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Rick and Morty from "Never Ricking Morty"

Warning: SPOILERS for the latest episode of Rick and Morty are ahead!

Animation is a time intensive project, and often times with animated TV shows, episodes are completed months, if not years before they finally hit the airwaves. However, in the case of Rick and Morty, which resumed its fourth season this past weekend, it managed to insert quite the timely joke at the end of the episode “Never Ricking Morty.” It was so last minute that not even Chris Parnell, who voices Jerry Smith, was aware of its existence.

“Never Ricking Morty” was one of the weirdest Rick and Morty episodes yet, as the show’s eponymous protagonists found themselves aboard a Story Train, which served as a literal story device for the narrative to bombard them with anthology scenarios. However, at the very end, we learned that this train, and all the passengers within, were inside a highly sophisticated model train that the real Morty Smith bought at the Citadel of Ricks gift shop; one which broke after the toy’s Jesus (yes, that Jesus) learned the true nature of his existence.

With the model train laying on the ground, Morty offered to return it, but Rick Sanchez (who had already gone on a bizarre rant about capitalism) demanded that his grandson just buy a new one, adding that “no one’s out there shopping with this fucking virus.” This, of course, is in reference to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a lot of people staying at home as much as possible and washing hands more often in order to slow down the spread of the coronavirus.

While speaking with GamesRadar, Chris Parnell was shocked to learn that the joke was thrown into “Never Ricking Morty,” saying:

That’s news to me! I’ve only seen the trailers so I did not know that had been put in. That’s amazing. I guess obviously very late in the game they can add that stuff.

Considering that social distancing has been in effect for nearly two months now, the fact that the creative minds behind Rick and Morty, including creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland (who also voices the two main characters), managed to throw in a coronavirus reference is impressive. Granted, we’ve seen the Comedy Central series South Park deliver commentary on current events thanks to its quick turnaround animation style, but it’s good to know that Rick and Morty can throw in an incredibly timely joke at the last minute if necessary.

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This also makes Rick and Morty one of the few shows that’s directly referenced the pandemic; included in this group is the CBS legal drama All Rise, as yesterday’s episode, “Dancing at Los Angeles,” was shot entirely using online technology like FaceTime and Zoom. And, of course, with “Never Ricking Morty” being the most meta episode of Rick and Morty, it’s only fitting that the story capped off with a reference to a real-life event.

The first five episodes of Rick and Morty Season 4 aired last November and December, and the rest of the season will air over the course of this month. Luckily after that, fans won’t need to worry about if the show is coming back like they did following Season 3’s conclusion, as in May 2018, the show scored a 70-episode renewal. So once Season 4’s done, there are 60 more episodes to look forward to in the coming years, if not more should there be another renewal way further down the line.

You can watch new episodes of Rick and Morty Sundays at 11:30 EST/PST as part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim block. As for what else is currently airing on the small screen, you can find that information in our comprehensive TV schedule.

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