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Recap / The Good Place S1E13 "Michael's Gambit"

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"Ya basic!"

"Oh, man. Eleanor, you really suck."
Michael
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Just missing Shawn's deadline, Eleanor and Jason return, joining Chidi and Tahani. Shawn decides that they can choose any two of the four to go to the Bad Place. Many arguments are made for who should go and who should stay, with Real Eleanor offering to take one spot. As their arguments become more heated and frustrating, Eleanor laments how torturous this is... and then has an epiphany: the painful feelings the four of them have been experiencing was not by accident but by design, meaning they've been in the Bad Place all along. Michael admits that this is true - while brainstorming at his architect job, he had come up with an innovative idea for a section of the Bad Place posing as a Good Place neighborhood run by a stolen Good Place Janet where Eleanor, Jason, Chidi, and Tahani, the only human inhabitants, were to drive each other to agony while the demons worked to keep the humans on their toes. However, the plan went awry when Eleanor confessed; after that, Michael and everyone else had to scramble to keep things from going off the rails. He also didn't foresee Jason and Janet falling in love.

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Eleanor then wonders why Tahani and Chidi are in the Bad Place, as they were ostensibly good and moral people. However, Tahani immediately realizes she was sentenced to the Bad Place because her charitable deeds weren't motivated by genuine altruism, but by a selfish desire for attention and to outdo her sister. Chidi initially believes he was sentenced to the Bad Place because he still drank almond milk despite knowing it was bad for the environment, but Michael clarifies that it was actually due to his rigid and indecisive behavior, which he refused to correct in any way despite knowing it made his friends and family miserable.

With his scheme exposed, Michael begs Shawn for a "redo" by erasing the humans' memories and changing some parameters, figuring the reason why he failed was that putting the humans together turned them into a team; by putting them farther away from each other in a second attempt, it could be a slower torture. Shawn grants Michael's request. In a last-ditch effort to do something, Eleanor rips out a page from one of Chidi's books and writes a message to herself which she then hides in Janet's mouth. Eleanor taunts Michael, telling him he'll never win, to which he snaps his fingers, erasing the humans' memories. Eleanor awakens in the waiting room once again and Michael takes her around the neighborhood. After taking her back to her "house", Janet appears and gives Eleanor the note she'd written to herself. It reads, "Eleanor - Find Chidi".

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Tropes

  • Affably Evil: The two co-workers of Michael's we see in his flashbacks, who despite being workers in the Bad Place are supportive and encouraging toward his efforts in building a neighborhood. Compare that to Shawn, who has absolutely no faith in Michael.
  • All Love Is Unrequited: Enforced by Michael who made sure that his version of the Bad Place doesn't allow for requited love for any of the four subjects. Well, he didn't think of Janet as a potential love interest for Jason though.
  • Badass Fingersnap: A downplayed example but still dramatic, Michael interrupting Eleanor towards the end of the episode by snapping his fingers to initiate the neighborhood reset.
  • Berserk Button: Downplayed, but usually Jason, who is too dumb to be mad at anyone most of the time, even when they directly insult him, shows to be annoyed when Tahani keeps calling him "Jianyu" even after she knows his real name is "Jason".
    Jason: For the last time, my name is "Jason", not "Jianyu, the amazing and incredible monk"!
  • Brick Joke: In the flashback to Michael setting up Nina and Bart's characters, Nina cackles that they could probably trick Eleanor into thinking they're swingers.
  • Deus ex Machina: Subverted: Bambadjan suddenly comes in with an obscure legal precedent that would let all four of them stay in the Good Place, but Eleanor shuts that down because she's busy Pulling the Thread and sees it for the coverup it is.
  • Didn't See That Coming: Michael never imagined that Chidi could successfully get Eleanor to change for the better, nor did he ever imagine that Jason and Janet would bond with each other.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: While everyone is arguing over who will go to The Bad Place, Eleanor thinks, "This is torture." And then it dawns on her that it really is torture, because they're already in the Bad Place.
  • Everyone Is a Tomato:
    • Michael? He is the architect, but he works for the Bad Place.
    • All the residents of Neighborhood 12358W? They're demons acting out the roles of "good people."
    • And the main four? They're all "bad people."
  • Evil All Along: Michael. Also the case with "Real Eleanor", who is actually a demon named Vicky acting out a role, as well as the other "residents" of the neighborhood.
  • Evil Cannot Comprehend Good: The one flaw in Michael's master plan to have the main four torment each other was that he never imagined that Eleanor could learn to be good. Her confession threw a wrench in the whole setup.
  • Evil Is Petty: The first thing Michael does on being outed as evil? Shove a potted plant onto the floor.
  • Evil Laugh: Michael delivers one he'd obviously been holding in for quite some time after being outed as evil.
  • Five-Second Foreshadowing:
    • Neighborhood 12358W is dubbed "The Good Place" in Michael's designs. Now, why would any Good Place neighborhood be called that?
    • Michael's flashback also shows him casually telling his coworker which coffee pot contains antimatter and which has real coffee. The flashback was set off by Shawn mentioning a mistake Michael made, so the viewer thinks he's about to be proven wrong, but in fact he's correct - meaning his supposed anxiety and propensity to mix things up is just an act.
    • Eleanor's blunt insistence that she and Chidi be sent to The Bad Place is refused by Michael and Shawn despite fitting the conditions they'd already been given. A few seconds later, Eleanor reveals that doing so would ruin Michael's Paranoia Gambit.
    • Michael seems oddly pleased when Eleanor points out the main reason why his plan completely failed, shortly before he reveals that he gets to have a second try.
  • Foreshadowing: Back in "Someone Like Me as a Member", Trevor casually remarks that Eleanor's home in the Bad Place has the exact same clown art on the wall. Turns out this was more literal than could be guessed.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: You can briefly see a sign in Michael's workplace, reading "You don't have to be immortal to work here...but it sure helps."
  • Heel Realization: The group initially is puzzled as to why Tahani and Chidi were sent to the Bad Place in spite of their allegedly "good lives", until the former realizes that massive charity fundings didn't count towards her point score because her motivation was to best her snobby family's accomplishments and receive glory, and the latter realizes that his rigid and indecisive behavior made him a selfish person because it was severely inconveniencing his loved ones and he was not willing to modify his behavior in spite of the harm he was doing.
    • Also played for laughs when Chidi initially thinks he's in the Bad Place because he kept drinking almond milk despite knowing it's bad for the environment.
  • Ironic Hell: What the whole setting turns out to be.
  • Laser-Guided Amnesia: Michael snaps his fingers and erases the main four's memories.
  • Laughing Mad: A minor example, but Eleanor is so stunned by the realization that they're in the Bad Place that she can't help but crack up.
  • Oh, Crap!: Eleanor acts very smugly after realizing she ruined Michael's scheme - but this smugness vanishes once Michael informs her that he can easily start over.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: Several scenes from previous episodes are shown again, now with the context that Michael and everyone else in the neighborhood is torturing the main characters.
    • The reason Bart and Nina from "Category 55 Emergency Doomsday Crisis" seemed so perfectly set up to keep Chidi and Eleanor on their toes was because they were — Michael thought of their private eye/marriage counselor schtick at Eleanor's doorstep. Nina even throws in the idea of getting them to swing with them, something Eleanor thought would happen in that same episode.
    • Michael's stunned face when Eleanor confessed was because she was a Spanner in the Works to his real plan.
    • The flashbacks to Chidi's life emphasize that he really did make everyone in his life miserable with his indecisiveness.
  • Plot Hole: A blink-and-you’ll-miss-it example—when Eleanor is describing the four humans, she calls herself a “selfish ass”. According to the previously established rules of the universe, the curse word should have been automatically censored to “ash”, as it has been in every prior instance.
  • Reset Button Ending: At the end, Michael resets everything, with a few minor changes so that he doesn't wind up in a "Groundhog Day" Loop.
  • The Reveal: What the true nature of the afterlife is.
  • Secretly Selfish: The reason why Tahani is in the Bad Place. She may have done a lot of charitable things, but her selfish motivations (upstaging her sister, getting attention and gratification) negated that.
  • Sequel Hook: Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason have had their memories erased and Michael starts his experiment over, but with the note Eleanor left to herself, she's not about to accept everything at face value.
  • This Isn't Heaven: The characters are actually in a new experimental section of the Bad Place where they were put together to torture one another while the demons only did minimal work.
  • Token Good Teammate: Janet is the only part of the "Good Place" that really was from the real Good Place.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Jason, one more time, as Michael's about to wipe everyone's memories, and everyone else is panicking, Jason has already managed to completely forget what's happening.
  • Villain Respect: Rather than being mad that Eleanor revealed what was truly going on, Michael laughs in glee.
  • Wham Episode: We learn that the neighborhood has been the Bad Place all along, Michael and all residents aside from the main four are actually demons and at the end, Michael wipes their memories and resets the neighborhood.
  • Wham Line:
    • "They're never gonna call a train to take us to the Bad Place. They can't. Because we're already here. This is the Bad Place."
      • Followed swiftly by: "Oh, man! I can't believe you figured it out!"
    • "Next time, I'll spread you out, so it's more of a slow burn."
 
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Michael

By the end of Season One it is revealed that Michael was evil, having orchestrated the events of the entire season as a slow-burn system of torture.

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