The Rick and Morty Fan Theory That Explains Total Rickall and Rick Breaking the Fourth Wall

An avid Rick and Morty fan has many questions, some of which were answered (or at least addressed) in the Season 3 premiere that aired on April’s Fools Day.

rick-mcdonalds-sauce
One of the more memorable scenes from the new episode, and also one of the more memorable McDonald’s moments in pop culture.

These questions include:

  • Is Rick C-137 truly the Rickest Rick? What makes him Ricker than all other Ricks?
  • Is Morty C-137 the Mortiest Morty, or the Rickest Morty?
  • What ever happened to Evil Morty?
  • Does Rick C-137 really know that he’s in a television show? What’s the deal with him breaking the fourth wall all the time?
  • What’s the deal with Mr. Poopybutthole?
  • Are Jerry and Beth really going to get a divorce?

Naturally, questions of this sort are what drive fans to create fan theories. While the following fan theory does not answer all these questions, it does answer the ones that I find most compelling.

First of all…

The episode “Total Rickall” (Season 2, Episode 4) does not take place in the dimension inhabited by Rick C-137 and Morty C-137.

This is not necessarily a novel fan theory, as it’s something that has been often debated. “Total Rickall” centers around the premise that Rick has tracked a mind-changing alien parasite into the home of the Smith family. This parasite operates by implanting memories into characters heads, as seen here:

From here, comedy ensues as the five central characters (Rick, Morty, Summer, Beth, and Jerry) combat against a house of multiplying aliens who have infected their brains with false memories. In the midst of this is Mr. Poopybutthole, a character who the audience assumes is a parasite but who, at the end of the episode, is revealed to actually be a real person and friend of the family.

The biggest question to have come from this episode is this: if Mr. Poopybutthole is NOT an alien parasite who has implanted false memories into everyone’s brains, then why have we never seen him before? Rick even says to him, as seen in the above clip, “I could always count on you.” The rest of Rick’s lifelong friends are people we have seen before, including Birdperson and Squanchy. So why have we not seen this one before, particularly if he is seemingly living in the house with everyone?

mr-poopy-butthole-total-rickall
The first appearance of this scrappy little mystery.

A number of possibilities can explain this:

  1. This episode takes place in a gap between other episodes – perhaps months after its predecessors in Season 2 – and Mr. Poopybutthole has appeared or reappeared in Rick C-137’s life and they have built or rebuilt a friendship.
  2. This episode is essentially a non-canon story, with no connection to any other episode, or arguably even some kind of meta fan-fiction.
  3. Mr. Poopybutthole really is an alien parasite, but functions with rules unlike the others.
  4. Or, this story is part of the Rick and Morty canon but it does not follow Rick C-137 and Morty C-137.

My argument is that this episode does not take place in the same dimension as the other episodes. However, it might take place in the same universe as “Mortynight Run,” the second episode, as it’s revealed at the end of that episode that the main characters in it were not the C-137 Rick and Morty.

This seems to be the most accepted interpretation of Mortynight Run and Total Rickall, as evidenced here. These episodes follow a Rick and Morty other than C-137.

A Brief Overview of the Dimensions/Universes/Timelines of Rick and Morty

At this point, it might be worth pausing and exploring the various “dimensions” shown throughout the series, as this may help clarify the argument thus far. The following is a combination of some undisputed interpretations but also my own interpretation and understanding.

  1. The first five episodes of Rick and Morty take place in Dimension C-137,  which becomes overrun with Cronenbergs in the sixth episode, Rick Potion #9.
  2. From here, it’s unclear which Dimension Rick C-137 and Morty C-137 are in, but for our purposes let’s call it Dimension D-137 (although it almost certainly isn’t.)
  3. The original inhabiants of Dimension D-137 are dead and buried in the backyard.
  4. “Mortynight Run” explicitly doesn’t follow Rick C-137 and Morty C-137 (the inhabitants of D-137).
  5. “Total Rickall” doesn’t follow Rick C-137 and Morty C-137, but it does seem to be connected to “Mortynight Run.” For our purposes, let’s say that both Total Rickall and Mortynight Run follow Rick and Morty E-137, who inhabit Dimension E-137.
  6. Mr. Poopybutthole is a regular presence in the lives of Rick and Morty in Dimension E-137.

However, even with all this spelled out, it still does not explain one major question about Mr. Poopybutthole: how is he watching Rick and Morty on TV in the Season 2 finale, “The Wedding Squanchers”?

The Rick of “Total Rickall” gave Interdimensional Cable to Mr. Poopybutthole during his recovery

This is the place where this blog post takes its greatest leap. Everything until now is not necessarily accepted, but at least accepted by certain factions of Rick and Morty fans.

Let’s consider the question that is being solved here. In the ultimate scene of Season 2, how is it that Mr. Poopybutthole appears to not only have just watched Rick and Morty, but also knows that he is in a television show himself? He turns from watching the show he is on to addressing the audience and explicity mentions that he was in Episode 204. This is the scene in question:

There is an easy, obvious answer here: Mr. Poopybutthole is breaking the fourth wall, a common practice in comedy. See House of Cards or The Muppets or The Lion King or countless other examples.

What I would like to suggest is a different possibility:

  1. Mr. Poopybutthole has an interdimensional cable box, presumably provided by Rick.
  2. Because interdimensional cable can stream television shows from every universe, dimension, reality, and so on, this means that not only can they watch shows like Gazorpazorpfield and Baby Legs and Man vs Car, but also shows from our own universe, including Garfield and Man vs Food… and Rick and Morty.
  3. Rick has determined one of two things. Either a) through interdimensional cable, he learned that there is a universe out there in which he is a television character, or b) Rick has reached a conclusion, similar to that reached by Elon Musk, that there are “billions of realities” out there. While Musk has determined this means we are likely living in a simulated reality, Rick has used this knowledge to determine that, somewhere out there, he must be a character in a television show.
  4. This explains why Rick has a tendency to break the fourth wall. Knowing (or at least believing) that he is a television character in at least one distant reality, Rick chooses to ham it up at times, in case those moments are being captured on television.
  5. The rest of the Smith family assumes Rick is just being silly during these moments.
  6. However, Mr. Poopybutthole has spent an extraordinary amount of time watching interdimensional television during his recovery from the gunshot wound. During this recovery, he has learned that a) Rick and Morty is a television show b) he is on this show in Episode 204, and c) This is why Rick goofily “breaks the fourth wall” at times.
  7. Mr. Poopybutthole has thus started watching Rick and Morty through his interdimensional cable. Seeing the last episode end, he decides to try something he has seen Rick do many times: he breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience he imagines must be there.

One more sidenote is that Mr. Poopybutthole does seem significantly more unhinged and zany in “The Wedding Squanchers” than he did in “Total Rickall.” This is likely because his time spent watching interdimensional cable – including seeing himself in episode 204 of Rick and Morty – has had some effect on his view of reality.

There is even something Lovecraftian in Mr. Poopybutthole’s situation. While Rick has the intelligence and capacity to handle the realities of this world, Mr. Poopybutthole has been driven to a state of lonely madness by the revelations that occurred after suffering his gunshot wound.

“And that’s the way the news goes…”

At this point, you may be wondering: “so what?”

mrpoopybutthole
Hard to believe this was the last Rick and Morty scene we had for almost two years, but it gave me plenty of time to think about this theory.

Admittedly, this is not a particularly important fan theory, but it is my own understanding of Rick and Morty and the different stories and universes it contains. It is also admittedly possible that this will be invalidated if Mr. Poopybutthole appears in the future in some form and interacts with Rick C-137, although of course we should also remember that it’s possible Rick C-137 knows a Mr. Poopybutthole in his dimension as well.

Thanks for reading! For more in this vein, see “Is Hannibal Buress the Architect of Eric Andre’s Pain” or Fan Theories. Or you can read  The Moonborn today!

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3 thoughts on “The Rick and Morty Fan Theory That Explains Total Rickall and Rick Breaking the Fourth Wall

  1. Wanted you to know that I’m working my way through Season 2 of Rick and Morty. I’m avoiding reading this post, until I’m caught up, but I assume I’ll enjoy it.

    This is partly an admission of my lameness, for not being caught up on Rick and Morty anyway, since I’m a reasonably large Dan Harmon fan.

      1. I watched the first season month’s ago (a few episodes here, a few episodes there) – it’s been slow going because of family/time commitments, I keep forgetting to treat myself to an episode when I have the time. This is a failure on my part, and not on the show’s part.

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