A Book Creates a Catastrophic Failure on 'The Good Place' (RECAP)

Emily Hannemann
Spoiler Alert Colleen Hayes/NBC

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Good Place Season 5 Episode 6, “A Chip Driver Mystery.”]

It seems the power of the written word might doom Eleanor (Kristen Bell)’s afterlife experiment.

Okay. Strictly speaking, it’s not the power of the written word as much as it’s boorish ignorance on the part of the writer. Brent—because of course it's Brent—authors “Six Feet Under Par: A Chip Driver Mystery,” a badly plotted novel chock full of sexism, racism and pretty much every other bad "ism" in existence. This book is the written equivalent of a Bad Janet fart.

It’s up to Eleanor to spray some air freshener on the situation, but as she finds out, that’ll be more difficult than she thought. And the stench from this one? Yeah, it's gonna linger.

Storytime

The whole ordeal is framed as a story Michael tells the Bad Janet who was pretending to be Janet. He remarks that everything was going very well after they sent the humans to a ski resort, but then, a nightmarish complication struck.

Brent wrote a book.

If any other inhabitant of the fake Good Place decided to pen a novel, it probably wouldn’t have been a problem. But because Brent is Brent, the book is totally foul. According to the author, Tahani is a sexpot with "legs like Jessica Rabbit," Chidi’s character “probably humps books,” etc. Tahani takes it all in stride but Simone is utterly offended, and Eleanor worries she won’t forgive Brent.

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Book Signing Gone Bad

Meanwhile, John finds out Jason’s “true identity” when he and Chidi dance to some dubstep, and despite Chidi’s urging, it becomes clear he’s going to have a very difficult time keeping the secret.

At Brent’s “book signing,” things come to a head. Michael previously tried to get the middle-aged wordsmith to see the error of his ways by taking him out on the golf course and using one bad shot as a metaphor, but of course, that didn’t get through. Instead, Simone ends up expressing her true opinion of Brent’s work, and he gets angry and leaves.

A Huge Setback

The humans all disperse, and when they return, things get even worse; Brent issues a non-apology (“Sorry if you were offended”) and when Simone says he’s just wasting their time, he calls her a “bench.” Chidi punches him. And thus ends the book signing.

In Eleanor’s office, the team reassembles to try to pick up the shattered pieces of what had, up until that point, been a successful experiment. Jason suggests he could set himself on fire to get Brent to put him out, thus earning him some points back, and Tahani says she could get John to talk her out of getting ombre highlights. This puts a spring back in Eleanor’s step, and although the day was a disaster, they at least have a way forward.

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Being Better Today

With that, back in Janet’s cell, Michael concludes his tale. He tells Bad Janet he’s letting her go, since that’s how he’s “trying to be better today than he was yesterday.” He sends her off with a book of everything they’ve learned since they started the experiment with the humans, and as she leaves, it’s clear she wasn’t expecting his kindness.

Other Observations

  • Is it possible the whole ordeal wasn’t a total failure? Sure, the Brent book thing probably cost the humans tons of points, but John didn’t reveal Jason’s secret (and he didn’t really take part in the chaos at the signing). If any of the humans are still doing well in the points system, I think he should be.
  • This was the episode I needed to restore my faith in Season 4. I so hoped we’d get some insight into how the humans are doing, and now we finally did. I still feel like much of the season has rested on “one step forward, two steps back,” which is a bit tiresome as an overall narrative, but this was a great glimpse of how the actual experiment is working.
  • That Bad Janet looked like she was dangerously close to experiencing… emotions. When Michael let her go, it looked like she was about to cry. What if the key to all of this is somehow tied not to humans or demons, but to Janets?

The Good Place, Thursdays, 9/8c, NBC