Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Good Place 1.04: "Jason Mendoza"

“Yeah, I miss being myself. Myself was the best.”

In the fourth episode of “The Good Place,” we learn quite a bit more about “Jianyu,” aka Jason Mendoza of Florida. When she finds out that Jason is a fellow not-belonger, Eleanor desperately tries to get him to join her in her quest to be a better person and earn a true place in the Good Place. Jason may be beyond helping, though, even if his flashbacks were pretty entertaining. The episode does start to bring up a fundamental issue with Eleanor’s quest. She’s facing a lose-lose situation. Become someone other than her true self (Eleanor couches it as being a “better version of herself”) or face eternal damnation. Either way, Eleanor is in trouble. I think, at least for now, the show is going to try and make the argument that the better version is the right way to go, but I’m not sure if that’s right.

This episode picks up right where the last one left off, with Jianyu revealing to Eleanor that he doesn’t belong in the Good Place, either. His monk who has taken a vow of silence cover has gotten him through thus far without causing disasters like Eleanor. His name is actually Jason Mendoza, he’s from Jacksonville Florida, and he’s an amateur DJ and (fake) drug dealer who once hit a manatee with his jet ski. He introduces Eleanor to his “budhole,” which is pretty much a man cave decorated, as Eleanor describes it, as a cross between twelve-year-old boy and thirteen-year-old boy. This was supposed to be Jianyu’s private meditation space, but Jason uses it as his place where he can be himself. Eleanor is glad to know about this so now she has a place where she can be herself, too.

Throughout the episode, we get flashbacks to Jason’s life in Florda. Specifically, we see him attending an “Acid Cat” show (think Deadmau5). Jason really wants to make it as a DJ, but he hasn’t had a big break yet. Acid Cat does sort of give him a chance, though. He’s got another job he needs to go to, and Jason is of similar build, so he offers to let Jason put on the Acid Cat head and press the play button for the rest of the week. Jason agrees to do this, but part of the way through his first set, and in keeping with the theme of the episode, he decides he needs to be his authentic self. He takes off the Acid Cat head and becomes “DJ Music.” Everybody at the show hates him and pelts him with glowsticks. Jason finds himself sued by Acid Cat for violating his contract, and Jason explains his struggle to one of his friends, saying that he wants to world to see that he has a beautiful soul. And then he basically hurls a Molotov cocktail at Acid Cat’s boat.

In the Good Place, everybody has a chance to achieve their soul’s greatest desire. For Chef Patricia, that’s opening a restaurant called the Good Plates. Michael enlists Tahani’s help in planning the grand opening of the restaurant. Her background is in charity event planning, so she’s only too happy to try and top her 2006 event for stem cell research, which Janet assures her was her best gala. She’s a bit thrown off by Chef Patricia, who is very “intense,” even when she’s happy. This is the one aspect of the episode that I didn’t really like. Especially after all the “Top Chef” I’ve watched, I feel like the stereotype of the super intense female (usually lesbian) chef is kind of played out. It was too easy of a joke, and kind of beneath this show. Anyway, Tahani is very disappointed to find out that Jianyu isn’t on the guest list. Michael explains that he thinks the success of the event will depend on good conversation, and since Jianyu can’t speak, it was better to leave him off the list. Tahani is very disappointed in this, although she doesn’t outright complain.

Eleanor, even though she’s completely unprepared, goes to one of her ethics lessons with Chidi. After admitting she hasn’t actually read the book he assigned yet, she asks if she can go spend some time with Jianyu. Since Buddhism is close to the philosophy he had planned on teaching to Eleanor, Chidi agrees to it. As soon as Eleanor gets up off the couch, though, she starts to hear EDM (Jason’s music of choice). She finds Jason in full DJ gear spinning some tunes. Chidi takes one look and declares that Eleanor “broke Jianyu.” They have just enough time to hide away all the DJ equipment before Tahani arrives on the scene. She hears Jianyu mutter that he’s “cool,” and she immediately assumes Eleanor and Tahani have been working with him to help him talk again. She rushes to Michael and asks him to add Jianyu to the guest list for the restaurant opening, and Michael agrees.

The gala itself does not go at all as planned. At first, everything is fine. Chef Patricia serves everyone their favorite meal. Eleanor (who has nothing on her plate, representing a time the other Eleanor went on a hunger strike) and Jason (who has a block of tofu) are clearly not happy with their meals, but they muddle through. Things get worse when, in an effort to get Jianyu talking, Michael asks everyone to tell the story behind their favorite meal. A guy with chicken soup goes first, but then Jason wants to talk, and he wants to talk as himself, not Jianyu. He wants to talk about getting wings at a strip club, basically. Eleanor takes Chidi aside and convinces him that the only way to avoid exposing Jason is to create a distraction. She punches a huge hole in the fancy cake Chef Patricia had painstakingly created.

Since Eleanor did a bad thing in wrecking the cake, there are bad consequences. A huge sinkhole opens up right in the middle of the restaurant, ending the festivities and almost sending chicken soup guy to the Bad Place (he hangs on to the edge of the sinkhole as Michael promises to put the rest of his soup in the refrigerator). The evening a bust, the crowd disburses. Jason actually does show up at Chidi’s next ethics lesson, but it’s just because he wants to know if Chidi’s school has a football team. Tahani is devastated at how badly the night went, and she goes to Michael to turn in her evening gloves and resign as event planner. Michael says that once the sinkhole is repaired, the restaurant is going to need a grand reopening, and Tahani is only too happy to head it up. When she goes back to the restaurant to scope things out, though, she finds that the sinkhole is getting worse, not better.

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