Rick and Morty, S03E05:
“The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy”

Rick and Morty, S03E05:
“The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy”

Rick and Morty Pits Rick Against Jerry, Proving That No One’s Really All That Good or Bad

 

Offering up a rare episode-length glimpse of the dynamic between Rick and Jerry, “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” buddies the characters up for a twisted look at moral relativism. It’s not quite as sharp or funny as Rick and Morty at its best, but still a fantastic addition to the season.

Rating: 8.5/11

 

It might seem like an obvious question, but seriously: who’s a worse person, Rick or Jerry? Sure, Rick’s a self-avowed dick who only cares about his own pleasure and intellect, while Jerry’s a submissive loser who can’t even summon the strength to fight off an old man dragging him naked from his apartment in the middle of the night. Neither of them sounds like an ideal sort of guy by any metric, but it’s pretty clear, right? Rick’s worse because he has the autonomy and power that Jerry lacks, yet he still chooses to be an arsehole. The implication being that, with Rick’s smarts or self-respect, Jerry would choose to be a better person. But then, that’s the notion “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy” seeks to either prove or disprove.

In one of the most marrow-achingly depressing scenes I’ve ever witnessed on television, this episode kicks off with a look at Jerry’s divorced lifestyle. Mother of Christ, is it grim. He washes his underwear in the sink, cooks a microwave dinner for one and flosses on the toilet, all scored to a wistful piano piece. It’s one of those rare Rick and Morty vignettes that – apart from the shot of mould reminding Jerry of his family – doesn’t bother to lighten things up with a gag. This is what we expect Jerry’s existence to be like now, because we know how much of an unsalvageable failure he is. Still, it doesn’t make his reality any less harrowing to witness… that is, until Rick kicks in the door and drags him out of bed, proclaiming “It’s a Rick and Jerry adventure!”

(Adult Swim)

In case we weren’t sold on how much of a pathetic human being Jerry has become (to himself and others), we get a little more detail once they’re both in Rick’s spaceship. Rick quickly drops any pretense of actually wanting to spend time with Jerry, admitting that he’s simply taking him on a Morty-enlisted “pity adventure” to prevent him from killing himself. Meanwhile, a naked Jerry says that he simply assumed this was a ploy so Rick could take him into space and execute him. “And we’re seeing how you would act if that were about to happen?” Rick asks incredulously. It solidifies just how low Jerry’s self-worth really is, that even the apparent threat of death causes him nothing but indifference. He has no will to fight back, no ability to fend for himself or even rise to the same level of play as those around him. But, then again, what if those very qualities are actually what make Jerry such a shitty person?

For context, this episode plays out on a ritzy resort that Rick takes Jerry to, the entirety of which is encased in an immortality field. No matter what happens here you can’t die, which explains the kids running around shooting each other with real laser bullets and the massively obese man going whole hog on his feast. It’s a great gag, yeah, but it serves a deeper purpose than just providing a backdrop for Jerry and Rick’s inevitable conflict. First of all, as Rick admits, it’s basically the safest possible place to take someone who may be suicidal. But also, in an episode that scrutinises the morals of two of its main characters, it begs the question: is it ok to kill someone just because they won’t stay dead? What makes an action good or bad, the action itself or its consequences? And will someone please buy those alien children a more appropriate toy to play with than actual guns?!

These are matters worth looking at, especially considering everything that follows. Because no person, real or fictional, has ever been better suited to the phrase “Lacking the courage of one’s convictions” than Jerry Smith. He despises Rick for the way he’s snatched his family out from under him, but doesn’t have the backbone to do anything about it. But, when a mysterious figure named Risotto Groupon (the gravelly-voice Clancy Brown) approaches Jerry and asks for his help in assassinating Rick, it’s an opportunity too good to pass up. Of course, when Rick has a very out of character moment and admits to his part in sabotaging Jerry and Beth’s marriage, Jerry regrets his decision to aid in Rick’s murder, leading to a very funny tussle with two thugs on the titular Whirly Dirly roller coaster.

(Adult Swim)

As you’d expect, Rick escapes death once more, but not without realising Jerry’s part in the plan. Here’s where we get into it: does the fact that Rick didn’t end up dead make Jerry’s choice any less messed up? Strictly speaking, it’s the intent behind the action that should define whether it’s a righteous or evil thing to do, but how often does that hold up with Rick? In this season’s first episode, he saves Morty and Summer from the Federation of Ricks, but reveals to Morty that he only did so as an underhanded way of regaining Beth’s trust. Does that make him rescuing his grandkids any less noble? Conversely, when he abandoned his family at the end of last season’s “The Wedding Squanchers”, was it made better by his intent to take the heat off them in sacrificing himself to the galactic authorities?

Whatever the answer might be, the point is that Rick himself doesn’t really give a fuck. He’s too smart and self-aware to subscribe to one authoritative version of “good”. In the broadest terms that makes him a nihilist, but that doesn’t mean he’s immoral; if anything, he’s simply amoral, refusing to impose a system of ethics on people based on their actions or the consequences of them. But with that outlook comes a rigorous self-interest. Rick doesn’t want to die, and when Jerry tries to have him killed, that just simply pisses him off. “I’m sorry, I won’t do it again”, pledges Jerry. “Nobody ever does”, Rick replies coldly.

What’s more, this all leads to a moment that’s been a longtime coming in the show, someone (verbally) eviscerating Jerry on all the ways that he’s also a shitty person. “You act like prey, but you’re a predator” Rick scolds Jerry. “You use pity to lure in your victims, that’s how you survive.” It’s a brutal assessment, no doubt, but it’s one that’s very difficult to argue with. Looking back at everything Jerry’s done over the show’s two and a half seasons, it becomes clear pretty quickly what his strengths are. He wallows and sucks others in with his tragically inept persona, so as to remain blameless when they’re forced to sacrifice their needs for his. He makes it seem like it’s the only right thing to do. Jerry’s not better than Rick because he’s meeker; in his own way, he’s just as capable of weaponising his most innate characteristics and using them to turn people to his advantage.

(Adult Swim)

Even so, having seen Jerry’s primal instincts laid bare and cutting him to the quick, Rick still can’t leave him to die. Sure, there’s some self-interest to that decision, as Morty would never forgive Rick if he came back without his dad. But it’s also proof positive of Jerry’s survival tactics: you just can’t help but feel sorry for the poor piece of shit. In any case – with this show being as unreservedly honest about its characters as they are with each other – no one gets let off the hook. When Rick is temporarily lobotomised while boarding a transport vessel, Jerry wastes no time in reverting to his ugliest instincts and bullying him. And – even after a trippy instance of spiritual awakening when entering a wormhole – Rick can’t find it in him to forgive his would-be assassin Risotto, shooting him down at the earliest opportunity.

The result is not, as you might have guessed, this show at its best. Everytime I say that, I’m fully aware how pedantic and nitpicky it sounds, because this is still a very good episode of what is the best show currently airing on television. And exploring the moralistic and personality divide between Rick and Jerry was definitely an interesting detour, one that I’m glad the show took the time to explore. But that is kinda what it feels like, a detour. The show’s not called Rick and Morty for no reason, y’know. Let’s have some more of that next time, yeah?

 

 

Quotes & Random Thoughts

 

  • The week on Second Rickpressions: I missed his name the first time around, but Risotto Groupon is just the best kind of “Fuck you” from the writers at having to constantly come up with ridiculous alien names.

 

  • Ok so, I didn’t really have the time to cover it, but the storyline with the rest of the Smiths back on Earth was good stuff. If I’m honest, it’s probably one of the weakest subplots the show has ever done on a level of cohering with the rest of the episode, but that’s the thing about Rick and Morty: there’s never been a flatout bad storyline in its entire run. And, as usual, it was pretty fuckin’ funny.

 

  • I know that it’s the most blatant form of schmuck bait, but I did panic just for a second there when Rick initially seemed to succumb from his spear wound. My thought process was, “Great, now Jerry’s gonna have to find one of the other Ricks to repla– Wait… Rick killed all of the other Ricks in “The Rickshank Redemption“… There are no other Ricks! WHAT THE FUUU– Oh, he’s alive.”

 

  • Morty: “Is that a… hoof collage?” Beth: “It’s perfectly legal, if that’s what you’re wondering!” Morty: “…coooooolsies.”

 

  • “Or could it be her massive stripper titties?!” The second Summer uncovered the Morphizer device, I whimpered out loud. There’s no version of this that wasn’t gonna be either insanely uncomfortable or just horribly fucked up.

 

  • “I mean, I’ve wondered about having a vagina…” Inevitably, Jerry will now become known as the “Vagina Guy.”

 

  • I’M NOT NORMAL!” Giant Summer, seconds before having her skin turned inside out.

 

  • “…Lisa?” I honestly don’t think I’ve ever seen a darker joke on TV than that kid shooting his sister right as the immortality field broke down. Seriously, I had to pause this episode for several strained moments after that.

 

  • “She was Rick’s daughter, Jerry. She had options!” I’m pretty sure me and that alien slug thing said “Whoof” at the same time.

 

  • The gag of Beth unintentionally freeing the tiny aliens that Rick kept trapped inside the Morphizer was the hardest I laughed this episode.

 

  • Nope, I lied: it was the alien balls smacking Jerry’s face over and over again.

 

  • “Mumma’s coming, and she cares about your titties!” Like I said, this subplot had some killer one-liners.

 

  • Just some incredible work by the animation department during the mind/body/soul melding sequence between Rick, Jerry and Risotto. Goddamn, though, I do not envy anyone who watches that shit unprepared while stoned out of their minds.

 

  • “You made my sister cry, Ethan. You messed with her body image. Careful, Ethan… your s’more is burning.” The capper of Beth turning herself into a giant monster to comfort Summer is very sweet, but Jesus, you do not wanna fuck with Morty these days.

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“The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy”

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