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The worst thing that has ever happened to Beth on Rick and Morty

It isn't easy being the daughter of a reckless, nihilistic scientist who believes himself the smartest person in any universe.

Voiced by Sarah Chalke on the Adult Swim animated series Rick and Morty, Beth Smith (née Sanchez) has enough complexes to put a dozen psychologists' children through med school. For one, she's a horse surgeon — which is totally just as important and difficult as being a human surgeon. She's also married to Jerry Smith (voiced by Chris Parnell), a man of inferior intellect, whom she only stayed with because he got her pregnant in high school. Worst of all, Beth is stuck in an adolescent pursuit of validation from a father who abandoned her.

With all that baggage, you might think Beth would have enough issues to be getting on with. Unfortunately, life with her whole extended family living under one roof hasn't always been kind. Although she rarely participates in her father Rick and son Morty's (both voiced by series co-creator Justin Roiland) interdimensional adventures, Beth manages to get herself into plenty of difficult situations anyway. Rick may be to blame for many of the Smith family's woes, but more often than not, Beth is the maker of her own misery, and everyone around her has the potential to end up collateral damage. (Just ask a certain young boy who had the misfortune to stray across her "socio-path.")

Beth has done plenty of unsavory things in her days, but what's the worst thing that has happened to the Smith family matriarch on Rick and Morty?

Beth Smith failed at marriage counseling

Beth and Jerry don't exactly have a fairytale marriage, but can you really blame them? How many happy marriages start with an accidental teen pregnancy? And living in the same house with Beth's megalomaniacal father certainly adds some tension. We still have to give them credit for trying to tough it out, though. Other than a brief hiatus during Rick and Morty season 3 to "spend some time divorced," they've mostly tried to make things work. These efforts at sustaining a troubled marriage once even included a trip to an alien counseling retreat on Rick's recommendation. It didn't go great.

On the season 2 episode "Big Trouble in Little Sanchez," Beth and Jerry check into Glaxo Slimslom's (Jim Rash) couples therapy at an advanced alien counseling center on a far-away planet. As a feature of his therapeutic practice, Slimslom uses a device to create "mythologs," living manifestations of Beth and Jerry's opinions of each other. We learn that Jerry envisions Beth as a murderous, razor-clawed alien overlord, while Beth envisions Jerry as a feckless worm. The exercise is designed to help feuding couples see each other through their partner's eyes, but Beth and Jerry's relationship is so toxic that their mythologs conspire to break out of their cells and destroy the counseling center. Shockingly, this incident doesn't directly result in divorce, but it has to sting knowing your relationship isn't just bad by human standards — it's bad on an intergalactic scale. 

While it's certainly a troubling realization, it's far from the absolute worst thing that's ever happened to Beth. Over the first three and a half seasons of Rick and Morty, Beth has suffered greater indignities.

An alien invasion made Beth's profession obsolete

A lot changes when the Galactic Federation takes over your planet and institutes martial law. With Rick Sanchez out of the way after his surrender on the season 2 finale, the Federation moved in to set up shop on Earth. Rick and Morty season 3 opens in this new dystopian paradigm, wherein the Smith family find themselves living on a government stipend of pills under the watchful visual aperture of their robotic minder. While this new world order apparently suits Jerry just fine (he wasn't doing much in his old life anyway), Beth finds profession (and thus herself) rendered obsolete by the Federation's advanced medical technology.

Before the Federation's takeover, Beth was an accomplished horse surgeon. She went into work every day and held the noble hearts of horses in her gloved hands. She was a majestic healer. On "The Rickshank Redemption," Beth laments this loss of meaning in her life between sobs and sniffles: "Don't deify the people that leave you. You'll end up a horse surgeon in a world controlled by aliens whose medicine keeps horses healthy forever. Horses live longer than tortoises now. Is that what you want for yourself?"

It's obvious that Beth derives a great deal of her self worth from her job. That's why she takes it so personally any time Jerry suggests that horse surgery isn't real surgery, or that horse surgeons aren't real surgeons. Beth is so distraught by the new reality in which she finds herself living that she literally breaks down into a sobbing mess at the dinner table. When the Federation ended horse surgery, they might as well have ended Beth — but even this loss of purpose isn't the worst thing that's ever happened to her.

Beth's father abandoned her

Beth's abandonment issues are the inciting incident for the entire series. Without Beth's daddy complex, it's safe to say there would be no Rick and Morty. Such is the extent of the psychological damage caused by Rick's 20-year absence from his daughter's life. (It may also be an important clue pointing to a particularly dark Rick and Morty theory about Rick's reasons for leaving Beth and his wife.)

Fear of losing her father again — and the complementary need to please him — drives just about every one of Beth's decisions and actions. She regularly risks her children's lives just to keep her father around. Every time Rick traps an alien child molester with space AIDS in their garage or turns himself into a pickle to avoid family therapy, Beth finds a way to dig her head further in the sand about the dangers of staying close to Rick Sanchez. When Rick and Jerry come into intractable conflict, Beth kicks her husband to the curb to make room for her father. Jerry has to move out of his own house and watch his father-in-law adversely possess his family, just so Beth can feel secure in Rick's love. Beth's actions are certainly unkind, but they're entirely motivated by what happened to her in the past. That's some deep-seated trauma right there. 

The season 4 premiere of Rick and Morty did show some growth in this area. When we catch up with the Smith family, Beth has clearly set some boundaries with her father. Rick now has to ask nicely if Morty would like to go on an adventure with him, and Morty is free to decline. This kind of accommodation would have been unthinkable only a few seasons ago. Will it last? Overcoming serious abandonment issues is a process. We'll have to wait for the second half of season 4 to find out if this one continues... processing. 

Because of its enduring impact on her day-to-day life, Rick's 20-year abandonment is the worst thing that's happened to Beth on Rick and Morty.