If you're going to look for easter eggs in any piece of science fiction, the ol' "alien who collects species in a space zoo" is about as reliable as it gets. It worked for Guardians of the Galaxy, and it works doubly well in Rick and Morty. The show has featured dozens of extra-terrestrial species and other fantastic beings, so it would only make sense for a galactic curator to include some aliens in its interstellar menagerie.
Right off the bat there's a couple of Mr. Meseeks, who can be seen for just a few frames while the collector passes Rick and Morty's cell.
As you no doubt remember, Meseeks aren't meant to exist for more than a little while, so these poor guys must be in a lot of pain.
Also visible for a brief moment are a few female Gazorpazorps, who Rick and Summer met on one of their adventures.
Squint hard and you can see the Traflorkians off to the side in a wide shot. If you're wondering whether it's cool for you to call them glip-glops, you probably shouldn't.
Like the Traflorkians, a lot of the collected aliens seem to have been present at Rick's party from the season one finale.
The alien collector doesn't seem like the type that would be thrilled that one of their subjects got away, but at this point it would probably pay off to just follow Rick around and capture whoever and whatever he runs into.
It's not exactly Shoney's, but the Mexican restaurant featured in this episode is special for a different reason. Don Cuco is a real-life chain with a handful of locations in Southern California. And it appears as though the Don Cuco in the episode, where Rick dines with Zik-Zak the floop-floopian, is ripped straight from the Don Cuco in Burbank. Here it is on Google Street View:
Fans speculate that since the location is near a few studios (including Cartoon Network), it may well have been visited by some of the crew. Seems like a good a place as any for a last meal.
Those who have followed Rick and Morty closely know that the show has a strangely close relationship with the beloved Gravity Falls. A couple easter eggs in this season deepen that connection, starting in the very first scene. When Rick and Morty are running around the M.C. Escher-esque maze, they speed past a statue holding what looks to be an Illuminati eye... with eyelashes. Seems like a dead-ringer for Bill Cipher, the dastardly villain from Gravity Falls.
But hey, it could be just an unrelated Illuminati eye, right? Tons of TV shows and movies and uh, American currency include that imagery. The probability of it being a coincidence narrows a bit when you look closely at some of the memory tube labels in Rick's lab.
As Rick admits in dialogue, most of the labels are random gibberish ("Pocket_Poo" on the left). But "Bill_C" is undoubtedly a reference to Bill Cipher. In the same shot, over to the right we see "Stanford." And no, it's not a nod the prestigious school with an uneven football team. It's this guy:
That's Ford from Gravity Falls, otherwise known as Stanford Filibrick Pines. At this point, I think we'll all be shocked if we don't get a Rick and Morty/Gravity Falls crossover episode.
This was obvious to plenty of folks who likely spotted it in the episode's preview, but we'll cover it just in case you're not familiar. The gaunt figure who chases after Rick and Morty in pursuit of the Truth Tortoise is a clear sendup of the DC Comics/Vertigo character Sandman, specifically the version created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith and Mike Dringenberg. Though you'd be forgiven if you got kind of a David Bowie/Labyrinth vibe from the upside-down maze.
The Moonman memory that we see early in the episode sets the tone for a lot of these vignettes, in that it's an extremely messed up short story that ends with Morty traumatized. But there might be a bit more to the Moonman than what we see. In the episode, Morty thinks he sees a man on the moon through a telescope. Nobody believes him, and yet the Moonman shows up in his school as a new guidance counselor. After some stalking and an accusation, the Moonman apparently kills himself in his home. Afterward, Morty double-checks his telescope and sees a Moonman-shaped smudge, implying that the entire incident was imagined and a man was driven to suicide for nothing. Seems like the kind of thing you'd want erased from your memory, too.
We could take that at face value and that would completely fit the tone of the show. But there are a few details in the story that point to a more sinister undercurrent: The Moonman was real the whole time. For instance, check out the license plate on the Moonman's car.
SATF1V3 seems like a call-out to Saturn V, the rockets that took the Apollo crew to the moon. Just after this, we see where the Moonman lived, at a house with a very special number:
237 is notably the spooky haunted room with the old naked lady in The Shining, so that aligns with the Moonman's creep factor. But this number is also important to conspiracy theory nuts, who believe The Shining director Stanely Kubrick helped fake the moon landing, including the room number as a nod to the distance from the earth to the moon -- which is approximately 237,000 miles away. Hey, if we're getting into tinfoil hat territory, we might as well go all the way.
Lastly, let's take a look at the offending smudge again, and compare it to Morty's original sighting. Notice anything?
When we first see him, Moonman has a shadow, whereas the smudge that kinda looks like Moonman does not. We may never know what really happened here, but I think we can all agree on one thing: That unibrow is not to be trusted.
Rick and Morty's cold opens often don't have anything to do with the story as a whole, but rather offer a fun self-contained story that acts as the inciting incident that kicks off the proper plot. This episode was much the same, as we mentioned the titular duo attempting to escape a magical maze while carrying a Truth Tortoise. We don't know a lot about the tortoise other than you shouldn't look at it unless you want to know everything, and that it sounds funny, almost as though it's talking backwards.
Because this is the internet, someone has already reversed the Truth Tortoise's noises and came up with this:
For those who aren't ever going to click on a YouTube video in an article (our metrics say statistically that's all of you), the tortoise says "I'm a Beatle, Paul is dead." This is a send-up of the well-known "Paul is dead" hoax, a Beatles conspiracy theory that supposedly indicated that Paul McCartney had passed on and been replaced with another person. Some of the biggest "evidence" of the theory hinged on playing John Lennon's "A Day in the Life" in reverse, at which time you are supposed to hear "Paul is dead, miss him, miss him." It's an older reference, but it checks out.
When both Rick and Morty are out of comission, who's left to save the day and set everything right? According to this episode, it's Summer, who wanders into the final minutes with a creamsicle in her hand. Though she restores her brother and grandfather's memories and stops their grim double-suicide, in return Summer is chastised by her own family.
So what went wrong? To see that, we have to look at the "Scenario 4 Instructions" that Summer follows to do Rick and Morty's hard reset.
Summer seems to follow every direction to the letter, with the exception of #10 -- she doesn't leave the room. And so for her trouble, all she gets is a verbal beatdown.
Rules are rules, Summer.
Though Jerry hasn't been a huge part of this season overall because of his divorce with Beth, you can always count on him for a solid post-credits stinger. He came through huge this week with the E.T. parody Gobo, which was apparently part of "Jerry's Mind Blowers." Instead of a huge room filled with multicolored memory vials, Rick only went so far as to throw together a glorified VCR helmet for Jerry.
Looking closely at the box's contents (and flipping the image upside-down, we get an idea of what's on Jerry's other tapes.
On the left you can see a purple tape marked "Sleepy Gary," who we all know is Jerry's secret lover (that turned out to be a memory parasite).
On the far right, we see the "Apples Campaign," a reference to Jerry's pride and joy as a marketer.
It's not clear whether the tape contains Jerry's memories of the time he was in a simulation and had great success with the Hungry for Apples campaign -- or if the tape contains the time Jerry tried to sell that slogan in real-life and was literally fired for it. Either way, it's probably best that he let this one stay out of his brain and on VHS.