Welcome to Episode 4, where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter.
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.
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%.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in two weeks.
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