It’s still hard to believe — after so many lengthy delays between previous seasons — that season five of Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty is almost upon us. While we count down the moments until the Emmy-winning series returns on June 20, we thought we’d also look back on season four, highlighting 14 of our favourite and most memorable moments (in no particular order… though we do have one very top favourite, as you’ll see) involving mostly Rick and Morty — but also Summer, Beth, Jerry, and Rick and Morty’s creatively deployed guest stars too.
“Why can you talk?”
The A-plot of episode four, “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty,” follows the adventures of Rick, Morty, and Summer as they attempt to rescue Morty’s “slut dragon,” Balthromaw, from an evil wizard. Elsewhere, though, Jerry befriends an apparently mild-mannered talking cat (voiced by Matthew Broderick) who turns out to be completely manipulative and obnoxious.
Curious about the origins of this Florida-obsessed feline — and more specifically, why he can talk — Rick scans his mind to reveal… something so horrible the viewer is left to imagine the absolute worst, based on the reactions of Rick, who contemplates suicide, and Jerry, who barfs, then collapses in a quivering heap until Rick erases the memory of whatever terror he’s just witnessed. (Something like the “hell dimension” from Event Horizon feels like a decent guess?)
From the show that brought you Coach Feratu, the vampire masquerading as a high-school gym teacher, please meet Truckula — the vampire cowboy who drives a monster truck festooned with tremendous fangs. In episode three, “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Nest,” Truckula doesn’t do much other than join Rick’s fake heist crew for about two minutes (“You son of a bitch… I’m in!”). But with all his absurd elements taken together, he’s a perfect representation of how Rick and Morty is able to turn what would be a throwaway pun-slash-sight gag on any other show into something memorably hilarious.
“Do you want to develop an app?”
Episode two, “The Old Man and the Seat,” introduces Glootie, Rick’s alien intern, who’s ostensibly there to make photocopies and deliver fresh bottles of syrup — but soon ropes the gullible Jerry into helping him develop a disastrous dating app, despite the fact that Rick has very clearly stamped a warning on his forehead to avoid just that. Glootie would be a funny character no matter what, but the fact that he’s voiced by the always-delightful Taika Waititi elevates him into the pantheon of best Rick and Morty guest stars.
“Seriously, my new thing now is snake jazz”
Episode five, “Rattlestar Ricklactica,” reveals the existence of a planet that resembles Earth in nearly every way — social structure, government, pop culture, an affinity for warfare, widespread racism — except its inhabitants are all snakes. Naturally, this planet has its own musical genres, including a stripped-down sequence of rhythmic hisses that Summer and her friends blast at their slumber party. Rick and Morty always has fun with its original music…and snake jazz is no exception.
In episode nine, “Childrick of Mort,” we learn that Rick recently had a hot and heavy fling with a planet — and judging by his eager scroll through hook-up site “Planets Only,” it seems he’s eager to dive into that pool again. Considering one of the few Rick exes we’ve met before was an actual hivemind (the alluring Unity, seen in season two), this isn’t entirely surprising — though it is rather funny when Summer catches him drooling over Planets Only’s sultry come-ons.
The Bechdel-Wallace Test
As part of their frantic attempt to escape the “story train” that literally propels episode six’s “Never Ricking Morty” — easily Rick and Morty’s most meta episode — Rick instructs Morty to tell a tale that passes the Bechdel-Wallace Test (for the other Mortys out there: two female characters must talk to each other about something other than a man). The half-assed saga involves Beth, Summer, a pack of specifically female scorpions, and a congratulatory phone call from Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Eventually, “a story we would never tell” helps propel their escape while winking very obviously at the audience for good measure.
In the season finale, “Star Mort Rickturn of the Jerri,” Summer and Morty save Earth from the Galactic Federation’s NX-5 death ray by throwing a pair of Wrangler jeans into the works. The laser can’t penetrate them because they’re “built too tough,” and also, Wrangler jeans are the NX-5’s corporate sponsor. A marketing gimmick backfires! Rick and Morty wouldn’t know anything about that, of course.
“I’m here about a sandwich”
“The Old Man and the Seat” brought Glootie into our lives, but its parallel plot — about Rick hunting down the mysterious stranger who’s been stealthily using Rick’s special private toilet — was also a Rick and Morty standout. After he furiously analyses the unfamiliar poop in the sewer system, he’s able to triangulate that it was once a sandwich crafted by a “frog food” joint — run by a fly named Vermigurber.
Determined to learn exactly who had that particular sandwich (club sandwich, no lettuce) delivered, Rick busts into the fly’s back-room lair and threatens half of Vermigurber’s 800,000 children to get what he wants. Rick and Morty’s spin on a mobster movie is just as brief, cliché-ridden, and surreal as it needs to be.
Mr. Poopybutthole has a question
The fan-favourite recurring character pops up in “One Crew Over the Crewcoo’s Nest” as Professor Poopybutthole, a gig he holds until he’s fired for fighting off a pack of attacking grad students. In the post-credits scene, he asks Rick why he bothered hiring and training the students to kick his arse — ostensibly, it’s a test by Rick to see if Mr. Poopybutthole still has mad karate skills, an apparently necessary skill for Rick’s fake heist crew — and Rick’s reflective in his response.
“Your students all shared a pretty keen aptitude for martial arts. I don’t know if that’s by coincidence or if there’s some correlation for their passion for African American Women’s Studies. Maya Angelou did personify both acquiescence and perseverance.” Oooweee, that Rick and Morty does wring the strangest humour out of the least-obvious places sometimes.
“Impervious to acid”
Episode eight, “The Vat of Acid Episode,” won an Emmy for good reason. From start to finish it’s an intricately crafted adventure made of seemingly disparate parts, with a final scene that clicks everything together perfectly. But after the main story’s punch line, the button brings back a cop who believes — thanks to Rick’s fake vat of acid, so convincing it has built-in bones that float to the surface to suggest that the victim’s flesh has rapidly dissolved — he’s acid-proof.
His smug, oversized enthusiasm at this (false) realisation is so over the top (“Feels like that guy had other stuff going on,” Rick mutters) that he takes his talents to The Tonight Show, where he learns that he’s not actually acid-proof in, as you can imagine, the most horrifying way possible. The end result is a payoff for one of the episode’s many random asides — and it couldn’t be more oddly satisfying or gruesome.
“I programmed you to believe that”
Season four’s heist movie send-up, “Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim’s Morty,” introduces us to Heistotron, a Rick-designed robot that assembles crews and plans heists using mind-control drugs and an algorithm based on heist movies (which Rick hates). When Heistotron goes rogue, the eventual showdown devolves into an hours-long back-and-forth over who has the upper hand: “I programmed you to believe that!” “That was my plan the whole time! That’s what I wanted you to think!”
Rick and Morty’s takedown of this genre (especially the overly clever Ocean’s 11 series) is wickedly accurate, and Heistotron — not to be confused with the almost-as-troublesome Randotron, who we also meet in this episode — comes maybe the closest to outsmarting Rick than any of his inventions ever have before.
Midway through “The Vat of Acid Episode,” which mostly involves Morty misappropriating a device that lets him reset his timeline, we get a tangent that somehow transforms into an earnest homage to Alive — the book-turned-movie that told the true story of 1970s plane-crash survivors who were forced to resort to cannibalism to avoid starving to death. It comes out of nowhere and is outstandingly specific — maybe it’s because I was a big Alive fan back in the day, but to me, this moment represents peak Rick and Morty: a plot that goes completely off the rails and incorporates a completely unexpected reference, but somehow also ends up serving the story perfectly.
After Morty tries to correct his unfortunate encounter with the snake planet’s snake astronaut — a blunder which sees the snakes invent time travel — “Rattlestar Ricklactica” gives us a full-on Terminator homage, complete with Linda Hamilton-esque narration that grimly details the devastating “war between snake and machine,” with Morty revered as a sort of John Connor figure.
To set things right, Rick and Morty have to go on their own adventure so that “snake time travel can eat its own tail” — as we see the snakes go back in time and snarl their own history (with appearances by Snake Lincoln and Snake Hitler) so horribly Rick and Morty’s ever-vigilant time cops must step in to intervene once and for all. Imagine what Judgment Day would’ve looked like if the Terminator movies had some of those guys at the ready?
“King of Shit”
In “Old Man and the Seat,” Rick finally discovers who’s been sitting on his secret toilet: Tony (Jeffrey Wright), a mild-mannered office worker who Rick begrudgingly begins to like and respect despite his bitter anger over Tony’s clandestine pooping. When Tony dies (of unrelated-to-Rick causes), Rick heads to his bathroom in paradise, finally assured that the spot is his and his alone — and it’s surprisingly poignant, after the trap he’d set to catch and shame Tony targets Rick instead.
Rick would never admit it, but the message he left for Tony (“Have fun with your stupid toilet … King Shit on his throne of loneliness … all hail his majesty, the saddest piece of garbage in the entire cosmos!”) hits kinda different — and way too close to home — now that Tony’s gone. It’s a rare moment to see Rick genuinely in his feelings, and “Old Man and the Sea” more than delivers.