The Good Place: Chillaxing
October 10, 2019 8:06 PM - Season 4, Episode 3 - Subscribe

The gang continues to try and figure out their new subjects.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero (56 comments total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
That moment when Janet suggested that Tahani punch John in the face - I'm now firmly on the side of that's not Our Janet. And the fact that Eleanor ended up torturing Chidi and liking it also signifies that it's not Our Michael, either. I'd been pretty sure there was a switch but now I'm convinced. Of course, knowing this show, I'm also convinced that this could be a red herring and we're all asking the wrong questions, anyway. I don't know what's going to happen and I love that.
posted by acidnova at 8:32 PM on October 10, 2019 [5 favorites]

Odds that it was Good Janet in the very last scene hellbent on making it back to the Good Place?
posted by jacy at 9:11 PM on October 10, 2019 [7 favorites]

Eleanor torturing Chidi reminded me of a comment someone made earlier about "Eleanor" meaning "Shining one" aka Lucifer, and as Lucifer she and Chidi/God are just orbiting each other for eternity. I was thinking about how wildly unethical it was to fuck Chidi up on purpose and I'm glad they addressed it.

It was nice seeing Jason get a round of applause for once.

Overall the way the experiment is going reminds me how humanity bungled itself into a situation where we are micromanaging the entire natural world to keep our system going. They're super micromanaging the experiment because that's what people do.
posted by bleep at 9:59 PM on October 10, 2019 [3 favorites]

Not Janet, heh
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 1:28 AM on October 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

Or, based on the idea that Chidi needs to be challenged to be better, will the whole series come around to it actually being the Good Place all along, and all this is standard operating procedure to make better people?
posted by cardboard at 4:09 AM on October 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

Michael giving that rambling speech about needing to remind himself how painful Chidi's mind-wipe is for Ellen, AND the insistence that torture is the only way forward? Michael not knowing the context of the word chillax even thought he spends/spent all this time with Ellen?

Totally FakeSkin!Michael.

Janet DYING HER HAIR and suggesting that Tahani Punch someone?

Totally FakeSkin! Janet.

Also I reaallllly hope that Tahani doesn't have a romantic relations with the Gossip columnist, because I strongly suspect that will not end well for her. Not. At. All.

Right now the show seems to be in a holding pattern, lots of loose threads.

Did Derek wake up from his reboot?

Janet's 'babies' seem to have rich internal lives and a sense of past (the Lava Pit Hearts Desire's) Are they becoming Sentient?

Where's Mindy?

How much time does the team have left for the experiment? Months? Weeks? Days?

Is Simone taking ethics lessons? Are Simone and Chidi hanging out at all? Simone wasn't present at all this episode - did he mention having the picnic with her? I might have missed that.

I love that Jason had a scientific hypothesis about his motorcycle, tested the hypothesis, (in the most dangerous way possible) was proved correct and *still* managed to learn entirely the wrong thing from the experiment.

Also I was relieved that it was an actual object that materialised out of the Lava Pit and not a Facsimile of Janet. That would have been problematic in a whole 'nother set of ways.

I too believe that the lone figure on the railway trolley was the True!Janet having escaped from The Bad Place and heading back to the Bubble neighbourhood.
posted by Faintdreams at 4:29 AM on October 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

I'm pretty sure that John is gay (he mentioned a boyfriend in a previous episode), so odds of a storyline where he and Tahani hook up seem pretty slim.
posted by palomar at 5:28 AM on October 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

So, hmmm.... Jason's peanut butter jar comment was such a deliberate loose end that it makes me wonder if it's part of some sort of Jeremy Bearimy loop that will pay off later.

I keep thinking about the structure of this series and how Jeremy Bearimy will eventually figure in to this whole thing, and tonight, in a fit of half-sleep, I had this idea:

Right now, we're watching this series in a linear way. Eleanor and Team Cockroach have, at this point, been in the afterlife for a while, and having gone through lots of trials and changes, they are now running/participating in an iteration of The Good Place.

In our linear version, we're at a point where Eleanor (standing in for the architect), Jason, and Tahani are using lots of Michael's tools/tactics from their past: Setting up a fake Good Place, populating it with four subjects and a Janet-generated populace, fitting the lesson to each subject by manipulating various scenarios (like doing the rampant town-destroying, giant living nightmare symbolism/scenario thing for Brent, or putting Chidi wholly and soul-ly in charge of a chaotic person who tells him they ended up in the Good Place by mistake). That sort of thing.

But if we are watching this as a closed loop, it changes. In a loop, these tools and tactics are not only Michael's tools from their PAST, but also Eleanor's PROTOTYPES FOR THEIR FUTURE. Eleanor and team use and perfect these tools to make The Good Place more effective: How do you convince someone they're really dead and in the good place (Simone)? How do you get someone in paradise to want to change for the better? How do you personalize/optimize that experience for each person there? Team Cockroach is learning here, but they're also building.

And from this vantage on the loop, if Eleanor is building prototypes, that would mean Eleanor is the true architect of her own salvation(!) because she personally built the system. And further on down the loop, at what we viewed as the beginning, is simply Michael standing in for her, using the techniques that Team Cockroach originated previously in the loop.

This might explain why any time someone from Team Cockroach uses one of Michael's tools/tactics, they never reference it. No one ever says, hey, let's do that thing Michael did to us in Chapter 2. Because those things sort of happened already but yet they haven't happened yet.

And it would also fulfill Chekhov's Jeremy Bearimy rule, which clearly states that if a time loop is introduced in S3E4, it will go off by S4E13.
posted by mochapickle at 5:39 AM on October 11, 2019 [25 favorites]

So, I know it was probably more of a joke, but I was kinda very weirded out when Chidi said "Oh no, I made God cry."
posted by Etrigan at 6:01 AM on October 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

I'm on board for Bad Janet in disguise. If the Bad Place or the Judge rebooted her a lot of times she would have improved her acting/lying skills enough to fool our heroes, and would only have to manage her own tactics for disruption. The failed offer of boxing gloves wasn't subtle but Tahani didn't notice anyway.

I'm not convinced that Michael is a Bad Place agent though. He's too accurately compassionate towards Eleanor. But maybe a Good Place agent? Or a Jeremy Bearimy Michael who's learned more? Whatever it is, he's not playing the same game as the rest of them.

Tahani and Jason were both adorable here. And effective! It was a real pleasure to see.
posted by harriet vane at 6:03 AM on October 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I'm not overly interested in whether we're seeing a switched-out Michael and Janet (and I think it would have to be both or neither) mainly because I'm sure whatever the show is doing will subvert our expectations somehow, and if they are going back to those wells again (the disguise well and the Is Michael Good or Bad well), I hope they manage to do it in a way that is more interesting and new than I'm imagining.

But it's worth noting that it might actually be really hard to tell the difference between Real Michael and Vicky-Michael if Vicky is really trying. She spent 800 years with him without ever getting her memory erased, she nailed pretending to be good out the gate in season one, she buys into the Fake Good Place As Torture idea more than anyone, and this experiment is not that functionally different from the original Fake Good Place that she relished, because it still essentially involves torturing all the humans involved, with the potential bonus of corrupting the original humans by forcing them to torture people*. The only Michael move in the past two episodes I'm not sure Vicky would make is that affectionate little neck-grab he gave Jason in episode 2.

*If practicing being good, even with bad motivation, helps make you good for real through habit, then the same is true for practicing being bad, even with good motivation.

The fact that Vicky-Michael wouldn't act very different from Real Michael could cause some real confusion if a second Michael shows up in person, whether it's Real Michael trying to take his place back OR Fake Michael trying to convince the humans that Real Michael is Fake Michael...basically I hope they don't go down this Two-Spider-Mans-pointing road and the figure on the pump trolley is Disco Janet.

Another note is that Bad Janet wouldn't need a skinsuit to pretend to be Good Janet, nor would any Janet need a pump trolley to travel from the Bad Place to the Medium Place.
posted by lampoil at 7:26 AM on October 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

I know that we put a lot of thought into this, and that I might be over-overthinking it, but I'm really wondering whether RealJanet or RealMichael on the handcart isn't too obvious.

Or whether I'm just saying that so I can refer back to this comment smugly in a week.
posted by Etrigan at 7:34 AM on October 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Overall, I liked this episode but the first few lines of dialogue kinda felt forced and out of place, like they were a clumsy attempt to lay out the basics of the situation. Oh, right, there's a word for that: infodumping.

"As you know, Bob, we are here in the Good Place..."

It definitely seems clear that something is going on with Janet. But I wonder if it might be a result of the overwhelm/trying to do too much that she was complaining about in the first two episodes. Like, maybe she's not Bad Janet but Good Janet who is getting fried and overstressed and that's making her more aggressive than she's ever been before...

Also, why would either Real Janet or Real Michael need to be in a disguise on the handcart?
posted by overglow at 7:41 AM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

The thought that I had watching this episode was that this is the most successful iteration of Michael's original idea for the Good Place so far. He's got the humans torturing each other, and they're doing it on purpose, and enjoying it and hellbent on continuing to do it. Don't know how that plays out.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:43 AM on October 11, 2019 [17 favorites]

If we accept the premise that Janet was switched out in the first episode, and I'm not sure that I do, then it's possible that she was taken to a part of the Medium Place where her powers don't work. It used to be that her powers didn't work in the Medium Place, but the Judge restored her powers for the purpose of the experiment. Presumably there's an outer limit, so Bad Place Agents would have just had to remove Good Janet to a place where her powers don't work, so if she escaped, she'd have to have a means of getting back and if she can't get a train, a handcart will have to do.
posted by wabbittwax at 7:47 AM on October 11, 2019

I think this episode was a great counterpoint to that episode before where everyone realized that it was easy for the core four to become better people in the Original (fake) Good Place because nobody was struggling to pay the bills and nobody had to keep abreast of slavery in the tomato supply chain, etc.. "Earth is really messed up, y'all!" and all that. Now, in this episode, we are leading up to the realization that you don't really have any incentive to be Good if you have no struggles at all, nothing to worry about, and in fact, you have just been handed the ultimate validation of having already achieved Goodness and been rewarded with literal paradise.

So on one hand, you don't really have a fair shot at being Good if you constantly have to sacrifice your material wellbeing for it. And on the other, you have no drive or impetus to be Good if you have no personal struggles and if you have reason to believe you're already Perfectly Good.

What an interesting dialectic to explore!
posted by MiraK at 7:56 AM on October 11, 2019 [21 favorites]

This episode also had a lot of parallels with the mid season one eps What We Owe to Each Other and The Eternal Shriek. The first big step Eleanor took forward in season one was a result of seeing Michael and Chidi suffer.
posted by lampoil at 8:18 AM on October 11, 2019

Maybe the mysterious figure is Trevor (Adam Scott) coming back from being Judged to mess everything up?
posted by ssmith at 12:11 PM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

Speculation I've seen elsewhere is that Demon Glenn is the hooded figure on the railway cart at the end. The actor who plays Glenn was credited in this episode but not shown, so...
posted by palomar at 12:37 PM on October 11, 2019 [5 favorites]

oh that would make sense
posted by wabbittwax at 12:50 PM on October 11, 2019

I keep promising myself I won't overthink this show in its last season and simply enjoy the ride, yet I keep finding my mind drifting to possibilities while I'm out walking, or wanting to favorite most of the comments on the weekly discussions.

At times, I've almost wondered if this Janet wasn't evolving toward becoming some sort of almighty being. The head cheese, as it were. But then they veer in another direction, or someone points out another more reasonable idea. I'm not sure I'm convinced it could be a bad Janet because of the punching--I thought how she delivered that was really cute: "I'm all fired up!" But I suppose it's as much a possibility as anything.

Most enjoyed seeing Tahani come to a realization, and having an impact on her nemesis, even wringing an apology out of him. Well done, girl.

That'd be very interesting it the pump-trolley figure is Glenn. He could really throw a spanner in the works of the Bad Place.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 1:09 PM on October 11, 2019

I'll go on record that the mysterious figure is not realJanet. I'll go further and say Janet and Michael never switched. It's just not a theory I buy, at all. This show has done one big switcheroo at the end of Season 1, and not another one since. They love to end episodes on cliffhangers, to be sure, but this simply isn't a Mystery Box show.

And next week I could have egg (from the IHOP!) all over my face next week, who knows.
posted by Frayed Knot at 1:23 PM on October 11, 2019 [8 favorites]

They love to end episodes on cliffhangers, to be sure, but this simply isn't a Mystery Box show.

I wonder if the first two episodes were meant to be shown back to back like they were in the first three seasons. That would explain why there wasn't much of an ending to the first episode. They left it on a small joke and the train wasn't meant to be a big clue to dissect for the following week.

The opening of this week's podcast was bad Janet pretending to be good Janet. If that's also the big reveal this season that is pretty bold of them.
posted by Gary at 2:03 PM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

The figure on the handcart (so that's what a handcart is, I always wondered) looked like Death to me. Which would complicate things.

Also, aphoristically, a handcart is what you ride to hell on, isn't it?
posted by Grangousier at 2:13 PM on October 11, 2019 [6 favorites]

I will be surprised if those are the real Michael and Janet at this point, and I'm a little anxious to get to the reveal and move on. I've been enjoying this season, but it mostly feels like stuff we've done before. I feel like I was spoiled by the unpredictable writing of S3, to say nothing of the show's sudden interest in exploring the bureaucracy of the afterlife. By which I mean to say, I was finding the behind the scenes stuff way interesting than life in the neighborhood had been. I sort of imagined this season would focus on how it All Works, but not so far.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 2:53 PM on October 11, 2019 [2 favorites]

Also, aphoristically, a handcart is what you ride to hell on, isn't it?

I'd always heard, "going to hell in a handbasket" but googling shows that there are apparently a variety of options, all starting with "hand."
posted by acidnova at 3:18 PM on October 11, 2019

Fun fact: the closed captioning on this episode spelled it "butthole"
posted by lampoil at 3:56 PM on October 11, 2019 [10 favorites]

Thank you for saying that Frayed Knot - I don't really understand that theory at all. Feels kind of like pre-writing the show in a way I don't find enjoyable.
posted by bleep at 5:33 PM on October 11, 2019

I don't think it's a time loop. I think Jeremy Bearimy was an explanation for how we could have a lot of time happen outside the real world, and none happen on earth, and it was very very handwavy. If they could have interrupted the real world time line at any point, the demons could simply have arranged quick deaths for team cockroach IRL when they didn't have anyone to protect them... and michael seemed to go back repeatedly to change things in line with time, and was monitoring their progress.

Basically time is screwy and works however is convenient for the writers, but is generally in sync.

Assuming that Glen was there but we didn't see him, he's probably the figure at the end. Maybe there was a switch, in which case glen, who has decided to maybe be good because he doesn't like being a demon, could be coming to warn them. Or maybe Glenn is what's going to change things... a demon that wants to be good but messes up, and the team has to ask themselves if they have a moral duty to help him when he could be faking. Or maybe it's both.

Oh, and randomly thinking about name meanings. Janet means little Joan. Joan means god is gracious. So that's suggestive.. a little god, being gracious. And michael means "who is like god?"

Maybe this is just the audition for who becomes God.
posted by gryftir at 7:56 PM on October 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

I revise my previous prediction: Chidi and Simone end up together, but Chidi and Eleanor live together in eternity in the dot above Jeremy Bearimy “i”
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:05 PM on October 11, 2019 [1 favorite]

I don’t think any of it is real. I have no idea what is really going on. I don’t think there ever really was a Michael. And I thought that was death coming to and/or from hell in a handcart.
posted by chill at 12:12 AM on October 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

During the podcast, the director mentioned that when Chidi is holding the door half open and talking to Elanor and Michael, they shot a bunch of takes of Manny Jacinto breakdancing behind him. So that's why he won't let them in. Hoping that ends up in the blooper reel.

John's breathless delivery of lines like "I mean, I know I can eat whatever I want and not gain weight, and the air is obviously perfect and no one has any jobs or stress or problems, but I just feel like I need this [spa day]!" was great. Loved the evolution of his character in this episode.

I'll have to go back and watch again, but one thing I found interesting about the train track shot is that it went through many different types of scenery. Given the first couple of seasons, I assumed it was all bridges over dark voids. Not that there's a map of the Good and Bad Places (though we do know there's an Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes) but was surprised to see it.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:25 AM on October 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

So on one hand, you don't really have a fair shot at being Good if you constantly have to sacrifice your material wellbeing for it. And on the other, you have no drive or impetus to be Good if you have no personal struggles and if you have reason to believe you're already Perfectly Good.

It's a fairly widely discussed concept in pedagogy - the optimal level of challenge. Set the difficulty level too low and students won't learn, because there's no challenge. Set it too high and students won't learn, because they're frustrated and discouraged, feeling set up for failure, don't see a point in even trying.

The difficulty level on earth was too high; in the actual good place, it would be too low. Thus - purgatory. I'm with the commenter who speculated it could all still be/become (which is still be and become at the same time, due to time loop shenanigangs) part of standard operating procedure.
posted by sohalt at 2:10 PM on October 12, 2019 [5 favorites]

The Good Place as the "Zone of Proximal Development."
posted by willF at 5:38 PM on October 12, 2019 [10 favorites]

The figure at the end was on a handcar (aka pump trolley, pump car, jigger, Kalamazoo, velocipede, or draisine).

John's blog posts from gossip
* Eat, Pray, Barf
* Gigig's Shi-Shi Retreat-Treat
* I've Hadid up to Here
* Oh No She Hadidn't! - Gigi Ruins Bali Wedding by Being There!
* Ain't Nothin' but a G-String: Gigi Said Bears it all on Balinese Religious Holiday
* Bali Legal
posted by Pronoiac at 8:49 PM on October 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

Well, I recognise that Bali is the name of a country. A popular tourist destination for Australians of a party sensibility, if I remember correctly. What else do I need to know to make any of that make any sense whatsoever?
posted by Grangousier at 4:31 AM on October 13, 2019

Gigi Hadid is a fashion model / celebutante who keeps a significant portion of the gossip industry afloat.
posted by Etrigan at 6:16 AM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

The figure on the handcart (so that's what a handcart is, I always wondered) looked like Death to me.

Agreed. The real question is what Death's angle will be. Did... did the Bad Place actually murder the people they picked for the experiment? I wouldn't put it past them, and Death might not be pleased with the Bad Placers interfering with Death's Plan. Because, if there's anything the Final Destination films have taught us, it's that Death's Plan is a pretty big deal.
posted by tobascodagama at 7:50 AM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I wasn't even right about Bali - it's not a country, it's a bit of Indonesia.

I tried googling Gigi Hadid but somehow began to lose the will to live.

I expect Death has a number of pressing questions for our heroes, not least "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
posted by Grangousier at 8:06 AM on October 13, 2019

Where is William Jackson Harper's Emmy for the multiple-emoji-faces journey he took when talking to Eleanor and Michael at the door?
posted by tzikeh at 11:43 AM on October 13, 2019 [9 favorites]

In the next frame we will see the handcart character's hood fly off and Derek cackles!

JK I have no idea who it is. Glenn seems like a great guess. These first few episodes have been a little stop-and-start for me. Feels like a lot of time where it could be a radio program instead of a TV show. But then we wouldn't have Chidi's facial expressions which would be a major loss.
posted by Emmy Rae at 6:31 PM on October 13, 2019

Jason's peanut butter

It's not a Jeremy Bearimy thing. Michael said something like "Jason, there you are, can you help me out, buddy?"

Not sure I'm on team "switched out Michael and Janet".
posted by tilde at 8:06 PM on October 13, 2019

On rewatch, I'm on Team "Maybe Janet, but not Michael, switched."
posted by emjaybee at 8:16 PM on October 13, 2019

Team Fuck If I Know On Switching, Y'all.

Eleanor bursting into tears, awww. Eleanor musing on his action figures, cute. Eleanor slightly mad at Chidi and enjoying the torture: I hear ya, girl.
posted by jenfullmoon at 11:20 PM on October 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I am annoyed that they think the word chillax is new though - it’s like 13 years old. So, like a million in internet years.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 12:17 AM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

Jeremy Bearimy.
posted by Grangousier at 2:55 AM on October 14, 2019 [4 favorites]

No idea about the switch BUT wouldn't it be great if the figure on the handcart was Michael in his true form sans skin suit?
posted by yeahlikethat at 7:09 AM on October 14, 2019 [1 favorite]

It's Death driving the handcart, and also Death happens to look exactly like Stone Cold Steve Austin.
posted by sugar and confetti at 7:37 AM on October 14, 2019 [8 favorites]

's head on Tahani's body but somehow also Tahani's head on Stone Cold Steve Austin's body.
posted by tobascodagama at 8:56 AM on October 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

... or it could be a demon in a Michael suit going there to claim that they're the real Michael and the real one is an imposter ... Man, the more I think about it the more I just don't want there to have been any switching. It's too plotty. You know what it is? It's BASIC.
posted by wabbittwax at 10:01 AM on October 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

I am annoyed that they think the word chillax is new though

Michael is aces at coming up with something established and thinking he was the first to think of it because he is an immortal being. See also his ground-breaking analysis of Friends. "Gosh, they sure were friends. But how did they pay for that apartment?"
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 10:12 AM on October 14, 2019 [12 favorites]

Michael is aces at coming up with something established and thinking he was the first to think of it because he is an immortal being.

Now I'm wondering -- the Friends thing was in the first season, when he was still acting like a benevolent architect but was actually torturing them. So does he do thing thing intentionally as a means of torture? Does claiming to invent "chillax" indicate that he (or Vicky-in-a-Michael-suit) is evil again?
posted by Etrigan at 11:14 AM on October 14, 2019

Forgive me if I'm stating the obvious, but the reason Jason hears "we need your help opening a peanut butter jar" when Michael says "we need your help" is that no one has (or normally would) ever asked him for help with anything other than opening a jar.

I think Michael is just a being who, even when he was evil, found humans fascinating despite not knowing that much about them. Though I have to admit if hell exists the way it does on this series, they could do worse than putting me around a bunch of guys who want to tell me that they've just discovered the verses in the song "Ironic" don't talk about ironic things.
posted by lampoil at 12:45 PM on October 14, 2019 [10 favorites]

Yeah, I think it's just Michael's inept but loves human stuff, so he's trying to interact (kinda like Arthur Weasley?) and does so poorly. The Friends thing shows he's particularly inept because IT'S EXPLAINED RIGHT IN THE SHOW. Everyone knows Monica was illegally subletting from her (dead, I think?) grandmother. It's referenced at least twice. The human experience is not to watch Friends. It's to watch it and rewatch it and then watch it again until you have internalized the entire body of work, even though you recognize that there are so many better shows more worthy of your time. But you still watch Friends.
posted by terilou at 2:21 PM on October 14, 2019 [7 favorites]

yeah I have no idea what this fake janet / fake michael stuff is, but I'm pretty confident no writer's room in the universe would want to have to write a Jeremy Bearimy loop.

what they haven't done yet is indict the real good place. that's the missing piece of their challenge to the current system. and the good place committee was the worst.

this season has felt a little strained so far, so I can't wait to see how they blow up the premise next episode.
posted by schadenfrau at 3:15 PM on October 14, 2019 [9 favorites]

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