Rick and Morty, S03E09:
“The ABCs of Beth”

Rick and Morty, S03E09:
“The ABCs of Beth”

Finally, We Get a Great Episode Focussed on What Makes Beth So Much Like Her Father



“The ABCs of Beth” has the eponymous character realising something about herself that most of us have known for a while now. Still, the result is one of the funniest episodes of the season and a worthy origin tale for Rick and Beth’s messed up relationship.

Rating: 9/11


If it wasn’t already clear from how similarly they reject emotionality or their mutual love of alcohol, “Pickle Rick” made a pretty firm case for Rick and Beth being basically the same person. In that episode, we see they have an equal disdain for therapy and the practice of self-betterment. The only difference is that Beth is willing to pretend she is open to the concept, largely for the sake of her children and as some kind of feint towards normalcy.

Rick, meanwhile, has nothing to prove: he long ago accepted who he is and what kind of life that entails, one largely devoid of outward affection or displays of kindness. This, inevitably, is the sort of attitude that will impact his child, which also seems to be something he’s resigned himself to. It’s not that he doesn’t care about Beth, it’s just that his intellect and outlook makes it harder for him to reconcile the meaninglessness of existence with forming legitimate bonds with others (especially, as he’ll keep reminding us, in a universe of infinite Beths). Beth, for her part, isn’t quite there yet.

That’s where “The ABCs of Beth” comes into it: even at a point when we’ve all worked out how close the mega seed falls to the tree, Beth still needs convincing that she’s very much her father’s daughter. And so, Rick whisks her away to her childhood play world of Froopy Land, a place of colourful splendour where the floor is bouncy and the water is breathable. It’s kinda like the kiddy equivalent of that resort from “The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy“, where it’s impossible to die. This all comes as a bit of a shock to Beth, who always figured that Froopy Land was imaginary, when it turns out it was actually conceived by Rick as a way of… well, we’ll come back to that.

(Adult Swim)

The expedition to Froopy Land is brought on by the news of a man’s pending execution for having eaten his son, Tommy, who was a childhood friend of Beth’s. Needless to say, her young mind rationalising his death by assuming he’d simply gotten lost in Froopy Land was spot on, though what he’s been up to in there since is a little harder to smooth over. After encountering some legitimately dangerous creatures not of his own making in Froopy Land, Rick and Beth both have the simultaneous realisation that Tommy has been fucking the Froopy Land creatures and producing mutated offspring. To sustain himself, he eats half of them while he rules over the other half as some kind of father/lover king. You ever see The Brady Bunch? It’s not that dissimilar.

Now, we’ve had some fantastic guest voice work this season, from Joel McHale and Gillian Jacobs to Lance Reddick and Danny Trejo. That said, perhaps none are as inspired a choice as Silicon Valley‘s Thomas Middleditch for King Tommy. Pudgy, hirsute and dirty, Tommy has an inflated sense of himself based on a hierarchy of his own making: he fucks things, eats thing and is worshipped by things. He acts exactly as you’d expect a child given full autonomy over his toys and consumption would. He speaks in a flowery, dramatic tone and seems to enjoy having conversations with others that achieve nothing except allow him to talk. Naturally, he is very, very funny, though largely in the super perverted way characters in this show tend to be.

Not only that, his foray into fathering creatures that he then eats links up directly with what his father back in the real world has been accused of. It’s not the only parallel: in an episode where paternity, lineage and DNA are at the forefront, Tommy’s disturbing version of parenting allows for a point of comparison with Rick’s efforts as a father to Beth. It’s an extreme example of the worst form of childrearing as a means of looking at why parents always get the blame for how their kids turn out and whether it’s fair to, when given the chance, put your own interests first.

(Adult Swim)

This becomes more pronounced when we discover that Rick made Froopy Land less as an escape for Beth than as a way of keeping her weirdly violent tendencies as a child in check. Additionally, it just so happens that Beth might be the very reason that Tommy got left behind in Froopy Land. Rick argues that, as a shitty father, he was at his wits end with Beth and couldn’t think of a better way of containing her; Beth throws back that maybe she wouldn’t have felt such animosity towards Tommy if she had been as loved by her father as he was. It’s a dense examination of a father/daughter relationship, of how vulnerability doesn’t necessarily preclude being a threat and, in a very Rick and Morty way, a nod to the impossibility of raising children. You still shouldn’t fuck or eat them, though, obviously.

As far as this theme of coming to terms with oneself tracks, Jerry is still on the path to accepting his shortcomings. Well, actually, “accepting” is the wrong word here, as one of his many, many flaws is an inability to take responsibility for his own actions. Once again, this is something the show has already explored pretty thoroughly in an earlier episode this season, but the point of “The ABCs of Beth” doesn’t seem to be fresh realisations. If anything, there’s an emphasis on how knowing yourself might be the easy part; the really fucking hard thing is living with yourself afterwards.

In this case, Jerry is now sleeping with Kiara, a telekinetic warrior priestess from (I looked this up a hundred times and couldn’t find the spelling, so I’m wingin’ it) Crutabulon. As an alien warrior priestess, Kiara is obsessed with hunting weaker creatures, apparently both professionally and in her love life (zing). As is typical for Jerry, he sees the immediate benefit of the relationship (she has three boobs) and not the drawbacks (she’s a fucking warrior priestess with a penchant for mass-murder). And, because it’s Jerry, he needs to enlist his kids – or, basically, just throw them under the bus – to help him ward off Kiara’s scarier impulses.

(Adult Swim)

Even with Morty and Summer along for the ride, this plot feels a little inconsequential, if still very funny. Summer forcing Jerry to admit to all of his racist, sexist hang-ups has been a long time coming and was as rewarding as you would imagine. Likewise, every time Jerry acts even with the slightest bit of bravery in the face of danger – as he does here when he finally breaks up with Kiara face to face without using his kids as an excuse – it can’t help but feel like a step forward for the character, even with the daunting knowledge that he’s destined to slide back into his more self-absorbed, cowardly form sooner of later.

In any case, the episode ends as we all might have anticipated, with Beth finally accepting how much she’s like Rick. I probably could’ve done without her echoing his “I’m sorry you think you deserve an apology” line from earlier in the episode, but it’s a small complaint to have when it facilitates a deeper understanding of who she is. In turn, she’s treated to a speech from Rick about how best to live when you’re too smart for those around you. It’s a moment that’s both cold and strangely compassionate, filled with nuggets about inevitability and hopelessness tied up in a rich desire to be happy despite the indifference of the universe.

And, because Rick’s the one giving this speech, there’s always a way to actualise this shit. He offers one to Beth: take off, live for yourself and don’t be tied down by some vapid ideal of a perfect parent or wife or daughter or whatever. He can clone her so that the kids would be none the wiser, and she could stay gone on her own adventure for as long as she wanted. It’s the sort of suggestion that could only ever appeal to someone like Rick, and ultimately it’s up to us to decide how similar these two really are.

There are no overt clues one way or another in the last scene with Beth as to whether it’s really her or just a clone but, as the show has reinforced time and again, on a certain level it doesn’t matter. These people aren’t even Rick and Morty’s original family, much as the cloned Tommy who shows up to prevent his father’s execution at the last second isn’t real. Whether it’s a magical land from your childhood or the woman you think to be your mum, what’s real only matters to the extent that you can experience it. So, with that in mind, even if that isn’t the actual Beth sharing pizza with her family, what difference does it make?


Quotes & Random Thoughts


  • This week, on Second Rickpressions: honestly, I spent a large part of my second viewing pausing whenever Tommy’s mutant Froopy children were on screen and just taking in the depraved majesty of them all. No two are exactly alike, and each one is more disturbing than the last. That’s some seriously impressive work by the animation department this week.


  • Also, this was a very quotable episode, so get ready for it.



  • “He’ll be the only sun-bleached skeleton with non-imaginary DNA.”


  • “Well you’re supposed to put elbow grease into your daughter!


  • “A dad makes a toilet look like R2D2 and it breaks the front page of Reddit, but I’m Charles Manson because I gave you your own world instead of an iPad!”


  • “I’m sure you noticed what she has three of, but guess what she has two of…” I don’t… I mean, I know what the obvious answer is here, but I’m still morbidly curious.


  • I laughed so hard that I had to pause the episode for several moments when, during the play about Tommy and Beth, one of the audience members yelled out “DON’T DO IT!”


  • “Tommy’s still in there, raping muppets and eating babies!”


  • “Whatever you say, Stone Cold Steve Austin.” I am loathe to start regularly using quotes from TV in my everyday life… but I might have to with this one.


  • “Next item on the docket: I would like to have sex with some of you and then eat the babies. I thought you’d like that, I do keep rolling out the hits, don’t I?”


  • “And that’s why one pussy plus two pussies makes a bunch of pussies.” I ran the math. It checks out.


  • “You heard your daddy, Morty. You have to leave school! Wait, what are my values?”


  • As the “Doodoo In My Butt” song says, “Every father father’s wrong, and there isn’t a song that could change that.”


  • The best part of Rick’s speech: “Maybe you matter so little that I like you. Or maybe… it makes you matter. Maybe I love you. Maybe something about your mother. Don’t jump a gift shark in the mouth.”


  • “We’re not hiding. We’re nesting.”
    “Ooh la la!”


  • “Hey Rick, did you know my dad was dating an alien?”
    “No, gross… for the alien.”


  • “By the way, that wasn’t time travel. There were just a couple pizzas on the counter, I grabbed ’em.”


  • The answering machine tag was great, even if that last line about how answering machines are only ever used on TV was slightly too meta for my tastes.

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“The ABCs of Beth”

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