The Soul Squad goes to meet Gen in the Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes, a place full of portals outside of all dimensions, and while she's not happy with how Michael's ignored her orders before, she's willing to hear him out and discuss the issues with the points system Michael has discovered. He argues that humans think they're making one choice when they're really making several that they don't even know they're making and due to how interconnected and complicated the modern world is, these unintended consequences have wide-ranging negative effects dragging people's scores down, hence why no human has been able to get into the Good Place for over five centuries. Gen is initially unmoved, arguing that it's the individual's fault for not considering the consequences of their actions before proceeding with them and Michael's argument that "life is complicated" is a poor excuse for not taking responsibility. Chidi tries to argue her point with a Sartre quote, only for Jason to interrupt him with a story about a teammate from his dance crew named Big Noodle who was always late to practice sessions due to being busy working three jobs to support his family, making the point that Big Noodle wouldn't have the time to consider the consequences of all of his actions and moreover, Gen doesn't understand what it's like to be a human. She accepts the Soul Squad's challenge to go to Earth and see what life there is like for herself, returning a moment later after having spent several years there. She's deeply shaken by her experience and appalled at how much of a mess the world is, agreeing with Michael that life on Earth is too difficult and complex for any human to be able to live the kind of moral life necessary to earn a spot in the Good Place; even with all her infinite knowledge, Gen couldn't make the right decisions no matter how much she tried to. Chidi himself adds that he tried to weigh in the consequences of every choice he made and even that had negative consequences, as it led to him becoming so indecisive that it made his friends and family miserable, hence why he got sent to the Bad Place.
Gen agrees they need to fix this and summons Shawn to discuss the matter. Shawn argues that humans are intrinsically bad, but Eleanor figures she and the other humans were able to improve upon themselves in Michael's original neighborhood because the afterlife removed all the complications and pressures of modern life that would've otherwise hindered their progress. Shawn dismisses it as a fluke, so Chidi suggests they repeat this as an experiment: allow Michael to recreate the fake Good Place neighborhood where the things that make life on Earth so difficult and complicated are gone, bring in four newly-deceased humans as test subjects, and see if they can be stimulated to improve themselves, as the original four were. With some grumbling, Shawn and Gen accept this.
This Neighborhood can't be built in the Good Place or the Bad Place and neither side wants the fake residents to be portrayed by the demons or angels, so Eleanor proposes they build it in the Medium Place and have Janet create the fake residents. Gen lays down the rules: the Bad Place will pick the four human test subjects and their general level of immorality must be on the same level as the original four (so no dictators or serial killers), and while Michael will not get the files on them in advance, he is allowed to modify the neighborhood as he sees fit upon their arrival. Both Michael and Shawn have objections to this, to which Gen says that makes this a fair compromise. She declares the experiment will go for the equivalent of one Earth year, and she'll be watching.
As the humans visit Mindy to let her know of the experiment that will be going on in her backyard, they also encounter Derek, and he's a lot more intelligent and capable than he used to be. As he became part of the Medium Place, a switch came about that Mindy can push to shut him down and then reboot him, and like Janet, the reboots give him upgrades. Mindy has pushed the switch thousands of times out of boredom and shutting Derek down whenever he annoyed her provided her with some amusement. As Janet starts to create the fake residents, Derek offers to help her to ease the load. Jason is not thrilled by Derek's intrusion, but he goes along with it.
Just as Michael is about to welcome the first human for the experiment, Shawn contacts him and gloats about how he plans to torture the humans should the experiment fail, causing Michael to break down and panic.
- Acid-Trip Dimension: The Interdimensional Hole of Pancakes is revealed to be a bizarre space with portals to every dimension that vaguely resemble pancakes flying around constantly. Jason even thinks it really is a salvia trip.
- Armor-Piercing Question: Jason asks Gen how she could fairly judge humanity if she's never experienced it herself. This prompts her to visit Earth to see how hard it is to live there.
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: When discussing potential test subjects:Gen: No serial killers, no dictators, no one who's ever managed a boy band.
Eleanor: How bad is contestant number one? Murderer? War criminal? Instagram DJ?
- Bad Boss: Shawn, as usual. When told by the Bad Place lab people he couldn't make a skin-suit to look like Michael's, he did so anyway. Using the lab people as material.
- Bee Afraid: If Michael's new gambit fails, Shawn and Vicki plan to torture Team Cockroach with bees with penises. Which Shawn stole from Michael.
- Bread, Eggs, Breaded Eggs: Michael tells Shawn that rather than torturing humans with penis-flatteners and bees with teeth, he should switch it up once in a while and try teeth-flatteners and bees with penises. Shawn mocks him and says it's stupid... but writes those ideas down.
- The Bus Came Back:
- Derek and Mindy St. Claire return after many episodes of absence.
- Vicki, after getting pummeled by Janet on Earth, also returns... disguised as Michael.
- The Fake Good Place, which was taken down after Team Cockroach left in Season 2, is rebuilt in Mindy's Medium Place.
- Just like in the penultimate episode for Season 2, "The Burrito," the gang must once again see Gen to plead a case.
- The IHOP was previously mentioned in "Rhonda, Diana, Jake, and Trent."
- Continuity Nod: Gen is still attracted to Chidi, and makes several come-ons at him through the episode.
- Dumbass Has a Point: Jason actually manages to make a very good point about judging people without understanding their situations.
- Dumbass No More: In a similar vein to Janet, Derek constantly being rebooted by Mindy has greatly boosted his intelligence and turned him into a sophisticated, suit wearing gentleman interested in poetry, who only occasionally says "Derek".
- Eldritch Location: The true form of IHOP looks weird, riddled with random portals, Alien Geometries and strange creatures. Chidi falls through a portal at one point and witnesses every dimension folding upon each other like the layers of a blade. This is the titular Time Knife, all the non-humans have already seen it.
- End-of-Series Awareness: Gen asserts that "One way or another, this is going to end", reflecting that the next season will be the show's last.
- Evil Knockoff: Played with. Shawn smugly reveals to Michael that if his neighborhood experiment fails, he intends to have demons disguised as Michael torture the humans.
- Failure Is the Only Option: Chidi points out that although he did turn out to be right about stressing over the tiny complications that can impact one's good actions, doing so still got him sent to the Bad Place because of how miserable it made everyone in his life, essentially meaning that there is literally no possible way to get into the Good Place with how the points system is currently set up.
- A Form You Are Comfortable With: Gen disguises the IHOP as an Earth IHOP restaurant so the humans can comprehend it. Michael warns that it's only an illusion and they're actually still in the IHOP when Tahani almost touches the dangerous creature draped around her neck again, as it now looks like a scarf.
- Freeze-Frame Bonus: The holographic point counter Michael pulls up to make his case to the Judge has a reference to the store Foods and Stuff.
- Glad I Thought of It: When Michael suggests using bees with penises to torture people, Shawn calls it stupid... while quickly writing it down. Seconds later, he threatens the humans with penis-bees, insisting that it was his idea.
- God in Human Form: Gen takes up the challenge to go to Earth and see how things are there for herself. She is appalled at how much of a mess the world is and realizes her view of things was way too simplistic.
- Heroic BSoD: Michael has a breakdown after learning what Shawn has in store for the humans should the experiment fail, eventually passing out from stress. The fact that it's right when he's supposed to be welcoming the first human into the neighborhood doesn't help matters.
- Human Aliens: After her time on Earth, Gen learns she looks like a black woman and that a lot of people really don't like them.
- Jerkass Realization: After spending thirty years on Earth and seeing for herself just how difficult and complex the life of a human really is, Gen admits she had an overly simplistic view of things and that the points system needs to be updated.
- The Internet Is for Porn: When Gen first arrived on Earth, she tried to search for tomatoes on the Internet to try to prove it was easy to do the research on morality (they had been talking about the consequences of buying tomatoes grown with pesticides before she left). She found herself on a sunburn fetish site.
- Karma Houdini: Despite breaking the rules to get at Michael and Team Cockroach, neither Shawn nor Vicki received any punishment from Gen after being sent to her.
- Love Triangle: After learning he and Janet used to be married, Jason thinks he might have feelings for her again and asks to try dating her again. She's willing, but Derek shows up in a much more impressive state than he previously was, compounded further by circumstances leading them to produce residents of the new fake Good Place together.
- Love Revelation Epiphany: Jason thinks he might be developing feelings for Janet after learning they used to be married.
- Morton's Fork: Discussed. Since Earth is a messy, ever changing world and the moral system humans are judged by is a Black-and-White Morality system centuries out of date, there is no way for any person to rack up enough points to get into the Good Place because for every good deed committed, there are countless unintended consequences to it that turn it into a bad deed. Even if you try to weigh in the various consequences of every action you take like how Gen suggests, that indecisiveness will only make the people around you miserable (as was the case with Chidi), thus docking you further points. Even Gen - an omniscient being who tries living on Earth in several different parts of the world - fails at maintaining these moral standards because every part of the world is bogged down by layers upon layers of different problems and hardships that make it impossible to be considered good enough.
- No Sympathy: Gen initially shows no interest nor concern for Michael's revelation... until she goes to Earth and experiences life on Earth herself.
- Not Helping Your Case: Michael vows no more rule-breaking to Gen, who angrily retorts that he's holding the Book of Dougs he stole from the Accounting Department.
- Off-the-Shelf FX: The floating portals in the IHOP are pancakes David Niednagel made with his daughters.
- Portal Crossroad World: Michael compares the IHOP to "Grand Central Station, but for space and time."
- Reasonable Authority Figure: After coming off as a bit of an obstinate Jerkass in her previous few appearances, Gen returns to being this in this episode. While understandably pissed at Michael for everything he's done, she willingly meets with him in the one place where she won't be able to punish him with her powers and agrees to visit Earth herself to validate the Soul Squad's claim of the external factors there tarnishing people's morality. When she finds they're correct, she agrees to Michael's proposal of recreating the fake Good Place neighborhood to see if other humans would improve there as the main four did without worldly issues compromising their progress. She also establishes some fair rules: The Bad Place can chose the four humans for the experiment, but their immorality must be on par with the four original main humans. And while Michael may not know anything about the four humans in advance, allowing him to plan the neighborhood accordingly from the beginning, he is permitted to change it to how he sees fit as time goes on.
- The Reveal: After being mentioned in a couple episodes, we finally get to see what IHOP looks like.
- Secret Test of Character: Invoked. The Medium Place starts to get turned into something similar to an experimental purgatory, as another fake Good Place designed by Michael, but this time with the intention of testing if "bad" humans can become good in the afterlife.
- Take a Third Option:
- The group knows that the Good Place would never allow the fake neighborhood to be built there, and they have no desire to build it in the Bad Place again. So where does Eleanor propose they build it? The Medium Place!
- Michael does not want the fake residents there to be portrayed by demons like in his fake neighborhood, and Shawn does not want them being portrayed by residents of the Good Place. The solution? Have Janet make the residents!
- Take That!:
- One of the moral deathtraps Eleanor cites is that eating a chicken sandwich means you hate gay people in spite of how delicious it is, an obvious jab at Chick-Fil-A.
- Shawn was summoned just as he was torturing William Shakespeare by describing the plot of the Entourage movie to him.
- As proof that mankind is inherently bad, Shawn mentions the existence of slavery and Limp Bizkit.
- Eleanor wonders if the first person sent by the Bad Place would be a murderer, a war criminal, or an Instagram DJ.
- To the Pain: Shawn gleefully tells Michael how he plans to torture Michael's human friends with demons dressed up like Michael himself.
- Trivial Title: The titular event happens just off-screen when Chidi accidentally falls into a portal in the IHOP, now disguised as a conference room. The non-humans openly dismiss this as a trivial occurrence and resume the talk.
- Tuckerization: The dangerous alien creature that attaches to Tahani in the IHOP is called a Niednagel after visual effects producer David Niednagel. This might also be an allusion to the cast and crew using Niednagel as a verb when talking about effects that were added in an episode in the official podcast.
- Tuxedo and Martini: Derek returns with his newfound sophistication apparent by him having both. He gets the martini right the first time but each subsequent scene has the glass filled entirely with only one of the ingredients used to make martinis.
- Villain Has a Point: Shawn may be pure evil, but he is technically correct about how Michael doesn't necessarily have proof that the four humans improved in his fake Good Place neighborhood since he never kept track of their point totals.