We know from the outset that Rick is a wild-eyed scientist with a brilliant mind and a crippling alcohol problem, but it's only later that we discover that he's also a galactic fugitive. Though the actual list of offenses Rick is supposed to have committed is a little hazy, we do know for sure that the Federation considers him a threat to interplanetary security. He's sort of like an outlaw out of the wild west, except he has a portal gun and also keeps clones of himself in glass jars.
Taking that into consideration, it's strange to think that Rick leisurely walks around a gigantic spaceport and nobody recognizes him.
Rick has gotta be near the top of a Most Wanted list of some kind, probably right next to his buddies Squanchy and Bird Person. And yet, the guards don't even realize anything is wrong until Rick suspects that they'll search Morty's taut, malleable butthole and find the contraband Mega Seeds inside.
Once the jig is up, the pair manage to escape through a portal and land smack dab in the middle of Morty's school.
According to a convincing theory, this is the key moment that led the Federation to finding Rick. See, someone at the Federation had to have figured out just who caused that commotion at the spaceport, and they would probably also track the coordinates last used by the portal. But by the time they got to the cafeteria, Rick and Morty would be long gone.
Yet, knowing that the school is probably meaningful to their fugitive, the Federation set up a sleeper agent: Tammy.
As Tammy herself admits, she was not in fact a high schooler ready to marry a 40-year-old Bird Person, but in fact a deep cover agent for the Federation. We know she was the traitor, but what led her to Rick? One possible clue lies in the infamous "Meeseeks and Destroy" episode. When Mr. Meeseeks (LOOK AT ME!) holds a pep rally to successfully make Summer more popular, we see Tammy rush over to meet her new friend.
As a Federation Spy, Tammy is probably not swayed by Mr. Meeseeks caaaaan-do attitude; instead, she sees an opportunity. From her point of view, anyone who has access to a Meeseeks Box must have a pretty substantial technology hookup. Thinking Summer might lead her to Rick, Tammy started tracking her new "friend," which led her to the party at the end of season one, which then led her to initiate a relationship with Bird Person. After that, all Tam-Tam had to do was get all the miscreants in one place, and a wedding was the perfect opportunity.
It's kind of a long walk to justify a plot point that could easily be explained as "We Googled Rick's family," but nothing is too strange or complex for a show with a lovable character named Mr. Poopybutthole.
The fact that Rick and Morty live in just one of many universes opens up countless possibilities for exploration. From what we've seen, there are scores of different Ricks and Mortys out there (though many are Cronenberg'd monsters by now). And for every new reality, there are tons of tantalizing fan theories.
One of the most compelling of these explains an uncharacteristic plot hole in the series. Namely, that when we first meet Rick, he's been gone from his daughter's life for the last 20 years. We also know that Morty is 14 -- but later we see that Rick has memories of seeing Morty as a baby.
So either Rick snuck into see his grandkid in the night in an ill-advised nod to Superman Returns, or the Rick we know is from another reality. But why would Rick be hanging out with his family from another universe? Maybe most importantly, what happened to the Morty that Rick left behind? One theory suggests that we've already seen what happened to Rick's old Morty -- in fact, we see it every single time we watch the show.
Mixed in the montage of the opening credits there is a quick scene of Rick abandoning Morty to be devoured by large froglike monsters. Granted, we don't see Morty being eviscerated, but it would seem like that's a pretty rough spot. It might seem like just another goofy bit in the intro, but then again, lots of other scenes in the montage are ripped straight from the show. If this really happened and Rick's original Morty really did die, that would explain a lot about Rick's depression; part of the reason he keeps Morty safe (despite acting aloof the whole time) is to make up for losing the old Morty. Or maybe Rick is callous enough to know that he needs a new Morty to use the camoflauging ability of his grandson's Stupid Brainwaves.
It's a solid idea that makes sense with the world and its characters, but there's another explanation that's a little more complicated but a lot more tantalizing. Imagine that same scenario playing out as we see above, but instead of Morty dying, he survives and grows to resent Rick. Not only Rick, but all Ricks. What if Rick's former Morty is in fact Evil Morty?
Remember, in the episode "Close Rick-Counters of the Rick Kind," our Rick is brought into the interdimensional Council of Ricks to stand trial for murdering tons and tons of Ricks across the multiverse. I know, this show is weird, but stay with me. Whereas we originally think that the Most Evil Rick is responsible, the end of the episode reveals that Evil Morty was behind the scheme the entire time, controlling that Rick behind the scenes.
It's possible that, after being abandoned by "our" Rick, the original Morty held a grudge so vicious and unending that he decided that the only course of action was the wipe all Ricks from existence. It's also in line with the surpise we hear in "Evil Rick's" voice when our Rick tears up at the sight of Baby Morty.
Remember, this is actually Evil Morty talking through his puppet, Evil Rick. Though at first it sounds like condescencion coming from a fellow Rick, it's actually shock and disbelief coming from a Morty who thinks that all Ricks are incapable of feelings towards all Mortys. This is why we hear Evil Rick say "We both know that if there's one truth in the universe, it's that Ricks don't care about Mortys." It also explains why Evil Rick is so excited for a horde of Mortys to tear him apart. This is coming from a place of pure hatred. Some Rick out there has to have done something bad to Evil Morty to make him think that way.
It might have well been our Rick leaving him to die on a savage planet in the middle of nowhere. After all, it sounds like he's had run-ins with renegade Mortys before.
Could it be that Evil Morty is the instance that Rick is talking about? If Rick does indeed keep his promise to tell our Morty about it later on, we've still got a couple years before we know the truth, if they dedicate time to it at all. Realistically, we'll probably just get another Channel Surfing episode.