Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Good Place 2.04: "Existential Crisis"

“I worked so hard on my torture ideas, and theirs are so basic. These Millennials, they have no work ethic. Oh, sorry, a Millennial is someone who has only been torturing people for a thousand years. Millennial.”

So in the last episode of “The Good Place” that I blogged, I expressed my surprise that nobody has mentioned Sartre and “Huis Clos” yet. This episode involved a full-on existential crisis (hence the title) and a shout out to “French books,” but still no Sartre love! This is the first episode following the humans’ decision to help Michael eventually defeat Vicky and her blackmailing scheme. We split the party in this episode, with Eleanor and Chidi spending most of their time with Michael and Tahani and Jason doing their own thing (in many senses of the word). I think I liked the Eleanor/Chidi/Michael plot best because (spoiler alert!) Michael having an existential crisis is delightful, but I want to go to the party that beat the party Tahani tried to throw. I want a puppy pit and unicorns, damnit!

The episode opens with Vicky smugly sitting at the big desk in Michael’s old office and Michael giving her a file full of torture ideas. Vicky is unimpressed by the file. Much like our current President (and it’s still too soon for me to find Trump jokes funny while he is actively destroying our country), in the future, Vicky says she only wants Michael to give her one page memos with pictures. Plus, one of her goons has already come up with a great new idea to torture Tahani. They’re going to convince her to plan a birthday party for Gunnar, then throw an even better birthday party for him at the exact same time (so nobody will go to Tahani’s party, of course). Michael immediately warns Tahani and Jason of this plan. Jason doesn’t seem to think this is really a bad thing, and Tahani tries to put on a brave face, but it’s obvious that the idea of somebody putting on a better party troubles her. She decides to use a fancy restaurant for her party and recreate the décor of her 2007 Red Cross gala. She thinks she can create an even better party than the party that is supposed to be better than hers.

Meanwhile, Chidi, Eleanor, and Michael start ethics lessons (Tahani and Jason have to deal with the party). Michael is not paying attention, is acting childish, and is joking about how ridiculous humans are. After half an hour, he has completely checked out. Eleanor is a little pleased with herself that she’s now the best student as a result. Chidi speculates that perhaps Michael can’t appreciate ethics because he’s immortal. Chidi feels strongly that it’s the impermanence of life and thinking that one day you won’t be there that makes people good. Eleanor says she pretty much never thought about death. Chidi tries a little experiment and asks Michael if Bad Place demons can die. Michael tells the group about “Retirement,” which happens when a demon really screws up. Their essence is scooped out and scattered among suns. Chidi points out that since Michael is working with humans right now, Retirement might actually be in his future, and Michael might not be around one day. Michael thinks about this for a moment, then has a complete break-down, laying his head in Chidi’s lap from the enormity of it all.

After Chidi leaves the room, Eleanor does her best to try and cheer Michael up. Michael asks her how humans live with the knowledge that eventually they’re not going to exist anymore. Eleanor says that humans learn about death as kids, and it’s not a big deal. We then get a flashback to when Eleanor learned about death. She was a little kid, and her mom, drinking white wine from a straw, announces that their dog, Max, has “passed away.” She even tries to tell the rainbow bridge story. Eventually, though, she tells Eleanor the truth. Max died be cause he was left in a hot car, and now he’s in a duffel bag under the deck. Her mom also tells Eleanor not to cry, because that would be just one more irritating thing to add on to the top of a very bad day. Chidi and Eleanor bring Michael to Tahani’s party to try and cheer him up. Parties seem pointless to him now, though. Eleanor tells Michael to just shove his feelings down deep like everybody else and get over it. We see a flashback where her mother was absolutely horrid at her father’s funeral which probably explains most of her reaction.

The group heads over to Vicky’s party, which is truly epic. It’s animal themed since Gunnar was an animal rights activist in life. There’s a flying station where you can fly like a falcon, a puppy pit, and an opportunity to hang out in a kangaroo pouch. Jason especially is all over that last one. Tahani looks miserable. She has always judged her self-worth by her event planning skills, and she’s getting shown up big-time. Eleanor says she and Chidi will take care of Michael while Tahani takes a spin around the party, only then she realizes Michael is missing. He shows up in a red sports car, with Janet who has died her hair blonde and now answers to Jeanette. She also says that since Michael asked her to, she’ll make ditzy comments on command. Michael has clearly transitioned from existential crisis to mid-life crisis.

Michael goes all-out in mid-life-crisis mode. Vicky goes to give a speech inviting everyone to move along to Tahani’s party, but Tahani says they should stay put because it’s the superior party. Michael then interrupts to give a very drunken speech, but somehow manages not to give up the greater plan or give Vicky a hint that all is not as it seems. Chidi and Michael get him out of there before he can do any more damage. Chidi warns Eleanor that Michael’s tamping down all his feelings is not a good thing at all, and Eleanor has one last flashback to bring things home. She remembers a time (not long after her father’s death, presumably) where she had a complete, crying into a plunger, breakdown at a Bed, Bath, and Beyond. After remembering that time, she knows what to say to Michael. She tells him that because all humans are aware of death, they’re always a little sad, and that’s okay. Michael is finally able to pull himself together.

Back at the restaurant, Jason finally realizes that Tahani is very upset about the whole party situation. Jason tells her about how they used to audition people for his dance crew in Jacksonville. They would rate them 1-13 (with 8 being the best…long story) in five different areas, and Jason says he would give Tahani all eights. Tahani is touched by this, and she tells Jason he’s pretty great, too. Jason tells Tahani to be nicer to herself, which I think is advice we could all use sometimes. When I was really struggling after a big promotion at work and feeling like I couldn’t do my new job, a coworker reminded me of all the new things I was taking on with the promotion and reminded me to give myself “a little grace.” It definitely helped me get through that extremely stressful time. Anyway, by the end of the episode, they wind up sleeping together, which I guess we should have predicted by now. Tahani is both horrified by and smitten with Jason at the same time. The rest of the gang goes back to ethics lessons, and Michael no longer is quite so disruptive.

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