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Recap / The Good Place S3E10 "The Book of Dougs"

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"The Bad Place isn't tampering with points. They don't have to."

"There are so many unintended consequences to well-intentioned actions. It feels like a game you can't win!"
Tahani
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The Soul Squad has entered the Good Place through their post office. To avoid arousing suspicion from the worker Gwendolyn, Michael poses as an accountant, has Janet disguise herself as a Neutral Janet, and claims the four humans have won a contest. Being rather gullible, Gwendolyn immediately believes it and tells Michael how he can contact The Committee to address the issue on his mind.

Eleanor is determined to get out of the post office, but humans can only get to the Good Place through the official gateway. Chidi gets her to calm down and suggests they just enjoy the moment. They go on their first official date, drinking, bonding and enjoying their time together.

Meanwhile, Jason and Tahani discuss what they found out in Janet's void. Jason's not sure how he feels about Janet, and Tahani pushes him to talk to her about it directly. That backfires, though, when Janet gets embarrassed and confused by all these emotions she's suddenly feeling and she is having a hard time keeping up her Neutral Janet facade, feeling stressed and emotionally on edge. Tahani tries to help by making a divorce "Death Did Us Part" certificate for herself and Jason but it only makes them both feel worse—Jason is reminded of the fact that he's dead and Janet is reminded of the fact that she essentially killed her friends.

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Michael meets with The Committee, a group of kind, considerate, and polite angelic beings. He pleads his case to them, stating that he's certain the Bad Place has hacked the system somehow, hence why no human has gotten into the Good Place in 521 years. The angels are horrified and promise to take immediate action. However, immediate action for them would take centuries, if not millennia, just to form their investigative team. Michael reiterates the issue is extremely urgent and in that time, countless innocent humans are going to be undeservedly tortured. However, the angels state they absolutely will not break the rules and will follow them to the exact letter.

As Michael sulks in disappointment at yet another possible solution turning out to be a letdown, Tahani vents to him about how her genuine attempts to help Jason and Janet only makes everything worse for everyone. As she laments over the unintended consequences of her actions, a realization strikes Michael and he figures out what the problem with the points system is. Looking through the Book of Dougs, Michael sees that the points system also counts the positive and negative consequences of every action, and with the modern world being so interconnected, this means even the smallest and most well-meaning of actions can have multiple harmful and far-reaching ramifications causing harm to other people or benefiting a bad person in some way. The Bad Place never had to hack the system because the system itself was flawed to begin with.

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Tahani apologizes to Janet and lets her know she just wants to help. Janet breaks down and tearfully hugs Tahani, admitting that she feels conflicted in her feelings for Jason, who starts crying to join in even though he has no idea what's going on. Gwendolyn sees the three of them crying and quickly becomes suspicious, which is worsened when Eleanor bursts out of a closet with Chidi to loudly and crudely announce they just had sex. Gwendolyn is hurt that they lied to her and tries to angrily shake her fist at Michael but can't make a fist, informing him that she will have to turn him over to the Judge. Michael replies that he already has contacted her. The Doorman then appears, telling the Soul Squad that they will be meeting with the Judge at the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes.


Tropes in this episode include:

  • Angry Fist-Shake: Gwendolyn tries to do it to Michael and the humans for lying to her, but she can't get the hang of making a fist.
  • Bavarian Fire Drill: Michael poses as an accountant, has Janet disguise herself as a Neutral Janet, and says the four humans won a contest. This fools Gwendolyn the mailroom lady.
  • Brick Joke:
    • Chidi dresses up as a sexy mailman for Eleanor.
    • The Doorman smells frogs when he enters The Good Place.
  • Call-Back:
    • Michael learns that the problem with the system is the Running Gag Chidi has been obsessing over - the unintended consequences of supporting unethical systems like blueberry farms that use pesticides to grow their crops and unpaid labor.
    • Likewise, he learns to his displeasure what he told Shawn and Val back in "Michael & Janet" is true - Good Place people really are that stupid and trusting.
  • Celestial Bureaucracy: In keeping with everything else we've seen of the afterlife so far, the Good Place turns out to be full of Obstructive Bureaucrats who tangle themselves up in red tape, memos and meetings about how they plan to address the issue Michael has raised.
  • Character Development: This episode really illustrates how far the main cast has come from who they were in their journey.
    • Michael is the strongest advocate for the humans and utterly distraught over how many are being sent to suffer unfairly.
    • Eleanor is emotionally vulnerable to Chidi and completely owns it. Now she's actually worried about the consequences and found someone she cares about deeply.
    • Chidi has no hesitation to act anymore, and even reassures Eleanor by suggesting they ignore the consequences.
    • Jason actually reflects on his previous actions as wrong and considers the consequences they have for someone else and discusses with Tahani how to make amends.
    • Tahani is truly selfless in her efforts to help Jason and Janet reconcile, with no ulterior motives of recognition on her part.
    • Janet is deeply emotional throughout the episode and finally breaks down crying over a genuine emotional connection to all her friends.
  • Continuity Nod: Eleanor finds the smell of puke reassuring, just as way back in the second episode, she associated people puking on rollercoasters with joy.
  • Does This Remind You of Anything?: Jason's comment, "We're refugees. What kind of messed up place would turn away refugees?" could easily be seen as a commentary on the USA's Trump-era refugee policy.
  • Don't You Dare Pity Me!: Janet is not exactly appreciative of Tahani's attempts at helping her and Jason because of this trope.
  • Easy Road to Hell: Michael realizes that this has happened because whoever came up with the system never took into account how Earth's populace could become so interconnected thanks to technological advancements. Thus, even the smallest acts have massive consequences that never existed before the advent of mass telecommunications or global commerce.
  • Easily Forgiven: Gwendolyn is hurt and angry at the Soul Squad for lying to her, but she still cheerfully waves goodbye to everyone once they leave.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Tahani tells Michael that every time she tries to help Janet and Jason, things only get worse. This gives Michael the idea to check the records and realize why the system is forked up—because the system adheres to a strict Black-and-White Morality code in an age of Grey-and-Gray Morality. For example, a person from the 1500s would easily get 145 points for giving their grandmother a bouquet of roses because they'd have to go outside, pick the flowers from a field and deliver the bouquet to Grandma themselves, whereas a person living in the modern day would lose points because they used a cellphone made in a sweatshop to buy the flowers, ordered the bouquet from a company run by a racist Corrupt Corporate Executive who sexually harasses his female employees, the roses themselves were grown with a toxic pesticide and picked by exploited migrant workers, and the delivery process dumped a bunch of pollution into the air, contributing to the degradation of the environment. The latter person isn't intentionally doing anything wrong, but dealing with the nuances of modern life isn't something the system has adjusted to.
  • Good Counterpart: Obviously with the Good Place Staff in comparison to the Bad Place one. Unfortunately... well, read the next two tropes.
  • Good Is Dumb: Gwendolyn, the Good Place employee at the post office, is incapable of imagining that Michael might break the rules, even when he makes it obvious.
    Michael: Hypothetically, is there any way you'd know if I did use the phone? Any kind of alarm?
    Gwendolyn: Golly, no!
    Michael: So, it's entirely untraceable?
    Gwendolyn: [Cheerfully] Sure is! What a fun thought experiment.
    Michael: You said it, Gwendolyn. Sorry, is that a dog barking in another room?
    Gwendolyn: I doubt it, because I don't have a dog. But, out of politeness and an abundance of caution, I'll go check.
  • Good Is Impotent: Unlike the Bad Placers who regularly break the rules in order to take shortcuts for their problems, the Good Placers absolutely will not defy the rules no matter how urgent the situation is.
    Michael: The Committee is a bunch of ineffectual dorks in fleece vests. The Titanic is sinking and they're writing a strongly-worded letter to the iceberg.
  • Hope Spot: The Soul Squad actually ends up in The Good Place… in the post office. And will not be allowed in because of the rigid rules that the bureaucrats have. Eleanor is devastated and panicking, and then they have to leave to talk with Gen.
  • Hourglass Plot: Normally Chidi is the anxious one and Eleanor has to calm him down or cheer him up. Here the roles are reversed; Eleanor is panicking with how close they are to the Good Place but unable to access it, and Chidi is the one trying to calm her down.
  • Irony: Because the Good Place Committee are so committed to their nature as Always Lawful Good beings, they will be spending more than one-thousand years trying to build a committee to plead their case and a second committee to keep the first committee fair and impartial. This means that they will be complicit in the injustice of allowing countless humans to be tortured needlessly for over a thousand years before they could even figure out how to make their case. It's Michael, a man who used to be an Always Chaotic Evil Demon who defied his character alignment by learning moral complexity from the very humans he was meant to torture, who points out just how backwards their logic really is.
  • Lawful Stupid: The Good Place bureaucrats never break the rules because it's the right thing to do—they're super polite about it though. Their obsession with sticking to the rules makes them this trope, especially since the problem they're discussing is incredibly urgent.
  • Locked in a Room: None of the humans can leave the confined space of the mail room. Eleanor starts to freak out because she's annoyed that their final destination is behind a locked door.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: The Good Place committee claims that the legal process of forming a team to investigate the issue with the points system will take over 400 years, plus an additional thousand to do a background check on the members since they deem it unethical to take shortcuts with the process, much to Michael's annoyance.
  • OOC Is Serious Business: Jason isn't sure how to process the things he discovered about his and Janet's marriage. Tahani finds his contemplative mood very concerning.
  • Precision F-Strike: Muted because of the Good Place swear filter, but Chidi tells Eleanor to "pop that bench".
  • Properly Paranoid: Not that it helped him in the first timeline, what with him being in the Bad Place in seasons one and two, but it turns out Chidi had a point when he was considering ethical ramifications of food choices like almond milk and blueberry muffins.
  • The Reveal: The Bad Place wasn't actually tampering with the points system. It turns out that there are external factors that can render good deeds invalid for points, such as ordering roses that were grown using toxic pesticides with a cell phone made in a sweatshop from a company run by a racist pervert.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: It turns out Michael's suspicions of the point system being flawed were correct. But it's not because of the Bad Place "hacking" it, but because the system is horribly out of date for the factors of the modern world.
  • Sequel Hook: The episode ends with the gang leaving the Good Place to parley with Gen at the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes, the most dangerous place in the universe.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The Soul Squad lost their chance to earn their way to the Good Place, died in this season, and stand right outside a door to it. Eleanor as she puts it wants off this ride.
  • Shout-Out: The way Janet blows up the mail chute at the start is strongly reminiscent of the way Piper blows up stuff, with a very similar hand gesture from Janet to stick in the reference.
  • Stiff Upper Lip: Tahani is horrified when she starts crying and lampshades this trope:
    Tahani: I'm British, I never cry!
  • Strongly Worded Letter: Referenced. After a frustrating meeting with the Good Place Council, Michael describes them as "writing a strongly worded letter to the iceberg" while the Titanic is sinking.
  • Take That!: Jason complains about how the Good Place has to take them in as "what kind of messed-up place would turn away refugees?"
  • Tastes Like Purple: The air in the Good Place smells like whatever makes one happiest.
    • For Eleanor, it smells like the water park she used to go as a kid, specifically "chlorine, suntan lotion, Band-Aids, and a thick cloud of teen hormones". Later on, it changes to the barf-filled pool.
    • For Chidi, it's absolute moral truth. Or warm pretzels; the two have similar smells.
    • For Jason, it's Blake Bortles winning the Super Bowl and thanking him as his best friend. Also, weed.
    • For Tahani, it's the closing of the curtain between first class and economy in a plane.
    • For Jeff the Doorman, it's frogs.
  • The Unreveal: We never actually see the full Good Place. The entire episode takes place within a post office, and the main entrance is trillions of miles away. Also, the windows are opaque, so no one can see outside.
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