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'The Good Place' recap: Returning with 'A Leap Into Faith'

Kristen Bell as Eleanor in "The Good Place."
Kristen Bell as Eleanor in "The Good Place." (Colleen Hayes/NBC)

Previously on “The Good Place”: Jason and Tahani threw a last-minute wedding, only to be crashed by Janet’s hard drive heartbreak; Michael learned the meaning of friendship, the sole kind of relationship Chidi is interested in pursuing with Eleanor; and Sean showed up with a severe tone that could only mean one thing…

Michael is getting promoted! Benefits include a Senior Staff pin with the Anti-Like Button and full dental. Apparently, the reports have all been heading up (down?) stairs without any sign of misbehavior or subterfuge or secret plans to escape, and the VPs are overjoyed with the results. You can just hear the smile in Sean’s deadpan monotone!

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Sean brings the humans in and Michael lets the cat out: Everyone is in The Bad Place and has been a torture guinea pig the entire time. Surprise! The team’s effort to feign shock while also figure out what the hell is happening is terrific – I can’t say I didn’t have an identical experience watching at home and trying to assess where this was all leading – and the discomfort only deepens when Sean and Michael both agree to have a giant party to tear down the neighborhood before sending the humans off to true eternal suffering. And your precious Janet cannot save you now, earthlings. She’s drunk on magnets.

Back at Eleanor’s hideous clown ranch, the gang weighs their options. Tahani, Chidi, and Jason are all assuming that Michael has betrayed them and want to find a way out before Sean puts them in fire ant diapers, namely by ratting out Michael’s actual number of torture attempts. But Eleanor is Michael’s champion. She believes in him, after all they’ve been through together, and thinks that he threw out a Kierkegaard reference as a sign to trust him take a leap of faith. A leap into faith is the more apt 19th century Danish translation but either way, there is a reason we don’t call it a sidde i tvivl!

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"The Good Place" heads into hiatus with an (almost) wedding.

Eleanor’s theory of secret benevolence loses traction at the send-off comedy roast held in the public square. Michael rips into their personal failings one by one, from Jason’s idiocy to Tahani’s desperation for approval to Chidi’s inability to see when a knock knock joke is about to turn against him. It was, in Tahani’s words, “the meanest thing she’s ever seen” and that includes the Russell Crowe/Chamomile Incident of 2010. Things are looking grim, with or without Puddle of Mud on repeat in the background.

At the doomsday party, Vicky sees Michael whispering to Janet. They’ve already both agreed that if Michael goes down, Vicky goes right with him, but even demons are suspicious of deals with the devil. She tries to remove Janet’s magnet cuffs so Janet will sober up and tell her the truth, which ends up being her undoing.

In the morning, after a wild night of streaking to the two same songs, the demons are ready to move on and play some human volleyball, but their torture targets have escaped on a train to the medium place. The only one capable of running a train is Janet, and Michael did see Vicky trying to remove her handcuffs last night at the party.

Poor Vicky. Zapped into an untimely cocoon full of goo.

Sean must prepare the extradition request from The Medium Place, so he boards the train, and as it pulls away, we find our ethics gang hidden flat on the tracks! Michael sums it up best: “I was so scared for you guys!”

It turns out that Eleanor’s faith paid off. Michael had in fact been dropping clues all throughout the roast. He purposefully called Blake Bortels “Derek,” aka Janet’s ex-roboyfriend and the only other being capable of driving the train, which wouldn’t be so suspicious if Jason weren’t constantly talking about how much he loves Panthers’ quarterback Blake Bortles. After sneaking away from the party and running into each other like a perfect Three Stooges/Scooby Doo/Good Place crossover, Team Cockroach cracks the code in Michael’s speech. He taunted Tahani about running away after the final song! He told Eleanor she belonged in the Bad Place! He snarked that Chidi should have been under the train! He’s trying to tell us something…but what could it be Derek?

Full credit goes to the writers for the subtle semiotics. Michael’s speech sounded truly savage at the time, without any room for leaping into faith, and masking the signs until the end was a truly slick move. But I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at being surprised – the show’s ability to keep you guessing is a trademark at this point.

And I am certainly not assured of a happy ending. Between the fact that there are 5 more episodes to go and the ominous way that Eleanor’s line of “this is everything we ever wanted” mirrors Michael’s reaction to his promotion to Vice Demon, there is still plenty of misfortune to be had. For that I couldn’t be happier. Can’t you tell?

The Good Lines

“Can’t you tell? I’m squealing like a birthday girl.”

“Have you read boring and stupid? ‘Cuz that’s what you are!”

“Why is it always the ones you most expect?” “They would call it a sit of doubting!” “All they need is an offense, a defense, and a change in the rules!”

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“Knock Knock” “Who’s there?” “NO ONE! YOU DIED ALONE BECAUSE YOU COULDN’T COMMIT TO ANYONE!”

“Best summer ever you guys!”

“Derek?” “Derek!” “Derek.”

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