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Things you never noticed in Rick and Morty's first episode

Though the Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty has only so far fielded four seasons, nearly seven years have passed since it premiered in December 2013. The exploits of the alcoholic, dimension-hopping mad scientist Rick Sanchez and his extremely put-upon grandson Morty Smith haven't always been served up in the most timely fashion, as the series' co-creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland famously worked at a snail's pace over Rick and Morty's first three seasons. While the fandom was never terribly psyched about waiting upwards of a year and a half for each new batch of episodes, it was understood that quality takes time, and that Adult Swim wasn't exactly falling all over itself to make sure Harmon and Roiland had job security in the show's early years. Since scoring a massive 70-episode renewal in 2018, Rick and Morty has rolled out a mostly excellent fourth season, and Roiland has promised that subsequent outings won't take nearly as long to debut.

Even for die-hard fans, though, it can be easy to forget just what a revelation Rick and Morty was from its very first episode. While the premiere episode's plot was dead simple by comparison to later ones — Rick pulls Morty out of school to help secure some contraband seeds for his science experiments from another dimension, coming into conflict with his daughter Beth (Sarah Chalke) and her husband Jerry (Chris Parnell) in the process — it also introduced us, breezily and efficiently, to a number of the series' key concepts. Let's take a look back at some of the details and "blink-and-you'll-miss-it" gags from Rick and Morty's first episode.

Small details about Rick's space cruiser

The episode's cold open sees an obscenely drunken Rick dragging Morty out of bed in the middle of the night to help him destroy the world — a task he never quite gets around to. It also introduces us to one of Rick's most iconic inventions, which will go on to appear on nearly every episode of Rick and Morty thereafter: Rick's flying car, which he tells Morty he built from scraps that were lying around his lab. Right off the bat, this tells us quite a bit about just how smart Rick is, but this scene also clues us in to another aspect of the character: his extreme nihilism.

Despite the fact that he's plastered and piloting a flying car with a complete lack of focus on that task, Rick isn't wearing a seat belt. Morty, by contrast, is buckled up. This trend will continue well into the series' run — suggesting (correctly) that Rick isn't terribly invested in whether he lives or dies. In fact, there are very few times Rick has been seen to wear his seat belt — and in all of those instances, such as after a productive family therapy session on the season 3 episode "Pickle Rick," he's in a better-than-usual mental state.

Sharp-eyed viewers may have also picked out a couple of details when we first see the exterior of Rick's car. Two bumper stickers can be seen; they read "Glorto '86" and "I [weird symbol] Schleemies." These are pretty clear indicators that Rick spends a good amount of time visiting other planets and dimensions, many of which fans become intimately familiar with as Rick and Morty goes on. In its first appearance, Rick's flying car also sports one odd detail fans would never see again: a kind of sail, which may or may not be made from an American flag, mounted on the rear.

As it turns out, Rick is right about school

At the breakfast table the following morning, it comes to light (thanks to Morty's sister Summer, voiced by Spencer Grammer) that the reason Morty is so exhausted is because Rick has had him out all night yet again. We get the idea that this is an ongoing issue, and Jerry is none too happy about Morty's studies suffering due to his commitments to Rick's "high-concept sci-fi rigamarole." Rick tells an upset Jerry and Beth that he thinks school is useless: "It's a waste of time! Bunch of people running around, bumping into each other. Guy up front says 'two plus two,' and the people in the back say 'four.'" 

This certainly seems to be a simplistic argument — but in the very next scene, we see Morty in class daydreaming about his crush Jessica (Kari Wahlgren), and his teacher Mr. Goldenfold's (Brandon Johnson) lesson plan bears out Rick's criticism completely. He begins drilling his class — his high school math class, mind you — with simple arithmetic questions, beginning with "two plus two." As if to underscore the validity of Rick's assessment, we can also see a sign posted on the wall in the back of the class that reads, "Math! 2+2=4."

Not the most competent horse doctors

Rick and Morty has gotten a fair amount of comic mileage out of Beth's extreme pride in — and Jerry's consistent dismissal of — her profession: She's a horse surgeon, which we're sure takes a great deal of dedication and passion. Viewers are often invited to hate on Jerry and side with Beth over his constant belittling of her job, but a pair of establishing shots in the pilot episode of Rick and Morty suggest that, at the very least, Beth should probably find a new employer. 

In the first shot, we see a trio of hapless doctors attempting to wrangle an obviously uncooperative horse into the facility, which is called St. Equis Hospital — a name that's an absolute masterstroke on the part of Rick and Morty's writers. In Latin, the word for "horse" is "equus" — note the two Us. "Equis," on the other hand, has taken on a number of connotations in various Latin-derived languages over the years. Most significantly, in Mexican Spanish, it's dismissive — as in "disappointingly ordinary or unimpressive," which seems to confirm Jerry's opinion of Beth's chosen vocation. 

It also doubles as a snide comment about this particular facility — which doesn't appear to be a highly competent one, as suggested by a second establishing shot later in the episode. In it, we see some of the same doctors from the previous shot mopping up a pool of blood in the parking lot, implying that they weren't successful in getting that poor horse to cooperate.

Just a few things off about this landscape

The mission Rick has in mind on the first episode of Rick and Morty involves visiting a different version of Earth, which resides in Dimension C-35 and has the perfect climate for growing Mega Trees. What are Mega Trees? Well, they're huge trees that produce Mega Seeds, which are very important to Rick's research ... that's never properly explained and may not actually exist.

When Rick and Morty first arrive in Dimension C-35, we get a very good (if very brief) look at the surface of its Earth. Among its more alarming aspects: Many of the rocks have eyes, not to mention some kind of ... vascular structures that get more and more disturbing the longer you look at them. It appears that Saturn can be seen clearly from Earth C-35, meaning that it must be much closer than in most dimensions. There's another enormous green planet that dominates the sky; it may have something to do with with this Earth's favorable climate conditions for producing Mega Trees. Also, there are droopy, bulbous plants that excrete a clear, gooey liquid. There are one-eyed creatures with tentacles and bat-like wings. And, well, there are winged, flying butts. (We won't even get into what the Mega Trees resemble, but you can probably venture a guess.)

Lots to see at the Interdimensional Portal-Port

In the episode's third act, Rick and Morty are forced to transport the Mega Seeds through interdimensional customs — hidden "way up in" one of Morty's bodily orifices — when the charge runs out on Rick's interdimensional portal gun. This, of course, devolves into an insane bloodbath. But before it does, we get a wide shot of the Interdimensional Portal-Port, which is absolutely loaded with Easter eggs. 

First, there's the fact that the structures outside the window can really only be described as "Seussian." Then, there are all the little silhouettes of the various interdimensional travelers — some of which are just weird (there's a giraffe, an elephant, and a spider-like blob) and many of which are highly specific pop culture references.

We can spot a Xenomorph from the Alien franchise, the guys from Mystery Science Theater 3000, and a couple of distinctive shapes that look like Big Bird from Sesame Street and McDonald's mascot Grimace. There are also a few Space Invaders from the classic arcade game — and because they knew you'd be busy trying to process all of the visual information thrown at you in this shot, the writers also included an audio gag: a reference to the classic comedy film Airplane! As the camera pans over this incredibly busy frame, a voice over the PA intones, "The Glark Zone is for flarping and un-flarping only" — an overt shout-out to the dueling PA announcers in the movie.

It's no wonder that Rick and Morty has managed to retain its enormous fan base while fielding relatively few episodes over all of those years: Virtually every episode seems to be crafted for maximum re-watchability, and the first one was no different.