Increasingly, Rick and Morty seems to be a tragicomic game show about which member of the Smith family will turn into Rick first. Everyone has made a pretty good case for themselves so far. Morty would be the most rightful heir, of course, having been there for the most of Rick’s adventures as well has having transmuted so much of his anger into a penchant for violence. Summer is probably the smartest of the Smith family and her interest in Rick’s gadgets make her a strong contender. Beth admires Rick the most and makes the majority of her decisions based on what she thinks Rick would want. And Jerry has so little left to lose. “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” makes a solid case for just about everyone.
As the episode begins, Rick bursts into Jerry’s lonely, post-divorce motel life with the declaration that he needs Jerry to come with him right now. In fact, the fate of the galaxy depends on it (and there’s no time to put on pants). But Rick quickly tells Jerry that Morty is concerned his dad might not be doing so great, so Rick is taking him on, effectively, a pity adventure. Jerry decides he wants to go home, but Rick really wants to make Morty happy.
Jerry and Rick arrive on an alien resort that’s covered in an immortality field. (“You can’t die here, that’s the gimmick.”) Rick thought it was a good place to take Jerry, who he thinks may be suicidal. He knows nothing bad can happen to Jerry or else Morty will be crushed, so Rick and Jerry grab drinks and decide to make up an adventure that they can tell Morty about.
In the alien resort’s bathroom, Jerry is sucked into the vents of the electric hand-dryer, ripped into tiny pieces, and then regenerates on the other side into a warehouse full of (cute?) little bear creatures, led by the excellently named Risotto Groupon. He explains that this restaurant was once his kingdom until it was forcefully usurped by Rick. Jerry says that’s basically what happened to him too, and Risotto asks Jerry if he’d like to help kill Rick. The plan involves a popular theme park ride: the Whirly Dirly. There’s a point on the ride that dips outside of the planet’s immortality field, so Jerry just has to lure him onto the ride.
Back at the bar, Jerry tries to convince a doubtful Rick that his marriage to Beth wasn’t so bad. In fact, it wasn’t so bad until a few years prior — right around the time Rick moved in. But Rick tells Jerry he doesn’t think he was the problem, and suggests there they had intrinsic problems from the very beginning. Infuriated, Jerry decides to takes Rick on the Whirly Dirly.
On the ride, Rick apologizes for what he did to Jerry and Beth’s marriage. Jerry quickly regrets his decision and desperately tries to get them out of the ride, while the bear creatures behind them ready their weapons. Rick successfully fights them off, but in doing so, he causes the ride to go off-course, shattering the immortality field. They hurtle into a forest.
Rick confronts Jerry about the fact that he knew what would happen on the ride. Jerry confesses the truth as he’s attacked by a tapeworm-esque monster, but before he dies, he finds his spine and curses out Rick for taking his family. Rick responds that Beth was his daughter, and, before Jerry got her pregnant, she had plenty of options in life. Jerry only survives, Rick cruelly and correctly observes, because people take pity on him. The monster swallows Jerry and then Rick cuts him out, using Jerry as bait to lure another creature Rick needs for his escape.
They make their way to a space station, but while going through security, Rick’s cybernetic enhancements are deemed a threat and a security officer gives him a “synaptic dampener,” which turns Rick too dumb to cause any damage. On the ship, Jerry takes advantage of bullying Rick in his altered state, until they’re approached by Risotto, who’s once again ready to kill Rick. Jerry attempts to fight Risotto, but the ship enters a wormhole, leading Jerry into a disturbing hallucinatory experience that I am … absolutely incapable of describing to you right here. It creates the temporary sensation of unity, just long enough for Rick’s synaptic dampener to wear off. He immediately kills Risotto.
Jerry and Rick arrive at home, and Jerry, not wanting to be seen as pathetic anymore, decides to go back to the motel.
Meanwhile on Earth, Summer asks Beth if she’s hot, and when Beth gives a neutral mom-answer, Summer runs off sobbing. It turns out her boyfriend Ethan dumped her for a girl with bigger boobs. Summer tears through Rick’s garage until she finds the machine she’s been looking for: an enlarging ray called the Morphizer-XE. She turns it on and uses it to make her boobs bigger, evening out each side as they get more and more out of control — like putting on liquid eyeliner and making the wing longer and longer — until she falls right in front of the ray. Soon, she’s too big to fit in the garage, Morty wants to call Rick for help. Beth, ever afraid of burdening Rick, insists they can handle it themselves. As she’s quick to point out, she has a medical degree. (Plus, she tells Morty, she needs this.)
Beth finds a “reverse” setting and uses it on Summer, which only serves to turn her daughter inside out. Morty begs Beth to call Rick, and Beth decides to call the help number on the machine instead. Beth follows the customer-service instructions, pushing the button on the side of the machine that frees the customer-service aliens from their prison inside the Morphizer. Morty snaps, telling Beth that she’s just as arrogant and irresponsible as Rick.
They look up from their argument to find that Giant Inside-Out Summer is gone. Morty realizes Summer must have gone to the campsite where she was supposed to meet Ethan before she was dumped. As they arrive, Beth has an idea, turning herself into another inside-out giant (someone at Rick and Morty must be an Attack on Titan fan) so she can have a maternal conversation with Summer, making her feel better about being a monster. Morty takes the opportunity to obliquely threaten Ethan to never hurt Summer’s feelings again. Looks like he’s once again pulled ahead in the “becoming Rick” race.
Watching Rick and Jerry together, it’s apparent just how far Rick and Morty has come. Whether or not it was always intended to be a show about a family falling apart, it’s turned into an unflinching portrait of a divorce, and how psychological wounds, when left unexamined, are passed down through generations. In “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy,” we’re shown flashes of Rick’s humanity and Jerry’s (deeply) latent heroism, and how both have been warped over time by their perceived slights against each other. Rick and Jerry would be better people if their paths had never crossed, but that’s not this universe, and so here we are. Either they’re going to have to seriously allow themselves to look at their own roles in their misery, or someone’s going to die.
Dispatches From the Multiverse:
• I want an episode about those aliens whose bodies look like Jeff Goldblum’s face. Hell, I want a spinoff.
• MIND YOUR OWN DAMN BUSINESS, GENE.
• “We’re about to enter the wormhole so I hope everybody bought it dinner first!” “Nice.” (Later: “You can do the dinner one or the breakfast one but not both.”)