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Why 'The Wedding Squanchers' is the most important episode of Rick and Morty so far

Rick and Morty is one convoluted sci-fi odyssey. The show's overarching story plays out across infinite universes containing infinite versions of Morty Smith and Rick Sanchez. Considering all the open possibilities, piecing together the "big picture" crafted by co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland requires multiple rewatches and incredible attention to detail. The mythology of Rick and Morty has inspired countless fan theories, many of the darker variety and most of them addressing the shady history of Rick (voiced by Roiland) and what that history suggests we might be in for over the forthcoming 65 episodes.

Amid all the high-concept hijinks, you'd be forgiven for missing a few important pieces of information threaded throughout the episodic content. One episode that was packed to the gills with critical intel to help us untangle Rick's backstory was the season 2 finale, "The Wedding Squanchers." In terms of Rick and Morty mythology, "The Wedding Squanchers" had a little bit of everything. Rick's tortured family backstory? Yup. His antagonistic relationship with the intergalactic government? Check. Subtle clues about Evil Morty's actual identity? Maybe you missed it, but it was there.

It seems season 2, episode 10 was the moment Harmon finally tipped his hand, and let the audience in on the first few hints of his long game. In terms of sheer plot density, we haven't seen anything like it before or since. So what went down on "The Wedding Squanchers," and why is it so important?

Rick's past crashes an old war buddy's wedding

At the time of its airing, the Rick and Morty season 2 finale drew near-universal critical acclaim. Zach Handlen at The A.V. Club said that "The Wedding Squanchers" was "a brilliant conclusion — one that both presents plenty of story possibilities for the seasons ahead, while still serving as a fitting conclusion to the show's excellent sophomore year."

The episode begins with the Smith family receiving an invitation to attend Birdperson's (Harmon) wedding to Tammy Guetermann (Cassie Steele), a high school friend of Summer's (Spencer Grammer). Rick is vehemently opposed to going due to his visceral hatred of any open display of genuine emotion (more on that below), but the family is ultimately roped into attending after Jerry (Chris Parnell) gets accidentally shipped out to the planet Squanch with the RSVP. Not the worst thing that's ever happened to Jerry, but it's up there.

Aside from Rick's decidedly unromantic, cynical attitude toward the proceedings, the party's going just fine; that is, until the Galactic Federation comes crashing into the reception SWAT-team-style to assassinate Birdperson and Rick. As it turns out, Tammy was actually a deep cover agent acting on behalf of the Federation to infiltrate Birdperson's inner circle and take out his band of rebels. Why play this con out for over a year, you might ask? It would seem that Tammy's intentions were to manufacture an event — like a wedding — where most of Birdperson's inner circle would be congregated in one place. This would present an opportunity for the Federation to wipe out the entire cadre in one fell swoop, while taking out Public Enemy Number One: Rick Sanchez.

Tammy kills Birdperson, as well as a number of other guests, but Rick and his family still manage to escape. With Earth now locked down under the Federation's martial order, the Smith family goes in search of another planet to inhabit. By the end of their search, Rick decides to turn himself in so that his family can return home in peace. An uncommon act of altruism from the smartest man in the universe? Not quite, but that reveal won't come until the season 3 premiere, "The Rickshank Rickdemption." That aside, what does it all mean?

Birdperson got catfished

Tammy Guetermann's exposure as a Federation agent represents a big reveal — one that's been cooking for an entire season. Tammy's friendship with Summer goes way back. We get our first glimpse of the two together on the season 1 episode "Meseeks and Destroy" where she appears in the "benefits of friendship" assembly, gathering around Summer. She shows up again on "Rick Potion No. 9" where she becomes infected by Morty's love flu and turns into one of the Cronenberg monsters. Then, during the intergalactic bash at the Smith house in the season 1 finale "Ricksy Business," she meets and seduces Birdperson. So begins the long con.

We don't see Tammy again until the season 2 episode "Get Schwifty" where she appears briefly in the background of a video chat with Birdperson. This brief but critical scene reminds viewers that Tammy and Birdperson are still together despite Birdperson's prior insistence that he wasn't looking for a "soul-bond." Neither was Tammy, as it turns out. She just needed an easy mark to infiltrate the Sanchez cell and set up the ambush on "The Wedding Squanchers."

The old switcheroo

So, was there ever a "real" Tammy? It seems likely that the Tammy featured on "Meseeks and Destroy" and "Rick Potion No. 9" was an actual Earthling high school girl and friend of Summer's. Remember, after Cronenberging the whole planet, Rick and Morty abandoned their original universe and moved a few clicks over to a similar reality where their counterparts had died in an explosion; they buried the bodies and inserted themselves back into the family. It's the Tammy from this universe that seduces Birdperson and ultimately sets up the hit. All the evidence suggests that the Galactic Federation inserted their false Tammy into the picture as an undercover agent after Rick and Morty moved universes. 

Rick is obviously a high-priority target for the Federation for them to set up such a long and dangerous op. Is it possible that Rick's ability to evade the Federation's tracking was compromised when he and Morty "moved" to a new reality after Cronenberging their original? Could this be why Rick insists they can only switch universes "one or two more times"? Does destroying one universe and moving to the next expose him in some important way? Sure seems like it, and the events of the season 2 finale show the dangers inherent to swapping realities like pairs of socks.

An act of self-sack-rick-fice

Speaking of jumping universes to cut down on stress, why doesn't Rick simply switch universes again at the end of the episode, once the Galactic Federation puts his Earth on lockdown? There are some important hints lurking in Rick's faux self-sacrifice, as well. Rick C-137 must have an original universe — a Universe Prime, if you will. In Universe Prime, he may have loved his family very much — but for some unknown reason (likely related to his war with the government), he had to leave. To avoid conflict with native Ricks, he intentionally moves to universes where the native Rick abandoned his family. It must take a toll — swapping families every few years, constantly returning to resolve a 20-year abandonment that was never his own doing. While Rick sometimes treats his family as disposable, there's plenty of evidence that he's grown attached to the current version with whom he cohabitates — certainly to the current Morty. 

It's true that the season 3 premiere reveals that Rick's sacrifice was just the first step in an elaborate plot to overthrow the Galactic Federation, debase their fiat currency, and destroy the Citadel of Ricks, but Rick contains multitudes. He seems legitimately wounded when he realizes his behavior has forced his family into a life of hiding. This may sound naive, but maybe Rick's fed up with this cycle of blowing into town and ruining his family's lives? Maybe he's grown attached to this latest iteration of the Smith's, and doesn't want to see their reality spoiled? Maybe Rick decided it was finally time to stay put? "The Wedding Squanchers" adds new layers of emotional depth to Rick's character, and that fact more than anything else makes it the most important episode of Rick and Morty so far.