SPOILER ALERT: Do not read until you have watched “Rick and Morty” Season 5, Episode 6, “Rick & Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular.”
At this point in “Rick and Morty’s” fifth season, there are now three episodes that could have easily been called “Rickdependence Spray,” including the space semen-filled “Rickdependence Spray.“ A Rickconvenient Mort” obviously could’ve gotten the treatment solely because it actually aired on Independence Day.
And now “Rick & Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular” also could have possibly been called “Rickdependence Spray” simply because of a Rick particular joke/line in the cold open: “Alright, fun’s fun, but now the federal government’s gonna be pissed again. Way to go. And on America’s birthday or whatever the fuck Thanksgiving is.” What episode will be the next honorary “Rickdependence Spray?” And will that question be the only true constant in this season of “Rick and Morty?”
“Rick & Morty’s Thanksploitation Spectacular” has a simple premise: Rick has to turn himself into a turkey and trick the President into giving him a presidential pardon. Or, “Gobble gobble broh. Rick and Morty givin thanks in this one.” “Rick and Morty” going down the presidential well so soon after “Rickdependence Spray” (an episode that is also structurally quite similar) is an interesting choice. As mentioned in the review of that previous episode, plots centering around Rick and the President have never actually been the most interesting or exciting of the series.
In fact, “Rickdependence Spray” possibly just put them in the realm of actively bad, which again, is why the President’s brief in-and-out appearance in “Mortiplicity” actually worked. While the series has always known how to function when it comes to Rick versus the multiverse, when it comes to Rick versus a President of a United States (of which there are infinite ones), something just doesn’t quite click. The President is not an interesting Morty nemesis or “Rick and Morty” antagonist, yet suddenly, this season is attempting to force him to be.
But maybe that’s also because Rick and the President don’t “just f**k and get it over with,” as both Summer and the Vice President both suggest. Considering the back and forth antagonism between the two, the intense desire to one-up each other, and the unspoken reasons as to why they even care so much in the first place, it seems like that is where this episode is heading. It would especially make sense, much like the turkey tracker bit that the episode keeps pointing out is important in the first half (and, of course, ends up being important).
Instead, it all just boils down to the President really loving America (despite all the secret horrors introduced in this episode) and Rick really hating America because he (unsurprisingly) hates all countries. Morty also learns a lesson about the myth of American exceptionalism here, and while it’s a thread that works — particularly when you compare the expendable military in this episode to the expendable military in “Rickdependence Spray” — there are some absolute backflips to get there. Especially considering how expendable Morty is in this episode, despite being by Rick’s side every step of the way.
(Unlike in “Rickdependence Spray,” Beth, Jerry, and Summer are really out of the picture in this episode. And despite all of the turkeys, Thanksgiving itself is such an afterthought in this episode. The latter part at least isn’t too much of an issue, considering that this is an episode airing in July, anyway.)
The episode opens with a “National Treasure” riff, as Rick and Morty are about to steal the United States Constitution for the purposes of revealing a secret treasure map. Morty then accidentally burns a hole through the Constitution, the Lincoln Memorial, the Liberty Bell, and the Statue of Liberty. That last one reveals a giant assassin, as apparently, “It was a Trojan horse, Morty. Never trust the French.”
From that point on, the war between New York City and France occurs offscreen, despite how much of an adventure that sounds, comparatively. As a result of all of this, the President immediately sends the military to the Smith house, which leads to Rick’s turkey pardon plan — something that, according to the episode, Rick has done more times than he can count.
This is where the Marines (which will eventually become “Turkey Marines”) come in, as the show introduces their working class lives with the country soundtrack that croons, “Got a pregnant girl and a pickup truck … Now it’s time to turn into a turkey.” (Despite how much comedic mileage is gotten out of the military men’s lives, the post-credits epilogue is still the most affecting scene of the entire episode, going for the jugular with its comment on the way vets are treated and PTSD instead of the joke.)
Rick and Morty become turkeys, Marines become turkeys, and then the President also becomes a turkey, as the only one who can tell that Rick and Morty have become turkeys. In the initial turkey scuffle, the President loses his tracker, which enters a different, normal turkey, and that is what drives the rest of the episode; as the Marines are returned to their human state, the normal turkey also becomes a human-hybrid version of the President.
“Turkey Man,” they call him, naturally. Turkey Man then has other turkeys turned into humans — into soldiers, with an increased strength of 1000% compared to humans — and gets the favor of Congress by regularly giving them raises. (That really helps them not care about France taking over New York, again, offscreen). After a short detour against a Spider F.D.R. — he was a polio guinea pig — Rick and Morty return to humanity, and Rick returns the President to the same state, with the promise of a pardon.
Because, remember, this is all about a presidential pardon. On Thanksgiving. The day when the President pardons turkeys. That’s why Rick became a turkey.
Rick and the President have to learn to work together, and they do, with the help of the poor Marines with pregnant wives and the special race of “pilgrims” and “Native Americans” (from “the Crypt of the New World”) who are versus turkeys. (Turkey dinosaurs were America’s original rulers. There’s a lot of Thanksgiving folklore, apparently.) Tying things back to the top of the episode, the President leads Rick and Morty to “the Crypt of the New World,” which is where the treasure (but not really treasure) map led to, underneath the Lincoln Memorial.
They save the day, the President pardons Rick and Morty, and still, Rick and the President do not get together. Maybe next time.