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Recap / The Good Place S 4 E 04 "Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy"

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Eleanor, Michael, Tahani, Jason and Janet play a game with Brent, Simone, John and Chidi, where their Pictionary drawings come to life. Chidi makes a very bad drawing of a horse, which then comes to life as a nightmarish monstrosity that runs amok through the neighborhood.

Later, Eleanor suggests the Soul Squad do an all-night brainstorm on good person provoking activities, but Michael wants to have a non-productive slumber party instead.

Suddenly, one of the demons, Glenn, arrives, claiming that he's defecting from the Bad Place. He tells Eleanor that Michael is being impersonated by Vicky in a Michael-suit. The gang separate and interrogate Michael and Glenn, trying to figure out if Glenn is telling the truth. Michael insists that he hasn't been replaced, but he won't remove his suit. Michael reveals his true form is that of a six-thousand-foot fire squid, and he's afraid that once the humans saw it, they would be horrified and never see him in the same way again. Janet takes out a device she claims is a lie detector, but when she uses it on Glenn, he explodes into goo. Michael alleviates everyone's concerns when he explains that this didn't kill Glenn, as his body will reform itself eventually. To prove to everyone that he's the real Michael, Michael offers to blow himself up with the goo gun. Before he can do that, Jason then restrains Janet with a pair of handcuffs Mindy used on Derek, revealing her to be a Bad Janet who has replaced the Squad's Janet when they returned Chris back to the Bad Place. He figured this out when "Janet" didn't reply with her usual "not a girl" phrase while speaking with him. Bad Janet explains that Shawn rebooted her multiple times to upgrade her so that she could be able to convincingly act helpful without exploding in on herself. Knowing what they have to do, Jason and Michael set off to rescue Good Janet from The Bad Place.

Chidi decides it's his ethical obligation to learn to draw realistic horses.

Tropes in this episode include:

  • Admiring the Abomination: Despite Michael insisting otherwise, Jason finds Michael being a fire squid to be really cool and wants to see it.
  • Art Initiates Life: The gang plays Magic Pictionary, in which their drawings come to life. Unfortunately, when your drawing skills are as bad under pressure as Chidi's, this has horrific results.
  • Ascended Fridge Horror: Tahani is the first to realize that if Bad Janet has replaced Good Janet, then Good Janet is being tortured in the Bad Place.
  • The Art of Bra Removal: Janet says that only a demon can remove their own skin suit, "like a very complicated bra."
  • Borrowed Catchphrase: At the end of the episode, when Michael refers to Janet as a girl, Jason steps in with the obligatory "Not a girl", Janet herself being unavailable.
  • The Bus Came Back: Derek appears for a brief cameo, now fully rebooted again and willing to put his feud with Jason aside.
  • Book Ends: The ending of episode 3 had a mysterious figure, who turned out to be Glenn, drive a hand car from The Bad Place. This episode’s ending has Jason and Michael drive a hand car into The Bad Place
  • Call-Back:
    • Glenn informs the team of Shawn's call to Michael about the Michael suit, which was way back in the third season finale.
    • We see Eleanor having one of the drinks her mother made in a previous episode, which she was incredibly enthusiastic about.
    • Eleanor, like Tahani before her, enthuses about nachos.
    • Eleanor again refers to the humans as "cockroaches."
  • Character Development:
    • Jason seems to have grown a lot in this episode, asking relevant interrogation questions to Michael and Glenn (for the most part), figuring out that a Bad Janet was currently impersonating the Janet they knew, and bravely deciding to go to the Bad Place to rescue his not-a-girl-girlfriend.
    • Also, oddly enough, Bad Janet. Michael had to use an actual Good Janet for his fake neighborhood because, initially, a Bad Janet couldn't pretend to be good without literally blowing up. But thanks to being rebooted multiple times, one Bad Janet has become much craftier and manipulative, and has given a fairly convincing performance as Good Janet.
    • Glenn is starting to question the entire purpose of the Bad Place just as Michael did.
    • Michael gets one for not marbleizing Bad Janet after determining she's an impostor and getting all the information they need from her. Before he'd be quite callous to the Bad Janets, marbleizing one that our Janet needed to impersonate.
  • Chekhov's Gag:
    • Janet's "not a girl/not a robot" catchphrase. This Janet not saying it clues in Jason that she's an impostor.
    • Derek's sexy magnetic handcuffs get used to catch Bad Janet.
  • Chekhov's Boomerang: A Janet's ability to impersonate other Janets. This time, the Bad Place uses it to sabotage the new experiment.
  • Comically Missing the Point: Jason just can't understand why Michael would be hesitant to show off his natural fire squid form.
    Michael: (somberly) Do you really want to be friends with something like that?
    Jason: YES. I keep saying!
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: Bad Janet is remarkably calm when saying that Shawn rebooted her 40 million times —and rebooting is painful for the Janet in question—to modify her so that she can successfully impersonate Good Janet.
  • Continuity Nod: Someone in a Michael suit once again makes a comment about "the dangling bits."
  • Didn't See That Coming: Bad Janet really underestimated Jason's love for Good Janet and vowing to become less impulsive for her.
  • Dick Dastardly Stops to Cheat: The Bad Place was already in hot water for sending in Chris and humans that the Soul Squad knew. Sending in a Bad Janet means they've been caught cheating again and sabotaging the experiment, when everyone was already having trouble helping the new humans reform.
  • Eldritch Abomination: According to Michael, his true form is that of a six-thousand-foot-tall fire squid that smells terrible, has a long neck, is covered in teeth, and constantly oozes juice. He considers this form to be so disgusting that he'd rather turn himself into a pile of goo than let his friends see him like that.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Jason first suspected something was wrong when Janet didn't correct him with "Not a girl", but it was only when Michael said "There is nothing I can say that will make you believe I'm really me" that it hit him that the current Janet was an impostor.
  • Evil Smells Bad: Michael's true demon form is, by its very nature, intended to be disgusting and horrifying to humans, and Michael claims that it is accompanied by "a smell."
  • Extremely Short Timespan: This entire episode takes place in the course of a single night.
  • Forgotten Phlebotinum: Justified; Michael in the original fake neighborhood had a cube that changed color depending on who told lies. Since he already knew what was going on in the neighborhood due to constant surveillance, he could pretend it worked. It's not used in this episode, in part because the wrong Janet provides it, they're in a new neighborhood, and he is the one being interrogated.
  • A Form You Are Comfortable With: As revealed in this episode, Michael absolutely refuses to take his skin suit off under any circumstance because he's worried his natural demon form would change the way his human friends look at him.
  • Freakiness Shame: A platonic variation, but Jason finds Michael's fire squid form to be "dope" even though Michael is ashamed and disgusted by it.
  • Giant Squid: As Michael reveals in this episode, his true form is a fire squid that's six thousand feet tall.
  • Harmless Liquefaction: Bad Janet, disguised as Good Janet, creates a device she said could tell if a demon is lying, but instead blows them up into goo. She uses it on Glenn who blows up. They gather up all of his goo pieces into a container. Because he's a demon, he doesn't die and eventually reforms into his former self.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Michael is prepared to... well, liquidate himself when he's convinced that the gang is not going to trust him in order to ensure that the experiment goes smoothly. Thankfully, Jason exposes Janet as the real impostor just in time.
  • Hollywood Board Games: Janet having been replaced by an evil doppelganger is foreshadowed not by giving life to a terribly-drawn horse in a Pictionary game, but by the way she gives life to it. Normally, Janet would recognize the intent behind the illustration and materialize a normal horse. Bad Janet, however, materializes as-is, creeping everyone. Also, she gruesomely kills it off-screen afterward — Janet wouldn't have been that messy with her powers nor tried to describe the deed.
  • Hourglass Plot: Of "Most Improved Player". In that, Eleanor had to answer questions honestly about herself at the risk of getting sent back to the Bad Place due to being an impostor, with Michael as her judge. Here, Eleanor is judging Michael to find out if he's an impostor.
  • I Am a Monster: Michael thinks that if the humans were to see him in his true form of a gigantic fire squid, they'd forever view him as a disgusting monster and would be too disgusted to remain friends with him.
  • Insult Backfire: Tahani calls Bad Janet a monster after she says she was going to give her an asymmetrical haircut. Bad Janet takes it as a compliment.
  • Internal Reveal: Eleanor and the others find out about Shawn's message to Michael in the Season 3 finale, and Eleanor also realizes that his subsequent breakdown was genuine.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: By stealing Good Janet's place and attempting to sabotage the experiment, the Bad Janet wound up enduring more of Brent's harassment than Good Janet did, and even suffered more from it that Good Janet would have. While this Bad Janet was advanced enough that she could impersonate a Good Janet without immediately melting, being good and helpful was still physically painful for her. She unleashes a stream of insults the minute that Jason busts her, almost looking relieved that she can be herself.
  • Leeroy Jenkins: Before anyone can prepare a plan to tell the Judge about the Bad Place cheating and negotiate for Janet's release, Jason goes to rescue Janet. In an odd case of Crazy Enough to Work, Michael and a goo-vat Glenn accompany him, trusting that this idea is so stupid that they can pull it off.
  • Let's Get Dangerous!: Jason normally responds to everything with enthusiasm or chill acceptance, often due to being too oblivious to fully get what's going on. But when he finds out the Bad Place has kidnapped his not-a-girlfriend and is holding her hostage? He gets dead-serious and says that Shawn is a bully... and the only way to deal with a bully is to go to wherever they are (in this case, literal Hell), and punch them in the face. Everyone is duly impressed. Then he forgets his Badass Boast, and Michael takes him aside.
  • Literary Allusion Title: To John le Carré's Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy and from there ultimately to the children's rhyme that begins "Tinker, tailor, soldier, sailor...".
  • Mood Whiplash: While poignant music plays in the background, Michael somberly describes that, if he were to take off his suit, the humans would never look at him the same way again, and asks them if they would really want to be friends with him after knowing what he truly looks like. The music abruptly stops as Jason gleefully proclaims that he would indeed want to be friends with a fire squid.
  • More Teeth than the Osmond Family: One of the things Michael notes about his demon form is that "there's teeth everywhere."
  • Name That Unfolds Like Lotus Blossom: A much less poetic version though. Apparently "Glenn" is only an alias, and his real name begins with "Snakes Pour Forth From His Anus".
  • Near-Villain Victory: Michael was seconds away from liquifying himself before Jason exposed Bad Janet. Had that not happened, the humans would not only have lost their close friend for months, but Bad Janet would have been free to continue sabotaging them, which would have made the experiment more likely to fail than ever.
  • Never the Obvious Suspect: The Bad Place definitely pulled some sort of trick on the train, but, despite numerous pieces of evidence making Michael seem like the most likely candidate, he's not the impostor. Janet is.
  • "No. Just… No" Reaction: Simone's response to Brent attempt to call Chidi his "brotha" with an affected African American accent despite Chidi not being American.
  • Noodle Implements: The "sex toys" in Derek's room. One seems to consist of multiple eggbeaters.
  • Not Helping Your Case: Michael tries to justify his lie to Eleanor by saying it was to cover for his previous two lies. Eleanor is not impressed.
  • Once More, with Clarity!: The scene of the impostor being swapped on the train is first shown when Glenn discusses how Michael could have been switched (a bunch of demons gang up on him and Vicky in the Michael suit comes out of hiding). Later, we see a version of the scene that showcases what actually happened (Janet being marbleized and Bad Janet taking her place).
  • O.O.C. Is Serious Business: Jason is royally pissed at Shawn for kidnapping his not-a-girlfriend, and is surprisingly coherent when he decides to rescue her.
  • "Pop!" Goes the Human: Instead of detecting if Glenn is telling the truth, Janet's lie detector makes him explode into blue goo. Fortunately, demons simply regenerate after exploding, although it takes a few months.
  • Punny Title: The episode title is a play on "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy".
  • Red Herring:
    • The focus on Michael possibly being Vicky is meant to distract us from who the real impostor swapped on the train is: Janet.
    • Linda is revealed to be this, as she was intended to get caught early on so the crew wouldn't suspect that the Bad Place would try to pull any more tricks.
  • Rescued from the Underworld: Jason and Michael prepare to return to the Bad Place to rescue Janet.
  • The Reveal:
    • Though we don't get to see it, Michael finally gives a description of what his true form looks like - he's a gigantic fire squid. He's also very ashamed of it, to the point where he believes the humans wouldn't want to be friends with him if they were to see him like that.
    • It turns out that Janet is actually stuck in the Bad Place, while a Bad Janet has been impersonating her.
  • Rhetorical Question Blunder:
    • The Brick Joke of Glenn asking for a drink of pig urine ("or whatever urine you have, I'm not picky") comes back when they are trying to figure out how to make sure Glenn is telling the truth. Eleanor suggests getting him wasted.
    Eleanor: (thoughtfully) What goes well with pig urine?
    Jason: (without hesitation) Coconut rum.
    • Michael asks the humans if they would really want to be friends with him after seeing him in his true form as a disgusting six-thousand-foot-tall fire squid - to which Jason exclaims that yes, he would, and he keeps telling Michael that.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: Inverted. Glenn came to the exact right conclusion that the Bad Place intended for Linda to fail so they could switch someone on the train to sabotage the experiment. He just incorrectly assumed who was switched.
  • Running Gag: Glenn saying something and then Jason going "Or is that exactly what you want us to think?!?" - even in cases where it is exactly what he wants them to think.
    Janet (panicked): Glenn blew up, Glenn blew up!
    Jason (wiping Glenn's goo off his face): Or is that exactly what he wants us to think?!?
  • Shout-Out: Jason expresses skepticism that Glenn is a devil, since he doesn't wear Prada.
  • Simple Solution Won't Work: While the humans are trying to figure out if Michael is actually Vicky wearing a Michael suit over her own skin suit, they realize the most obvious solution fairly quickly; simply get Michael to take his skin suit off, as this will instantly prove whether it's really him or not. However, not only is a demon the only one who can take off their own skin suit (so they can't force him out of it), but Michael refuses to take his suit off because he considers his true form so disgusting that the humans will never look at him the same way again. Also, it's six thousand feet tall and will definitely be witnessed by the neighborhood and ruin the experiment.
  • A Sinister Clue: According to the podcast, Bad Janet pretending to be Good Janet folds her hands together in the wrong direction.
  • Snowball Lie: Michael has apparently found himself in this situation.
    "That lie was only to cover my two earlier lies. That's gotta be okay, right?"
  • Spotting the Thread: Jason realized something was wrong with Janet when she didn't reply "Not a girl", which eventually made him realize that she was actually Bad Janet.
  • Take That!: As Michael explains the life cycle of a demon, the phase just before full-grown demon is social media CEO.
  • Taught by Experience: Just as Good Janet learned to pretend to be bad, Bad Janet learned to pretend to be good. Or at least she was reprogrammed to not implode and melt when told to be good.
  • Tentacled Terror: Michael expects the humans to find his giant squid form disgusting and terrifying, and that after seeing him like that they'd forever view him as nothing more than a repulsive heap of burning tentacles.
  • Terrible Artist: Chidi claims to be a good enough artist, but can't work very well under pressure. His bad drawing of one of Simone's childhood horses is made that much more horrifying once it comes to life.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: Michael says it just before trying to explode himself.
  • Tranquil Fury: Jason slips into this when he realizes Janet's been kidnapped and replaced.
  • Wham Episode: It wasn't Michael who was kidnapped and replaced with a demon on the train, it was Janet, which is why everything she had been suggesting to the group thus far had been pulverizing things! And what's worse... the real Janet is in the Bad Place!
  • What Have I Done: Chidi feels guilty after his bad drawing of a horse comes to life and spends the rest of his night trying to improve his horse-drawing skills.
  • Why Don't You Just Shoot Him?: Apparently Janet hasn't been destroyed after her marbleization, which means there's a chance for Jason to still save her.
  • You Are Worth Hell: Literally in this case; Jason goes to the Bad Place to rescue Janet because he loves her.
  • You Monster!: Tahani calls Bad Janet one after she says she was going to tell Tahani to get an asymmetrical haircuit. Bad Janet takes it as a compliment.