Rick and Morty recap: The Vat of Acid the best season 4 episode so far

Fake acid vats are one thing, but who wouldn't want to try a video-game-save device in real life?

Gael Cooper
CNET editor Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." She's been a journalist since 1989, working at Mpls.St.Paul Magazine, Twin Cities Sidewalk, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and NBC News Digital. She's Gen X in birthdate, word and deed. If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
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Gael Cooper
4 min read

Rick and Morty wait out the bad guys at the bottom of a vat of fake acid.


Rick and Morty fans who complained about the meta, fourth-wall-breaking concoction that was Never Ricking Morty can now kick back with a pickle and some interdimensional cable and relax. Episode 8, The Vat of Acid Episode, proves the Adult Swim animated comedy is back in a hilarious, creative groove. Just when the episode seemed to be about one inventive, goofy plot, it seamlessly switched to another. Stop reading if you haven't watched the May 17 episode yet, because here come the spoilers.

If you've watched the preview from last week, you know the setup. Rick warns Morty that if a crystal-trading deal goes wrong, he needs to jump into the same vat of acid that Rick jumps into, which WHAAAAA? But it's just another day for the grandson of Rick Sanchez, because Rick has a wonderfully elaborate fake vat of acid, complete with breathing tubes, microphones to hear what people on the surface are saying and fake bones that float up to make it appear that R&M have disintegrated right off this mortal coil.

It sounds like a pretty smart idea to me, but when the bad guys insist on sitting around and yacking, then calling a "bone scientist" to see if the vat situation checks out, Morty gets furious with Rick. Not only does he hate the acid vat concept, he despises how he's constantly pitching Rick ideas and being ignored. And Morty's got a winner, or so he thinks. He wants Rick to create a device to save your place in life, like in a video game, so you can replay certain events and scenes until you get them just right. Rick first pretends he can't create such an item, but ha ha ha -- who are we talking about here? Of course he makes it, and off Morty goes to try and try again until he gets life right.

Frankly, despite being armed with a cool sci-fi device, Morty uses it to reset his life after doing some seriously dumb things. Pulling down his teacher's pants? Pushing an old dude out of a wheelchair? Jumping over a manhole? Chickening out on the high dive? Suicide by cop? But then Morty implausibly lucks out and meets his ideal woman (no, not Jessica), and life's so perfect he doesn't need the reset button. Until Morty and his girlfriend are on a plane that crashes in some snowy mountains, and you remember that everybody who could read in the 1970s and 1980s, including this show's writers, read Piers Paul Read's 1974 book Alive: The Story of the Andes Survivors, aka "The Rugby Team Cannibalism Book."

There's an iconic Reddit story about a guy who was knocked unconscious and imagined a whole new life for himself while he was out cold. When he wakes up, it's as if he's been robbed of 10 years of life and ripped away from the happy family he imagined having during that time. Morty's relationship with his girlfriend plays out like that. Despite the airplane cannibalism and some seriously nasty bloody fingers, things are looking good for him for once. Until Jerry (it's always Jerry) resets Morty again, and now he can't get the girlfriend to give him the time of day.

Most shows might end it there, but this is Rick and Morty we're talking about. Rick's been teaching Morty a lesson about consequences the entire time, and just when it looks like Morty might have to pay for all the things he's done, a certain vat of fake acid saves the day again. 

This episode's pretty much a winner from first acid-vat-jump to last, with a mix of gross-outs, laugh-out-louds, and even a little heartwarming sentiment, all stacked up like the Pringles Flavor Stack Rick and Morty keep advertising.

The makers of the episode seem to like it, too. Co-creator Dan Harmon says in a video that he's "very proud of that episode," and can't seem to stop himself from laughing as he recalls the writers' room discussions. (Apparently director Jacob Hair added the whole plane-crash sequence to fill out an episode that was too short, so kudos to him for reading Alive in middle school.) And show co-creator Justin Roiland, who voices both Rick and Morty, said on Twitter on Sunday night that this episode is his favorite of the new batch of shows.

Fans seemed to like it too. "Best episode of the season so far," one Twitter user wrote.

Although it's Rick and Morty, so not everyone is going to agree. "Was really disappointed in this one unfortunately," one Twitter user wrote, specifically calling out the Morty and his girlfriend storyline, which features no dialogue, as a disappointment.

But there's no time to sit around and soak in the vat of acid. Another new episode, called Childrick of Mort, airs May 24, and after that, there's just the May 31 season-four finale to anticipate before another break.

Watch this: Rick and Morty Comic-Con exclusive toy unboxing