Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Good Place 1.08: “Most Improved Player”

“Well, I say we call it a day. I mean I nailed the questionnaire and you’re swimming in cacti, can’t we just chalk this up to a hilarious mistake and move on?”
- Eleanor

When last we left the Good Place, Michael was on the verge of “retiring” and Eleanor stood up and confessed that she didn’t belong there to get him to stay. Now of course that has consequences, which include a sort of play on the pilot and our two leads’ first meeting. We find Eleanor sitting in the waiting room and then Michael calls her in. Because Janet’s memory is still rebooting, every time Michael or Eleanor ask her for anything, she gives them a cactus. It’s a funny sight gag the first few times but got kind of old really fast. But we do get to see Michael try to figure out whether Eleanor actually belongs here based on a series of questions which include whether she committed any heinous crimes while alive, whether she paid money to see the Red Hot Chili Peppers in concert and whether she was an avid viewer of the Bachelor franchise.

When Michael still can’t determine whether Eleanor was a good person (I mean, she did lie about her age by four years … horror of horrors), he pulls out this glowing cube thing that can detect lies and truths. According to Michael, it hasn’t been sued before but it seems to be very accurate. And for once, Eleanor is completely truthful. She says she didn’t kill Janet but she knows who did and won’t say who. I’d almost forgotten he was still looking into what happened to Janet. While Michael is questioning Eleanor, Chidi, Jason and Tahani are waiting out in the waiting room. Tahani is furious that she was lied to and makes reference to feeling like her “good friend Taylor” when she was dissed by her “other good friend Kanye” who was defending her “best friend Beyoncé”. Honestly, I hate it when Tahani name drops like that. She thinks she’s so amazing for having friends who are celebrities but it just comes off as super pretentious and snooty. They also seem to be sort of pushing the Chidi and Tahani connection a bit more this episode, too. Still makes me wonder if the theory about them not having the right soul mates is true.

When Michael calls Tahani in, she gives him a wishy-washy answer about whether he should let Eleanor stay or not (as we saw before she went in, Chidi begs her to remember what Eleanor’s gone through). It wasn’t very helpful but then again, neither was Jason. All he did was give Michael a minor existential crisis and get pricked by a cactus. But then, Janet actually comes through and finds Eleanor’s file. This means Chidi doesn’t have to be questioned about Janet’s murder so his head won’t explode with the weight of the deed and his moral tug-of-war over whether to tell the truth and risk being kicked out. But it does mean that Eleanor now gets to explain the biggest moral events in her life, the things that were her biggest positive and negative life values. It starts out simple enough. There was a little girl whose mom wasn’t around much so Eleanor took her to the mall and bought her churro dogs (which sound absolutely revolting). Despite the grossness of the food choice, Michael agrees that it was a nice thing for Eleanor to do. And then he asks her about what turns out to be one of her lowest points.

Back in the day she had a horrible roommate who most definitely ended up in the Bad Place (or will once she’s dead) who wouldn’t let Eleanor wear her expensive dress to a party. So Eleanor tried it on anyway and ripped it, then said nothing and let her roommate sue the poor dry cleaner, forcing them out of business. Eleanor then sold a bunch of t-shirts with her roommate’s face on them saying “dress bitch”. To be fair, it was Eleanor’s other roommate who started up the shirt business. I mean, yes Eleanor didn’t say anything about the whole situation (and then used the money she got from the shirts to go buy the dress herself) but I didn’t think she should have been solely blamed for the whole thing. Even still, it’s enough for Michael to call down to the Bad Place and have their Architect come to take Eleanor away.

When the Bad Place crew shows up, Michael convinces them to give Eleanor a little time to say goodbye. She has a very touching moment with Chidi and even Tahani and Jason show up. You can tell she really doesn’t want to go and she has been making progress on becoming a better person. Once Eleanor gets on the train, we see Chidi confess everything to Michael. He admits he killed Janet and explains why it happened in the first place. He reiterates that Eleanor has been learning and pretty quickly at that. She doesn’t deserve to be kicked out. This galvanizes Michael to stop the train back to the Bad Place and take Eleanor back. It isn’t a permanent fix but he isn’t going to just let her go without a fight. Trevor, the Bad Place Architect, seems okay with that but he also says that he’s keeping the other Eleanor (who then steps off the train, looking a bit worse for wear … well as much as one does on this show). I mean, we kind of assumed that the good Eleanor was in the Bad Place this whole time but it was a bit of a shock to finally meet her. I did find it amusing that Trevor said and did a bunch of the things that were specifically noted as being things that would land you in the Bad Place. He told Eleanor to smile and I actually cringed at that (both times I watched the episode).

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