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Recap / The Good Place S3E06 "A Fractured Inheritance"

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"I knew it! My mother is a con artist!"

"If Donna Shellstrop has truly changed, then that means she was always capable of change, but I just wasn't worth changing for."
Eleanor
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Eleanor and Michael have arrived in a Nevada suburb to track down Eleanor's mother Donna, who had faked her death and is now living under a new identity as Diana Tremaine. They find that she's remarried to a nice man named Dave, who has a daughter from a previous relationship named Patricia. Eleanor is not all happy that her mother faked her own death, stole her go-to fake alias, and got herself a new family. Michael has to keep Eleanor calm so that she doesn't blow things for them.

Meanwhile, in Budapest, Tahani tries to reconnect and repair her fractured relationship with Kamilah, with Chidi keeping watch to stop her from doing anything drastic while Jason and Janet wander around the museum to look at the exhibition. Kamilah is initially cold and refuses to accept anything from Tahani, who flies into a rage and drives an ax into a table, leading to her and Chidi almost getting arrested. As they sit and wait, Tahani looks over Kamilah's paintings and notices a recurring theme in them, realizing that Kamilah's aloofness stems from their parents pitting them against each other throughout their childhoods. Tahani gives Kamilah a hug, which she reciprocates, and the two of them finally are able to connect and reconcile over their shared resentment of their parents. Kamilah makes her latest art project a collaborative effort, giving Tahani credit for inspiring her.

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Back in Nevada, Eleanor refuses to believe her mother has truly changed for the better and is determined to expose her true identity to Dave and the rest of the neighbors during a PTA meeting at Patricia's school. Dave, however, already knew of Donna's true past. Michael asks Eleanor why she won't accept that her mother really has changed for the better and Eleanor tearfully admits that she's jealous of the fact that Donna actually is a good mother to Patricia because Eleanor wanted that mother herself, and accepting this means accepting Donna was always capable of changing but wouldn't do it for Eleanor. Ultimately, the two of them reconcile, with Donna acknowledging that she hadn't been a great mother to Eleanor and apologizing while Eleanor makes Donna promise to cherish her new family and do right by Patricia. As they leave to reunite with the others, Eleanor admits to Michael that she still feels emotionally scarred, admitting that Donna's failures as a mom left her unable to truly get close to anyone, much less ever tell them she loved them. Michael then reveals that one time, she did tell someone she loved them—and that person was Chidi.

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Tropes in this episode include:

  • All There in the Manual: On set, Kamilah's paintings all had title cards with absurdly pretentious names like "Slow Abiding No. 12" and "The Hegemon's Shibboleth," but they're unreadable on the screen and so the only way to know about them is to listen to the podcast.
  • Becoming the Mask: Eleanor's mother embraces her new life as a loving suburban mom and wife, which she initially did to keep herself off the police's radar. She clings to a hint of denial by keeping a hidden stash of cash for the day when she needs to suddenly skip town, but Eleanor points out that she has already settled into her new lifestyle and that the final step is letting go of that money (by investing in her stepdaughter's future) because she really is happy with her new family.
  • Birds of a Feather: Dave and Michael hit it off since they're both architects—turns out Michael is great at it (though he keeps forgetting that humans need bathrooms).
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Dave seems like a dorky, kind of naive wholesome guy... who met Donna on a drunken barhop and isn't at all bashful about the sleazy businesses he designs buildings for.
  • Call-Back:
    • Eleanor's favorite insult to people was "Ya basic", as was seen back in "Michael's Gambit". She later tells her mother that she's become a basic suburban mom, albeit in a gentler tone.
    • Two critics at Kamilah's art exhibit regularly converse with each other in Hungarian. On one occasion, Chidi responds to them, a reminder that he knows several languages.
    • When she learns her mother is going by "Diana Tremaine," Eleanor claims that she stole her preferred alias. This was established in season 2.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Eleanor doesn't even need to say a word to put her mother on edge. She just has to show up, with a Death Glare. Eventually when Eleanor does confront her, they manage to have a sincere conversation where Donna is forced to admit that she was a terrible mother and that she's at risk of doing the same thing to Patricia if she ever goes back to her past bad behavior.
  • Celebrity Resemblance: Donna refers to Michael as a "tall, sexy Alex Trebek."
  • Child Hater: Eleanor is a subversion. She doesn't actively hate kids, but she is so uninterested in them that she honestly can't tell whether one is three or about to graduate high school. Her half-sister repeatedly reminds Eleanor that she's nine, but it doesn't seem to stick.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: A rare glimpse of Kamilah interacting with a non-family member, in this case Chidi, shows she can be very weird. Chidi tries talking to her, and Kamilah claims she can take his anxieties away from him, before apparently doing just that with a wave of the hands.
  • The Conscience: Michael and Chidi both keep Eleanor and Tahani (respectively) in check and (try to) stop them from giving in to their worst impulses.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Tahani takes a fire ax to a table, so she and Chidi (who was just a bystander) are arrested.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Eleanor ultimately can't go through with exposing Donna's true identity to the neighborhood PTA as it would destroy her stepsister Patricia's life.
  • Forgiven, but Not Forgotten: Eventually, Eleanor comes to this realization about her mother. While she acknowledges that Donna caused her intense pain and emotional abuse, she confirms that Donna truly has changed and at least can give love to another girl. Eleanor makes it clear that Donna has to make Patricia her highest priority and not abandon her.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: The strained sister relationship between Tahani and Kamilah, which has a great negative effect on themselves as people, is explored in this episode. Kamilah, as a parody of The Ace, is once again emphasized to be very popular and highly commended for her achievements compared to Tahani, who is treated as always second best. Despite Tahani's initial attempts to make up, the sisters fall to their usual arguing and one-upping each other, with Kamilah dismissing her older sister and Tahani threatening to take down the exhibition with an ax. However, the two sisters reconcile by the end, realizing that the unnecessary competitions enforced by their parents were what tore them apart and gave them their superiority complexes. Kamilah's artwork, which is full of imagery in which two smaller objects (Tahani and Kamilah) are off in their own corners while two larger objects (their parents) are together, is also revealed to be a tribute of sorts to their sisterhood.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: Eleanor is furious how Donna is a better mom to Patricia than she was to her.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Donna has become a better person, with a husband and daughter she genuinely cares for. Kamilah likewise is able to reconcile with Tahani, sharing credit with her on her latest art installation.
  • Heel Realization: Donna, upon seeing Eleanor again, looks very guilty as Eleanor is glaring at her and asking what her scam is. She doesn't seem surprised that Eleanor doesn't believe her about her new life being legitimate.
  • Hilariously Abusive Childhood: As kids, Tahani and Kamilah were forced to compete by their parents, with Kamilah presumably winning most or all of the time. The episode shows a flashback of the parents timing their daughters painting their favorite French military history moment, with the winner getting her picture put up during a special dinner and the loser getting her painting burned for the kindling at that dinner.
  • Innocently Insensitive: Michael tries to point out to Eleanor that her mother has changed, and doesn't get why she is upset until Eleanor says her mother didn't think she was worth changing for. He's at a loss when Eleanor nearly starts crying.
  • Internal Reveal: At the end, Michael reveals to Eleanor that she and Chidi fell in love in one of the reboots. The audience obviously has known this the whole time, but Eleanor (who's had her memories of what happened to her during her time in the afterlife wiped) is naturally shocked by the revelation.
  • Jerkass: Kamilah shuts down an omelette station she's operating simply to make Tahani look bad.
    Kamilah: Tahani has refused to order an omelette! Therefore, the exhibit is now closed! Thank you for coming. There are no refunds.
    Hungarian critic: That Tahani, so ungrateful! And after Kamilah saved her life!
  • Jerkass Has a Point: Eleanor ends up being right about Donna having bail money and she says that nothing can fix the damage Donna did to her. But she realizes that Donna has truly changed and devoted her life to her new family.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: Eleanor all but tells Donna that she better not abandon Patricia for this reason. Eleanor is still hurt that Donna couldn't give her the same love that she obviously gives to Patricia, and Michael has to stop her from dishing out more pain for Donna.
  • Motive Misidentification: At first it looked like Donna was storing the money so she can skip town once she felt she had enough or thought the scam was over; but instead it was more of a safety net, so if the good thing she had went sour, she had an escape plan.
  • Nobody Poops: Averted, but Michael forgets this, which results in him accidentally leaving out bathrooms on a blueprint design that he shares with Dave.
  • My Greatest Second Chance: Eleanor realizes that Patricia is this for Donna and she tells Donna not to squander it.
  • Oh, Crap!: Let's say Donna is horrified and guilty when Eleanor shows up on her doorstep, calling her "mom" and calling her out for faking her death.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Donna in her previous appearances would call Eleanor by her first name in a dismissive tone. When Eleanor appears, Donna calls her "Baby" in a concerned tone.
  • Parental Substitute: Michael, by this point, has become a father figure to Eleanor, which is lampshaded.
    Michael: Young lady, you will stop this nonsense, go to the PTA meeting, and support your mother. I won't hear another word about it!
    Eleanor: (incredulously) What was that?
  • The Perfectionist: Apparently a cop pulled Janet over just to compliment her on driving perfectly.
  • Reality Ensues:
    • Even if you're the favorite, having Abusive Parents is not good for anyone's mental health, and there will be emotional scars left behind. Just ask Kamilah.
    • An abusive parent making a Heel–Face Turn would normally be great in fiction, except that, as Eleanor points out to Michael, it doesn't undo the fact that Donna mistreated her and didn't think her own flesh and blood was worthy of that change.
  • Reformed, but Rejected: Donna claims that she has changed and is not scamming Dave. Eleanor doesn't believe her, though Michael knows it's true. It seems Eleanor's suspicions are proven when she finds out Donna has secretly stashed some money away for herself, just in case things don't work out. However, Donna truly is happy with her new life and Eleanor convinces Donna to use the money for a better cause.
  • Rejected Apology: Kamilah casually rejects Tahani's first attempt to apologize for their long-standing rivalry, seemingly once again showing how little she cares for her sister. Eventually, Tahani realizes that holding to the grudge is what has been fueling Kamilah's artistic creativity.
  • Running Gag: Eleanor having absolutely no idea how to interact with kids, specifically the nine-year-old Patricia, throughout the episode, continually mentioning things she is either too young or too old for.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Smuggling with Dolls: Eleanor thinks Donna is hiding her bug-out money inside one of Patricia's stuffed toys and tries to rip them open with a knife.
  • Sour Outside, Sad Inside: Kamilah's aloof behavior is the result of her own resentment of how her parents forced her to constantly outdo herself to live up to their sky-high standards and making her compete with Tahani for their approval.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: Michael forgets to include bathrooms in the building he designs, and tries to cover for it by repeatedly emphasizing that he goes to the bathroom and loves it.
  • Take That!:
    • Jabs are made at the state of Nevada and their very lax vice laws. Additionally, the school Patricia will go to is apparently built on a decommissioned bomb test site.
      Michael: Check out what Dave gave me—plans for a Subaru dealership/burlesque club he's designing in Reno. Man, Nevada's a mess.
    • Eleanor's mother bid $30,000 for a date with Gene Simmons, which was apparently $29,800 more than anyone else bid.
    • Tahani refers to "[her] good friend Ben Affleck's tragic addiction to back tattoos, and [her] other good friend Matt Damon's tragic addiction to [her] good friend Ben Affleck."
  • Title Drop: "A Fractured Inheritance" is the title of Kamilah and Tahani's new art exhibit, referring to their rivalry and reconciliation.
    Tahani: But it really should have been "Burying the Hatchet", right? Isn't that a much better title? I'm going to call Kamilah and rub her face in it.
    Chidi: Maybe don't.
  • Too Much Information: Donna's boyfriend is a little too happy to discuss their sex life with Eleanor (whom he knows is Donna's daughter) and Michael.
  • Uptight Loves Wild: Dave is a generally nice and stable man with a good job. Donna is a former criminal lowlife who faked her own death to get out of paying a massive debt. They make it work.
  • What You Are in the Dark: Eleanor is in a perfect position to ruin her mother's life. She could call the cops about Donna Shellstrop being alive and still in debt, but ultimately doesn't go through with it because she realizes Donna truly has turned herself around and she can't bring herself to potentially ruin her innocent stepsister's life.
  • You Never Did That for Me: A non-romantic example—Eleanor is hurt and angered by how Donna is actually being a decent mom to Patricia, as it shows that Donna was perfectly capable of changing but never put in that same sort of effort for her own biological daughter.

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