The Good Place Season 3, Episode 11 (“Chidi Sees the Time-Knife”)

NBC

Jan 17, 2019 Web Exclusive
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One of The Good Place's defining features is that its frequent setting and plot changes don't derail its poignancy and believability. "Chidi Sees the Time-Knife," the series' newest episode, deviates from this trend. Rarely has one single 22-minute episode of sitcom television felt so unending. Although we're reminded why we love Janet, Eleanor, Chidi, and especially Michael, this episode's narrative takes serious effort to untangle.

"Chidi Sees the Time-Knife" opens with Michael and Janet transporting Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani to the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes (IHOP), the "crossroads of all dimensions, like Grand Central Station, but for space and time." IHOP is a CGI-and-editing-heavy space in which everything is hued blue and it looks like, as Jason says, "we all smoked too much salvia." For every flaw in this episode's structure, Jason's dialogue is no less hysterical.

Maya Rudolph's Judge Gen quickly arrives at IHOP, and her gesticulation-heavy petulance despite her position of ultimate authority is as immediately hilarious as ever, the sort of delirious contrast Rudolph was born to act. Rudolph carries a massive amount of this episode's humoristic weight, and her first moments are perfect: She lists all of Michael's crimes (a helpful way to recount the full season's plot, because so much happens in this episode) before revealing her newfound crush on Chidi, instantly making her The Good Place's most relatable character. "If things don't work out with Blondie over here," she says, pointing at Eleanor, "you know who to call: thissss bitccccch."

Judge Gen, ever the wild one, uses her powers to make IHOP resemble an actual IHOP. (Here, she later says to Chidi, "Oh no, you are nobody's problem, sweetheart." The crush is strong.) Michael here argues that the afterlife points system is flawed because, in short, again, there is no ethical consumption under capitalism: "Humans think they're making one choice, but they're actually making dozens of choices they don't know they're making." In this one sentence, The Good Place takes the position of, "Just because you see what's wrong with society doesn't mean you can exit it"; the onus to make things better, it's implied, is on those in power.

In this case, that would be Judge Gen, who just doesn't hear it at first. Michael attempting to floss doesn't save the day; instead, what does is, somehow, Jason recounting a story from his dance era. One of his dancers was constantly late not because he was irresponsible, but because he had to balance three jobs and care for "four grandparents, who all lived in the same bed." Jason stopped giving him a hard time, and he urges Judge Gen to do the same: "You can't judge humans, because you don't know what we go through." This line, despite its origins in all manner of platitudes, resonates pretty strongly.

Soon enough, Judge Gen does get to know what humans go through. On Michael's encouragement, she visits Earth. Her visit lasts eight seconds on the IHOP timeline. As Earth time goes, it lasted a while, because she went to Tanzania, Paraguay, Vietnam, Denmark, Hawaii, and a Black Friday sale in Michigan. "It's terrible everywhere, and always in a different way," she says. "Earth stinks, y'all." (Also: "I guess I'm black, and they do not like black ladies down there!")

Judge Gen, ever the fast decision maker, immediately hails Shawn (Marc Evan Jacobs) to IHOP. She uses her powers to change the setting to a conference room, where she argues that humans might not be as bad as The Bad Place thinks. Shawn makes a fair counter argument"Limp Bizkit? Slavery? The prosecution rests."and says that Michael has no proof that the humans did get better in his hundreds of reboots, because he never tracked their points. This notion compels Chidi to stand up and make a speech. And this is when he meets the Time-Knife.

Despite occasional reminders from Janet that IHOP is still the setting, Chidi, in his fervor, forgets where he is. By walking forward to address the room, he falls into a void where he "saw a trillion different realities folding onto each other like thin sheets of metal forming a single blade." None of the afterlife beings care, even though Chidi is mortified: "Yeah, yeah, the Time-Knife. We've all seen it. Let's get back on track, bud," says Michael. It's a weird scene to name the episode after, since it's neither the funniest nor most significant moment (though Chidi's recovery from seeing the Time-Knife is great), but so much happens in this episode that the writers had to choose something.

Ultimately, Chidi suggests repeating the Bad-Place-posed-as-Good-Place experiment with new human subjects. Not a reboot: a new human crew, a simulation in which The Soul Squad will help behind the scenes. This proposition, which Judge Gen accepts, is the core of the episode's emotional pull: our protagonists will use their experience to pursue less human afterlife suffering. It's beautiful.

Under terms that Gen, Shawn, and Michael agree upon after some debate, the new neighborhood for this experiment will be built in The Medium Place. This merits the return of Maribeth Monroe's coke-and-sex-addled, delightful Mindy St. Claire. She appears for all of ten seconds. It's a woefully missed opportunity: Mindy is The Good Place's funniest recurring character besides Judge Gen. Instead, the Medium Place more strongly reintroduces Jason Mantzoukas' manic, Janet-created, wind-chimes-for-penis Derek. It turns out that Mindy has rebooted the newly "martini"-loving Derek half a million timesdon't forget, these AI types get smarter with each rebootso Jason have some competition for Janet, for whom his feelings have reemerged. Although the potential reforming of the Janet-Jason romance could lead to some amazing jokesa Floridian idiot dating an AI in secretary clothes?this side of the plot is a dry distraction.

Much to Jason's chagrin, Janet and Derek work together "professionally" to make the many non-human residents in the new neighborhood, where an Earth-time year will pass before the experiment concludes. Here, Eleanor chooses to live in the same clown-heavy torture house as in the actual Bad Place, because in the memories that Michael has shown her, she fell in love with Chidi there. She's excited to live with him and "chill out, just relax, study philosophy," but he's mostly excited about the sex. In other words, this scene represents an intentional, hilarious 180-turn for both of them: "Horndog!" says Eleanor, to which Chdi says, "Nerd!" Even when The Good Place's plot gets messy, the Eleanor-Chidi romance is infinitely minable for wholesomeness and bursting with character-based in-jokes.

Towards the episode's end, we learn that Shawn's plan to torture our protagonists, should the experiment fail, is for a demon in a Michael-suit"R&D said it couldn't be done, so I made it out of them"to torture them for eternity. So, at the episode's end, when Eleanor motivates Michael by saying, "Your friends will always trust you," he breaks. "I can't do it. It's too scary," he says when Eleanor asks if he remembers the plan. This ending is awfully weak for an episode that navigates through vast settings and plot developments, although it would've functioned far worse as a season finale. Hopefully, that upcoming episode will redeem this one. (www.nbc.com/the-good-place)

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Framesaver
January 18th 2019
4:30am

Your posted article is amazing, This merits the return of Maribeth Monroe’s coke-and-sex-addled, delightful Mindy St. Claire. She appears for all of ten seconds. It’s a woefully missed opportunity: Mindy is The Good Place’s funniest recurring character besides Judge Gen. Instead, the Medium Place more strongly reintroduces Jason Mantzoukas’ manic, Janet-created, wind-chimes-for-penis Derek.

Joe Gaspard
January 18th 2019
6:29pm

More Mindy would be great, but apparently Maribeth is in late pregnancy, so her role was reduced to greeter. I hope she will be in a lot of season 4 (for however long they stay in her backyard).

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April 21st 2019
10:38pm

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