The Good Place S02E06 Recap: 'Janet and Michael'

The most impressive part of how The Good Place has cemented itself as one of the best sitcoms in recent memory isn't all the twists or the endless stream of one-liners and sight gags. This isn't the first show to offer these things up to its viewers, nor will it be the last. No, the most impressive part about The Good Place is how much mileage it gets out of so little it seems to have to work with. On the surface, this seems like an expensive show, often featuring what seems to be expensive special effects or elaborate sets, but, rather deceptively, it's managed to convince us that it exists on a much larger scale than what's actually true.

If you look back at the half dozen episodes we've seen of season two so far, most of them have teetered over the line of the bottle episode, largely taking place in singular rooms like Michael's office or Eleanor's clown-riddled house. The occasional flashback to the characters' past lives is usually in a generic, enclosed setting, and there are only a handful of common areas we ever cut to in the neighborhood. Part of the reason why Michael Schur and his team do this most likely has to do with the occasional lava monster or trolley massacre they have to put in, or maybe even Ted Danson and Kristen Bell's salaries, but knowing Schur's work, it isn't surprising that he's able to make the most with so little, nor would it surprise me to find out that this was a conscious choice. The show often exhibits the qualities of a stage play in subtle ways. Despite its outlandish premise, it's very focused on its characters, and especially as of late, the act of them talking to one another in order to become better people and solve their problems.

This week's episode, "Janet and Michael", seems to strip away even more from the show, zeroing in on those two titular characters and their relationship. And it couldn't have been an easy task, not only because it's mostly devoid of the established relationships between Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani and Jason (outside of small cameos from each of them), but also because it's asking us to invest in two characters that literally aren't human and who don't experience emotions and feelings the same way we do, if at all. Michael's arc this season has been about learning to become a better person, and Janet has been rebooted so many times that she's ostensibly become as sentient and functioning as a human herself, but this episode seemed to have the intent of tossing both characters across the final hurdle, as Michael consults Janet's instruction manual in order to figure out why she's been glitching out.

Any savvy viewer already knew that it was because of her relationship with Jason from the first version of the neighbourhood, but Michael and Janet need to figure it out for themselves, and the show does a tremendous job of not dragging it out or making it seem too obvious, since technically no character was actually aware of Janet's forbidden love. Once they realize that all of this is happening because Janet is forced to lie to keep Jason happy, she figures that the only solution is for Michael to permanently kill her and get a new Good Janet, in order to stabilize the neighbourhood. And that's where the second important revelation comes in, as Michael has to admit to himself that Janet is his friend and that he doesn't want to kill her. It's probably the first time in Michael's live that he hasn't reveled in the idea of killing someone or something, and it's thus a fundamental change for his character, an important step if they're ever going to convince us that Michael can become a good person. And the scene where Michael admits to Janet that he can't kill her is probably one of the best of the series so far. Ted Danson is a hell of a fucking actor, and he plays up the gravitas and emotion of the scene perfectly.

The episode ends on a lighter note, as we're introduced to Derek, the rebound boyfriend Janet has crafted for herself played by the incomparable Jason Mantzoukas, and each of the cast gets nice little moments even though the episode doesn't center around them. Jason and Tahani have, of course, a utilitarian scene, as does Eleanor, as she gives Janet the advice to rebound, and Chidi's appearance is the payoff to Vicki's cameo, as he ventures into Michael's office covered in acupuncture needles. His line delivery in this scene is pitch perfect.

"Janet and Michael" is as good as The Good Place can get without the inclusion of the full cast, another experimental but small scope episode that challenges the very nature of the show and presents yet another case for this as one of the best sitcoms currently on TV. And it gets 9.5 fourteen ounce ostrich steaks impaled on a giant novelty pencil that says "Lordy Lordy I’m over 40" out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • I love how one of the only commonalities between all three of Mike Schur's shows has somehow become the insanity of Jason Mantzoukas (alongside Marc Evan Johnson). At the very least, he seems to be playing a character somewhat different than Adrian Pimento or Dennis Feinstein.
  • The scene where Michael tells Janet she's his friend better go right on Ted Danson's Emmy real for next year.
  • A couple more great restaurant names seeped through this week: "Custard’s Last Flan", "I Thought I Saw a Pudding Vat"
  • Bad Janet returns! "What up skid marks"
  • Janet: "Fun fact: mathematically, it’s equally likely to either im- or explode."
  • Janet: "Hi guys, I’m broken."
  • Michael/Jason: "Woah, you two are sleeping together?" "Only when we’re done having sex."
  • Janet: "I’m very high in potassium. Like a banana!"
  • Chidi: "I would love to walk it off but my feet have needles in them!"
  • Janet: "Why are you making such a big deal about making me into a marble forever?"
  • Janet: "Look at us, a couple of old pals, trying to make our way in this crazy world that I built. Two peas in a pod, one of whom needs to kill the other one immediately."
  • Eleanor: "I don’t think I’ve ever meant this literally but that might be too much information."
  • Janet: "Eleanor told me that instead of being sad, I should go get it girl, so I’m going to go get it, girl."