Rick And Morty Season 6's Premiere Hides A Season 4 Deep Cut

While a typical season of "Rick and Morty" introduces plenty of complex and mind-bending plot developments, the show also adheres relatively strictly to its established canon (with certain notable exceptions, like when some fans thought "Rick and Morty" Season 5 contradicted itself). For instance, the "Rick and Morty" Season 5 finale includes key backstory, revealing how Rick (voiced by Justin Roiland) losing his family permanently alters his psyche. Previously, this aspect of his character was only ever hinted at during the series' third season.

Not only does the overarching plot of "Rick and Morty" often build on moments from earlier episodes, but sometimes the show will return to largely insignificant story beats that were established seasons prior. One callback in "Rick and Morty" Season 5, for example, brings to fruition a development in Earth's future that was previously mentioned in an offhanded punchline during an episode from Season 2.

In a similar manner, "Rick and Morty" Season 6, Episode 1 hides an unlikely reference to a sort of meta-joke around which a short scene from a Season 4 episode revolves.

Downbeat returns for the first time since Season 4

In "Rick and Morty" Season 6, Episode 1, a portal gun mishap teleports Morty (Justin Roiland) back to his home universe, which he and Rick left when it was overrun by a virus that mutated its inhabitants. Shortly after returning, Morty runs into his father Jerry (Chris Parnell). The two of them then share mutant meat cooked on a campfire in the post-apocalyptic shell of their old home. While they're catching up, Morty suggests they play the board game Downbeat, which he mentions they never were able to finish.

Downbeat is effectively a meta-joke from Season 4, Episode 5. In that episode, Beth (Sarah Chalke) enters the Smith family dining room while Rick, Morty, and Summer (Spencer Grammer) are in the midst of playing a board game called Downbeat. As pointed out in a Reddit thread that was upvoted more than 20 thousand times, in screenwriting, a downbeat refers to characters' actions at the start of a scene. This scene's downbeat, then, is literally the Smith family playing Downbeat. It's impossible to win, as Morty mentions, because it merely serves as a throwaway plot device.

"For me, a really well-balanced season has a few, like, big dogs that knock you over with canon," producer Scott Marder said in an interview with GamesRadar. The Downbeat callback in Season 6, Episode 1 is not that, but is nevertheless an instance of "Rick and Morty" making the most of its continually expanding canon.