Rick and Morty Finally Pays Tribute to One of Sci-Fi’s Greatest Unsung Heroes

“Start the reactor. Free Mars.”

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Rick and Morty
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Rick and Morty

Quick! What’s the best science-fiction movie ever made? If the first title that came to your mind was The Matrix or Jurassic Park or 2001: A Space Odyssey or The Thing you’re definitely not wrong — this is a totally subjective question, after all — but there’s no denying that high up on the list of best sci-fi ever sits the 1990 pulp classic Total Recall.

So it may come as a surprise that Rick and Morty, a show known for its sci-fi parodies, has never taken aim at the Arnold Schwarzenegger classic. Until now.

And before you say it, yes, “Total Rickall” exists. The Season 4 episode introduced Mr. Poopybutthole and remains a standout Rick and Morty entry, but it has nothing to do with the actual plot of Total Recall so no, it doesn’t count. OK, with that out of the way, let’s get into it.

Spoilers ahead for both Rick and Morty and Total Recall 🚀

Rick and Morty’s Kuato Plotline, Explained

Rick and Morty Season 7 Episode 7 is titled “Wet Kuat Amortican Summer,” which at first glance looks like a no-so-clever play on the 2001 comedy Wet Hot American Summer about a bunch of summer camp counselors trying to get laid. However, as the episode soon reveals, the most important word in that title is Kuat, as in Kuato, the name of a rebel leader in Total Recall (more on that later).

When Morty and his sister Summer accidentally get fused together by a malfunctioning genetic sequencer, Morty becomes a small mutant version of himself growing out of Summer’s stomach. As Rick is quick to point out, Morty has become a Kuato.

Summer and Kuato Morty make a new friend at the club.

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Rick declines to fix the problem until tomorrow, which leads to Summer visiting an intergalactic nightclub where other Kuatos and their hosts party it up like VIPs. Unfortunately, this turns out to be a trap. The owner of the club is actually harvesting Kuatos to sell to the highest bidder, while murdering their original hosts (sorry, Summer).

Summer manages to save herself, and Rick soon shows up and they set out to rescue Kuato Morty. In the process, they learn that it was actually the club owner’s own Kuato who was calling the shots, just in time for a final showdown. However, if you’ve seen Total Recall before, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a Kuato was calling the shots all along.

It’s Kuato’s all the way down.

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Rick and Morty vs. Total Recall

Ok, time for a quick primer on Total Recall. Directed by dystopian sci-fi master Paul Verhoeven, the movie stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as Douglas Quaid, a construction worker living in the year 2084. Mars has been colonized, and our protagonist is dreaming of a trip to the red planet.

However, once he arrives there — Or does he? There’s a twisty virtual-reality subplot going on — Quaid finds that colonized Mars is a capitalist hellscape where the rich subjugate the poor and limit their access to oxygen. This leads to some disturbing mutations among the citizens of Mars.

“A man is defined by his actions, not his memory.”

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Quaid eventually joins up with the local resistance and gets introduced to their leader. In a surprising turn of events, that leader is Kuato, a small mutant with psychic powers growing out of the stomach of another man. (That’s why it shouldn’t come as a surprise when Rick and Morty reveals that the real mastermind behind the episode is a Kuato, too.)

In Total Recall, Kuato is a hero and a martyr. He helps devise a plan to free Mars by using ancient alien technology to terraform the entire planet. Later, he’s murdered by enemy soldiers. With his dying words, Kuato tells Quaid: “Start the reactor. Free Mars.”

From an uprising on Mars to Total Recall’s infamous three-breasted woman, there’s plenty more material for Rick and Morty to mine when it comes to this classic sci-fi movie. But seven seasons in, we’re just glad the show is finally paying tribute to one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s best roles.

Rick and Morty Airs Sundays at 11 p.m. on Adult Swim.

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