TV REVIEW: Rick and Morty S3 E5 ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’ (Contains Spoilers)

To say I was excited at the prospect of a Jerry-centric episode is a bit of an understatement; I am a huge fan of Jerry and have been positively chomping at the bit for more of him since his split from Beth in ‘The Rickshank Rickdemption’. I was a little trepidacious after last weeks’ minor misstep, but I am thoroughly chuffed to report that ‘The Whirly Dirly Conspiracy’ is a triumphant return to form.

The pre-credits opener almost had me in tears; Jerry meandering around his tiny, rubbish apartment, microwaving sad looking pies and seeing family portraits in the peeling paint in his gross bathroom made me feel so badly for him. This series so far has delved quite deeply into how the divorce has been affecting the rest of the family, but this is the first time we’ve really seen just how empty Jerry’s life is now. It’s rather pathetic, but in an all-too-relatable way; whilst we as an audience are very unlikely to travel through space, meet aliens or battle other versions of ourselves, divorce is a real thing that could absolutely happen to us. This opening is devastating for this reason: we can see ourselves in Jerry’s shoes (if he were wearing any, that is). We find out later, after an excitable Rick bursts into the apartment and drags a naked Jerry into his ship, that Morty tricked Rick into taking Jerry on an adventure in a bid to have a bit of a break from all the sci-fi shenanigans, by convincing Rick that he’s concerned his father might commit suicide. This is a darker, more calculated side to Morty than we’ve seen before, which sets an exciting precedent for where the writers could go with him.

Rick takes Jerry to a fancy resort with an immortality field. Basically they can do anything they want here with no fear of dying (or at least, dying with any permanency), and plan to make up an adventure to tell Morty about later whilst sipping on fancy looking alien cocktails. It’s very telling about their characters that Rick’s first death within the field is a spear through the heart (which is especially dramatic given we don’t know about the field yet) and Jerry’s is getting his hands sucked into a slighty-too-powerful hand-dryer… Oh, Jerry… At this point, we’re introduced to Risotto Groupon (superbly played by Clancy Brown, and whose name had me laughing so hard we had to rewind the episode because I hadn’t heard anything he’d said for minutes after that) who wants Jerry’s help to kill Rick. There’s a roller coaster at the resort called the Whirly Dirly that a) is so completely insane that it could only exist within an immortality field and b) apparently passes outside of the field briefly “between the first whirly and the third dirly”, and that’s where Risotto wants to assassinate Rick, if Jerry can get him on the ride.

Jerry is, at first, totally against this plan, but after spending just a few minutes with an on-the-road-to-drunk Rick discussing the divorce, he apparently thinks offing Rick is the way to go and suggests they go on the ride. Jerry is the King of Flip-Flopping in this scene as, after Rick admits that he certainly exacerbated things between Beth and Jerry and sort of apologies for his role in their divorce, Jerry changes his mind again, even taking a bullet to the brain for his trouble. I love how writer Ryan Ridley uses high-concept sci-fi shenanigans to shine a light on the dynamic between Rick and Jerry. Whilst neither appreciates the effect the other has had on their life, they’re also, in very loose terms, family, and so they look out for one another, however reluctantly. Of course, this starts off a very real adventure for the pair as they bring down the immortality field, crash the Whirly Dirly, Jerry gets eaten by a…something, Rick is shot with a synaptic dampener that suppresses controversial thoughts and violent tendencies and taking public transport through a wormhole.

You might not think a Jerry and Rick pairing would work but, for one episode, it’s actually a surprisingly welcome change from the shows usual dynamic. There’s a wonderful scene in which Rick really nails Jerry to the wall:

“Who do you think had more taken from them when you shot 20cc’s of liquid dreamkiller into my daughter? She was Rick’s daughter, Jerry, she had options… You act like prey but you’re a predator, you use pity to lure in your victims, it’s how you survive. I survive because I know everything, that snake survives because children wander off and you survive because people think “Oh, this poor piece of s**t, he never gets a break, I can’t stand the deafening wails of his wilting soul, I guess I’ll hire him or marry him.”

It seems unnecessarily harsh at the time, not least because a snake is slowly chowing down on a Jerry lunch the whole time, but it obviously sparks a feeling of wanting to change in Jerry. Later in the episode he makes an (albeit feeble) attempt at being “triumphantly brave” that the Jerry we saw crawling home whimpering in episode one of this season would most likely not have done. Whether Rick purposefully planted this seed in Jerry in a bid to spur him to improve his character is something we can only speculate on (maybe he’s trying to make Jerry a better prospect for Beth?), but it’s nice to see him show Jerry even a modicum of respect by the end of the episode.

I’ve waffled on a lot and not even mentioned the B-plot to this episode, in which Summer uses a sci-fi device to enlarge her breasts in a bid to win back the heart of her boyfriend, Ethan, after her left her for the more ample-bosomed Tricia. This is all triggered by Beth not being a particularly great mother when responding to Summer’s question of whether she’s hot or not (though I’ll admit that Beth’s response was entirely sound, just not entirely comforting…) and the situation gets worse and worse as Beth attempts to use the machine to fix things. She’s stubborn, just like her father, and wants to prove that she can exist and hold her own in the zany, sci-fi adventures that he has, and puts her own need to be involved in that side of Rick’s life ahead of her need to be a good mother. Morty’s reactions throughout this story are fantastic; I really like the over-protective brother side to him (even if we find out in the post-credits sequence that he maybe took that to a pretty dark place), and he’s clearly learning from his experiences with Rick as he questions the machine and the possible options ahead of them. His exasperation with his mother is palpable and entirely understandable – she’s exhibiting the same traits that make him cross with Rick, only she’s not as science-smart and is just making things worse.

The resolution to the B story is sweet. Beth comes to her senses and allows Morty to figure out how to use the machine to mutate her in the same fashion as Summer so that they can bond (I really wish we could’ve heard what was said), and it’s always nice to see Morty interact with other members of the family. We don’t get many Morty and Beth moments, and the conversation in the car about how difficult parenting can be was so nice (and also contained one of Beth’s greatest lines ever “Mama’s coming, baby. Mama’s coming and she cares about your titties!”)

I’ve not even begun to mention the myriad of things that made me laugh out loud during this episode (including, but not limited to Beth dealing with her emotions by creating a hoof collage and Morty’s suitably concerned reaction to this, Jerry getting hit in the face repeatedly by the testicles of an alien they’re riding in, Beth calling the customer service line for the manufacturer of the Morphizer-XE and getting tricked into releasing the three tiny customer service guys from their apparent prison within the machine, “boobyah” and the Jeff Goldblum alien)… But the highly coveted Stacey Taylor Award For Best Joke In This Particular Episode has to go to Rick’s ridiculously complicated looking gun which, when fired, shoots out a suction cup on a string, which he uses to steal Risotto’s actual gun. Not only is it a fabulous joke in and of itself, but Rick’s brief fumbling over the new gun is just perfectly timed and animated. I actually almost cried laughing at this, and am tittering to myself as I type..!

Cor, this episode was good though.

Rating: 4.8/5
Reviewer: Stacey Taylor (@StaceysParlour)

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