Ep #: 4
Air date: Jan. 13th, 2014
Synopsis: Rick, Morty, and Jerry are stuck in an alien simulator until Rick gives them the recipe for concentrated dark matter.
Something’s up with Morty. He’s chipper than usual, which Rick suspects. What’s stranger is Beth speaking in an uncharacteristic monotonous voice. Morty acts more like himself when he cautiously notes his mother’s emotionless droning. Rick’s response is needlessly cruel (even for Rick) for reasons Morty can’t comprehend.
Morty brushes it off once he’s in school. Mr. Goldenfold challenges him with a math question to which he only sort of guesses correctly. Goldenfold accepts the answer and invites Morty to the front while students cheer him on like he’s some kind of hero. Goldenfold announces that he’ll be teaching the class from now on. Morty isn’t sure what to bring up until a student asks a very specific question: how does one make concentrated dark matter for accelerated space travel? They egg him about his scientist grandfather, but Morty is unsure since Rick was very clear that under no circumstances should any of his secrets get out. Jessica attempts to seduce Morty to get him to confess.
Rick dives in at the last minute and drag him away for a “family emergency.” Goldenfold threatens to give Morty an “F”, but Rick claims he doesn’t care and takes him to the boy’s locker room. He turns on the showers and tells Morty to get naked while he takes off his own clothes. Morty is excruciatingly uncomfortable with this. Rick explains they’re not in Earth, but a massive alien simulator built inside their spaceship. The Zigerions are the galaxy’s most ambitious and least successful con artists and they’ve been trying to get Rick’s recipe for concentrated dark matter for ages. Luckily, that have a weak spot: they don’t like nudity, hence the nakedness. They won’t spy on them while they’re in the shower together. It still doesn’t make it any less better that Rick is willing to undress in front of his grandson, but that’s Rick for you.
Incredibly, this is all true. The Zigerions are averting their gazes at the unsightly appearance of Rick and Morty’s naked bodies. Their leader is dead set on obtaining that ingredient though. Further complication arise when they accidentally abducted another human: Jerry Smith. The guy has no idea he’s in a simulation, but he has bigger fish to fry: Jerry has an important presentation to give. None of the Zigerions cares what happens to this man and reduces the simulation’s processor power. Not that Jerry notices. Any time something glitches, his eyes veer off in another direction that he never notices the visual weirdness. Being something of a dunce, Jerry never picks up on the strange behaviors emulating from the holograms either. Ahh well, at least he has soothing “human music” to calm him down.
Rick tries to convince Morty the world they live in is fake, pointing out inconsistencies like a man putting a bun between hot dogs, a senile old lady walking a cat, and a pop-tart exiting its toaster home and driving a toaster car. The last one convinces Morty, but before the two can debate the merits of pop-tart livings (why would they drive a toaster car anyway?), they need to find an exit. An ambulance suddenly pulls over. Two EMTs ask for ten CCs of concentrated dark matter in order to save the dying president. Rick doesn’t buy it and shuns them off. Normally he’d take whatever annoyances the Zigerions throw at him, but they brought Morty into the mix and that he cannot abide.
Jerry pitches his new ad slogan for apples (“Hungry for Apples”) with all the charisma of a sputtering dishwasher. He’s so desperate he fails to realize the people he’s pitching to are dead-eyed and prone to repeating “yes” to anything he says. But it sells his slogan and Jerry is none the wiser. Confidence boosted, Jerry phones Beth for a romp together in bed, equally failing to hear Beth’s flat voice or the fact that he’s walking past the same three human simulations multiple times. “M. Night Shaym-Aliens!” is noticeably good at presenting the glitches as genuine stuff you’d see in video games and computer animation. Characters glitch out of frame or into solid objects; objects are frozen in midair; and with the Zigerion’s partial knowledge of humans, certain things are just off enough to make you wonder, Pop-Tarts notwithstanding. It’s one of those things that you must see in motion; stilled frames and descriptions can only say so much.
Rick and Morty stage a rap concert in order to trick the Zigerions. To overload the simulation, they gather a large group of people and ask them to do very specific things. Too much command input freezes the system, giving the duo a minimum amount of time to make a break for it. Free of the simulation, Rick plans to invade the central processing room so he can scam those aliens back. Unbeknownst to them, this is all part of the Zigerions’ plans.
Meanwhile, Jerry is swimming in the afterglow, unaware Beth hasn’t moved the entire time they were in bed together. In a fit of lust, he told her not to. It says a lot about him that he’ll take any little satisfaction he can to validate his life. He’s too self-absorbed to see the blatant uncanny valley even if it’s literally staring at him with their dead fish eyes. Jerry suddenly realizes his life is too good. Just when you think he’s figured things out, Jerry only comes to the conclusion that he is a fraud.
Inside the central processor room, Rick and Morty steal as many of the crystal chips as they can, occasionally horsing around as they chuck the sharp objects back and forth at each other. It is an odd behavior for sure since Morty would never relish a moment of fun during a crisis. Likewise, it’s just as strange for Rick to give the kid a friendly noogie. It would be a genuinely heartwarming scene except for how wrong it is. This really should tell you all you need to know about Rick and Morty.
Jerry confronts his boss and tearfully tells him the slogan he made is a derivation from the “Got Milk” ads. As his boss continues his parade of “yes” between each sentence, Jerry accepts that he is fired. He has a last minute change of heart and says he deserves both a promotion and a nominee for best commercial. He gets both and Jerry walks off with a skip in his step, just barely missing his boss glitching through his desk.
Rick and Morty sneak aboard an escape pod and return home. With the chips in hand, Rick can do some real science. Once they reach his garage, Rick tries to inputs the password to his safe, but it keeps denying him. The entire area glitches before their eyes. The Zigerion leader reveal the whole thing was a trick, Rick and Morty was in a simulation within a simulation. The Zigerions already knew how to make concentrated dark matter, but now that Rick inadvertently revealed the code to his safe, all his advanced scientific secrets will be theirs. They attempt to imprison the two, but Rick drops Morty’s pants to distract them long enough to escape. They run into a prison cell where Rick switches the gravity function off to further inconvenience them.
Jerry accepts his coveted Appley Award. He finally achieved everything he’s ever wanted, so naturally the simulation chooses now to glitch out. Jerry is left in a cold, empty room with no reward, no respect, and no trophy. Rick and Morty bump into him and drag the sobbing Jerry away, his dream once again shattered.
The escape pods are a no-go with guards blocking them, so they make their way to the air docks. Rick steals an spaceship and flies off. With the Zigerions hot on their trail, Rick asks Morty to grab a specific set of chemicals to make concentrated dark matter so they can use it to hightail it out of here. Morty grabs all the right ingredients in an odd bit of luck, mixing them under Rick’s orders. Before they can use it though, the system glitches again.
In a twist worthy of the title’s namesake, the entire thing was yet another simulation. Even more surprising, the Morty that Rick’s been traveling with the whole episode was a simulation himself! What a twist. The Zigerons never had the recipe for the dark matter, but they sure tricked Rick into revealing it. Now that they got what they wanted, Rick and Jerry are free to leave.
Rick tries to cheer Jerry up, even if it comes off as passive-aggressive. After all, you’d have to be a colossal idiot to fall for a simulation that wasn’t even trying. Jerry calls him out since the Zigerions also made a fool out of Rick, so maybe a little respect is in order. To Jerry’s surprise, Rick agrees. In fact, Rick takes the whole situation very well in spite of what happened.
Not a minute later, the Zigerions recreate the mixture and pay for it with a massive explosion that kills them all.
Rick knew he was being played all along, so he gave them a fake recipe. This episode is brilliant because the clues are all there. Everything, from Rick playing the sap to Morty being a fake can be pinpointed via subtle word cues, odd character behaviors, and Rick’s mannerism. “M. Night Shaym-Aliens!” is the kind of episode that is worth watching repeatedly to pick out all the well placed hints.
The stinger ends with Jerry trying to pitch his apple slogan to his real bosses. They immediately fire him.
The next one centers on a drunken Rick stumbling into Morty’s room. He comforts the sleeping boy with compliments. The sweet moment is completely turned over its head when he pulls a knife to Morty’s neck. Rick demands to know if he’s a simulation. Morty’s panicked crying is more than enough to convince Rick and he drops unconscious on the floor while a scared Morty cradles his knees.