Leave it to Rick and Morty to somehow tell a really touching story about how a super genius deals with being a shy pooper, wielding potty humor like a poop knife to examine how Rick being a shy pooper is a reflection of his fragile emotional state. “The Old Man and the Seat” winds up sitting alongside the likes of “Auto Erotic Assimilation” and “Pickle Rick” in how it gives us an insightful look at Rick’s deep inner life.
Full spoilers follow for Rick and Morty Season 4, Episode 2 “The Old Man and the Seat.”
Perhaps also recognized as the Glootie episode, “The Old Man and the Seat” has elements that remind us of “Something Ricked This Way Comes” in that the A-plot winds up being — as Jerry puts it — The Adventures of Jerry and Morty.
Out of nowhere, Rick has a short, chubby pink alien intern named Glootie (Taika Waititi) who has “DO NOT DEVELOP MY APP” tattooed on his forehead. Because he’s an idiot, Jerry ignores this clear warning and quickly launches an app he calls Lovefinderrzz (Rick is just “disrupt-aphobic,” he argues), but it’s a gambit by this advanced alien species called the Monogotrons to distract entire planets with the promise of soul mates, all so they can steal water. Jerry and Morty bully and bumble their way to the mother ship where they’re quickly outmatched by an evil alien leader with strong Emperor Palpatine vibes.
Meanwhile, Lovefinderrzz causes a huge portion of humanity to neglect common sense, personal safety, and even their own babies as the app churns out new soulmates for them on a daily basis. The Beth-Summer brawl at an airport featured in the Season 4 trailer happens during this episode when Summer doggedly pursues a series of new soul mates and Beth tries to battle some sense into her.
The whole thing is a bit bewildering, like when “Get Schwifty” or “Rest and Ricklaxation” temporarily drove everyone crazy. We never really come to understand how a smartphone app influences people so easily, but if you suspend your disbelief it’s still a fun ride
The real saving grace of this episode is the excellent B-plot, a solo Rick adventure where he goes to a super-secret serene alien planet to poop in private only to realize that someone else used his secret toilet. So, of course, Rick launches a fierce investigation that leads him through an alien underworld where a fly mob boss mocks his frog underlings, a robot revolution that he helps the robots win, and finally the bureaucracy of a generic office environment.
Aspects of Rick’s pooping planet seem procedurally generated like Froopyland from “The ABC’s of Beth,” with robotic animals that can hack into the terrain, and there’s even a massive subterranean lair. The art style and subtle musical score convey the sense that this is the most serene place in the universe, carefully manicured by Rick because, as Summer points out in in a bit of hilarious, early exposition, he’s a shy pooper.
For someone to violate the sanctity of his “Seat” is the deepest offense to Rick, but the culprit he finds, an alien named Tony who’s voiced by Jeffrey Wright, is a surprise to both Rick and the viewer.
Along this entire side adventure, Rick has no qualms with killing. He outright murders dozens of lizard people during the Robovolution battle in brutal, gruesome ways, but when he comes to Tony, something stays his hand.
Just look at Rick’s reaction when Tony reveals that his wife died of cancer and that pooping on that magnificent throne offered a small measure of joy in a chaotic, meaningless universe:
It’s not an expression we see often on Rick’s face, a look of consternation that conveys a sense of empathy. Tony’s wife died and it sent him on a downward spiral. He used a toilet owned by the most brilliant, dangerous man in the universe. If there’s anything Rick understands, it’s how grief can drive people to do insane, dangerous things. We still know very little about what happened to Beth’s mother, but this sequence makes it seem like Rick can relate to Tony’s specific situation. However, it only takes a few moments for him to revert back to his usual Rick self and unleash what could only be described as a fart bomb on Tony.
Rick lets Tony live, and despite the threats, Tony almost immediately returns to the Throne World to use the toilet. Their ensuing conversation as Tony poops and Rick threatens him from inside a giant mecha of his own body delivers the second-most cutting insight into Rick’s psychology we’ve ever seen, second only to Dr. Wong’s in “Pickle Rick.”
Tony: After you left, I thought about what you said and how much I needed to hear it, but then i thought about why you were saying it, who you were really saying it to. You need the same thing I needed Rick: You need someone to give you permission to live.
Rick: [After Tony poops] What the — I thought you were a shy pooper!
Tony: You know what shy pooping is, Rick? It’s a pointless bid for control. You want to take the one part of life you truly think is yours, and you want to protect it from a universe that takes whatever it wants. It took my wife, it clearly took something from you. We can spend our lives fighting that, or we can choose to be free.
Despite Tony’s brazen disregard for boundaries, Rick seems to like the guy. Tony continuously threatens Rick with the quiet promise of friendship. For some reason, despite slaughtering tons of lizard people earlier who got in his way, Rick can’t bring himself to kill Tony. When Tony winds up dead from a tragic accident, Rick goes to the funeral to give Tony’s father a fortune in the local currency and a kit to clone Tony.
We also find that Rick had prepared an elaborate scheme for if/when Tony returned to the toilet, so that an army of Rick holograms would heckle him during the poop, all as a fun-loving joke. But with Tony dead, Rick gets super-drunk and uses the toilet himself. As a crown saying “The King of Shit” is places on his head, Rick looks more depressed than we’ve seen since his encounter with Unity back in Season 2.
“The Old Man and the Seat” probably won’t end up in the annals of Rick and Morty history. It’s a B-tier episode with some questionable leaps in logic and an entertaining Jerry-Morty plotline. The episode’s greatest strength is the terrifying look it offers into the mind of the smartest man in the multiverse, and for diehard Rick and Morty fans, that’s always a fascinating place to visit.
Rick and Morty airs Sunday nights on Adult Swim at 11:30 p.m. Eastern.