DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Good Place contains more spoilers than the number of times Michael has meddled with various timelines to suit his agenda. Our architect’s world used to revolve around himself, you know. You’ve been warned. Prepare for the afterlife, and enter at your own peril.
Welcome back, Team Cockroach! The Good Place showered our Thursday night with bountiful blessings aplenty with its Season 3 one-hour premiere. One of my favorite things about this series is the endless possibilities. The Good Place, given its premise, has the ability to constantly reinvent itself when necessary. Thus, Season 3 Episode 1 served as a “reboot” of sorts. Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason are back on Earth. Michael attempts to guide them all on the correct path so, upon their inevitable deaths, they end up in The Good Place proper. However, Shawn and his Bad Place cronies are also monitoring our fearsome foursome with the intent to intervene and lead them astray. Oh, and that cliffhanger? Seeing Trevor make his grand reappearance was sheer delight.
Alright, time to delve into “Everything is Bonzer!” Just be sure to leave the Doorman a hot cup of antimatter, no decaf with plenty of whipped cream. The best part of waking up truly is antimatter in your cup.
We open with Michael (Ted Danson) schmoozing with the Doorman to Earth (Mike O’Malley). He produces papers courtesy of the Judge to grant him clearance for Earth travel. Michael is giddy at the prospect of finally interacting with humans on their little planet. He’s going to ride a bus, possibly in the sideways seat! After he steps across the threshold to Earth, we see him save each member of Team Cockroach from their respective deaths – Eleanor (Kristen Bell) from getting run over by the erection pills truck. Chidi (William Jackson Harper) from being squashed like a pancake via falling air conditioner. Tahani (Jameela Jamil) from being flattened by the statue of her sister. And, lastly, Jason (Manny Jacinto) from suffocating to death inside that safe. Everyone lives! Now, time to witness them blossom into the best versions of themselves…
Later, Michael regales Janet (D’Arcy Carden) with his Earthly adventures. Janet is elated to discover that her friends are safe and sound. However, both are taken aback when Team Cockroach starts to veer off the morally sound path in a matter of months. We see a brief recap of events from the Season 2 finale, when Michael returns to Earth disguised as a bartender and encourages Eleanor. He subtly plants the Chidi seed, thus prompting her to fly to Australia to meet the humble ethics professor.
Now, Eleanor arrives in Chidi’s office. She launches into her story about her near-death experience, and how he’s the right person to guide her. Chidi is capable of aiding Eleanor in her path to enlightenment. Chidi heartily agrees to Eleanor’s offer, and the duo plans to meet once a week for an ethics class. Eleanor is bewildered by Chidi’s eagerness to help her. Chidi reveals his own near-death story.
Flashback time! We see Chidi narrowly escape death by air conditioner thanks to Michael. It’s then that he decides to become more decisive. He no longer takes an hour to choose a muffin, for one. Progress! He also encourages his friend Henry (Dominic Burgess) to make a conscious decision to become more active. Unfortunately, Henry’s brief athletic adventure ends in a trip to the hospital. Chidi feels terrible remorse for his friend’s current condition. We see him start to spiral out of control again. He even pays a visit to a doctor named Simone (Kirby Howell-Baptiste) and urges her to run an MRI scan on him to see if something is amiss with his brain chemistry. You know, see if the part of Chidi’s brain that dictates decision making has gone to shirt. Simone runs said scan and discovers that Chidi’s brain is perfectly healthy.
Now, we see Chidi interact with Michael at the library. Michael is undercover as a librarian, and he encourages Chidi to help others as a way to alleviate his own distress. Then, Eleanor waltzed through Chidi’s office door, and he knew it was a sign from above (well, Michael). Michael is quite the matchmaker.
Meanwhile, Shawn (Marc Evan Jackson) and his Bad Place henchmen are hard at work monitoring Team Cockroach on Earth. He has sinister plans. Oh, yes, sinister indeed. He even urges they listen to something “terrible” to inspire the demons. “Right Here Waiting” by Richard Marx should do the trick. Jackson is hysterical in this role, and I’m so glad we aren’t through with Shawn just yet.
Later, Eleanor and Chidi are in the midst of one of their ethics lessons. Eleanor thought Aristotle was pronounced like “Chipotle,” and began to question everything she knew about the Mexican restaurant chain. After the lesson, they run into Simone. Eleanor notices the sparks flying between Simone and Chidi. She urges him to ask Simone out.
Next, Chidi is submitted to another MRI scan because, you know, Chidi. Eleanor is present and begins grilling him about questions regarding Simone. The pair treats it like a lie detector test of sorts, since they can monitor Chidi’s brain chemistry. Chidi finally asks Simone out on a proper date. This scene was almost sickeningly sweet.
Now, Michael and Janet are busy observing Eleanor and Chidi’s interactions on Earth. Michael is dismayed to discover Chidi romantically bonding with Simone. How are Eleanor and Chidi supposed to bong? Then, the light bulb goes off in Michael’s head. We need all of Team Cockroach together! Michael hastily runs for the portal to Earth with the hopes of bringing Tahani and Jason into the fold. Janet is hesitant, feeling that Michael may be pushing his luck. Only time will tell…
Later, Shawn is closely watching his demons are hard at work attempting to hack the Judge’s system. One of his lackeys successfully inserts himself into said system. Now they have access to her files, as well as an upper hand regarding the whereabouts of Team Cockroach. Shawn cocoons every last one of his demons, despite their obvious success. He sure loves a good cocoon. Shawn realizes what Michael has been up to.
Next, Chidi is struck with a chord of inspiration. He barges into Simone’s office and presents his newest thesis idea – he’s going to bring together a group of people with a commonality. What is this commonality, you ask? People who’ve had near-death experiences, of course. He’s going to ask them a series of questions and subject them to an MRI scan so he can study their brain waves. See if everyone subjected to a near-death experience can share more than just a singular event. How does a near-death experience affect ethical decision making? Genius, if I do say so myself. Simone eagerly agrees to offer her MRI machine for the thesis.
Later, Chidi introduces Eleanor to Tahani (or reintroduces, I should say). Tahani was requested to join the group initially at Chidi’s behest, but later came of her own volition. Flashback time! We see Tahani post near-statue squashing incident. Of course, since Michael vanished, everyone believes her sister Kamilah (Rebecca Hazlewood) was the one who saved her. Regardless, Tahani takes this incident as a sign that she must improve herself as a person. Tahani rids herself of her material possessions and joins a monastery.
Then, a group of filmmakers spot Tahani one day at the monastery as she’s mid meditation. This interaction coerces Tahani back into the spotlight. Now she can encourage others to shirk the spotlight and help others! Tahani pens a book and her success skyrockets, a success that isn’t shadowed by Kamilah.
Next, Michael introduces himself as an influential investor at Tahani’s party. He calls her bluff and accuses her of not actually helping people. Rather, he proposes she’s pulling the wool over everyone’s eyes for monetary gain. This gets our girl thinking. While her assistant is on the phone with Chidi turning down his offer, Tahani yanks said phone away and agrees to join the study group. Three down, one to go!
Later, we see Jason standing solitary on a dock in Jacksonville. Michael waltzes over and introduces himself as an international talent scout named Zack Pizzazz. Michael’s alias names in this episode crack me up. “Professor Charles Brainman” was a solid A, but I think the latter Pizzazz may take the cake. Michael offers to take Jason’s dance group to the next level, but our favorite Floridian forlornly turns him down.
Flashback time! We see Jason after his near-death experience. He decides that life is short, and Dance Dance Resolution (love the nod to Season 2 here) deserves to be in the spotlight. Jason and his dance troupe begin their trek to the top. Unfortunately, they are disqualified from every competition they compete in due to their large size. Only dance crews of six to seven members are allowed, but Jason’s group has 20 members. Rules are rules, dude. We see Jason getting arrested once again for robbery, and it appears his life is on a downward spiral.
Now, Jason finds himself wandering aimlessly through life. Michael offers up the newly formed brain study group as a stepping stone to finding new meaning for Jason. Jason agrees to travel to Australia to join Team Cockroach. Four down, none to go!
Later, the Judge (Maya Rudolph) takes a break from binge watching 300 episodes of NCIS to check in on Michael and Janet. Of course, they lie just enough to cover up what’s really going on. The Judge suspects nothing is amiss and recommences her marathon. Crisis averted!
Next, we see Simone showing our fearsome foursome the MRI machine they’ll be using for the study. I’m so happy the band is back together! Chidi introduces one more new member of the group, who claims he was almost run over by a train a few months back. None other than Trevor (Adam Scott), Bad Place extraordinaire, waltzes in. Uh oh. This must be Shawn’s ace in the hole…
The Good Place is back, folks! Now, this episode felt more like a gradual build toward that cliffhanger of an ending with Bad Place Trevor. A stepping stone for the tone of the season as a whole. I’m glad we were able to see what Shawn and the demons were up to. Otherwise the stakes would be nonexistent. This show is so adept at crafting cliffhangers that make me salivate for more. The wait for next week will be an excruciating one. Episodic MVP goes to Danson, who juggles many hats in the season opener. As per usual, he knocks it out of the park with the multi-faceted Michael.
How do you think Trevor will throw a wrench into Michael’s plans? What will Chidi’s study entail, and could it reveal clues from the group’s past together? Will the Judge discover what Michael is up to? Join me next week as I recap The Good Place, here on Geek Girl Authority.
The Good Place airs Thursdays at 8pm on your NBC affiliate.