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The worst thing that's ever happened to Jerry on Rick and Morty

Ah, Jerry Smith. It's not easy being the son-in-law of the smartest man in the universe, especially when you're — how do we put this delicately — a complete loser. Sure, his wife Beth may be frustrated and possessed of towering daddy issues (and may also be, you know, a total sociopath). His daughter Summer's sense of being unwanted and unloved leads her to be self-obsessed in the extreme, and his son Morty… well, where do we even start?

All of the Smith family members on Rick and Morty have their issues to deal with as a result of the titanic ego and complicated life of Rick Sanchez, and over the series' run, they have all been put through the wringer in various ways. But none have had it quite so bad as Jerry, who — when he's not suffering outright, catastrophic physical harm — is routinely mocked, belittled, or even worse, simply ignored. He's probably had more devastatingly terrible things happen to him than any of the Smith clan — but what is the absolute worst circumstance Jerry has ever had to endure?

Well, it can be tough to pin down just one, but we're certainly game to give it a try. Let's start with an incident in which Jerry was probably the happiest he'd ever been, only to have it cruelly yanked out from under him (yes, this is our starting point). Way back in the fourth episode of season 1, "M. Night Shaym-Aliens!", Rick and Morty (along with Jerry, purely accidentally) are kidnapped by an alien race known as the Zigerions and placed in a convincing virtual reality. It's a ploy by the aliens to get Rick to disclose his formula for dark matter, and suffice to say, the scam does not go well for them.

Upon discovering that Jerry is inhabiting a portion of their simulation, the Zigerions lower that section's operating capacity to a lowly 5%, resulting in a number of glitches (including all of the simulation's inhabitants behaving like NPCs in the most lazily-programmed video game imaginable). Failing to notice anything wrong, Jerry — who is working on an ad campaign for apples at work — pitches to his superiors his grand concept: the slogan "Hungry for Apples?"

This is, of course, a lazy, awful rip-off of "Got Milk?" But in the diminished simulation, his bosses embrace the idea and promote Jerry, who goes home to have celebratory marital relations with (a fake, completely non-responsive) Beth. Jerry being Jerry, though, he becomes insecure over the fact that his idea is unoriginal, and returns to work to confess — but he's accidentally validated by his simulated bosses, and just as he's experiencing his greatest moment of personal triumph, the simulation collapses. Back in the real world, Jerry pitches the same campaign to his superiors with predictable results (laughter and mockery).

That's pretty awful, but consider Jerry and Beth's excursion to see the intergalactic marriage counselor Glexo Slimslom in Rick and Morty's season 2 episode "Big Trouble in Little Sanchez.". Glexo has technology capable of making each party's internal perception of the other manifest physically, and while Jerry's view of Beth isn't flattering (a malevolent, Xenomorph-like monster), Beth's concept of Jerry is somehow worse: a literally spineless, subservient slug. When the two manifestations escape, the Beth-creature begins wreaking bloody havoc — and sure enough, the Jerry-worm is right there cowering by her side, illustrating for the counselor the extreme co-dependent nature of their relationship.

Of course, this co-dependence only goes so far — because Beth has definitively demonstrated that when the chips are down, her father will always come before her husband. In the premiere episode of season 3, "The Rickshank Redemption," Rick — having previously abandoned the family on a tiny planet when Earth became unsafe due to its takeover by the Galactic Federation — turns the tables on the government, devaluing its currency and causing it to melt down. The family return to Earth, and when Rick attempts to insinuate himself back into the fold as if nothing had happened, Jerry finally puts his foot down, telling Beth to choose between him and Rick.

Brace yourself for a shock: Beth chooses Rick, and for the rest of the third season, Jerry lives alone in a dilapidated apartment, listening to the wind whisper "LOSER" and having his meager unemployment checks eaten by dogs. The third season is one long, protracted humiliation for Jerry — but it's nothing compared to the heavy-duty, concentrated dose of humiliation he'd already suffered, in the season 2 episode "Interdimensional Cable 2: Tempting Fate."

The episode opens in an alien hospital, with Jerry being rushed to the emergency room due to his consumption of alien bacteria which Rick had helpfully stashed in a pint of Cherry Garcia ice cream. He's in bad shape, but after he's cured, it somehow gets worse: he's informed that Shrimply Pibbles, the galaxy's greatest civil rights leader, will die if he doesn't receive Jerry's "human penis" as a heart transplant. Taking a stab at selflessness, Jerry agrees — but quickly gets cold feet, bringing Beth in on the decision with the assumption that she'll fight for him to remain intact.

She… does not. Instead, she forces Jerry to admit he doesn't want to lose his penis, which — since he has no backbone — Jerry is unwilling to do. Instead, he agrees to proceed, but manages to dig up information implying that Pibbles is addicted to heroin, using this revelation to attempt to sway the crowd at a news conference announcing his sacrifice.

This backfires spectacularly (the atmosphere of Pibbles' home planet is 10% heroin, you see), and the crowd quickly turns on Jerry. In light of his waffling, the money is quickly raised to purchase an artificial heart for Pibbles — but Jerry, forever concerned with others' opinion of him, can't let it be. He storms the operating room to demand that his penis be used to save Pibbles' life, whereupon he's shot 57 times by security guards. Since this takes place in an intergalactic hospital, doctors are able to save his life, but still… 57 times.

The events of that episode seem like the most egregious, extended insult to Jerry's very being there could be, but we submit that Jerry has had it even worse… or, rather, many Jerrys have. In the season 2 episode"Mortynight Run," Jerry stows away on Rick's spaceship as he and Morty are heading off on another adventure. (Despite the fact that he's sitting right behind them in plain sight, it takes them both some time to notice him.) Rick isn't keen to have Jerry aboard for their outing, but he and other Ricks from alternate dimension have long since created a solution to this very problem.

Rick and Morty drop Jerry off at "Jerryboree," a daycare that exists outside of time and space, and which is designed specifically for Jerrys. There, Jerry finds dozens of versions of himself, all waiting for their Ricks and Mortys to come back to pick them up — but in the episode's most existentially horrifying revelation, we discover that some of them will be waiting forever.

Jerry is shown a room containing several Jerrys whose Ricks and Mortys never returned, leaving them stranded there for all eternity. It's the ultimate dismissal: Jerry exists only for his family's approval, for the dim hope that one day, he might be respected and honored as the true head of the Smith household. His very self-image depends entirely on what his family reflects back at him, and these abandoned Jerrys are forever stuck with something even worse than a reflection telling him that he's a worthless loser: no reflection at all.

It seems doubtful that Jerry will ever catch a real break, that he'll ever be allowed self-actualization and to enjoy the knowledge that the people around him value him and care for him. He's Rick and Morty's most reliable punching bag, and in the end, perhaps this is truly the worst insult of all: that Jerry will always suffer, and that his suffering is designed purely for our amusement. Even worse yet? It's hilarious.