the good place, s03e01: everything is bonzer!

I'm still working on season 1 and 2 recaps, but I definitely don't have time to finish them before s03e09 comes out on December 6. I DO (probably) have time to catch up on season 3 before then, so that is what I'm gonna do right now! Season 3 episodes 1-8 are going to just be recaps, no thought experiments, but hopefully once I'm caught up I can dig in a little deeper for the end of the season.

Season 3 reading list:
- Nicomachean Ethics - Aristotle

You can watch the episode here; everything in this post is from The Good Place.

As always, spoilers for days. Also, heads up: this is a double-length episode, and therefore this recap is looooooooooooooong.

When we last saw the crew, they were in the Judge's chambers (Maya Rudolph), and she had decided to send them all back to Earth to give them a chance to see if bad people could turn things around and get into the Good Place, given enough time. We saw Eleanor's (Kristen Bell) attempt to be a good person after her near-death experience be quashed by the daily grind of activism that so seldom sees results, and her resulting backslide into bad ("Eat my farts, Benedict Cumberbatch"). Michael interferes, incognito as a bartender, and knocks over a domino that results in Eleanor jumping on a plane to head to Sydney to meet Chidi (William Jackson Harper) at his university.

Also worth noting: Janet (D'Arcy Carden) is in love with Jason (Manny Jacinto), but since Jason doesn't remember the 900 million years or however long he's spent with Janet, he doesn't know that they got married and tried really hard to figure out how to have sex. Also, since he's going to be alive again, he won't remember her at all. Poor Janet!

Now, to season 3:


Michael (Ted Danson) has a pass to Earth, and the Doorman (Mike O'Malley) doesn't particularly care for Michael ("I haven't heard a joke in 8,000 years, and I still haven't."), but he's the one that's gotta stamp the exit paperwork and let Michael head to Earth to keep Eleanor, Tahani (Jameela Jamil), Chidi, and Jason from dying their respective ignoble deaths. He won't have any powers, though, and in typical Michael style, he gets incredibly excited about doing human things like taking the bus ("I'm gonna get so motion-sick!").

Here we see THE KEY.

made from the very first atoms of the universe, attached to a plastic frog
("What's the significance of the keychain?"
"Nothing. I like frogs. I'm a frog guy.")
Only the Doorman is allowed to touch it, and so far it is ~*~imbued with mystery~*~ (ooOOoOoOoOoOo). The Doorman gives Michael a button to press to get back to the giant catwalk suspended in a seemingly endless nothing, which one presumes lets him get back to whatever plane of existence he's supposed to be on. I don't have any clue what we're supposed to call the space/time/nonspace/nontime that the Bad Place demons, Janets, Bad Janets, theoretical Good Place architects (if you'll notice, the only evidence we have that the Good Place is even a thing is Janet), and the Judge exist in, so I'll just call it the Place.

Michael heads back to Earth and keeps the gang from dying: he pushes Eleanor out of the path of the shopping carts; he bikes past Chidi to make him jump out from the spot where the air conditioner would crush him; he tackles Tahani out of the way of the giant Kamilah (Rebecca Hazlewood) statue (which, of course, is attributed to Kamilah by her adoring public); and he opens the safe where Jason was suffocating despite his snorkel, easily avoiding being seen by Pillboi (Eugene Cordero), who is busy applying his fake mustache and practicing his Italian accent.

Having successfully completed his saves, Michael returns to the Place, still buzzing from his trip to Earth ("I saw this place that was at once a Pizza Hut AND a Taco Bell!"). He meets up with Janet in the tiny office where they keep an eye on the gang's point ticker tapes and gushes about Earth some more ("I put a coin in a thing and got a gumball," but, "Damn, I forgot to chew it!"). Janet is amazed.

Janet: in a word, PERFECTION
ticker tape desk; why the nametags don't face Michael and Janet is beyond me
Unfortunately, as they watch the ticker tapes, they see Eleanor backslide (which we saw at the end of last season), Chidi having a meltdown about which type of muffin to get ("I have made a decision: I want to start crying"), Tahani doing a 582 Questions video with International Sophisticate Magazine ("I was such a tomboy in high school" - see photo), and Jason asking his arresting officer to marry him ("If we're married, legally you can't arrest me, plus bonus, you get half the stuff I stole!").

pink floral romper and giant floral hat screams tomboy
Frustrated, Michael decides he needs to just "nudge" Eleanor and Chidi together to jumpstart the gang's progression to being Good People. Janet is pretty vehemently against, but Michael, per usual, does not listen, and he uses the original travel papers (and a hot cup of antimatter, yay bribes!) to head back to Earth, where he meets Eleanor at a bar (we saw this last season). She heads to Australia to meet Chidi (who speaks English with an American accent because he went to American schools - irritating mystery from last season solved! as well as his native French, German, Greek, and Latin ("just in case it ever comes back") (Eleanor: "I once got 12/12 on a Buzzfeed quiz called 'Do you know all the slang words the Kardashians invented... I'm gonna be honest, I did cheat")). She busts into his office unannounced and asks him to help her become a good person, and he says yes! They bond over their near-death experiences and their failed attempts to become better people. Michael and Janet are stoked.

As it turns out, Chidi also busted into someone's office at random to ask for help - hot, hilarious neuroscientist Dr. Simone Garrett (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) ("we make a lengthy incision from your eyebrows to the nape of your neck, and we peel your face back, right, and slice your skull open, and I just randomly stab at your brain with an electrified needle - I'm kidding! I'll just give you an MRI"). She immediately agrees to drop everything and put him in an MRI ("I love it! You're so frickin' weird"). They get flirty going over the results.

aww yeah get it
He dumps his manuscript into the garbage (it takes up the whole can) and starts confidently making decisions, giving talks on why we choose to be good (our relationships with other people, perhaps?), and writing a new thesis. He's actually happy! ("I haven't been this happy since... oh, wow, I've never been happy. Huh!") He tells his friend Henry (Dominic Burgess) to be more decisive - to just decide to get in shape ("It's that easy!"). Henry's on board!

Until Henry goes to the gym, destroys both his legs ("All the tendons in my legs snapped like violin strings"), gives himself a concussion when he manages to kick himself in the face, pees himself, and gets the whole thing caught on video ("I'm famous!"). Chidi brought him a basket of blueberry muffins, but Henry's nurse tells him he shouldn't eat blueberries anymore for ethical reasons. His brain breaks.

oh, Chidi, bud
He loses all his confidence and goes back to agonizing over every decision ("What's the maximum number of books I can check out, is it 12,000?"). Michael interferes again, this time as a librarian with an atrocious Australian accent, and tells Chidi to help someone else: the next person who asks for help. And wouldn't you know it, it's Eleanor! Michael and Janet breathe a sigh of relief; if Eleanor and Chidi are together, things are back on track.

Enter Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson), filled with determination to hack into the Judge's server and track down the gang. (Yes, an entire team of demons with computers from 1983 is tasked with tracking down FOUR humans. Out of like 30 billion in the Bad Place? Weird allocation of resources, man.)

so many wires!
Shawn starts zipping up demons in those weird chrysalis things for asking questions or just for fun, and they put on some Richard Marx to help boost productivity.

We're back to moral philosophy lessons! Hell yes. This is one of my favorite parts of this show; it's the only time I've been able to actually absorb philosophy lessons.

Aristotle: "Virtue is practical. Goodness isn't something that a person just inherently has, it's something that she achieves through her actions."

Eleanor's notes include a doodle of a burrito because she thought Aristotle was pronounced like Chipotle ("Wait - is it pronounce chip-tot-le?") Eleanor offers to get Chidi some edibles as a thank you (please no). Walking across campus, they bump into Simone, and Eleanor immediately picks up on their mutual hot-for-teacher vibes ("Why haven't you asked her out yet? Are you scared?" "Eleanor, it's not impressive to guess that I'm scared. I'm scared of everything."). She promises to drop it, but immediately asks Simone if she's into Chidi while he's in the MRI. Eleanor takes over the questions ("What color are Simone's eyes? If you could take Simone anywhere, on a date, where would you take her?" Chidi: "Sorry, is this part of the experiment?" Simone: "It is now, and keep in mind we can see your brain."), and gets Chidi to ask Simone out (Simone: "Wow, that is highly inappropriate. I'm just kidding!").

Michael is very frustrated by this turn of events; he thinks they won't bond with Simone in the picture. Janet reminds him that there were "plenty of reboots where they weren't even soulmates" and things still worked out (plus, she's run simulations on Chidi and Simone's kids - "one of them is hot enough to go on The Bachelor, AND smart enough to never go on The Bachelor!"). Michael decides to interfere YET AGAIN. He really can't let well enough alone.

He bribes/lies his way back to Earth, and opening the door lets the one demon Shawn hasn't zipped into a chrysalis get into the Judge's system, so they now have access to Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. No, wait, Shawn has zipped everyone involved in the project into cocoons.


Chidi and Eleanor dish about his date with Simone, and Eleanor realizes she was practicing virtue ethics by "helping [those] two bone down." ("Not a great understanding of virtue ethics." Fight me, Chidi.) Their conversation sparks an idea in Chidi and they bust into Simone's office, where she was meeting with a student who was trying to tell her his grandma died. Chidi's new thesis: get a group of people who've had near-death experiences, ask them ethical questions, bing bang boom, better understanding of brains, and Simone's going to use her "magical brain machine" to help. Spurred into a nerdy frenzy, they kiss! Hooray!

The first new member of the study: Tahani! After her near-death experience, she gave away all her earthly possessions, deleted the famous people from her phone ("Goodbye, Bono. Goodbye, The Edge. Goodbye, The Edge's real phone number that even Bono doesn't have."), and moved to a Buddhist monastery in Tibet.

Living a life of quiet contemplation gave her the clarity and peace of mind to write Get Out of the Spotlight, a bestselling book (two million copies!) on "shedding your need for validation from others!" ("This book is so brilliant, I've decided to quit writing, because I'll never top it." - Malcolm Gladwell; "Ditto" - Cormac McCarthy)

Michael intercedes again, this time posing as an investor who wants in on her incredible scam ("Have you thought about merch? You get to be rich and famous, and not have to do any of the work of helping people"). Moments later, Chidi calls and is being rebuffed by Tahani's assistant ("If you want to meet her, you can sign up for the Get Out of the Spotlight cruise, with special guests Deepak Chopra and will.i.am"), when Tahani snatches the phone away and agrees to participate in a months-long, unpaid academic research study.

Michael seriously can't stop. On top of everything he's already done (including sending Chidi an article about Tahani), he's still got to rope Jason into the study. He poses as Zack Pizazz, international talent scout, but Jason's over dancing. A year ago, when he had his near-death experience, he decided he had to change his life.

I think you can see where this is going
He gets his absurdly massive dance crew together, but his conditions (work hard ("24/7: think about dance 20 times a day for seven minutes") and no more crime) leave him with a third of the original crew ("but, now that those guys are no longer members of our crew, we can legally rob their houses" - Little Peanut).

Y'all: Jason is kind of a good dancer.

Buuuuuut, his crew loses competition after competition, and finally, they're out of rent money, so that thing about no more crime? That's when he proposes to his arresting officer. Pillboi bails him out and gives him a pep talk ("You're not a failure; you're a dreamer! When I'm with you, I feel like someday, I'll be able to buy my own vicodin, and it'll never turn out to actually be laxatives"). Still, Jason feels like if he died, he'd have no legacy ("I'm starting to think there's more to life than street dancing competitions"). Michael has the most direct conversation with Jason out of the four, commiserating and telling Jason that he knows a group of people "who are also looking for meaning."

Finally, finally, Michael goes back to the Place, bringing the Doorman an insulated travel mug with a frog on it, thinking he's never going to have to go back to Earth again. He goes triumphantly back to Janet ("How's Jason? Is he still cute?"), but they're interrupted by the Judge, checking in on their progress. Janet distracts her with a TV recommendation (Stealing Home? I've never heard of it, but apparently it's got the guy from NCIS). It seems like Michael and Janet have gotten away with it.

The gang's all in Sydney now, and Simone's explaining MRIs to them, when Chidi announces that there's going to be one more addition to the study: Trevor (Adam Scott), aka the demon we've met a few times before in the fake Good Place.