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The South Park Reference You Missed In Rick And Morty's Vat Of Acid Episode

Contains spoilers for Rick and Morty season 4, episode 8

Rick and Morty never misses an opportunity for good meta-reference or an allusion to popular culture, and the most recent episode of the multiverse-spanning sci-fi comedy landed a great one.

The latest don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it Easter egg on co-creator Dan Harmon's crass comedy series was a clever visual nod to another irreverent animation. The recent "Vat of Acid" episode features Rick and Morty (both voiced by series co-creator Justin Roiland) on an adventure to trade crystals with some alien mobsters in — where else? — an intergalactic acid factory. The nefarious aliens attempt to double-cross our heroic intergenerational heroes — an eventuality for which Rick, obviously, planned. To escape the situation, he pulls his grandson into a fake vat of acid that he set up to preempt the double-cross. 

This elaborate ruse ultimately thwarts the mobsters, but it causes an old argument between Rick and Morty to resurface. Morty complains that Rick never takes any of his ideas seriously, even though he seems perfectly willing to execute a patently absurd plan like setting up a phony vat of acid to escape intergalactic mobsters. Rick eventually caves and offers to try one of Morty's numbskull ideas: To create a "save your game" feature IRL, which allows any user to restart from their previous save. It doesn't turn out great.

Morty Smith goes hog-wild with the save device — leading to dark consequences

At this point in the series, Morty really should be more careful what he wishes for.

After Rick creates the requested toy for his grandson, the episode launches into a devastating montage of Morty wielding his new save device with reckless abandon. He restarts everything, from legitimately life-altering events to nagging minutiae like his choice of entree at Buca di Beppo. During one of these montage scenes, Morty finds himself on a plane that crashes in the mountains — where, like the soccer team from Alive, he and a small group of survivors are forced to cannibalize the less fortunate passengers for sustenance.

As Harmon was likely thinking at the time, "What kind of cannibal sequence wouldn't benefit from a fun allusion?" At one point, the survivors are seen sitting around a campfire, tearfully contemplating their plight. While we assume you might not have been focused on their clothes at the time, if you're a fan of the foul-mouthed fourth graders from South Park Elementary, then their outfits probably looked familiar.

The group of kiddos on Rick and Morty's "Vat of Acid" episode are dressed like the South Park crew

A closer look at the screenshot featured above shows four survivors dressed like the iconic South Park gang. Morty is Kenny in this instance, marked by his constricting orange parka, while the rest of the crew is represented by the other survivors. The brief shot could just be a fun little Easter egg for fans of both series, but given Rick and Morty's multiverse-spanning scope, it could also suggest much more. Bear with us, here.

Maybe the South Park universe exists in parallel to all the different realities featured on Rick and Morty. That would go a long way to explaining how Kenny has managed to pass through so many cycles of death and rebirth since the long-running comedy series' 1997 premiere. It actually makes a lot of sense: Every time one Kenny dies, the South Park crew simply portals in a replacement from another dimension. Case closed.