Probably the best thing about this week’s premise-altering episode of The Good Place (other than Chidi’s newly-revealed abs) has to be the fact that, prior to blowing up the plot for the umpteenth time, the show seems to make an earnest attempt to do the thing that most other sitcoms would do to slow things down. At the end of last week’s episode, our study group catches Michael and Janet opening the portal to the afterlife. Eventually, Michael is forced to reveal all to the group, as he’s done many a time in the past, but first comes an ill-fated lie, rebranding himself as Special Agent Rick Justice of the FBI’s paranormal activity squad, tasked which chasing
demons ghouls and attempting to convince the four that they’re somehow part of it.
Eleanor et al instantly see through it. On any other show, they might not have. But on The Good Place, it’s totally in line with their characters to deny it, even though, a moment later, Michael is forced to give them the truth and they instantly believe it. A big fat important part about Michael’s character is that he’s bad at lying. Even the best, most finely-tuned lie, like the original Neighourhood, is going to get turned on its head, because no matter how hard he tries, it’s never convincing enough. Making up a terrible, amazing alias on the spot isn’t going to trick these four, whether they remember his previous lies or not. And yet, when he explains the truth – that they’ve died and spent hundreds of years in hell, and that the afterline’s timeline looks like the English cursive representation of the name “Jeremy Bearimy”, which also happens to be this week’s episode title – there is no objection.
This is a perfect encapsulation of The Good Place’s earnestness, and why the format works so well. The characters are consistent and have incredible chemistry with one another, no matter what crazy situation the writers inevitably place them in. What really puts it over the top, however, is the quality of the writing and what the writers choose to do with those situations, and those finely tuned characters. It’s kind of shocking how such a critical episode chooses not to be plot-driven, but instead make a point about the show’s philosophical and ethical questions. Especially since it chooses to do so without reverting back to the often-used contrivance of the show of having Chidi serve as the group’s professor.
Instead, faced with a life meaningless existence, expecting thereafter an eternity of suffering, the group is left to their own devices, as everyone chooses to take a completely different path. Michael and Janet are writing a manifesto of their experience (and based on how much the episode focuses on this you have to imagine something will come of it, like maybe the manifesto getting leaked to the public and breaking the entire system). Tahani decides to give away all of her money while Jason, in her tow, aims her towards giving it to the people he perceives might need it the most. Eleanor says she’s going to play by her own rules, as she did before her original death, but finds that she’s suddenly bound by the rules of society she was previously keen on ignoring. And Chidi, faced with irrefutable yet irreconcilable proof that his life is a lie and his lifelong struggle with indecisiveness was ultimately pointless, is merely broken. He strips down, spends hundreds of dollars on groceries, makes a disgusting chili and has an episode in front of his classroom.
And yet, while he’s having his breakdown, he winds up summing up exactly what everyone in the group is doing. Tahani’s actions are proof of virtue ethics, as she chooses to be a good person regardless of the consequences as she donates anonymously (but not the way another Ted Danson character did on Curb Your Enthusiasm). Jason chooses consequentialism, steering her virtue towards those who need it the most. Eleanor sticks with deontology, a.k.a. the actions themselves and the rules of society. Chidi simply disregards all of these options and opts to go with nihilism, since nothing matters and actions are inconsequential.
The truth winds up being somewhere in the middle, as Eleanor winds up rallying the group with a plan to do good and help people because trying is better than not trying. However, before they can get started on their new path, Larry Hemsworth shows up, unaware of what’s transpired. I kind of hope they never address his appearance and everyone just assumes Tahani dumped poor Larry offscreen.
All of this makes “Jeremy Bearimy” one of the best episodes of The Good Place and of TV this year, good enough for 9.5 wings and atria out of 10.
The Best Lines from The Good Place S03E05:
- Tahani Namedrops: James Cameron, “The Bodyguard’s” Kevin Costner.
- Michael Aliases: Special Agent Rick Justice, FBI, and for Janet, Lisa “double nickname” Fuquois, AKA “Frenchie”, AKA “Janet”.
- Seriously though, damn Chidi. And I’m not talking about his shirt that reads “Who What Where When Wine”.
- Eleanor winds up at a bar called “Drinking Nemo.”
- Tahani: “What’s The Good Place and, what are afterlife points and, who has the most and is it me?
- Michael: “But you’re forgetting one crucial piece of information… right?”
- Michael: “I could kill them all right now, it would be easy. Their bodies are very poorly made. They’re mostly goo and juice. You just take the juice out and then they’re dead.”
- Janet/Michael: “So sorry for eternally dooming you.” “That’s our bad.”
- Michael explaining the dot above the I to Chidi: “How do I explain this concisely… this is Tuesdays. And also July. And sometimes it’s never.”
- Tahani: “I need you to act as my bodyguard, like my friend Kevin Costner in that movie where he was a bodyguard, ‘The Bodyguard’.”
- Jason: “In Jacksonville, I got a flu virus named after me because I kissed a bat on a dare.”
- Drug Dealer to Chidi: “I was just trying to sell you some drugs and you made it weird.”
- Eleanor: “Rule number two, no more Spider-Man movies. There are way too many Spider-Man movies, so many dorky little twerpy Spider-Men.”
- Eleanor: “In America everybody does whatever they want, society did break down, it’s terrible and it’s great. You only look out for number one, scream at whoever disagrees with you, there are no bees because they all died, and if you need surgery you just beg for money on the internet.”
- Tahani: “Hello madam, are you poor?”
- Jason: “I could have gone to a real doctor instead of pretending I was a big dog so I could go to the vet.”
- Banker: “We’re technically supposed to shut down the bank if anyone from Florida even walks in.”
- Jason: “If it’s any easier you can just put it on a GameStop gift card.”
- Man/Eleanor: “Are you alright?” “No, YOU shut up.”
- Chidi: “Imma eat all this chili, and/or die trying.”
- Chidi: “And now I’m gonna eat my marshmallow candi chili in silence and you all can jump up into your own butts.”
- Michael: “I know it’s Thursday but I’d really like to visit a LensCrafters.”