Friday, October 28, 2016

The Good Place 1.06: "What We Owe to Each Other"

“Well, that’s called tyranny, and it’s generally frowned upon.”

“What We Owe to Each Other” probably contained the most simultaneous ethical dilemmas of “The Good Place” thus far, which prides itself in its exploration of ethics and philosophy. Eleanor has to reckon with the promise she made to Michael to help him figure out what has been going on with the neighborhood. I am also kind of sensing a (sort of) love quadrangle brewing between Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. Well, it’s more that either Eleanor or Tahani could end up with Chidi, and Jason just happens to be with Tahani right now. I think I’d rather see Eleanor and Chidi together, because they actually challenge each other and can teach each other something. Sure Tahani and Chidi have mutual interests, but I feel like they would be really boring, and they wouldn’t push each other to grow. Maybe you aren’t supposed to have any more growing to do once you get to the afterlife, but I think Chidi would have a lot more fun with Eleanor in the long run. Chidi has his own ethical dilemma related to Tahani that I’ll talk about more later.

Anyway, the episode opens with Eleanor freaking out before her first meeting with Michael about the investigation into the neighborhood problems. She’s fairly certain she’s the source of the problems, and she doesn’t want to go to the Bad Place, but she also realizes it would be bad if she broke her promise to Michael. Chidi thinks he has her answer in the ethical theory of contractualism. In this theory, we’re supposed to imagine people making rules for a new society. If anyone would veto the rule you are about to use in your life, it’s probably a bad idea. Chidi posits that if Eleanor tried to create a rule that anyone could break their promises, it would probably get vetoed. Eleanor thinks this means she needs to figure out a way to “help” Michael without really helping him. After Michael shows off how he has been examining every rock in the neighborhood for defects, Eleanor implements her idea. She suggests that they go have some fun so Michael can recharge his batteries and approach the problem from a fresh perspective. The benefit to Eleanor is that while he’s having fun, Michael isn’t making progress towards figuring out she’s the problem.

Meanwhile, Tahani has an idea to get closer to “Jianyu,” and Jason is less than thrilled about it. He is pretending to meditate, and he has a magic 8 ball that he is using to help him figure out what to say to Tahani. So when she suggests they go to the spa for a couples day, his response is “signs point to yes.” Then he goes and runs to Chidi in a panic because he doesn’t think he can make small talk with Tahani for a day without giving himself away as a fraud. He wants Chidi to come with them, which Chidi thinks is a bad idea at first. Then Chidi realizes that Tahani is in the same position he is (not having a soulmate in the afterlife) but doesn’t realize it, so he figures the least he can do is try to help keep the Jianyu illusion going. Being the third wheel on a couples spa day is going to be hella awkward, though. Being pretty perpetually single myself, I’ve gotten pretty good at avoiding such situations when my friends are in relationships. Clearly that’s a lesson Chidi still needs to learn.

Eleanor’s day of fun seems to go as planned. She and Michael bond over frozen yogurt (and we get an explanation for exactly why Michael likes fro yo so much), and Michael reveals that architects typically don’t stay with the neighborhood like he has been. This neighborhood is something of a pilot project to test Michael’s theory that transition would go better if the architect stayed with the neighborhood for at least the first thousand years. That’s why he’s so stressed out and afraid of failure – his whole theory is on the line. Eleanor continues helping but not helping by taking Michael to karaoke, and then to an arcade, where they have fun playing skeeball and bowling. Michael is actually able to let go of his troubles for a bit, although unfortunately for Eleanor, it has the intended effect – he gets some clarity about what’s been going on with the neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Tahani, Jason, and Chidi go to the spa for their “couples” day. Janet is very confused by Chidi’s presence, since the spa typically caters to couple, and he is decidedly not a couple. I feel Chidi’s pain here, for sure. While I enjoy hanging out with my close friends and their significant others, I also try to give them their space to be couples, too, since to do otherwise would just be plain awkward. It’s the plight of the perpetually single friend. Anyway, Chidi has a job to do, so he doesn’t have time to focus on the awkward. During the massage session, he suggests that Janet massages Tahani while he massages Jason. He stands between Jason and Tahani basically to keep Jason from saying anything too stupid. Later, Tahani is bummed that it wasn’t as much of a day of bonding with “Jianyu” as she hoped, so she has a meal at what is usually a couples restaurant. Chidi joins her, and they decide that they are “soulfriends.” They do indeed have much in common, including a love of impressionist art.

Throughout the episode, we get flashbacks to a time when Eleanor broke a promise, and there were some pretty serious consequences. A friend/maybe coworker/acquaintance of some sort asked Eleanor to house-sit for a few days and take care of her dog while she moved her mother into assisted living. This person’s wi-fi is better than the wi-fi Eleanor steals from her neighbor, so she’s in. Not long after she’s started the job, a friend stops by and says she has tickets to see Rihanna in Vegas. At first, Eleanor hesitates a little bit, but after not much coaxing from her friend, she’s leaving multiple bowls of food out (plus the whole open bag) for the dog and jetting to Vegas to see Riri. Unsurprisingly, we later learn that the dog in question suffered from a permanently expanded stomach. It was played for laughs (the disgruntled friend/acquaintance has to drag the poor thing around in a wagon), but it’s actually kind of horrifying if you think about it too much (and you like dogs).

Jason is happily playing video games in his budhole when Chidi stops by for a chat. Jason is all excited because, since he now knows Tahani likes impressionist paintings, he has decided to give her a large photograph of a comedian famous for doing impressions. If I were Chidi, I would have headdesked so hard at this moment. By the end of the episode, Jason is giving Tahani a painting of herself as three ballerinas in the style of Degas. Chidi painted it of course, and Jason gives him the thumbs up as Tahani preens about how only her soulmate could have given her such a gift. I am really not sure how I feel about this. I don’t think I like it.

Eleanor starts helping Michael try to figure out which person(s) is responsible for the neighborhood going all wonky. They start out where the garbage incident happened, and Janet provides a list of everyone who was on garbage duty, but then they all remember that people were flying that day too, and the list of garbage pickers and flyers is much longer. Eleanor is safe for now. Next they head to the restaurant, where Michael remarks only thirty people were invited to the opening. Janet is once again a buzzkill, reminding Michael that over sixty people stopped by to see the restaurant, and everyone in the neighborhood was in reasonably close vicinity. Eleanor tries to get Michael to call off the hunt for a little while, but it just leads him to put on a hoodie and curl on the ground in despair that he can’t properly take care of his neighborhood. Eleanor then changes tactics to try and cheer him up. Michael gets up, looks at Eleanor quizzically, then declares he needs to call a neighborhood meeting. Eleanor is convinced that she is going to be revealed as a fraud at the meeting, but Michael instead chooses to blame himself, and he says he has to go away now.

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