Rick and Morty
Is it healthy to embrace what’s toxic about yourself? Would it be any healthier to deny it? Are “toxins” New Age nonsense, or are they literal monsters who live inside you, ready to drag the world down with them?
In school, Morty overhears Jessica talking about how the only kind of guy she’d want to date is one totally unlike any guy she’s ever met before. But just as he’s working up the nerve to strike up a conversation, Rick shows up with a mission in mind. Morty resists. This is his first day back at school in a while, and they’ve been adventuring at an unhealthy pace. He needs a break. Besides, he just found out Jessica is single. Rick promises it’ll be a quick 20-minute adventure, but six days later, they’re just barely escaping death and saving the universe.
Back in the spaceship, Rick and Morty both collapse, utterly exhausted. They break down sobbing, and Morty begs to know why he keeps doing this to his family. Rick concedes that they need a vacation.
At an alien day spa, Rick has trouble relaxing as they step into a machine meant to cleanse toxic thoughts. The machine starts acting strangely and apparently explodes, landing them in a disgusting swamp where they’re surrounded by monsters. Morty wants to know if they’re in hell and Rick suddenly realizes that the machine didn’t explode at all — it worked. The Rick and Morty we’re seeing in the swamp are the toxins.
Back at the spa, the Non-Toxic Rick and Morty are feeling great. Non-Toxic Rick even apologizes for his behavior to the spa attendant. They have a nice chat about music. Hell, they’re so relaxed that Rick apologizes for burping.
Meanwhile, Toxic Rick and Morty are stuck in a nightmare world that seems to be their version of Beth and Jerry’s marriage counseling session from “Big Trouble in Little Sanchez.” Toxic Rick announces that he’s God, and Toxic Morty cowers. They are their id selves.
At school, Non-Toxic Morty is speaking up in class, making friends, and confidently asking out Jessica. Non-Toxic Rick shows up to politely pull Morty aside. He’s been getting unusual transmissions from the toxic dimension. Rick worries the toxic parts of themselves may have lives of their own. Morty breaks Rick’s phone. He’s healthy now. He doesn’t want the toxicity back.
On his date with Jessica, Non-Toxic Morty is annoyingly chipper. He extolls the virtues of his detox experience with the ferocity of someone talking about veganism or CrossFit. Jessica leaves the date, and Morty somehow doesn’t miss a beat. He pulls up next to a woman, Stacy, at the bar, and ends up taking her home, where he finds that his grandpa has purchased the tank from the detoxifier. Toxic Rick wants to come back, and Non-Toxic Rick seems to want to merge with his other self. Non-Toxic Rick tries to pull Morty into the chamber to get re-toxified, but Stacy steps in last minute instead. She’s sent to the toxic dimension, and Toxic Rick and Morty arrive in the garage. Except they don’t want to merge with Non-Toxic Rick and Morty — they want to live their own lives.
Toxic Rick is bitter that he’s been living inside someone so sentimental. He beats up Non-Toxic Rick and leads him into the living room, where he grows a furry spider-monster out of a plant that’s been in the Smith living room this whole time. In fact, Rick has hidden weapons throughout the living room. They fight until Beth gets home, at which point Toxic Rick decides that instead of trapping his counterpart in the toxic world, he’ll make the whole world toxic. He and Toxic Morty leave, and Non-Toxic Rick apologizes to Beth and Summer in shockingly sincere fashion.
It’s Non-Toxic Morty who leads the charge, telling Non-Toxic Rick that they need to go after them. Rick is shockingly passive about the threat until he realizes that the detox machine can’t really tell the difference between what’s toxic and what’s healthy. Instead, it has to go by each person’s definition of the ideas. He slaps Non-Toxic Morty and promises to explain on the way.
As Toxic Rick and Morty’s plan gets under way, our world turns into a giant toxic wasteland. (Should I make a joke about this also being what happened on November 7? What? That’s incredibly hacky? Okay, cool, moving on.) Non-Toxic Rick and Morty show up to foil their plan, and Non-Toxic Rick shoots Toxic Morty. He tells Toxic Rick that he must care about Toxic Morty … because Non-Toxic Rick doesn’t actually care about his. Apparently, that love was considered an “irrational attachment” — something that, in Rick’s mind, needed to be detoxified.
Rick tries to convince his counterpart to merge with him by shooting Toxic Morty again, and Toxic Rick displays affection for his toxic grandson. Once he concedes, Rick becomes his normal self again. He reverses the toxicity beam, leaving the rest of humanity to wonder what happened. (Including a roomful of churchgoers who are caught mid-orgy.) Rick goes to re-merge Morty and his toxic self, but Non-Toxic Morty has already jet-packed away.
Three weeks later, Non-Toxic Morty is Wolf of Wall Street–ing in New York City. Well, maybe it’s more like American Psycho: Morty seems to not have removed his aggression because his toxic self was all of his self-doubt.
I’ll finish the recap in a second, but I do want to pause here to say this is why Rick and Morty is one of the smartest shows on TV. Besides BoJack Horseman, I can’t think of another current show that is so in touch with the decisions its characters make. Of course “healthy” Morty isn’t healthy. Morty isn’t necessarily a good person just because he’s often the voice of reason. Morty is a teenage boy, so he has no insight into what can truly be toxic in a person. Competition, for example. Or a missing conscience. It’s also interesting to note that Non-Toxic Rick tells Toxic Rick he’s “never given him the wheel.” Are the better angels of Rick’s nature really in charge? Just another example of how this show subverts its dynamics in such unexpected ways.
Anyway, Morty gets a call from Jessica saying that she misses him. Morty suspects Rick is tracing her call and hangs up. After all, he’s got another redhead over. After the other girl realizes that Morty didn’t actually hang up, Rick and Jessica portal into his apartment and Rick re-toxifies Morty.
Morty goes back to school, where he overhears that Jessica has gotten back together with Brad. Rick shows up to take Morty on an adventure. But before he goes through the portal, Jessica tells Morty that she’s glad he’s normal again.
All’s well that ends sort of the same, I guess.
Dispatches From the Multiverse
• Are Morty and Jessica drinking on their date? Chill restaurant.
• “Should I go?” “You’re your own person, Stacy.” “Then I’d like to stay.”
• Squeaking in on the very last day, “Terry Flap” is the song of the summer.
• I wasn’t into the post-credits tag and they’re usually my favorite part! No marks off a stellar episode, though.