Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Place, annotated: “Chidi Sees The Time-Knife”

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 third season. Catch something that we didn’t? Email us at youforkingmissedit@avclub.com.

Read our recap of “Chidi Sees The Time-Knife.”


But first, a word from you, the readers

Josh Roth has a theory about graphic design in The Good Place: “I was pondering the meaning of the postal service patch and thought maybe the five stars could represent the members Brainy Bunch (including Janet)? Not sure about the three stripes… since there’s only Michael left.”

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Visual gags

The pancakes

“Chidi Sees The Time-Knife” lets most of the mysteries of the Interdimensional Hole Of Pancakes be, but one thing’s for certain: The place is properly named. It is interdimensional, it is a a hole, and it’s lousy with floating, reality-bending discs that very much look like pancakes held under a black light. In a previous Mike Schur show, the world revolved around breakfast foods; here, they hold the universe together.

DeREI<

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As much as this column has been a regular opportunity to check in with other viewers of The Good Place and ask “Did you see that?”, my pretentious ass also likes to think that it’s a multipart series about how a TV show of this caliber wastes no opportunity to tell a story. Take Mindy St. Clair’s refrigerator, for example, where someone, probably Derek, has spelled out “Derek” in alphabet magnets. It’s a silly nod to the character’s fixation on his own name, but it also says so much about what he may have been up to in The Medium Place: Being drawn, childlike, to one of the few items in the house that breaks from the template of South Beach pastels; learning to spell; developing enough cognitive abilities to improvise a “K”—from an “I” and a rotated “V”—when there was none to be found. Infinite possibilities from such a small background detail.


Callbacks

Pillboi’s broken hot tub

Oh dip
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Previously poofed into Janet’s void by an absentminded Jason, Pillboi’s non-functional outdoor spa is Jacksonville’s premier spot to consume psychoactive substances and 40s.

“I’m not a girl, but I’d very much like to go on a date with you sometime”

There’s a chance that Janet and Jason can rekindle their love, but it’s impossible for them to be boyfriend and girlfriend, because Janet is not a girl.

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“Hey, do you guys know a good place where I can get Mexican food? Oh: Mexico, duh.”

Judge Gen’s passion for Mexican food runs so deep, the Soul Squad briefly believed that she was a burrito.

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Return to The Medium Place

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Mindy St. Clair (Maribeth Monroe) is always a welcome presence on The Good Place (particularly at this point in the season), but the truly delightful wild card here is the one in the penguin suit: Truly delightful wild card Jason Mantzoukas as Janet’s “son/rebound booty call” Derek. We learn from the newly sophisticated owner of a nearly functional penis that he operates along the same principles as his creator: He has his own kill switch and improves with every reboot, though the baseline he’s working from is still a few hundred miles behind Janet’s. This means he can recite an Edgar Allan Poe sonnet about the frictions between science and spiritualism, create a romantic rival for Jason, and make his own people—but it hasn’t stopped him from mistaking glasses full of garnishes for “classy martinis.” Derek also comes with his own sound now, a descending “boop-boop” variation on the chime that announces Janet’s arrivals and departures.


Into the Schurverse

Douglas Lerpiss, Food And Stuff, and Snerling

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Michael pulls another page from The Book Of Dougs in order to make his initial, doomed argument to the judge, and while it might be chosen at random, it’s a significant link between Parks And Recreation and The Good Place: The Lerpiss family is legion in Pawnee, Indiana and surrounding areas, with several businesses to their name and a whole family tree that was once covertly planted on IMDB by Mike Schur and the writing staff. This Doug, however, is one of the Snerling Lerpisses, who hail from the town 40 minutes outside of Pawnee where Chris Traeger goes to buy health food (and Ron Swanson goes to gawk), Grain ’N Simple. Doug’s tastes are more in line with Ron’s: His 12.368-point-deducting tomato purchase was made at the Swanson-approved Food And Stuff.


Allusions

“It looks like we’re stuck inside a Diane Von Furstenberg pattern from spring 2013!”

Jameela Jamil puts a lot of mustard on the end of this line (garnished with a look of pure terror), an esoteric fashion-world riff that intimates a) she really hated that season’s collection from the house headed by designer royalty (and one-time actual royalty) Von Furstenberg, b) she wouldn’t be caught dead in anything so outdated, or c) both. Or maybe she’s just haunted by memories of models topping off their looks with a pair of Google Glass. [Erik Adams]

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“Tahani, do not touch the Niednagel”

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“Chidi Sees The Time-Knife” is the greatest testament to the talent of The Good Place’s visual-effects team since… two episodes ago, when they made it possible for D’Arcy Carden to play opposite herself (opposite herself opposite herself opposite herself opposite herself). In a fitting tribute, the slug-like creature that takes a liking to Tahani in the IHOP is named after the man who oversees the show’s psychedelic scenery, floating screens, and blinked-into-existence architecture, vfx supervisor David Niednagel.

“Turns out that he had to juggle three jobs to take care of four grandparents who all lived in the same bed—just like in Willy Wonka.”

Huddled together in the meager lodgings of the Bucket family, Grandpa Joe, Grandma Josephine, Grandpa George, and Grandma Georgina share the house’s only bed. Charlie And The Chocolate Factory author Roald Dahl had a knack for blending the whimsical and the bleak, but Jason’s description of the sleeping arrangements at Big Noodle’s is more the latter than the former. It paints a much different picture than “I’ve Got A Golden Ticket.” [Erik Adams]

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“There’s this chicken sandwich that if you eat it, it means you hate gay people. And it’s delicious.”

Chik-Fil-A: Serving up moral compromise since 1946. (Though it took some anti-same-sex-marriage statements from executive Dan T. Cathy in 2012 for that controversy to truly heat up.)

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“I was just in the middle of torturing William Shakespeare by describing the plot to the Entourage movie.”

The feature-length adaptation of HBO’s douchiest original comedy has caused plenty of suffering here on Earth, where The A.V. Club declared it the fourth-worst film of 2015. Judging by where Shawn is when Judge Gen conjures him—describing how actor Vincent “Vinnie” Chase’s childhood friend and man Friday, Salvatore “Turtle” Assante, is about to get his arm broken in a sex bet with mixed marital artist-turned-professional-wrestler-turned-actor Ronda Rousey—the immortal bard’s torture is far from over. He hasn’t even heard about all the Golden Globe nominations for Vinnie’s directorial debut, an adaptation of The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde set in the world of EDM! Oh yeeeeah!

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“The Bad Place gets to choose the four new humans, but they have to be the same general level of badness as the original four, all right? No serial killers, no dictators, no one who managed a boy band.”

Lou Pearlman, the one-time blimp mogul behind Backstreet Boys, NSYNC, O-Town, and several other pop acts of the 1990s and 2000s, was sued by practically every act he ever managed, was accused of preying on several of the young men in those groups, and orchestrated a Ponzi scheme that skimmed some $300 million from its victims. Joe Jackson was physically abusive toward his sons in The Jackson 5; there’s that studio outtake of Murry “I’m a genius, too” Wilson losing his shit during the recording sessions for “Help Me Rhonda.” The job of grown man supervising singing kids hasn’t exactly attracted history’s noblest figures.

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Miscellaneous

Which came first: Michael flossing for the judge, or the cast of The Good Place teaching Ted Danson how to floss?

On November 15, footage of William Jackson Harper, Kristen Bell, and D’Arcy Carden instructing Ted Danson in the ways of flossing (a.k.a. “the backpack kid dance”) showed up on Instagram. “Chidi Sees The Time-Knife” creates a whole new question around those videos: Were these hijinks on the set of “A Fractured Inheritance” simply too delightful to not integrate into a future episode, or was the stage direction “Michael flosses” already written, and so Danson was preparing to do some onscreen dancin’? The actor may have provided an answer on Jimmy Kimmel this week:

Kimmel: “You learned that for the show, I presume?”

Danson: “For the show. And it hurts.”

UPDATE: Yeah, he was practicing for “Chidi Sees The Time-Knife.” A lot.

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