This episode introduces much but resolves little and is extremely character-driven. There are quite a few one-off jokes, but the episode’s overall emotional tone is much more serious and sobering. It’s almost too much to summarize succinctly. But to even get a handle on it, we should at least review the major plot points. Let’s start at the beginning.
The family meets Rick’s new pink alien intern, named Glootie, whose origin is unexplained and is persistently asking to develop an app with somebody. Rick warns everyone not to, points out a similar warning stamped on Glootie’s head, then promptly leaves the house to journey to a personal paradise to poop. Upon arrival, Rick realizes an unknown trespasser has pooped in his toilet. He hunts him down, only to discover he is a depressed alien cubicle worker, blue visually and also blue emotionally, named Tony, whose wife had died of cancer and now leads an empty life. Rick decides to spare his pitiful life but warns him to steer clear.
However, Tony does not steer clear in the slightest, returning for a second poop and an offer of friendship, which angers Rick to the point that he incapacitates him and stores him in a vat of chemicals that cause him to hallucinate his ideal kind of life (much like the Matrix). Rick then releases him and tells him next time he really would die, even as Tony retorts that Rick’s mercy is proof of his desire for friendship. Later, seemingly abruptly, Rick tracks Tony down to give him a small gift but is informed Tony himself has died of cancer, but only after his near-death experience with Rick jolted him into living life to the fullest. Rick finds his funeral, gives his family some wild gifts, but eventually flies off the handle when one of the attendees implies Tony was Rick’s friend.
Rick returns to the paradise to poop and drink, and we see for the first time a holographic installation Rick has implemented. This reveals that Rick was planning to give Tony the toilet permanently as a gift, but with these installations as a gag that taunt and tease him for how lonely he is. But with Tony gone and the toilet still in Rick’s possession, they now have nobody to tease but Rick.
Meanwhile, Jerry makes the mistake of developing the app with Glootie, which ends up being a hyper-addictive dating app. It quickly consumes the world, exposing all of humanity’s insecurity and lack of impulse control. Morty and Jerry force Glootie to take them to his leader on a spaceship, where they implore the alien leader to take down the app. The leader refuses, and Jerry and Morty are imprisoned but promptly broken out by Glootie, who in the end renders the app useless with a flood of in-app advertisements. Morty and Jerry return home.
Also meanwhile—back on Earth—Summer becomes entranced by this app, falling into intense, shallow love with people the very minute she matches with them, while Beth tries to keep her from making the romantic mistakes she is clearly in danger of making. This eventually ends in a fist-fight between the two, which Beth wins. It’s then that the app is rendered useless, and the two return home, where Jerry asks Beth if she matched with anybody on the app. She says no and reaffirms her love for Jerry, even though she did match with Ted Danson. The triple-thread storytelling makes for a slightly more disorienting Rick and Morty episode; however, it delivers a staggering amount of characterization. It’s hard to believe how much was fit into 22 minutes of cartoon television. Let’s see what we can unravel.
The defining emotion of the episode must be Rick’s gnawing loneliness. It definitely seems like Rick got himself that problematic intern, Glootie, in the first place because he was so depressed and lonely. Isolation is also established early in the episode by Rick’s initial search for the trespasser, which he does mostly silently and only interacting with others as necessary. Additionally, we also see insecurity develop inside of him as he tries to deny his loneliness. This takes multiple forms.
He tries to make peace with isolation, which was likely what motivated him to make his private pooping paradise to begin with. He also tries to deny his isolation and put down others, namely Tony. This is shown when we see the people who wanted to be a part of Rick’s life kept in hallucination bags, as Rick simultaneously tells Tony he has a million other better friends to hang out with than him. Rick’s insecurity about his loneliness prevents him from bonding with Tony, who genuinely does want to spend time with him, even if Tony is a boring person. Then, finally, Rick’s loneliness is symbolized by Rick’s own holographs taunting himself. The holographs are especially poignant because they illustrate both Rick’s loneliness and his insecurity about his loneliness since they were initially meant to taunt Tony but ended up taunting Rick for his own misery.
In addition to Rick himself, loneliness is brilliantly explored by the plot device of the dating app, which the episode uses to pivot the same critique of solitude in a new direction. The Summer and Beth storyline demonstrated that we can be lonely while in the midst of intimate company, even if we are blind to our social loneliness while we’re in it. Summer was becoming more and more alienated by the frenzy of dating app love, symbolized by her bloodshot eyes. Beth was the only person we saw on Earth to accurately see just how empty the alien dating app’s love really was. The dating app’s fate is actually foreshadowed early on during Morty’s first intervention, right as Jerry and Glootie are launching the app. In the bedroom they’re speaking in, there’s a large poster of the “Titanic” in broad view. This seems to be a rather straightforward nod to how the app will gather us all together into a tight-knit community, only to eventually turn self-destructive, plunging all of us together into the icy waters. After all, the Titanic and the dating app both were meant to do one thing well, and both failed to do one thing well: break the ice.
The only characters in this episode that seem psychologically healthy enough to strike the right balance between isolation and sociality are the aliens. They did explicitly claim to have mastered functioning, committed relationships, and if you pay attention, that does seem to be the case. The pink aliens are easy-going and always on good terms with one another. Glootie, the first pink alien we meet, was always reasonable and decent while in the house. He even showed real loyalty by breaking Morty and Jerry out of their cell. The other two interns we saw on the ship—the teleporter and the gun messenger—also communicated politely and looked like team players.
Further, the dating app didn’t work on either Jerry or Glootie. The running joke is that Jerry is ugly, but we might infer it didn’t work on Glootie simply because Glootie and his species just aren’t interested in that kind of shallow relationship. There’s presumably almost no threat of mutiny on the mothership since there’s only one gun (“Where’s the gun?” “It’s on its way”). And of course, the two larger aliens more directly demonstrated the claim they made at the beginning, swooning over each other and planning their date night in public.
That is probably why Rick kidnapped Glootie in the first place: to learn how to have functioning, committed relationships. Perhaps once he captured Glootie, he got cold feet and became too scared to follow through with it, and that’s why he stamped the message on Glootie’s forehead and didn’t explain to his family what such an app would entail. Or perhaps Rick captured Glootie because he was lonely, but discovered the alien app would be dangerous and not at all what he really wanted. But he couldn’t bring himself to get rid of the well-mannered Glootie because he was still so lonely, so he just kept Glootie and stamped a warning on his forehead to wrap up the loose end.
It’s not as though Rick doesn’t have people wanting to spend time with him. Summer may want Rick’s attention more than anyone else’s, but Rick continually denies it to her because of his insecurity, and that is why Summer turns to the dating app. We’ve seen Summer complain about being sidelined from Morty’s adventures with Rick before in S3E1. Another supporting detail of Summer’s desire for Rick’s attention is her effusive commentary about exactly where Rick is going in the opening minute of the episode. Tony, the alien who pooped Rick’s toilet, had a similar arc that came so tantalizingly close to resolution. He had lost his wife to cancer, had continued to work his tedious cubicle job, and now would have found in Rick a new, fulfilling friendship. Both of them found in the other what they both had been missing all along. He even risked his life to see Rick again when he returned to the toilet after Rick threatened his life if he ever came back. But Rick is too vengeful, insecure, and self-absorbed to let it develop that way. He’s looking for something that he can’t yet recognize in the people his search brings him.
Jerry is also clearly alone. He couldn’t find anyone on the dating app. And he probably only helped Glootie develop the app in the first place because he was lonely and looking for something to do. This episode almost makes it seem like Jerry wants to have Rick’s life: take Morty on adventures and invent cool new things. It’s almost as if Rick—stuck in his rut—finally learned from experience that ridiculous adventures and distracting new gadgets aren’t truly fulfilling him. This episode Rick didn’t invent anything and just wanted to be left in peace and quiet. Jerry, on the other hand, might still be acting out, almost like a young-man Rick (though much dumber), trying to fill the loneliness inside of him with dazzling adventures and inventions. But neither were the things that actually saved him. His adventure he just barely survived and his invention backfired spectacularly. Jerry’s loneliness is finally satiated, but not by those.
In addition to saving Summer from her loneliness, Beth also saves Jerry, demonstrated when she chooses him in the end, despite matching with Ted Danson. Beth is the only sane person in the whole episode and ends up saving both Summer and Jerry from their respective demons. Rick’s loneliness, on the other hand, only continues to spiral. Tony couldn’t save him. Beth wasn’t about to save him too, or at least not yet, which is why in the end Rick was left with only himself, the demons in his mind, and just a single pot to piss in. Rick’s loneliness brought Glootie into their lives. Jerry’s loneliness is what enabled Glootie to make his app. Summer’s loneliness represents everyone who has ever been the victim of someone else’s insecure loneliness: she turned to something she thought would fill the void but got stung herself because of it. And Tony’s loneliness represents how this situation inevitably plays out: the few you love die, the many you try to love reject you, and you eventually die the same way you lived: alone.