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The Good Place, annotated: “A Girl From Arizona, Part One”

Photo: Colleen Hayes (NBC)

In addition to being one of the best shows on TV, The Good Place is a dense knot of running jokes, visual humor, references to dense philosophy tomes, and breadcrumbs for later episodes. In order to help you keep it all straight, The A.V. Club will be annotating the show’s fourth and final season. Catch something that we didn’t? Email us at youforkingmissedit@avclub.com.

Read our recap of “A Girl From Arizona, Part One


Visual gags

Everything Is Vine!

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The new neighborhood blends elements of all the old neighborhoods, including some golden Megan Amram oldies like the Annie-riffing pasta spot Lasagne Come Out Tomorrow and the only evil sounding Ponzu Scheme. There is, as far as I can tell, one new addition, a wine-focused establishment that calls back to the very first sign we ever saw in The Good Place.

Immanuel Kant, Critique Of Pure Reason

The first book Chidi summons “like Thor’s hammer” is one of the definitive texts by his philosophical lodestar.

“I just came to mix myself a Derek”

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Ingredients in the all-garnish cocktails held (and never consumed, of course) by Derek in “A Girl From Arizona, Part One” include: Gherkins, a whole white onion garnished with an olive on a pick, and a bunch of maraschino cherries.

Simone’s dabbing Einstein T-shirt

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Let us now appreciate the cherry on top of Simone’s kitchen-sink denial wardrobe: Not the Green Bay Packers Cheesehead nor the complementary foam fingers, but her T-shirt, in which the father of relativity celebrates the mass—energy equivalence with a move that was passé well before any of our deceased protagonists arrived in the afterlife.

Callbacks and running gags

Tahani’s famous friends: “I lost that battle with Robert Downey Jr., and I’ll be damned if I lose it with you.”

The second MCU joke of the premiere comes out of Tahani’s Rolodex, as she recalles and regrets RDJ’s tragic, overly sculpted Tony Stark facial hair.

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“Not people”

Janet reminds us that most of the neighborhood’s residents were created by her and Derek (the latter of whom did a lot of the butt work).

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“Not a secretary”

Janet is doomed to be misunderstood and misinterpreted by ex-materials executive Brent—both occur in their first interaction, a punchline that then sets “A Girl From Arizona, Part One” up to elaborate on just what type of asshole Brent is. (The type who’ll act inconvenienced when other people set the terms for how he should refer to them.)

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“The point of the video is to make them all confront what kind of people they were on Earth”

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Michael provides this director’s commentary on the intro video laying out the afterlife points system. And judging by the tweaks made for this edition, the examples of positive and negative point values are tailored to the audience: “Cheat at golf” and “Insult someone’s hairstyle” could be aimed at Brent and John. In the pilot’s version of the video, those lines read “stiff a waitress” and “buy a trashy magazine,” two extremely Eleanor Shellstrop actions.

Tahani’s famous friends: “We need someone authoritative and reassuring, like Nelson Mandela or Sir Patrick Stewart, or, really, any of my old racquetball partners should do.”

Though she is the first to identify that there’s something fishy about Linda, Tahani isn’t given very much to do this episode. The final cut of “A Girl From Arizona, Part One” compensates by going all-in on the name drops.

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Derek’s death

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The plunger is as cobbled together as the all-powerful not-a-man it’s connected to, but pressing it has a familiar result: Explosive sound effects, a slow-motion faceplant, and a great big video message in the sky. Naturally, Derek gets it wrong: “Attention: I have been Derek-ed! Attention: Murder has been me!”

“Are we still boyfriend not-a-girlfriend?”

Kudos to Manny Jacinto for making the construction of this joke sound so smooth.

Chris Baker

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“Linda Johanssen” does an excellent job of camouflaging Bad Place twisting department veteran Chris—until he snaps and starts throwing punches. He removes his shirt along with the Linda suit, as is the muscle-bound fake mailman’s wont.

Allusions

“Technically, the pride of Phoenix is a life-size statue of Alice Cooper made from cigarette butts—it’s outside city hall”

The “Welcome To My Nightmare” signer was born Vincent Damon Furnier in Detroit in 1948, but he became Alice Cooper in the Valley of the Sun. He remains a prominent citizen of Eleanor’s hometown, where he owned Cooper’stown—a theme restaurant that brought together rock and sports about as well as that apostrophe brings together “Cooper” and “Town”—and continues to host the annual Alice Cooper’s Rock & Roll Golf Classic, footage from which is the highlight of any vacation when you’re a teenager visiting his grandparents in Fountain Hills every April in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

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“Let’s kick things off with our official Bad Place song”

A writers’ room punching bag the world over, the cloying jingle for the non-profit Kars 4 Kids torments even those who don’t carry a WGA card. Investigations into its sinister origins have been mounted before, but now it can be known: This insatiable little earworm comes directly from The Bad Place. Thanks be to Glenn for cutting this madness off mid-verse.

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“Well boys, looks like we’ve got ourselves an SVU”

Of course Kristen Bell looks the part of a no-nonsense detective in that Mariska Hargitay pantsuit: You’re forgiven for forgetting, but she played the lead of NBC’s Crime Scene: Scene Of The Crime, after all.

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“Dead eyes, eat hearts, can’t lose”

Michael piggybacks on Eleanor’s pep talk with a variation on the Friday Night Lights rallying cry from The Bad Place—which, if we had to guess, was also the birthplace of Friday Night Lights’ second season.

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Third Eye Blind, “Semi-Charmed Life”

Harkening back to the busted consumer electronics of her past, Simone hollers the No. 17 single of 1997 in an attempt to kick start a brain that, unlike her old CD alarm clock, isn’t turning back on.

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“But now I have to walk in to find Darth Vader’s turd in the middle of my living room.”

Star Wars references will be with us, always, but this one is nicely attuned to the time of Mindy St. Clair’s death and The Medium Place’s defining aesthetic: Anything tall, obsidian, and glowing red ought to remind her of the only Sith Lord (give or take a Palpatine—do you think she died before Return Of The Jedi?) she ever saw onscreen.

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Foreshadowing?

“No one will be able to see what’s happening in real time”

Keep these words, from the accountant Matt (Brad Morris), in mind as the season unfolds. Surely The Bad Place will find some way to monitor and/or futz with the humans’ point tallies.

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