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Rick just wants some peace of mind on a toilet-centric Rick And Morty

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I’m not a huge fan of poop jokes. I don’t know why—it’s one of those things the vast majority of people seem to have fun with, unless they’re prudes or obsessed with cleanliness, and I don’t think I’m either of those. (Possibly a prude?) Anyway, this isn’t a digression paragraph: I just mention this because I’m trying to figure out why “The Old Man And The Seat” didn’t quite work for me. It’s got a lot going for it: a pair of solid premises, great guest voices, an intern named Gluty, and the universe’s most perfect toilet. But while the end result is pretty funny and thematically coherent, it feels just slightly under-done. It’s possible I think that because I don’t love poop jokes. If you loved this, and you need something to blame for me not loving it, we can start there. (And then obviously escalate to my many other failings.)

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“Secret pooping” I get, though. It’s not something I’ve ever really done myself, but the idea of wanting at least one part of your life—the part where you feel vulnerable and solitary and kind of gross—to be pristine and protected isn’t that unusual. “Seat” spins it out into some theme work on Rick’s simultaneous need to be alone and desire for connection, and I think all of that more or less lands, but it also works as just a desire to have something that’s entirely your own. Rick takes this to extremes, but of course that’s been an inherent part of the character since the start of the series—the way his scientific genius can turn any straightforward human trait into something exponentially more ambitious and grotesque. Here, he has a place where he likes to poop that just happens to be an entire planet. It’s extreme, but it’s not that hard to relate; and it’s a very nice place to poop. Unfortunately, he finds evidence that someone else has pooped there. Which, obviously, isn’t going to fly.

While Rick is tracking down the phantom pooper, Morty gets sucked into an adventure driven by Jerry’s stupidity. Of the episode’s two plots (Summer and Beth are also involved, but it’s as a direct result of Jerry’s aforementioned stupidity), this is the one that feels the less developed. There are a lot of pretty good ideas here: Rick has an intern named Gluty who’s always asking people to develop his app. Jerry being an idiot decided to develop Gluty’s app: a matchmaking program that Jerry dubs Lovefinderrz that repeatedly shows people perfect love matchs. Having learned from past experience, Morty threatens Gluty until the alien takes him and his father up to his space-ship where they learn the horrible truth.

Gluty is funny; the fact that he has a do-not-develop-my-app tattoo on his forehead is funny; and there’s some good squabbling between Jerry (who is dumb) and Morty (who is not quite as dumb as Jerry, and also has the excuse of being a child). But while the cleverness of an app that exploits the human desire for companionship alongside our inability to be satisfied with anything that requires us to do actual work fits in fairly well with the overall “boy, social interactions are tricky” theme, as an actual story, it never quite clicks into place. Not even Sam Neil as the leader of the aliens makes up for what is a fairly one-note gag. A sequence two-thirds of the way through the episode that has multiple people rapidly losing and finding love feels a little too silly; the rapid-fire delivery is fun, but once you get the bit about people just dropping a potential romantic partner the second they’re even mildly irritating (because the app offers you someone new)—it’s not all that insightful or interesting.

Which would be fine, because all it really has to be is funny, but it’s not that funny either; the show’s escalation of premises work better when they, well, escalate, and this one doesn’t really. And the aliens’ plan to steal Earth’s water is kind of a shrug, right down to the joke where the Sam Neill alien (who previously bragged about his race has mastered love) starts fighting with his wife the second things go wrong. There’s a bit where Jerry convinces Gluty to help him and Morty, and Gluty does this funny little dance like it’s his signature move before he leaves; Jerry and Morty both comment on the strangeness of it, and it’s sort of emblamatic of the whole episode’s Rick And Morty Mad Libs vibe. Absurdity followed by meta-self-awareness about that absurdity. It’s not a bad bit, but it’s such a standard gag for the show that there’s no novelty to it anymore.

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Rick’s story fares better. It was an iteration on “Rick is lonely but keeps people at arm’s length,” which is a good story set-up: it allows for the tension of wondering if and when Rick is just going to snap and kill the guy, a lot of good jokes about the different ways he tries to get revenge without resorting to actual murder, and then a bit of melancholy when he ends up alone again after all. The show’s ability to balance caustic, cynical humor against a surprising degree of sentiment has been one of its great strengths for most of the run, and while this iteration of the idea doesn’t reach earlier heights, it’s still pretty good. I mean, after all, it is Rick going apeshit because someone used his secret toilet. As absurdist ways to kick a plot into gear, there are worse ones to pick.

I missed the credits (although I stuck around for the teaser, so I guess I was just… not looking when I should’ve been), but I’m pretty sure Jeffrey Wright did the voice of Tony, the pooper who Rick can’t quite bring himself to kill. Wright (if it is Wright) has just the right amount of hangdog dignity to serve as a good foil for Rick, and it’s kind of disappointing when the episode decides to kill him off screen. It makes sense: the escalation can’t go on forever, and Rick And Morty doesn’t really do recurring characters. But in an episode that generally suffers from sticking to the surface too much, it would’ve been nice if things had gone in a way that didn’t quite so neatly cauterize the narrative.

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The timeline seems a bit wonky, too, given that Tony apparently quits his job, goes to live life to the fullest, and then immediately dies skiing on Space Mount Everest (or Mount Space Everest), but this has always been a show where everything happens very quickly. And the image of Rick intentionally setting off the revenge he’d meant for Tony (a surprisingly non-violent mocking hologram show and crowning) is a fine way to end things, both rubbing in Rick’s basic fucked-up nature and reminding us that he still wasn’t going to actually murder they guy.

I dunno. I always hate writing reviews like this, because it’s possible I missed something, and it could be it just clicks with other people more strongly than it clicked with me. Again: not huge on poop jokes. (Although come to think of it, there aren’t that many poop jokes in this episode, at least not when you consider how much of it focuses on people on the toilet.) This is pretty good, and I laughed a few times. Honestly, that’s fine.

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Stray observations

  • I almost wish Rick’s efforts to track down the phantom pooper had taken a little longer. The fly mobster who runs a frog restaurant, the robot revolution (Rick tricks his way past the machines by wearing a funnel with a QR code glued on), all good stuff.
  • When Jerry uses the app, he doesn’t get a match; when Beth uses it, her first match is Ted Danson. But they stay together, because we all saw what happened last season when they didn’t.
  • Jerry’s vision of heaven has him delivering water to people, and everyone praising him for accomplishing simple, useful tasks. I dunno, he’s an idiot but I can think of worse lives.
  • Taika Waititi was great as Gluty. Kathleen Turner should’ve had a little more to do.
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