Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The Good Place annotated: “Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By”

Ted Danson (left) and D’Arcy Carden
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 “Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By

But first, a word from you, the readers


Is Seah Fengyu on the right track? “This felt too deliberate and happened for too long for it to be a coincidence: when Michael was talking to Eleanor in the carpark the ‘WRONG WAY’ sign behind them is very visible and keeps popping into view.”

Sara Dawdy caught a few additional digs at The Grand Canyon State: “The shopping bag in which Michael carries the Janet’s memory gizmo (visible when Michael is warning Eleanor of the dangers of after life memories) comes from Coyote Joe’s Marketplace, which fits in well with the names given to other establishments in the state.

Even better is the little menu card in front of Eleanor and Michael as they’re ordering drinks at The Sandy Spoon: It advertises the Arizona Junk Breakfast! featuring the ‘Grand Canyon’ Pancake Stack, Double-Fried Eggs, Grandma’s Slab Bacon, and a side of our Signature Jalapeño Poppers with RANCH!’ There’s some other text in there I can’t make out (and I’m not 100 percent sure ‘slab bacon’ is correct), so if you get a good screengrab, you might be able to see more fun stuff. The writers really seem to go all out when it comes to mocking American food choices.”


Doug Forcett


Guest star Michael McKean brings the only human to ever come remotely close to guessing how the afterlife works off of Michael’s office wall and into the real world, even recreating the awkward pose from Doug’s portrait. Now in order to complete the joke, writer-actor Noah Garfinkel just needs to age into the man who played David St. Hubbins, Lenny, and Chuck McGill.

“Or we do this the old-fashioned way”


It’s a Molotov cocktail. The old-fashioned way is a Molotov cocktail, which Jason can whip together with uncanny speed. Not fast enough to get a full “BORTLES!” out, though.

Chris Baker, Eleanor’s second soulmate


“Bad news,” announces the shirt-averse mailman who was paired with Eleanor in the second reboot, “I’ve been going to the gym—a lot.” The bad news for Chris isn’t necessarily the pool cue he gets upside the head, but rather the recently reaffirmed fact that his predecessor is pretty jacked, too.

Visual gags

The Puking Moose


Alberta gets its own Desert Rash in the form of The Puking Moose, a rustic dive whose namesake can be seen hoisting a beer in the external signage—and regurgitating it (and presumably several others) on the stained glass behind the bar. The set dressing is more or less generic Great White North stuff, so a tip of the toque to whoever decided that Molson Canadian would be the only beer on tap.

The Forcett cemetery


A quick pan across one dusty patch of Doug’s property captures the final resting places of a deer tick, a raccoon, a goose, and a snail, but it also shows us so much more. Considering the way Doug tries to live his life, there’s a number of grave markers here, and a long time passed between the demise of Rosa Park The Deer Tick and Franklin Delano Raccoon (2007 must’ve been a rough year for him) and the feathered Abraham Lincoln Einstein Mandela. The journey from those three deaths to the tragedy that befell Martin Luther Ganhdi Tyler Moore tells the story of a life misspent, of a man so preoccupied with accumulating afterlife points that he pays no mind to how unwieldy these posthumous portmanteaus have become. The slow unraveling of the Doug Forcett myth is one of this episode’s greatest strengths, but sometimes it comes out in one big burst like this, which does in pictures what “Now if you’ll excuse, I’m going to walk to Edmonton to give $85 to a snail charity” does in words.



“Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By”

The episode’s title song, as recorded by The Mamas & The Papas’ Cass Elliot for the 1971 LP Mama’s Big Ones, which conservation-minded, started-his-life-over-in-the-’70s Doug naturally owns on 8-track. (You can’t really make out any of the other tapes in his library, though it appears he has something by Seals And Crofts in there.) It’s a smart choice, period-wise, and the lyrics—which marry hippie-dippy “stop and smell the roses” imagery with genuine pleas for compassion—encapsulate a philosophy that Doug has taken to its extremes. But the most significant part of Mama’s Big Ones’ inclusion in “Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By” might be the use of other Mama’s Big Ones tracks in Lost, namely “Make Your Own Kind Of Music.”


Peter Singer, The Most Good You Can Do 


The book that Doug is reading is Peter Singer’s The Most Good You Can Do. Besides having a Good Place-appropriate title, Peter Singer is a moral philosopher who is best known for his work on animal rights. Singer is vegan, but presumably eats a more varied diet than lentils and radishes.

“You know what, I’ll just check with Yahoo! Answers. I’m sure someone’s weighed in.”

After discovering the one statement that can render Tahani Al-Jamil legitimately speechless—“When is the right time to tell someone you were passionate lovers in an alternate timeline in the afterlife, but he doesn’t remember because technically none of that happened in this strand of the multiverse?”—Eleanor opts to take her query to the online Q&A forum that’s less pretentious than Quora and has fewer hilarious illustrations than WikiHow. There are currently no Yahoo! Answers to this Eleanor question (that’s bound to change in the next few hours), though there are 153,443 results for “is hell real?”, 299,670 results for “is there a heaven,” and over 1,000 imposters of the original “How is babby formed?” post.



“There’s an accountant out there, somewhere, measuring the value of everything I do.”

Another reference to whichever afterlife being is (or beings are) in charge of keeping track of human activity on Earth and tabulating the points associated with it. We’ll presumably get to meet them as part of Michael’s latest Hail Mary pass, but until then—time to head into Janet’s void! Maybe Derek will be there!


“The Bad Place is going to get them all eventually: These four, their loved ones, even your precious pee-pee king Doug Forcett”

Here’s an interesting little nugget of malice that Shawn tosses out shortly before being kicked through the Door To Earth: He seems to have it on good authority that a whole lot of people are going to The Bad Place. Preventing such a thing has formed the spine of this third season, but this kicks the urgency up a notch. Were it not for Janet’s foot, would we have heard Shawn lay out some grand scheme for dooming all of humanity to eternal damnation? Does this have anything to do with the nagging sense that’s been at the center of the show from the very start—one that Michael articulates at the end of “Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By”—that the whole point system is unreasonably skewed in The Bad Place’s favor? Is there even a Good Place to begin with? Or has The Bad Place been the only place in the afterlife this whole time?


Share This Story

Get our newsletter