.png
Apparently his dad had short hair, glasses, and dressed business semi-casually.

Unity is a reference to Invasion of the Body Snatchers and other such films where a single hive-mind takes over. The difference is, with Unity, the episode actually makes the case that individual will is overrated when compared to societal progress. Unity might not allow the people to act according to their own desires, but the planet improves massively under her rule. Part of that is that people, especially the ones on this planet, suck. The minute they’re free, rather than trying to fight Unity or rebuild, they immediately start a race war. It’s hard to go downhill from that. It reminds me a little of a line from Alan Moore’s Miracleman: “If you see a kid about to drink bleach, you take the bleach out of his hand. There’s no discussion of ‘free will’ about it.” That same line of thinking is used in that series to justify taking complete control of humanity, but the result is a utopia, much like with Unity.

S2E3 - 8Miracleman.jpg
Admittedly, both Utopias involve a lot of statues.

Jerry’s and Beth’s plotline is basically just a continuation of their constant marital strife. In this, though, Blim Blam says something that often get overlooked: Rick is just the catalyst, he is not the cause. Beth hates herself for not living up to her own image of success, Jerry hates himself for his weakness and insecurity, and both of them hate the other for constantly keeping them from fixing those problems. In Unity’s letter, she actually acknowledges that she’s okay with Rick being Rick, but that her being okay with it means that she has problems with herself that she needs to address. The difference is, by leaving, Unity figures out how to address her problem, because she can’t separate from Rick enough while he’s present to ever work on herself.

JOKER’S THEORY CORNER

Alright, so, there are a few theories about the creature that Rick kills before he tries to kill himself. Sadly, a few were destroyed by Ryan Ridley and Justin Roiland, who stated that the creature is in unstoppable pain and therefore was being freed by death and that was its purpose in the narrative. One theory said that it was a creature possessed by Unity that Rick had saved to always be close to her, but the eyes are the wrong color for someone possessed by Unity. Instead, I think that the creature, which seems to be a Cronenberg, was the last thing Rick saved from his previous universe and, not to be dark, I think it was a mutated baby.

S2E3 - 9Creature.png
I hate myself for this theory already.

Hear me out, we witness a lot of people dying in the process of everyone becoming Cronenbergs and Rick and Morty were on the planet for a while after the mutations started. I think that Rick found an abandoned mutant baby that was suffering due to all of the changes and froze it, not to try and give it comfort, but to have a test subject. See, if you’re amoral or have… alternate morality… as Rick does, then a baby is likely going to be the best test subject for any genetic treatment since their cells are still changing, there are fewer of them, the test subject is easier to transport, and the subject’s metabolism is higher. I believe that Rick took the baby with them and planned on using it as a test subject to cure the Cronenberg-ism in case he and Morty ever needed to find another dimension. That way, they could just go back to their regular dimension, cure everyone, and resume life as usual.

S2E3 - ACronenberg.png
Russia has yet to notice.

This means that Rick’s killing of the creature is akin to murder, but is also probably an act of mercy in his opinion, since the baby would just die if it was sent back to C-137. However, what it mostly indicates is that Rick has completely given up on ever going back and he wanted to grant it a quick death rather than allow it to thaw and die slowly or get discarded by the Smith family. He also wanted to test that the death ray worked, of course, but it makes sense that Rick would want to double check that his suicide method is effective. After all, what if he just crippled himself or removed his ability to drink alcohol? That’d just make his life harder.

S2E3 - BComfort.png
He even tries to comfort it. 

So, yeah, that’s Rick killing a baby he mutated through his own incompetence which he planned on experimenting on so that he could have another escape option available. It’s Rick, he’s a monster. This shouldn’t shock you.

LEAVING THE CORNER

Overall, this is one of the darkest episodes of Rick and Morty and also one of the most subversive in its message. Since those things are what the show calls “The Wheelhouse,” that also makes it one of the best.

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 – 13: Mortynight Run

NEXT – 15: Total Rickall

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

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Reader Request: People Who Live in Brass Hearses (Tales from the Crypt)

Tales from the Crypt was a horror anthology show and, honestly, it wasn’t the best one on its face. However, it did have some things going for it that set it apart. First, it was on HBO, which allowed the show to feature graphic violence, sex, the good swears, and nudity. Second, it had The Cryptkeeper, and John Kassir’s voice gave that puppet the perfect amount of creepy joy at telling people tales of terror. Third, great intro. If you watched the show, you can hear it in your head right now. Or watch it here:

Last, and possibly most importantly, the show managed to snag an insane number of guest actors and directors, and some pretty big names playing outside of their normal comfort zone. One episode is the only time that Isabella Rossellini ever agreed to portray her mom, Ingrid Bergman, on film. Another episode was directed by Arnold Schwarzenegger in one of the only two things he ever directed (Don’t see the other!!!). I have no idea how they got such big names for a tv show, except, oh right, the show was produced by Robert Zemeckis, Richard Donner, and Joel Silver, and it was the late 80s/early 90s. If Steven Spielberg had been involved, I assume that the Emmys would just have been held on the set.

TalesFromTheCryptCrew
Right: Mulcahy; Left: Nimerfro

This particular episode took place in the fifth season and, admittedly, the show was starting to run out of steam. The director of this episode was Russell Mulcahy, who was famous for directing Highlander, as well as all of Duran Duran’s music videos. Unfortunately, he was also infamous for directing a movie that supposedly followed Highlander that kind of tanked his career for a decade, despite the fact that he openly disclaimed the movie. Which, I guess, is why he agreed to direct this episode. The writer was Scott Nimerfro (R.I.P.), who was just starting out, but later wrote for Once Upon a Time, Pushing Daisies and Hannibal. So, decent crew behind the camera.

On the other side, the performers in the episode were Bill “I’m Bill Paxton” Paxton (R.I.P.), Brad Dourif, Lainie Kazan, and Michael Lerner, who are all pretty notable B-actors, except for Paxton, who’s an A+. The ingredients were all there for a good episode of schlock horror.

TalesFromTheCryptCast

SUMMARY

TalesFromTheCryptKeeperFirst, I just love the title of this episode. It’s exactly the kind of pun the Cryptkeeper would make. Which, for some reason, he does while dressed as the quarterback to a skeletal football team. I assume the opening was filmed independently of the episode and they just mixed-and-matched. It’s a puppet, you can make it say whatever you want later.

The episode starts by showing us that Billy (Paxton) and Virgil (Dourif) are two criminal brothers planning to rob an Ice Cream Manufacturing Plant. Billy, who has a weird butter obsession to the point of eating sticks of it, has only just gotten out of jail and is clearly the more aggressive of the two, whereas Virgil is fairly meek and kind of dim. Virgil thinks of them as a modern Western bandits, but Billy is more realistic about the nature of their craft.

TalesFromTheCryptBrothers.jpg

Billy decides that the pair are going to get some ice cream to put them in the mood for their heist, so they find a local ice cream truck driven by Mr. Byrd (Lerner), a charismatic man who loves to entertain children. Notably, he has a puppet that he can perform with while drinking and eating, apparently independent of him.

TalesFromTheCryptByrd.jpgBilly approaches Byrd in the middle of a crowd of children, where it’s revealed that Billy went to jail for stealing from the company that Byrd works for, which used to employ Billy. Byrd turned him in, leaving Billy wanting revenge. Virgil tries to talk him out of it, but Billy bullies him into going along with it.

TalesFromTheCryptGrafungarIt then cuts to the Ice Cream Plant where Virgil and his friend Cooter (Pat Asanti) are routinely yelled at by their boss, Mrs. Grafungar (Kazan), who apparently has a crush on Byrd. Byrd arrives for his supply pick-up, but is noticeably less confident and charming than he was before. Billy arrives, knocks Cooter out, and initiates the plan, now adapted in order to get revenge on Byrd during the robbery.  Virgil approaches Grafungar in her office, but, after she insults Billy, he stabs her repeatedly with an ice pick. She tries to crawl to Byrd for help, but Billy brutally kills her with a crate-hook to the head. Byrd, assertive again and now sick of waiting, drives off.

TalesFromTheCryptHook.jpg

Billy finds out that Virgil didn’t get Grafungar to open the safe before stabbing her, so the pair have now committed murder without being able to get any money. They decide to rob Byrd’s truck to at least make a few hundred dollars. Byrd says that it “wasn’t his idea” to turn them in, but Billy tells Virgil to “show him we got ways of making him talk.” This turns out to be a mistake, as Virgil decides that’s code for “blow half of his head off with a shotgun.”

TalesFromTheCryptHead.jpg

The pair search the house for the money, before Billy finds out that Byrd had kept a fortune in his freezer. He calls for Virgil, but, instead of his brother, a gunshot comes out from the darkness and blows off one of Billy’s legs. Byrd emerges, appearing unharmed, holding a shotgun and Virgil’s dead body. Byrd tells Billy that, while he imagines Billy and Virgil were close, they’ll never be as close as he was to his brother. At that point, Byrd turns to reveal:

He and his brother were conjoined twins.

Image result for tales from the crypt people who live in brass hearsesYeah, they were conjoined at the back (do not ask about pooping). Each of the brothers operated a different half of the ice cream truck. Earl, the meek brother, drove the truck, while the other brother worked the window. The remaining, unnamed, twin, kills Billy. It then cuts to a few weeks later where Byrd is trying to sell the rest of his ice cream before quitting, but the kids complain that the truck smells bad. It’s then revealed that Byrd’s twin is still attached, and now a rotting corpse. The Cryptkeeper, in his outro, tells the audience that Byrd stayed in the ice cream business, as “Ben and Scaries.” Because pun.

END SUMMARY

This isn’t my favorite Tales from the Crypt, but it is a pretty great one, because they took a lot of care to make the twist organic. If you re-watch the episode, it’s obvious that, in addition to the dialogue being different, Lerner played each of the brothers as very different individuals. However, since he’s only seen in the truck until the end, you might not have noticed that he only appears while leaning out to one side.

Image result for rocky and mugsyDourif and Paxton are perfect. Yes, their characters are kind of cartoony, but you’re supposed to be watching a show hosted by an undead puppet featuring an adaptation of a horror comic from 50 years ago. This is exactly what you should be expecting. Paxton’s Billy is so over the top that it almost manages to be charming. Yes, he’s aggressive towards Virgil, but the episode soon shows why: Virgil is by far the more dangerous of the two. Dourif plays Virgil as being so weak and cowardly, but the minute he’s supposed to exert himself, he immediately jumps from 0 to murder. Billy didn’t plan on killing anyone, even Byrd, during the plan. In fact, it’s reveals that Billy’s “criminal history” was apparently just embezzling funds when he was an ice-cream man. His entire criminal façade appears to be significantly less of a real threat than his brother. They come off as a more criminal version of George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men, or a less amusing Rocky and Mugsy from Looney Toons.

TImage result for frank and jesse jameshe best hint to Virgil’s true nature is that early on, he envisions the pair as being like Frank and Jesse James, who were NOT gentleman thieves, no matter what films try to depict. They were mostly just Ex-Confederates who liked robbing banks owned by Unionists and were fine with killing people, which was good press in Missouri during reconstruction. So, much like Virgil’s image of the James Brothers, Billy has an idealized version of his plan which will be quick and efficient, but the reality is far more gruesome.

The revelation that Byrd is twins allows the Byrds to mirror Billy and Virgil. One of the Byrds is meek, the other is aggressive and confident. However, while Billy’s bullying Virgil into compliance with the plan is apparently what prompts the docile and inept little brother to become a mad killer, it appears that the deceased Earl was the one that kept the living Byrd in line. Now, he’s unbound by his weak morality, and free to be himself! But, since the episode needed a goofy ending, it appears that he doesn’t become an evil mastermind. Just kind of a dick.

Ultimately, this episode is pretty much what is best about Tales from the Crypt: It’s goofy, gory, funny, and just a bit surreal.

Image result for Tales from the crypt
Less necrophilia than the movies, though.

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

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