Spoilers below for Rick and Morty's latest episode, "The Vat of Acid."
Both the title of the latest episode of Rick and Morty, as well as the opening scene, are clearly nods to at least one iteration of The Joker's origin story from DC Comics lore. You just can't have characters falling off of walkways and into vats of acid without invoking Batman. However, that definitely wasn't Episode 8's only big pop culture nod, with Rick and Morty serving up a next-level South Park reference, as well as a seemingly random visual shout out to The Simpsons.
Check out the South Park and Simpsons references below, along with explanations about how they fit into the episode.
How Rick And Morty's Referenced South Park
While not as odd or ridiculously convoluted as some other recent episodes, Rick and Morty's "The Vat of Acid" riffed on time-travel-esque do-overs without needing to actually use time travel. (Amusingly, Rick wasn't interested in the concept merely because it was something that Ant Man and the Wasp could figure out.) Rick created a device that seemingly reset time a few seconds back, allowing Morty the ability to not only go back and erase embarrassing moments – or to create them for others – but also to reverse his own death. Seemingly is the key word in the above sentence.
Astoundingly enough, one of Morty's timelines presents a dialogue-free sequence in which Morty hits it off romantically with a female character, to the point where she met Morty's family...and didn't run away screaming. After a fight, Morty presents his significant other with plane tickets, but their getaway plans were foiled when the plane crashed atop a snowy mountain. When Morty wakes up, his girlfriend and two other survivors are there, and they bundle him up in new clothes, and the meta South Park reference begins.
As seen in the image above, three of the plane crash survivors' clothes share similarities with those of the core South Park quartet, and it's hardly a coincidence that they're in a snowy setting. One character is wearing Stan's signature red-and-blue beanie and brown coat, while another is wearing a fur hat with ear flaps, which is always worn by Kyle, even though the colors are admittedly off in this case. Also, Morty's girlfriend doesn't have anything in common with Cartman.
Regardless, the most important comparison to make here is Morty wearing a dark orange coat with the hood pulled up and covering most of his face, which is obviously how South Park's Kenny dresses. As schwifty as that nod would have been with a complete lack of context, Rick and Morty upped the ante on Morty's Kenny look with its third-act twist.
It turned out that every time Morty hit his reset button, one version of Morty did indeed die within that universe/dimension, while the "real" version would get transplanted into an extremely similar alt-world. Essentially, Morty died over and over and over again (and likely many more times than what the episode showed us), which is clearly a callback to how often South Park has – OMG – killed Kenny over the years, though mostly in Seasons 1-5.
What's more, Morty came out of his "A Vat of Acid" experience with the memory of all of his deaths, which also ties back to South Park confirming at one point that Kenny remembered his own deaths. That was explained, more or less, back in Season 14, when it was revealed that Kenny parents were connected to a Cthulhu death cult in the past, so each time that Kenny died, Mrs. McCormick would have another newborn version, orange parka and all.
Even though there were some minor discrepancies here, it's still pretty clear that Rick and Morty figured out one of the smartest South Park references possible. And it also worked in a reference to the ending of Christopher Nolan's The Prestige, so good times were had by all.
How Rick And Morty Referenced The Simpsons
In the midst of Morty's do-over adventures, he happily (and rudely) pushed an older man and his wheelchair out into the street. But as seen in the image above, Morty and the man were clearly on the corner in front of Moe's Tavern from The Simpsons.
Some of the details are different, of course. The blocks along the corner and bottom aren't there on Moe's in The Simpsons, and Rick and Morty features a next-door business called "Pour Decisions" instead of King Toot's Music Store. However, the window of orange and green diamonds cannot be mistaken, especially when seen alongside a swinging bar/restaurant door. Sure, the shape of the window is different, but still!
Also, this may just be a coincidence, but did anyone else notice that the guy in the wheelchair is basically wearing the same clothes as Nicktoon-turned-Disney-toon Doug Funnie? The difference there is basically just a red bow tie being added to the everyday ensemble of a green vest, a white shirt and brown pants.
How Rick And Morty Referenced Futurama
During Rick and Morty argument before any of the big shenanigans went down, Morty attempted to defend some of his invention suggestions that Rick shot down previously. One of those devices was one very much like the do-over remote that Morty ended up with, but Rick only created it after burning Morty by basically saying he ripped the idea off of Futurama. Their exchange:
Futurama famously ended with a series finale in which Fry had just such a device, though his version only allowed for a ten-second rewind as he fell from a tall building. Not exactly the same, plus Fry got a way more romantic ending than Morty did in his episode, but that's to be expected.
With hopefully more big animated series references and character returns to come, Rick and Morty has two episodes left in Season 4, so tune into Adult Swim on Sunday nights at 11:30 p.m. ET. While waiting, be sure to check out co-creator Justin Roiland's new Hulu show, Solar Opposites.
Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.
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