The Good Place S02E04 Recap: 'Team Cockroach'

The modus operandi for The Good Place so far this season seems to revolve around messing with the show's concept. After taking its entire first season to reveal the big twist (that Eleanor and the gang were actually in the Bad Place, subjects of psychological torture at the hands of Michael), every episode ever since has come with its own big twist or shakeup to the apparent formula. First, they blew through Michael's second attempt in a single episode and had him lie to his boss about how it was going. Then in last week's incredible episode, the game truly changed, as Michael went through another 800 attempts chalk-full of non-sequiturs and sight gags, before Vicky leaves him with an ultimatum that would put her in charge and forcing him to go to the gang for a team up.

This week, in "Team Cockroach", Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and tangentially Jason have to mull over Michael's offer and figure out whether or not he's full of shit, or believe that if they don't team up, their torture will turn into the traditional physical kind. The show appreciates that this is a big idea with important implications, and that it can't gloss over it like it did many of those 800 attempts. This signifies that Michael and Eleanor's ruse will have a considerable amount of time devoted to it, and that this is possibly where everything since Michael's heel turn has been leading. The show and the characters therefore treat it with gravitas, as "Team Cockroach" is all about making this decision.

In many ways, it feels like a bottle episode. Other than a couple of cutaways and the conclusion of the episode, "Team Cockroach" takes place entirely in Eleanor's clown-riddled house, with the added conceit that in thirty minutes, Michael will have to haphazardly wipe the gang's memories once more and hand the keys over to Vicky, or face the consequences of Vicki reporting back to Chad with news of Michael's persistent failures. From our perspective, Michael makes a compelling argument. We know that what he's saying is true, and that he has no choice but to turn to the people that have continuously outsmarted him. But from Eleanor et al's side of the coin, they've only just learned of Michael's deception. Their current existence is only about a week old, and even with the knowledge that they've gone through this 800 times, sometimes for months, putting your trust in what's basically the literal devil is a proposition that merits contemplation.

The episode gives some weight to this notion, but fumbles it to a certain extent. Jason will go ahead with the plan no matter what, so there's no problem there. We spend a good amount of time with Tahani after she was mostly ignored in last week's episode; and that includes an overdue flashback to her hilarious I mean sad death, when a statue of her much more successful and less self-involves sister crushes her, which Michael shows to her in order to prove to her that she does indeed belong in the Bad Place. Eleanor is the skeptic we know her to be and the last hold out. But I'm curious as to what happened with Chidi here. He's so Switzerland about everything that it's become his main character trait, yet the revelation that he's in the Bad Place because of that makes him jump into Michael's open arms, and I'm not sure I buy it.

Nevertheless, Eleanor is the holdout but she eventually acquiesces when confronted by Chidi as she tries to sneak off to the medium place with a brick of cocaine for Mindy, and we have what appears to be our conceit for the rest of the season. At least until the show decides to gingerly blow it up again. But it's not just that Vicky's in charge, part of the deal Eleanor strikes is that Michael has to sit in with them in Chidi's ethics lessons, as Michael promises that the next step will be to sneak them all off to the actual Good Place, where Michael hopes to get in himself. Janet decides to join them as well, now imbued with 800 realities-worth of incremental self-awareness.

The new direction is fantastic, because it creates an environment where the true Michael can finally interact with the rest of the characters as his true self, all while sharing a bond over their disdain for Vicky. There was a veil over Michael in the first season, and now that it has been lifted, it can only lead to new, interesting places. The Good Place has once again turned its concept on its head, all while improving itself, which seems to not only be a core tenet for the fictional direction of its characters, but also its writers behind the scenes. "Team Cockroach" is a great followup to last week's perfect episode, and it gets 9 butt reboots out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • "Let’s not get caught up with who lied to whom and which one of us created an entire fake reality in order to cause eternal misery for the others, that’s ancient history." "It was happening until twenty seconds ago."
  • "Can I play iPad?" "Sure you can, buddy." "Yes!"
  • "If he finds out we're all in hot water. Literally, they will boil us."
  • "Hey Janet? Do you have something shiny Jason can play with?"
  • "I gotta say it took me a while to get used to the hanging bits. Oh get your mind out of the gutter Eleanor, I was talking about my testicles."
  • Tahani, upon learning about the complicated mode of transportation to sneak into the Good Place: "Is it nice? Is there business class? Can I preboard?"
  • Also Tahani: "Oh no. I died in cleveland?"
  • "I’m not that selfish." "Eleanor, your cocaine and escape train are ready."
  • " Now Chidi, I’m going to need you to act nervous and embarrassed for Eleanor." "Way ahead of you."