Rick and Morty creators Dan Harmon and Justin Roiland took advantage of their third season finale—which largely took place within the White House—to shout out a few famous conspiracies.
It's right there in the episode's title. For those who don't know, "The Rickchurian Mortydate" is a riff on the Manchurian Candidate, a book and two movies about a conspiracy to get a Russian sleeper cell operative elected president. Harmon revealed his relationship with conspiracies in an interview with VICE earlier this year. "I think that when JFK was assassinated, the part of your brain that is ready and able to connect all the dots necessary to prove that there was an order to this, and it was a sinister order, are the same exact chemicals in your brain that you need to write stories," he said.
Harmon describes conspiracy theories as a method of coping with reality, the same way people tripping on mushrooms convince themselves that everything makes sense when the walls are melting. Roiland quips, "So definitely do acid, and JFK was an inside job."
A ton of homages to these theories are revealed during an epic techno-showdown between Rick and the president of the United States (Keith David), when they crash through the White House's top secret subterranean tunnels. The action is blink-and-you'll-miss-it fast, so we combed the sequence in slow motion to identify all the conspiracies the showrunners thought would be funny to include.
The Moon Landing Was Faked
A replica of the Apollo 11 moon lander and a set depicting the surface of the moon buried beneath the White House would certainly be incriminating evidence for those who believe the moon landing was faked. The idea that the United States faked the moon landing for political victory in the space race against the Soviet Union is appealing, especially because skepticism is so necessary in today's fake news media environment. This conspiracy is also referenced in Rick and Morty's take on simulation theory, "M. Night Shamayliens."
9/11 Was an Inside Job
A tiny diorama of the Twin Towers, one burned and broken, refers to the niche belief that the September 11, 2001 attacks on the towers, the World Trade Center, and the pentagon were orchestrated by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. We don't know whether or not Rick is a 9/11 truther, but in the season opener, "The Rickshank Rickdemption," we see his memory of watching 9/11 on TV and grumbling, "They're going to use this to take away our freedoms!"
The CIA Assassinated John F. Kennedy
Crates of "magic bullets" and a blood-spattered 60s-style limousine sporting tiny American flags immediately conjure the mother of all government conspiracy theories, John F. Kennedy's. assassination.
The CIA Killed Tupac Shakur
If you're not among the conspiracy theorists who think Tupac is alive and sitting on a beach somewhere in Cuba, you may believe that the CIA was behind the rap icon and political activist's death by drive-by shooting. To our knowledge, however, there is no theory that he's buried between the floorboards of the White House.
OG Fake News: The Crossing of the Delaware
Next to the fake moon landing set is a squad of mannequins posed like the famous Emanuel Leutze painting, George Washington Crossing the Delaware. While not related to any government cover-ups, the image, painted more than 60 years after the Revolutionary War, is famously full of false information. One NYC teacher uses it to explain to her students that they can't believe all the media they consume, even if it seems like a primary source. Its inclusion here is a reference to fake history, unless Harmon and Roiland know of a National Treasure–esque message drawn on the painting's back that we couldn't find on the internet.
Freemasons Still Rule the United States
Rick's face shatters a blood-red pentagram and lit candles, which could be a reference to prolific conspiracy theorist Mark S. Watson's belief in an "Occult Government." The five-pointed star also recalls Masonic imagery, which could point Illuminati and Freemason sects within this dimension's White House that are working toward the New World Order. Or, you know, this one speeds by the screen so quickly, it could just be decorative.
The Government Has Made Alien Contact
A flying saucer concealed behind the 9/11 diorama points toward government contact with aliens far predating Earth's victory in an interstellar music reality show, and eventual assimilation into the Galactic Federal Government. Some conspiracy theorists claim to have spotted UFOs entering the White House itself, but we all know the United State's secret alien findings are stored in Area 51, right?