Rick screws an entire world. Yes, in that way, too.
The Smith/Sanchez family are going camping, much to the delight of Jerry (Chris Parnell). Summer (Spencer Grammer) and Morty (Justin Roiland) are upset because they’re missing out on drugs and video games, and it’s revealed that Rick (Roiland) only came because he’s ghosting a former lover. Summer steals his phone and it’s revealed that Rick’s ex says she’s pregnant. Beth (Sarah Chalke) forces Rick to go raise his kids, which are revealed to be the children of Gaia (Kari Wahlgren), a sentient planet. Rick denies that the kids are his, but when they come out looking kind of like him, Beth demands that he raise them. Rick and Beth work together to build a society, literally engineering it, for the clay people.
Meanwhile, Jerry tries to convince the kids to go camping on Gaia, but Summer tells him off because he doesn’t want to camp, he just wants to feel useful. Jerry wanders off, only to be sucked into Rick’s and Beth’s new city, where he is summarily kicked back out with the other “unproductives.” After showing the rejected clay people how to camp, he becomes their leader. The kids discover they have NO survival skills and almost die, until they find a crashed spaceship. They believe that the spaceship’s panels resemble a video game controller and Summer starts inhaling a drug which she believes is the collected knowledge of the dead aliens. The pair vow to show their parents what “video games and partying” can do.
After Rick and Beth manage to get the clay civilization to space travel, it’s revealed that the kids are not Rick’s, but instead the offspring of a Zeus (an alien species, apparently) named Reggie. Reggie ends up giving Jerry and the unproductives divine power to revolt against Rick’s city, so Beth and Jerry fight while Rick goes to fight Reggie in space. Rick is about to lose the fight when Morty and Summer activate their ship, revealing that they were completely wrong about everything they thought they knew about it, and crash it into Reggie’s brain. Reggie’s giant corpse drops onto the city, which leads Gaia to erupt and kill most of her offspring. Jerry saves Beth from dying and Rick and the family head home.
This episode seemed a lot like those clay creatures that formed the basis for the plot: Not quite done baking. Parts of it are amazing, other parts of it just feel like filler that no one could figure out a joke for. While they do a great job with the A-B-C-Plot interplay that I respect this show for, there’s not much to say when the C-plot (Morty and Summer) is really just a set-up for a deus ex machina later.
The A-Plot about Rick and Beth starting a civilization around Rick’s presumed offspring is definitely the best part of the episode and, honestly, I wish they’d spent a little more time on it. Some of the lines about how they’re trying to manipulate society through emotional engineering, like diverting teachers into playwrights by just spanking them more, are freaking hilarious. Although, as a lawyer, I should object to the line about bypassing the ethics tube, I have also been a lawyer long enough to know that this joke has been earned by other members of my profession. I also thought the “pachinko” style sorting to determine if the people believe in flat Earth, round Earth, or Middle Earth to be random and amazing.
The B-Plot of Jerry being the leader of the unproductives is a joke that practically writes itself. In the Season 3 premiere, Jerry is only successful in the new alien-dominated Earth because it was dependent upon bureaucracy so redundant that Jerry doesn’t even know what he does. He even gets into the situation because he tries to skip a rock and hits himself. Then, once he has power, he refuses to allow anything to evolve because any progress is a threat to him. It’s a reminder that while Jerry is mostly a character that exists to be humiliated by Rick, he would be just as much of a dick as Rick is if he had any of Rick’s intellect or drive. I particularly love that, as Rick points out, when Jerry gets a literal staff of divine power, he only conjures up plagues from The Ten Commandments. He doesn’t even try to create clothing for himself, he just rips off the Bible… or, let’s be honest, he rips off a movie. Rick would probably have used it to power a bong capable of smoking a planet.
Summer’s and Morty’s plot is really only funny in the sense that they’re so dumb that they think partying and video games can help them pilot a spaceship. But, it’s like Abraham Maslow said: “[I]t is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” I do also like the fact that they literally ex a deus with a machina, which is f*cking funny. Aside from that, though, the time spent on their adventure feels like a waste.
The highlight of the episode, though, has to be Rick literally challenging a god to a fistfight. Rather than do a ton of elaborate special effects or smite-and-countersmite, it just turns into an old-school slugfest, which is an amazing subversion. While it feels a little similar to the same thing from “The Ricks Must Be Crazy,” I think this one works better because Rick is also defending his kids from a bad father, meaning Rick is actually in the right, for once.
Overall, not the best episode, but not the worst. I will say that I laughed my butt off at “Planets Only.”
JOKER’S THEORY CORNER
This season is not making these easy. Okay, so, why would Rick agree to go and raise these kids in the first place? Yeah, sure, Beth was going to yell at him, but what else is new? However, I think he realized that, as the show has gone on, he actually does care about what Beth thinks of him and knows that going to Gaia will give him a chance to bond with her. The evidence for this, aside from him being uncharacteristically complimentary of her during this endeavor, is that when the Zeus shows up, Rick doesn’t just take it as an opportunity to bail. Instead, Rick asserts that at least he stepped up and therefore all of the kids, and their civilization, is part of his family. This means Rick is trying to actually be a good dad for once, something that Beth will appreciate. It’s part of the payoff from “The ABCs of Beth,” where Rick tells Beth “[m]aybe you matter so little that I like you. Or maybe it makes you matter. Maybe I love you….” Rick isn’t quite as cold and dead inside towards Beth as he wants people to think, so spending an episode to make her feel happy isn’t a stretch. That’s probably why, when she’s mad at him at the end of the episode, Rick quickly lashes out by throwing her parenting under the bus.
Overall, I give this episode a
on the Rick and Morty scale.
Wubba-Lubba-Dub-Dub, I need a drink. See you in a week.
PREVIOUS – 39: The Vat of Acid Episode
NEXT – 41: Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, 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.