Morty Smith’s life changed the moment Rick returned to his family. After years spent traveling the multiverse, the naive child we met in the pilot is now a skilled killer who can outsmart almost anyone, anywhere in the galaxy. But the third episode of Rick and Morty season five showed that Morty is not the grandchild following in his grandfather’s footsteps. His sister Summer has become a nihilist embracing a purely hedonistic lifestyle. All while Rick fights against his own inclination to be more like Morty.
“A Rickconvenient Mort” began with Morty meeting a girl/superhero and abandoning Rick’s planet-ending sex crawl. A far cry from season three when the two headed to Atlantis for a similar weekend of stimulation. With Morty passing on something “so Rickdiculous,” Summer got the invite. As well as an upgrade in her grandfather’s rankings. “I’m gonna drug it up and suck it up before each one goes ‘kablamo,'” said Rick. “And I’m taking my favorite grandkid along with me.”
Rick even gave Summer the vulgar matching T-shirt that Morty threw in their grandpa’s face when Planetina showed up. (A rare case of a metaphor being, quite literally, on the nose.)
Summer and Rick’s mantra for the trip was simple: “f*** love.” To ensure they lived up to that creed, Rick set some ground rules. No whining, no crying, and “absolutely, positively” no getting attached. Summer happily agreed with all of them. She was there for the same thing as her grandfather: to “smash max ass” with a goal of “quantity over quality.” This sentiment perfectly aligned with Rick’s general ethos in life. He does what feels good (like sleeping with an actual planet or everyone on it), consequences be damned. Even if that includes boasting with his teenage granddaughter about how many alien butts they each planned on meeting.
Summer’s transformation from normal high school student to cosmic party girl began when she started going on adventures with Rick. From having orgies with dragons, to starting a life with a post-apocalyptic warrior, she also does what she wants when she wants.
But this orgy-filled trip took her depraved proclivities to a whole new level. It’s hard to be more hedonistic than wearing a figure skate on your head while smoking a joint through your nose. All while visiting your second straight alien planet for an end-of-the-world romp. When you’re acting more wild than Rick Sanchez himself, you haven’t just thrown caution to the wind; you had a threesome with caution and the wind.
Rick couldn’t even live up to those rules. He fell for Daphne the Morglutzian. When Summer told her grandpa to abandon his new relationship and have some fun, Rick responded, “Love’s pretty fun, Summer. Give it a chance.” That led to Summer really becoming her grandpa. She used his ship to blow up the comet about to destroy the planet. Once everyone was saved (against their will), Daphne left Rick, just as Summer predicted.
Rick was furious, but he recognized what Summer had done and why. “I have to admit, it was pretty Rick of you to avert an apocalypse in a tantrum of cynicism just to destroy one dumb relationship.” That’s exactly the type of thing Rick does. He’s destroyed multiple planets and killed untold sums of people to prove less important points in the past. Like why heist movies are dumb and hiding in a fake vat of acid is smart. And the more sincere someone else’s belief, the more he’s willing to show them why caring about anything is dumb.
Morty doesn’t think that way. While Summer was having the “best week” of her life in a haze of anonymous sex and drugs, Morty was experiencing a connection with another person unlike any he had ever felt. Planetina made him feel like he belonged for the first time in his life. Morty loved her and she him. Unfortunately, the relationship ended in disappointment. Morty couldn’t accept Planetina’s Machiavellian approach to saving Earth. Morty may have murdered people to be with her, but he still has his own moral compass. He believes in right and wrong and cares about others. And it would be wrong to support her, even though leaving her hurt him so much. A very un-Rick-like thing to do.
The episode’s two seemingly unrelated storylines came together to show why Rick is more like Morty than he’d like to admit. Morty is not a cynic. He believes in people and the idea of love. Rick doesn’t want to, because love results in pain. Like when Daphne left him in this episode; or when the hivemind Unity broke up with him before, which resulting in Rick almost ending his life. And possibly like what happened with his wife Diane.
Rick chose a hedonistic lifestyle specifically so he wouldn’t feel that pain. But we’ve seen again and again he’s lying to himself when he says he doesn’t want that. Time and again, he keeps looking for the type of emotional connection Morty had with Planetina.
Summer is following the same path her grandfather did when he abandoned his family. But Rick is proof that path doesn’t lead to happiness. It leads to an empty existence. Morty’s desire to fill his life with love might lead to pain, but pain is not empty. Nor is it without meaning. Summer and Rick should strive to be more like Morty.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike, and also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.