"The Vat of Acid Episode" is the eighth episode of the fourth season of Rick and Morty, and the 39th episode of the series overall. It premiered on May 17, 2020. It was written by Albro Lundy & Jeff Loveness and directed by Jacob Hair.
Morty challenges Rick to build him the real-life equivalent of a "save game" function to live without consequence. Also, there's a giant vat of acid.
Rick and Morty travel to a factory. During the flight, Morty mentions that Rick might be setting him up for a double-cross. Morty seems done with Rick's shenanigans. Rick tells Morty that they don't have to worry - and as a last ditch effort, if things "go wrong", that he's got a plan, and tells Morty to leap into the same vat of acid he does. Morty still complains, and says he should be doing English homework. However, Rick doesn't budge and resumes the ride.
Rick meets up with some intergalactic barters who he trades with. All seems well until the dealer tells Rick he's been duped, and that they successfully scammed Rick. Angered by this, Rick forms a third arm and shoots a dealer in the head. However, still held at gunpoint, Rick and Morty are forced to jump in the vat of fake acid that he prepared in advance. Rick and Morty sink to the bottom of the vat of acid, and open up predetermined hatches in order to trick the dealers into thinking that they died. The dealer and his cronies take time to watch the bones settle. They are in shock that a grandfather would commit suicide with his grandson, and mourn over Morty's death. Rick and Morty lie in wait at the bottom of the vat, until the dealer and his cronies vanish. Morty begins to get impatient after an extended period of time, as the dealers take the time for self-reflection and then decide of the bones, and takes it upon himself to rise out of the acid and kill the dealers. He misfires, and Rick takes the gun from him and kills all of the cronies. They then make a getaway.
Morty begins to get mad at Rick's faulty plan, and that Rick should be more open-minded instead of falling back on himself all of the time. Rick argues that he was able to handle things all by himself when he was turned into a pickle, and that Morty's adventure with the dragon was a total disaster. Morty then waves the fact that Rick likes to ignore most ideas Morty pitches over his head. As the argument escalates, it turns out that Rick has already refused Morty's request for a device that would allow him to save a point in time (like that of a video game), so that Morty can visit said time restarts. Rick, in a fit of rage, reluctantly agrees. Shortly after, Rick admits that he actually is unable to make said device, and proceeds to shoot Morty. After being shot Morty is still breathing - suggesting he was stunned - however, Rick triggers the device creating the first time stamp and encourages an oblivious Morty to have fun with the device.
Over the next few weeks, Morty has a lot of fun with his time-saving device - including pulling his teacher's pants down, talking to his love interest Jessica, avoiding embarrassing moments, rectifying bad decisions and saving himself from death. One day, he activates the time save before approaching a girl outside of a coffee shop to talk to her. They get along well and go on a date, which leads to a long-term relationship. Morty and his (unnamed) girlfriend go through many ups and down over the following months, and even break-up at one point, but emerge stronger than ever. The two go on vacation together, but the plane they boarded on crashes and they get stranded on a mountain range. They are forced to resort to cannibalism to stay alive, and Morty starts trekking across the mountains to retrieve his backpack. Although he finds the time-save device, Morty decides not activate it, and uses his frost-bitten hands to call for a rescue. He is saved just in time, and after an extended stay in hospital Morty and his girlfriend fully recover from their ordeal. At their welcome home party, Morty and his girlfriend are happier and stronger than ever... until Jerry mistakes the time-save device for the TV remote and hits the buttons, 'restoring' Morty's save point back to before he approached his girlfriend. He tries to approach her again, but gets pepper-sprayed in the face for his troubles. In his pain, he falls on the time-save device and saves that point, leaving him unable to go back and try again.
Depressed that the time-save has only made him more miserable, Morty throws himself to a bunch of gorillas at the local zoo a few times. Finally he goes to see Rick, sick and tired of restarting time, and decides to take these experiences as an opportunity to face the consequences of his actions.
Rick however lets Morty know that his previous actions did, in fact, have consequences. Stating that he has never believed in time travel, reveals to Morty that the boy didn't perform any "do-overs", but rather "did it, over and over". Showing a recording of one of these "do-overs", Rick shows that all the "time resets" were actually different probabilities of him all along. This caused the death of numerous Morty's, moving the present Morty in their place, not unlike the movie Prestige. Disgusted with his actions, Morty is in a state of despair, as he doesn't know what to do or how to fix the mess he caused. Rick suggests that he can fuse all of his alternate selves and their respective universes. Fed up, Morty complies and Rick reveals that he is not Morty's original Rick but another Rick who says all Ricks have a vat of acid. He then merges the universes together and returns Morty to the first save point with his Rick. All of a sudden, a bunch of law enforcement members and protesters appear outside of Rick's garage, with anti-Morty posters (consequences of his actions in the other universes). Morty is terrified and confused, however Rick is determined to make Morty learn his lesson and tells him to jump into the fake vat of acid he's set up. Grumbling, Morty does so (just as his previous girlfriend arrives, only to leave in tears upon seeing Morty go into the acid) and hides at the bottom releasing fake bones just like he did before. Satisfied, and feeling a bit guilty, everybody vacates the premises except for the two cops. The cops seem to doubt Morty's death and drop a ladle in, and Morty's attempt to blow it up results in him accidentally shooting the cop in two and splashing his partner with the fake acid. The remaining cop, instead of coming to the logical conclusion, believes he's immune to acid and leaves happily after insulting and exposing himself to his dead partner. Rick is satisfied Morty has learned something: to "never make fun of him again, ever", and decides to head home (saying he wouldn't waste their home reality on this crap) lamenting that the reality they're in was nice, as Johnny Carson was still alive and on the air, 9/11 never happened and Rocky Road ice cream had peanut butter instead of marshmallows.
In the post-credits scene, the surviving cop goes on Johnny Carson's show proclaiming that he is immune to acid. He is lowered into a genuine vat, where he suffers a slow and painful death.
Cast and characters
- Four intergalactic dealers
- Jerry Smith
- Beth Smith
- Summer Smith
- Mr. Goldenfold
- Morty's Girlfriend
- An "Acid proof" SWAT officer
- A quartet of intergalactic dealers
- Passengers in the plane prior to the crash (alternate universe)
- Two plane crash survivors (off-screen; alternate universe)
- Many alternate versions of Morty
- A SWAT officer
- The "Acid-Proof" SWAT officer
- In celebration of Season 4, Pocket Mortys' weekly updates will coincide with new episodes, including new avatars for players to collect. With the release of this episode came: Morty's Girlfriend as an avatar, plus S.O.S. Morty and Nargles Morty to catch.
- Rick's statement that he doesn't believe in time travel mirrors Justin Roiland and Dan Harmon's statement that time travel would not be used in the series (despite the fact that Rick has used time travel in the past, though only in "Rattlestar Ricklactica").
- The device that Rick is working on, an orb with a blade protruding from it, is an apparent homage to the devices used by the Tall Man from the Phantasm series of films.
- When Morty is driving rampantly through the city with a , a poster for a watch with the word "Reset" can be seen on a building. This is likely a reference to resetting time, which Morty believed he was doing.
- Morty and Morty's Girlfriend walk past a store called "Ryan Mark's", likely named after either Ryan Ridley or Ryan Elder and Mark Van Ee.
- The building behind Morty when he pushed the man out of his wheelchair is a nod to Moe's Tavern from The Simpsons; the colors, window pattern, and door are all matching.
- This episode has won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Animated Program 2020.
- On the departing flight back to the garage, Rick references both the "time where [Morty] wanted a dragon" ("Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim's Morty") and the "time where [he] turned [himself] into a pickle" ("Pickle Rick").
- When Morty first fails to jump over a manhole, a movie theater in the background advertises screenings of: "Ass 2", "Backdoor" and "Ball Fondlers". A Ball Fondlers movie was last mentioned in "The Ricks Must Be Crazy", in a different dimension, while Ass was mentioned in "Claw and Hoarder: Special Ricktim's Morty", implying that there is a sequel to Ass.
- When Morty runs at a pair of police officers, one of the officers is holding a Shoney's mug, which was last seen in "The Rickshank Rickdemption".
- One of the scenes of Morty melting happened in Rick's memory chamber, last seen in "Morty's Mind Blowers".
- The Judge from "Edge of Tomorty: Rick Die Rickpeat" is among the people in the crowd.
- As Rick and Morty were in an alternate universe, this is her counterpart in a dimension where she is still alive.
- Rick mentions how he hates dealing with time travel, referencing the events from "Rattlestar Ricklactica".
- Rick references that Futurama has done the concept of the save point device, referencing the series finale episode "Meanwhile".
- Rick calls Morty [Charles] "Bukowski".
- A bar that looks similar to Moe's Tavern from The Simpsons can be seen when Morty approaches the man in a wheelchair.
- Morty, his girlfriend and the two other survivors from the plane crash are dressed similar to three of the main South Park characters, Stan Marsh (the unnamed man), Kyle Broflovski (the unnamed woman), and Kenny McCormick (Morty).
- "TGRI" from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles seen in Rick's garage
- Rick mentions "negging" (i.e. negative feedbacking), an existing reverse-psychology manipulation technique. He notes that long before it was branded as such by the incel movement, it was used widely, including by Bugs Bunny from Loony Tunes franchise.
- A few scenes after Rick mentions "negging", Morty uses the technique on Jessica.
- The whole plane crash scene is taken from the 1974 book, Alive, which detailed the real plane crash in 1972. Morty's airplane also had the same number as the real airplane.
- The 2018 film Ant-Man and the Wasp is mentioned by Rick in a negative way. He says: "If Ant-man and The Wasp can do it, I'm not interested", reminding us that Rick hates time travel.
- The writer of this episode, Jeff Loveness, went on to write the 2020 sequel to Ant-Man and the Wasp, which Rick mentions derisively.
- Rick mentioned the film, The Prestige, when revealing the reality of the remote's effects to Morty. Moreover, Rick and Morty co-creator Justin Roiland’s other animated series, Solar Opposites, premiered a week on Hulu before this episode’s debut and also has an episode referencing The Prestige.
- Jeffrey Dahmer, a serial killer and cannibal, was mentioned by Rick just before the SWAT teams arrived.
- Real Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor is mentioned to be standing outside of the Smith house after Rick merged all the timelines.
- Several groups of people gathered outside of the Smith house to protest Morty: #MeToo activists, the ACLU, the AARP, the NAACP and Gamergate activists.
- One of the protesters is holding a picket sign reading "Moscow Morty". This is a reference to "Moscow Mitch", a nickname given to Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader during the Trump administration, in response to his blocking election security bills despite proof that Russia interfered in the 2016 Presidential election to aid Donald Trump's campaign.
- Rick states that the acid in his Vat of Acid is actually just Mountain Dew.
- Johnny Carson (host of The Tonight Show from 1962-1992) appeares in the end credit scene. Given that the real-life Johnny Carson passed away in 2005 at the age of 79, this version of him would be in his nineties.
View a full transcript of this episode here.
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