Look no further than Rick and Morty’s Season 3 episode “Morty’s Mind Blowers” to understand why Summer Smith is the show’s third main character. The episode sees the titular duo revisit the harrowing adventures Morty has elected to (or, often, been forced to) forget, and, after Rick and Morty have fought, wiped each other’s minds, and, in their stupor, decided upon a suicide pact, in walks Summer.
“You guys doing ‘Morty’s Mind Blowers’?” she asks in her characteristically dry Valley Girl vocal fry before undoing all the damage to her grandfather and brother. She drags their unconscious bodies back to the living room while grumbling, “I don’t get paid enough for this s**t,” and allows them to believe nothing out of the ordinary has happened. They yell at her — “Summer, you dumb bi**h” — for what they think was the crime of allowing them to fall asleep while watching interdimensional cable. Ultimately, it's Summer who gets the last word.
This is Summer’s appeal; she’s a prototypical teenager who thinks she’s smarter than everyone else — and, unlike most teens, she usually is.
“Summer has a level of intelligence and such a conviction in the things she loves that you can kind of get behind her,” Spencer Grammer, who voices Summer Smith, tells SYFY WIRE. “There are more episodes coming up in [Season 4] that actually illuminate that more ... I think she’s more dedicated in her conviction of things she does or doesn’t like.”
Despite Summer’s assigned role in the Smith-Sanchez family hierarchy as a strait-laced snarker who’s more likely to roll her eyes at her brother and grandpa’s antics than join in, she always has plenty to add to the mix. In fact, Grammer teases that throughout Season 4, Summer will end up saying and doing some “scathing” things, admitting that she thinks people will either love or hate these new elements.
When asked what it is that makes Summer so confident in herself — other than general teenage exasperation, that is — Grammer says, laughing: “That’s probably just because she thinks that women are better than men in general, which is kind of true on the genetic level, because technically everyone, when they’re conceived, has four chromosomes and [if] one of them is lost, [it] makes you male, so women [have] a more complete genetic makeup. They’re just a more complete gender.
“It’s not really anything against Rick and Morty per se,” she adds. “It’s just that she knows deep down that women are, genetically, better.”
Which is, for what it’s worth, an appropriately Rick and Morty-esque answer. The show’s humor, a so-smart-it’s-stupid absurdism that uses real, complicated science and butt jokes in equal measure, is often mistaken by its viewers as nihilism. But the show’s regular forays into more complicated subjects such as depression, alcoholism, divorce, and suicide can be viewed as an exploration of living despite the cruel fates in store for us all: Nothing matters, so what do we do about that?
“I think the fan base connects to that because we sort of avoid reality a lot in our lives and we use ways to escape, [but Rick and Morty] still makes you think about it,” Grammer says. “It’s a place to be able to have a catharsis of whatever human condition you’re dealing with in your life. We’re talking about it on Rick and Morty; [and] we’re dealing with it and also failing sometimes.”
Grammer points to the fan-favorite Season 3 episode “Pickle Rick,” which sees Rick turn himself into a pickle just because he can. If his ulterior motive for becoming a pickle and slowly building himself a body out of dead rat carcasses is to avoid going to therapy with his daughter, Beth, and grandchildren Morty and Summer, then so be it.
But when Rick ultimately shows up to therapy, still in sentient pickle form, the absurdism becomes all the more apparent; this is a painfully real family crisis, so why does Rick think it’s appropriate to come to therapy as a talking pickle?
The people in your life might not be able to turn into pickles, but they can certainly say and do things that feel equivalently messy. How do you deal with that?
Rick and Morty doesn’t have any solid answers, but it gets it. It knows.
“We’re all looking to circumvent the normal reality we’ve been given and find a way to make our lives meaningful,” Grammer muses. “I think that’s why I love Rick, because he’s the most committed to that.”
She adds, laughing: “Which also makes you a sociopath, really. You’re living sort of an avant-garde lifestyle, but it’s destructive to the entire universe. But you’re doing it with conviction, so we love you. That’s what every good sociopath does.”
And that’s exactly what Grammer wants for Summer down the line. Back in May 2018, Adult Swim renewed Rick and Morty for 70 more episodes, proving its confidence in the show’s lasting popularity. With all those episodes to go, Summer has a lot of potential growing up and evolving to do.
“I really want her to become more and more like Rick,” Grammer says. “I would love that. Just more and more — just more. More sociopathic, more selfish. I want her to stop caring what [Rick] thinks about her.
“[I hope] one day she just stops caring that Rick cares about her at all and she gets so strong and powerful. I would love for her to suddenly become super, super, super smart and create something that Rick didn’t even think of — which probably would never happen. But it could ... You never know ... We have 70 episodes, so it could happen!”