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

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 Two


But first, a word from you, the readers

Two points that slipped through the cracks last week, and right into the hands of Brian Koch

1. The incredibly dull human test subject Linda ends up being Chris Baker, a demon in disguise who’s never been great at keeping up a ruse, famously fixating on the excuse “I’m going to the gym!” to an extremely suspicious degree. That fixation seems to be going strong, as we get our first bit of foreshadowing at Linda’s true identity when we hear her initial question for Eleanor and Michael: “Is there a fitness center?”

2. Overwhelmed by his limitless afterlife accommodations, Chidi heartbreakingly forgets Eleanor’s name for a moment at the end of their new first meeting. This serves as an interesting role reversal, calling back to a running gag established in the series’ very first episode, in which Eleanor has a lot of trouble remembering Chidi’s full name. Only The Good Place can make forgetting so memorable.

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Callbacks and running gags

“I hate to pile on, but I feel like you have the right to know: The Jacksonville Jaguars cut Blake Bortles. He’s not on the team anymore.”

It had to be acknowledged. Jason Mendoza’s body gave out sometime in 2016, but his last earthly hope died in March of 2019. That’s when the front office of the Jacksonville Jaguars let go of their mercurial quarterback in favor of Super Bowl LII MVP Nick Foles. It was such big news at the time that it transcended the borders of the sports section and the culture page, leading to what’s surely the first Entertainment Weekly headline about the changing lineup of a mid-’90s NFL expansion team. Shortly thereafter, Mike Schur assured Alan Sepinwall that although Bortles was no longer a Jaguar, he was still The Good Place’s QB 1:

“You really think, after 300 Blake Bortles references, we’d let the Bortles Era end without addressing it?”

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No word on whether or not Jason will shift his allegiances to Foles, or begin rooting for the Los Angeles Rams.

“There is another bad place strategy that would work very well here”

Eleanor’s plan to split enormously smug Brent open like a piñata (but not literally, like they used to do in The Bad Place), involves the guilt hurricane (with Perrier cloud) that Michael rained down on her at the end of the pilot. A kaiju-sized Princeton Tiger takes the place of the giant, terrifying ladybug—Brent’s alma mater is also represented in the all-over chevron wardrobe, replacing the maize-and-blue of the university where Eleanor didn’t study—while boulder-like golf balls roll through the streets like so many giant NasaPro bottles. Duplicates of the SUV Brent made Janet create for him rove in packs, while the soundtrack, “25 Or 6 To 4,” comes to us courtesy of Chicago, the “I grew up in Chicago—a suburb, obviously” of pop acts from the Windy City.

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“You then beat me 800 more times”

No exaggeration here: Canonically, Michael’s neighborhood experiment went through something in the, uh, neighborhood of 800 reboots.

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Tahani’s famous friends: “I used to have a break-up routine when a relationship ended: Champagne and Alanis Morissette. Not the actual singer: I’d just listen to her albums at my friend Adele’s house.”

What an elegant bob and weave: The expectation that the Jagged Little Pill singer was personally serenading Tahani, the correction of the assumption that spills into the Adele namedrop, that millisecond where it’s possible, just possible that “Champagne” was what they called another, equally esteemed acquaintance. (Cate Blanchett, perhaps.) Additional comedy points for the faux-modest smirk-and-eye-roll combination from Jameela Jamil.

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Foot Lager

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The neighborhood’s favorite purveyor of difficult drinking apparatus is still at it, across the street from the frozen yogurt shop.

Into the Schurverse

“If I could give you some feedback, I’d say that you’re all ungrateful ash faces who can shove your fat grumps all the way up your snork box.”

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Despite millennia of experience with human curses, Michael can’t exactly make out what Eleanor’s trying to say here. But if you can apply the transitive property to Mike Schur shows and the best jokes ever told on them, I’m going to guess that a snork box has something to do with snakes.

Visual gags

Brent’s brunch

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A smorgasbord of douchey indulgence (in-douche-gence?) is spread out in front of Benjamin Koldyke when Eleanor and Michael stop by to deepen his delusion about an afterlife VIP area: Surf, turf (with frites and onion rings), surf-garnished Bloody Mary with a Scotch sidecar, tobacco for dessert. It’s like the results of some stunted son of privilege’s vision board, his edible notion of luxury and status cut out from back issues of Whisky Advocate and Cigar Aficionado shortly before dying in a fiery helicopter crash.

Allusions

That Was Your Life

This Is Your Life was reality television before we had a name for it—or before most U.S. households even had a TV. Originating on the NBC radio network in 1948, the series reunited its guests of honor with significant figures from their past, effectively writing their biographies in front of a studio audience. Eleanor’s take on the concept, This Was Your Life, has the advantage of those stories having been fully written—though, by virtue of its being produced posthumously, she has to omit the whole reunion aspect.

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“Does it have to do with the TV show Monk?”

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No, Michael did not stick Jason with an alter ego that required him to follow several strict disciplines because of the Emmy-winning mystery series starring Tony Shalhoub. Adrian Monk wouldn’t go anywhere near a bud hole.

“Everything I do blows up in my face. I’m like a hot blonde Wile E. Coyote”

Other Eleano-Wile E. Coyote parallels: Both hail from the American southwest, and both have a habit of staring lustily at creatures who sometimes dress as mail carriers.

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“If I understand your state of mind, it’s basically solipsism.”

The dramatic irony of Chidi’s mini-lecture in “A Girl From Arizona, Part Two,” is that he’s unaware that Simone—and to a lesser degree, Brent—is on the right track about her new world revolving entirely around her, though the inhabitants are largely extensions of Janet’s and Derek’s consciousnesses. (She’s on the money about the simulation thing, though Chidi has some recommended reading on that—Megan Amram does, too.) And that’s all without considering Eleanor’s predicament in this episode, where she has to overcome her own self-interest and her “I didn’t ask for this” attitude.

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But it kind of comes with the territory of being a character on a TV show, really, that necessarily tight focus on a handful of people within a universe visibly populated by many, many others. It’s one of those The Good Place-as-metaphor-for-TV-production subtexts; for an example of this subtext hilariously becoming text, check out “Curriculum Unavailable” from the full-on cuckoo-banana-pants stretch near the end of Community’s third season.

What about Emma Stone? She’s very capable. Remember her in Zombieland? And La La Land? What’s with all her movies ending with land.

Janet calculates that of the 31 filming or completed films listed on Emma Stone’s IMDB page, only 6% have titles ending in the word “land.” (The subtitle and the sequel number knock Zombieland 2: Double Tap out of contention here.) Fun fact: In the television miniseries Maniac, Stone’s character’s surname begins with “Land.”

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