Rick and Morty - S1E4 - M. Night Shaym-Aliens!Rick and Morty - M. Night Shaym-Aliens!
I've been trying to figure out what the theme of this episode--namely, aliens and simulations--has to do with M Night Shyamalan apart from the play on the name. The only real relation I see is that Shyamalan directed Signs
, which involves aliens. Shyamalan's movies are, in general, sci-fi and supernatural oriented, but pretty much all
Rick and Morty episodes are sci-fi oriented (and none of them are supernatural oriented... well, except Something Ricked
but even in that one, Rick manages to bring the supernatural back to science).
Oh well... not gonna dwell on that one.
So far, the Rick and Morty
series has taken us through multiple approaches to visiting other worlds. In the Pilot, we had parallel universes to which Rick and Morty could travel using Rick's portal gun. In Lawnmower Dog
, we had inception--visiting dream worlds. In Anatomy Park
we had the microscopic world of inner space (well, OK, I don't know if that counts as a "world"). And in this episode, we have simulated worlds, like the Matrix.
The episode begins with Rick being very suspicious, even certain, that he is indeed inside a simulation; he says to no one in particular after Morty questions his weird behavior:
"Oh, responsive too, in real time! I love it!... Careful guys, you're gonna burn up the CPU with this one."
But after witnessing Mr. Goldenfold and other students in Morty's math class trying to extract the secret of how to make concentrated dark matter out of Morty, Rick intervenes, pulling Morty out of class because of a "family emergency," indicating that he's now convinced Morty isn't part of the simulation. He explains that they are in a simulation on board an alien space ship, the Zigerions', and that they have been trying to scam the secret of how to make concentrated dark matter from Rick for years.
This time however, Rick says something that shows he *may* have a soft spot:
"But they made a big mistake this time, Morty: they dragged you into this. Now they're gonna pay."
IOW, Rick is especially angered this time because they endangered (or at least exploited) his grandson. Of course, knowing Rick, this might just be a reaction to the fact that he now realizes that the Zigerions are going around
Rick to get at his secrets, and so he has to up the ante. But if there is any doubt that he has a soft spot for his grandson, there is the scene in which they goof around while collecting a bunch of CPU crystals (this is after they manage to escape the simulation by overloading the CPU and causing it to freeze, thereby giving them time to reach the edge of the simulation and jump off before it reboots). While giving Morty a nuggy, he says:
"Nothing wrong with just a little horse play every now and then, little fella."
I like scenes like this because they reveal a hidden, more caring side to the character; makes him seem more human. It's actually a motif I really like in a lot of characters in more or less any genre. I like characters whose ethics are questionable and whose compassion and empathy for others is barely even noticeable, but they surprise you once in a while with great displays of kindness and caring, with evidence of their humanity; it's like the rarity of it makes it all the more sweet, causing one to like the character even more than characters who show signs of compassion and caring all the time. If you think this display of bonding between Rick and Morty isn't really that great, I'd agree, but wait 'til we get to season 2--the first and last episode. This is just foreshadowing.
Now, parallel to this, we once again get to analyze Jerry's character. Why all these opportunities to look into Jerry's character? Well, like I said in the OP--Jerry is like Rick's alter-ego--so if Rick is the main character (along with Morty), Jerry must receive just as much attention and development. And in this episode, Jerry's polar opposition to Rick really
shows. While Rick is suspicious to the point of paranoia, Jerry is gullible and oblivious as they come. The Zigerions discover Jerry in the simulation. While it was planned to have Rick, and possible Morty, in the simulation, Jerry somehow slipped in there. While Rick is wary of every flaw and glitch in the simulation (and there are tons!
) Jerry simply accepts the most awkward and unusual occurrences, like a man reaching out to shake no one's hand at a business meeting or "Earth Radio" playing "human music".
The irony of Jerry's life, which we saw in Anatomy Park
, makes an appearance here as well. The irony in this case is that Jerry is so incredibly nervous about a sales pitch he is on his way to make even though, unbeknownst to him, it's just a simulation (the same irony we saw in Anatomy Park
also recurs here: trying too hard resulting in failure--Jerry tries
to relax but becomes undeniably nervous during the pitch). As the plot unfolds, we see what is probably the greatest irony Jerry will ever experience in his life: he ends up selling his pitch "Hungry for Apples" (not hard when the simulated characters don't seem to have "no" in their vocabulary), then goes home to his "wife" and makes love to her (while she remains perfectly still and doesn't make a peep), later gets a promotion (after talking himself into getting fired and then re-hired), gets nominated for an award, and finally wins the award.
During the award speech, Jerry reveals something very interesting about his character. He says: "I am finally complete." This indicates, and is totally consistent with his character throughout the series, that he depends almost entirely on external validation to feel good about himself. This is followed by the irony of all ironies: the simulation shuts down (not sure how, but Rick and Morty suddenly enter the simulation room with Jerry in the middle clutching at thin air where his trophy once was--so maybe Rick shut the simulation off). IOW, at the moment when Jerry attains ultimate fulfillment in his life, he's hit with the fact that it was all a sham ( <-- Hey! Shaym
Aliens! <-- Maybe that's
the play on words I was missing!).
It's also interesting how oblivious Jerry is to the fact that all the miseries and highlights he experienced on this journey were completely brought about by himself. The example I'm thinking about is how he talked himself into getting fired and then talked himself into getting re-hire, promoted, and nominated for an award. Since his boss, being the limited simulation he was, could only respond with "yes," all of Jerry's questions and comments to him were pointless and of no consequence. Yet Jerry took those "yes"s seriously, and therefore interpreted
them for being fired, being re-hired, being promoted, and being nominated. But he was clueless to the fact that all of this was self-induced and a product of his own interpretation. He has no idea of the power he holds within.
Finally, Rick and Morty discover that they are still within a simulation. They get home and Rick attempts to open his safe box in order to put the CPU crystals in. He punches in the code. Then the simulation shuts down. Turns out all the Zigerions wanted was the code to Rick's safe box. (And apparently, Jerry was always in the outer simulation, not the inner simulation as it is shortly after this that Rick and Morty meet up with him).
But once again, this turns out to be yet another simulation. Not sure how, but this time Rick knows it's a simulation. He tricks the Zigerions into blowing themselves up by revealing to a simulated Morty a fake recipe for concentrated dark matter: cesium, plutonic quarks, and bottled water. He instructs Morty on how to make it so that they can escape the Zigerions who are hot on their trail (concentrated dark matter, Rick says, is "a special fuel I invented to travel through space faster than anybody else). <-- But really, it's an explosive substance that will blow as soon as it's made. Rick must
have known this was a simulation because if he was wrong, they (Morty, Jerry, and himself) would all be dead as soon as Morty poured the water into the mix. Anyway, the simulation ends, Morty the simulation disappears, leaving just Rick and Jerry on the Zigerion space ship. They now have the secret to making concentrated dark matter, and after taunting Rick about being fooled so many times, they let him and Jerry go. But of course, the joke is on the Zigerions. Once Rick and Jerry are a safe distance away from the ship, the Zigerions concoct the recipe... only to explode as soon as the water hits the mixture.
Now one thing that's left unexplained is: how did Rick and Jerry get into the simulation in the first place. We are given no explanation of this. The episode opens with Rick dissecting a dead rat and expressing loads of suspicion about the authenticity of the world, including Morty (why he'd be dissecting a rat if it's just a simulation is beyond me). I'm pretty sure Rick was convinced of Morty's authenticity when he pulled him from class since he'd have no reason to do so if Morty was just a simulation serving the purpose of trying to extract the secret of how to make concentrated dark matter. A simulated Morty would not be able to reveal the secret and there'd be no point in trying to extract it out of him. On the other hand, Morty didn't seem to even know what concentrated dark matter was--so why would Rick feel threatened by the prospect of Morty revealing how to make it--maybe it was just uncertainty, or maybe it was just the prospect of extracting any
information from Morty period.
Anyway, I found no answers in my attempt to research this question: how did Rick and Jerry get into the simulation in the first place? But I did find something interesting that I didn't notice before: early in the episode, Rick disposes of his and Morty's clothes and dumps them into the sewer (the Zigerions can't stand to look at nudity which offers Rick and Morty an excellent way to avoid being seen by them). But later, in that same simulation, we find Rick and Morty up on stage in their clothes (with some chain necklaces and backwards caps, etc.). Since Rick threw their clothes down the sewer, the clothes they are wearing on stage must be simulated clothes (unless they went into the sewer to grab them, but then why throw them into the sewer in the first place). Yet at the end, when Rick and Jerry are in a space pod on their way home, Rick is wearing clothes and Jerry is in his underwear. This has lead some on the internet to suppose that even in the end, Rick and Jerry are still in a simulation. <-- Not sure about that one... I'd be willing to entertain a goof up on the part of the creators--you can't always catch all the inconsistencies.
And finally, we get one last taste of irony in the post-credit scene: Jerry, again, attempts his sales pitch for "Hungry for Apples"--this time in the supposedly real world--and his audience ain't full of "yes" men this time. In fact, he is fired. The irony is this: Jerry, this time around, didn't seem nervous at all. He trusts that his sales pitch was tested in a "state of the art simulation". <-- Gullibility, even after being disillusioned, and another form of external validation. I guess the take home lesson for Jerry is: whether you try too hard because you're so nervous or you breeze through it because you're so confident, none of it matters if you're dependent on external validation.
And there's also the second post-credit clip: A drunk Rick comes into Morty's room in the middle of the night, much like at the beginning of the pilot, supposedly after he gets home from his space adventure. He wakes Morty up telling him he's a good kid only to suddenly spring on him with a knife to his throat shouting with an interrogating tone: "Are you a simulation?! Huh?! Are you a simulation?!" After a few seconds of this, Rick seems to be convinced, once again, that this Morty is the real McCoy, reassuring him one more time that he's a good kid.
The last words out of Morty's mouth before the episode finally ends are: "What a life." <-- Not sure if he means his own or Rick's. But we do get an idea in this episode of what makes Rick Rick
. We know by now that Rick is a very untrusting and quite paranoid person--very cynical and unimpressed about human nature--and in the last four episodes, especially this one, we know why. Rick's life, as Morty seems to insinuate here (if indeed he's not talking about himself), is full of danger and near death experiences, full of deception and tricks, full of people trying to double-cross and extort things from him. He lives in a world (several worlds) in which no one can be trusted--lies within lies within lies, like simulations within simulations within simulations--so much so that he goes to the lengths of threatening his own grandson with a knife to his throat; and why not? By now we realize that Morty could very well be
Finally, what are the springboards in this episode from which a philosophical discourse can happen?
* Again, the irony of trying too hard: the opposite effect often results.
* The theme of external validation vs. internal validation: can we really find fulfillment and completion through internal validation?
* The old question of: how do we know if any of this is real? Is this a dream, the Matrix, a simulation?
* How gullible are we, really? I mean, it's one thing to label Jerry "stupid" because he's fooled into believing "human music" is real, but don't we all fall for things simply because we aren't expecting
deception? We often only question the authenticity of things when we come at it already suspicious. Rick only notices the flaws in the simulation because he doesn't trust anything.
* Trust: how can we really trust without certainty? Can we really blame Rick for interrogating Morty so aggressively when we know what he's been through? Wouldn't you be on the verge of "snapping" if you knew the chances of being deceived were extremely high?
* The diamond in the rough character: Rick, teetering on the edge of psychopathy and paranoia, shows signs every now and then of actual feeling and a hint of humanity. Why do we like these characters more than those who always show feeling and humanity (or is that just me)?
^ Take your pick.
finally--here's the lyrics to Gerry Rafferty's Baker Street
, the song that played a couple times in the episode (after Jerry sold the slogan and during the end credits). Any relation to the themes of this episode?
PS - Did anyone notice the misspelling of Shyamalan?