‘Rick and Morty’ Recap: ‘Air Force Wong’ Proves That Susan Sarandon Is the Most Powerful Woman in the Universe
Tonight’s Rick and Morty episode marked the return of many important people to Rick’s on-screen life, but perhaps no cameo was more impactful than that of Sarandon as Dr. Wong, the therapist for both the Smith family as a whole and Rick Sanchez on an increasingly personal basis. Introduced in the iconic and endlessly memed “Pickle Rick” episode, Wong has long been the only person in the Rick and Morty canon who can calmly, constructively and consistently undress the many dysfunctions of the multiverse’s most powerful mind. As a result, Wong herself wields enormous influence over the fate of her universe — or whichever version of her Rick is seeing in whichever universe he hasn’t ruined yet.
In this week’s episode, aptly titled “Air Force Wong,” the dimension’s most consequential therapist demonstrated a savant-like ability to wield that power for the good of her entire planet — and, most of all, for her patient.
Seriously self-improving spoilers lie ahead, so don’t go any further until you’ve both watched “Air Force Wong” and booked an appointment with your own therapist.
In this episode, Dr. Wong (whose first name is, apparently, Helen) is tasked with juggling the egos and insecurities of the two most important men on her planet, Rick Sanchez and President Curtis – as well as the romantic attention of the latter. After the surprise return of a flame from Rick’s past, the fan-favorite assimilating hivemind Unity voiced by Christina Hendricks, Wong must also help Rick work through his bitterness regarding their breakup — you know, the one that brought him within milliseconds of suicide back in Season Two.
Meanwhile, the stakes of Wong’s every decision are as astronomically high as can be expected from a Rick and Morty episode. What begins with a simple struggle for the state of Virginia (and the “lovers” who inhabit it) becomes a national fight against slavery under the president’s own hivemind after a tanking approval rating causes him to panic and hijack the population Unity enslaved just to get Rick’s attention. This ultimate battle is also hilariously foreshadowed by Wong when she rejects the president’s advances, telling him, “My sincere advice is that you overcome your need for approval.”
The day is won when Rick takes Wong to meet Unity and engages in a little impromptu, world-saving ex-couple’s therapy wherein Rick’s anger, his fear of abandonment and his obsession with “him” (obviously alluding to Rick Prime) are all aired out. The climax culminates with Wong dropping another iconic banger line to add to her already impressive pile when she tells Unity, “I think the reason Rick brought me here is that he doesn’t know how to indicate to you that he’s changed, because he’s changing very slowly. But, he is.” Unity agrees to help free Rick’s planet from the president, who ends the episode by reflecting, “I think I might need therapy.”
“Air Force Wong” is one of the strongest episodes of Rick and Morty in multiple seasons in large part due to how Dan Harmon and his writers managed to merge Rick’s near-godhood with his frustratingly human emotional needs. While the last couple of seasons have seen a more bitter, detached Rick defined by his quest to find Rick Prime, Season Seven has, thus far, brought his formidable mind back down to the mortal level and examined how much the universe’s smartest man still doesn’t know about himself. As is true with real-world therapy, sessions with Dr. Wong have long been the most consistent method of benchmarking Rick’s internal growth, and “Air Force Wong” is a massive step in Wong’s own development into one of the show’s most important non-Ricks.
This is the most Sarandon has ever been asked to tackle in terms of carrying an episode with her performance, and neither she nor Wong disappoints, despite playing the role of the multiverse’s straight man. In a universe full of spastic, outlandish and outburst-prone players, the most level head in the dimension has both the fewest punchlines and the most daunting job in keeping the most important mind healthy. While much of the talk about “Air Force Wong” will undoubtedly be centered around the return of Unity and Rick’s acceptance of their severed relationship, let’s give flowers to the character whose journey to save America from total mind-control started with one particularly dangerous mind telling her, “Let’s do it — therapy me.”