Eagle eyed fans of Rick and Morty know that from the early days of the show Ricks lab has contained a box labelled Time Travel Stuff visible in the background of many episodes. This is despite the fact that the writers originally intended never to use time travel as a plot device. However while this rule was eventually broken the Time Travel Stuff box has a completely different purpose one that has nothing to do with actual time travel and everything to do with Ricks uniquely diabolical form of genius.Originally created as a parody of Back to the Future following a young boy who pals around with a disgraced and volatile scientist Rick and Morty co creator Dan Harmon nevertheless never wanted to include time travel in the franchise explaining to fans that it can break the canon of a show to introduce such a versatile idea. That changed with season 4s Rattlestar Ricklactica a story explicitly about the unintended consequences of messing around with time. The episode confirmed that Rick is fully capable of time travel a fact which it turns out makes him the target of other beings who want this power for themselves.
In Rick and Morty 47s Interdimensional Cable Trouble from Kyle Starks Puste Sarah Stern and Crank! Rick is targeted by the Xepthurians an alien species he characterizes as bloodthirsty despicable atrocity thirsty monsters. The Xepthurians invade the Smiths home torturing Rick and threatening to kill his family unless he hands over his time travel technology. While Rick argues that his nihilism means theres nothing the Xepthurians can do to make him talk hes seemingly defeated when the fight moves into his lab and despite Mortys best efforts the aliens spot the Time Travel Stuff box and take it back to their homeworld mission accomplished.Of course Rick always has a trick up his sleeve and when the Xepthurians start messing with the technology in the box it triggers a short foul mouthed message from Rick followed by a nuclear explosion that wipes them out. Back home Rick explains to Morty that hes constantly being pursued by aliens who want his technology and that if theyre sophisticated enough to track him down they almost always want the secret to time travel. The Time Travel Stuff box is actually a trap designed to work exactly as fans just saw and Rick ends the issue by writing the same words on a new box and placing it out in the open once again. It wouldnt be Rick and Morty without a twist of the knife and so just before the bomb goes off its revealed the Xepthurians actually want Ricks time travel tech to go back and prevent the atrocities theyve committed making the entire universe a paradise.
The use of this recurring element from the show is a perfect Rick and Morty twist drawing on both Ricks intellect and his outsize enjoyment of using his enemies own foolishness against them. The fact that Rick is constantly being bothered by enemies who want his technology is well established in the show both the Galactic Federation and Zigerions have pursued him for this reason and the idea that hed have simple traps in place for when they arrive is totally in character.Despite this the true purpose of the Time Travel Stuff box is still one that fans never expected and turns the long running background Easter Egg into a violent twist that is true both to the franchises spirit and to Ricks character. The story also does exactly what fans want from a comic tie in lending new context to a detail from the main show. Now when Rick and Morty fans watch past and future episodes theyll know that the seemingly innocuous Time Travel Stuff box has a brutal purpose.