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'The Good Place' recap: Welcome to the Bad Place

Marc Evan Jackson as Shawn, Ted Danson as Michael.
Marc Evan Jackson as Shawn, Ted Danson as Michael. (Colleen Hayes/NBC)

There a few greater pleasures then watching a well-crafted episode of one of your favorite television series. (No, I don’t get outside much. Why do you ask?)

Despite being set in hell, this episode of Season 2 of “The Good Place” hit all the sweetest notes, from humor to character growth to use of guerrilla-style weaponry, and for the first time in quite some time I was emotionally overwhelmed by the ending beats of a half-hour comedy.

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But let’s start at the beginning. With the commandeered train quickly approaching The Bad Place, Michael provides all the props, costumes and stage directions for their undercover mission. He will need to grab special pins to allow them all to travel through the portal. Surprisingly, Tahani takes to a new personality the quickest (you’d think she’d been grinding hot dogs for years), and unsurprisingly Jason loses briefcase privileges within seconds.

Janet, too, must play along and become a Bad Janet, which means resisting basic requests and generally being a terror. Good Janet playing Bad Janet is everyone who sucks at arguing and can only put together a string of mildly unpleasant words as a comeback. Yeah, punch your teeth, you … nose wipe.

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The only person who is absolutely uncomfortable with the subterfuge is — wait for it — CHIDI ANAGONYE! Huge surprise, way out of left field. I actually don’t blame Eleanor for wanting to strangle him in this moment.

Everyone else can pretend to be ambivalent and retro for 20 minutes while Michael finds the way out. Just do what Tahani does and pretend His Girl Friday is set in Akron. But of course, this is by-the-book Chidi we’re talking about it, so the fact that they are heading to hell with their lives depending on five minutes of academic discomfort becomes less critical than breaking an ethical guideline.

You know your characters are about to be in trouble when the previous episode ends on “we have everything we ever wanted.”

Once the train arrives, Michael drops the kids off at The Museum of Human Misery, which is like the Epcot visitor’s center of The Bad Place. Collected here are animatronics of the worst humans in history, from the first person to floss in an open office plan to the first mansplainer, and the landmark ways they were subsequently tortured. Apparently, no one in the Bad Place has time to reflect on the lessons of the past so the place is always empty.

Well, except when there’s a big exhibit unveiling, of course! The room fills up with demons and platters of Maine’s finest bagels and Team Cockroach is suddenly at risk of getting squashed.

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To make matters worse, Michael has hit a roadblock in his own plan. When he meets with Sean and tries to secure more buttons, ostensibly for the big “extradition” from Mindy St. Claire’s house, it turns out there will be no legal recourse. Sean has other, naughtier plans. They end up in the War Room (in the Bad Place is it just called The Room?), and at Sean’s command there is a SEAL team raid on The Medium Place. SEAL Team, meet Derek and his wind chimes.

At the party, which only Tahani the Hot Dog Wench seems to be enjoying, keeping a low profile becomes even more difficult when special guest demon Dax Shepard approaches Chidi and mistakes him for a particularly gifted co-worker named Trent. Maybe the Dax Demon is really just that dense, but how trippy would it be if Chidi was in another life incarnated as a torturer, setting off a series of terrible incarnations that have yet to be repaid? Whether amazing foreshadowing or just plain coincidence, Chidi is not comfortable with lying about his supposed gifts in the torturing arts.

Eleanor rescues his conscience by bringing up Moral Particularism, a philosophical theory that says every situation has a unique set of moral applications. Like, remember that time Chidi missed his mom’s surgery because someone needed help babysitting? Coulda been avoided with some nifty particularism.

Chidi decides that for the sake of the group and his own safety, he’ll pretend to be Trent and even finds a way to provide the torturee with some good reading material while he’s at it. The gang’s cover is going smoothly, until the unveiling happens and everyone begins to notice that Trent looks an awful lot like that nerdy, nauseous robot on stage.

Michael, having fled the War Room, ushers the humans out before their mild suspicion turns into outright mob rule, but Sean and the other demons arrive to stop them. Then, and only then, does a true hero emerges wielding a Molotov cocktail.

"The Good Place" comes back from its winter hiatus, and everyone is trying to figure out: Can they trust Michael?

God Bless You, Jake Jortles.

Thanks to the distraction, they all make it to the portal and Michael passes out the badges to Chidi, Tahani and Jason. He looks desperately for Eleanor’s additional pin but cannot find it, and Sean’s team is closing in. Then, with a calm smile, Michael realizes he has a way to solve the trolley problem without hurting any bystanders. He removes his own pin and gives it to Eleanor, pushing her into the portal and saving her chances of making it to the real Good Place.

Emotionally hard-hitting, definitely surprising, and sharp witted as hell (pun intended), this episode will go down in my tops list. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve been cutting onions and need to dry my eyes while I ponder the value of moral particularism.

The Good Lines

“All trains are delayed by 3 hours, like they are every day... Attention all passengers, you suck and you are ugly.”

“This is hell. Of course there’s a gift shop.”

“Now I work in the department of toxic masculinity.”

“I want a bottle of corn syrup and a scooter so I can ride around the mall.”

“I took the form of a 45 year old white man. I can only fail up!”

“Rub your lucky bookmark.”

“You read on your own?”

“She even name drops in hell.”

“How do you smell loud and confusing?”

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