This The Good Place review contains spoilers.
The Good Place Season 3 Episode 2
Adam Scott is one half of what, is in my estimation, the single greatest comedy podcast of all time. Scott “hosts” U Talkin’ U2 To Me? alongside friend and Comedy Bang Bang host, Scott Aukerman. U Talkin’ U2 To Me? is on the Earwolf podcast network and is supposed to be “the comprehensive compendium of all things U2” but in reality is usually about anything but the lovable lads from Liverpool (Aukerman and Scott are well aware that U2 aren’t from Liverpool but naturally insist they are).
Instead the podcast is usually about the Scotts, Adam and Aukerman slowly losing their minds and falling into conversational pothole after conversational pothole. Occasionally, however, the two friends do chat about in U2 and in some instances even plan out trips to go see the boys live. In one recent episode of the show (after a strong original 18 episode run, U Talkin’ U2 To Me? only releases episodes when there is new U2 material to not discuss), Adam and Scott discussed how they were granted the rare opportunity to not only see U2 live, but be invited to hang out with them backstage. After much scheduling back and forth, Adam finally realized that he would not be able to make the trip at all, due to the sudden obligation to guest star on a show neither of the men would name.
Unless Adam Scott plans to turn up on another show in the near future, it’s clear that this brief one-episode (I assume) commitment to The Good Place is what kept him from attending that U2 show. Sad times for Adam Scott, but I think we can all safely conclude now that it was more than worth it.
“The Brainy Bunch” is probably the last time we’ll see Trevor the Demon this season, given Scott’s busy U2-listening schedule and the fact that Judge Gen flicks him into eternity like the annoying bug he is. If it is the case that we won’t see Trevor again, then what a sendoff he gets here. “The Brainy Bunch” doesn’t have nearly the madcap world-building glee of last week’s premiere but this is in many ways a superior outing for the show, thanks mostly to the annoying, pun-filled work of Trevor.
“Michael, a demon has infiltrated the group,” Janet says at episode’s beginning.
“He might just be the single most dangerous creature in the universe,” Michael says, stone faced and terrified.
The show then immediately cuts to Trevor in the MRI room, brandishing tupperware of delicious lemon bars and trying to make fast friends with the humans. For all of The Good Place’s rhetorical mastery of the human condition and deep commitment to understanding ethics and philosophy, this is still a comedy first and foremost. “The Brainy Bunch” is an excellent example of how The Good Place is able to use the sitcom format to do its job in making us laugh and also discreetly stage a larger, celestial battle with circumstances beyond even life and death.
Every sitcom has at least one character who fits the annoying neighbor or friend archetype. This is the kind of character who says things like “Eleanor do I have the correct phone number for you? Because you haven’t been replying to the dank memes I’ve been sending.” or “You think with all these new Star Wars movies they’ll finally make a new Spaceballs?” If the levels of annoyance are high enough for our core characters (and holy shit they are with Trevor) then this is a completely hilarious use of any sitcom’s time, Even better for The Good Place, however, is that Trevor is not just a pain but a worthy adversary.
Trevor suggests that all of his new friends go to the most annoying place he can think of to continue their burgeoning friendships: an American-themed bar in Australia: the Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet. Unfortunately the Florida table is taken but the gang is given the option to buy the Manifest Destiny package and kick the group out of the table. Even Trevor turns down that opportunity.
Once seated, Trevor gets into the work of methodically breaking down the gang. For each member, the method is shockingly easy. Eleanor just has to be annoyed to the point where she indulges her first instinct to isolate herself. Chidi has to be placed in an environment where he’s a professor determining whether he should drink with his would-be students, and Tahani and Jason just have to get really drunk.
Trevor finds the whole thing so easy that Michael and Janet have to once again return to Earth to intervene, Michael in a ridiculous Dick Tracey trench coat and Janet in the American bar flannel crop top that makes me feel some things that I’m still working through.
When confronting Trevor in the bathroom (which he just like to visit for the smells) Michael wants to know why Shawn doesn’t just turn Michael in for interfering with the humans on Earth.
“Because this is more fun, numb nuts!” Trevor says.
“Because his is more fun, numb nuts” might as well be the thesis statement for the show. Philosophy, ethics, and man’s capacity for goodness and evil are all heavy topics and we, the TV watching public, are not heavy people (at least not emotionally). Watching these ideological battles and crises staged on the battlefield of The Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet is just more fun…uh, numb nuts.
It also helps that we have a pretty easy rooting interest. Trevor hilariously, flagrantly awful, and our poor human brothers and sisters are trying so hard to resist his various temptations. It’s heartening to see that in “The Brainy Bunch” at least some of our humans are starting to. Eleanor and Chidi respond very poorly to Trevor’s stressors. Eleanor quits the study and Chidi only gets 8 non-consecutive minutes of sleep that night.
Jason, however? Jason continues to surprise through these first two episodes. Tahani and Jason get absolutely hammered playing Trevor’s favorite drinking game “Every time someone says something the other can’t relate to, drink!” When Tahani turns up hungover the next day, Trevor assumes he’s succeeded in engineering a Jason/Tahani hookup and therefore ruining the chemistry of the group. Instead though, Jason didn’t sleep with Tahani. He got her a ride home like a gentleman and then in an equally gentlemanly fashion, spent the night in a dumpster behind a motel.
Eleanor, Chidi, and Tahani have needed push after push after push to stay on the straight and narrow in their second chances on Earth but for Jason things are starting to come more naturally. It’s hard to conclude why – perhaps it’s just because his near death experience was far bleaker than his friends. Or maybe it’s the Jacksonville Jaguars success (Gen later says this, and other anomalies like Brexit are Michael’s fault for interfering). Whatever the reason, he doesn’t need another visit from Michael’s “librarian” character like Chidi does.
The librarian alone doesn’t do it for Chidi even. Chidi needs someone else to offer him help. Simone convinces Chidi that he can’t let Eleanor leave the study and even orders the sleep-deprived Chidi a cab to Eleanor’s place to convince her otherwise.
“Please can you give me three months? I’m asking you as a friend,” Chidi says to Eleanor. She says yes, happy to have a professor and a friend.
Michael has always theorized that the only thing these four humans need to improve and ultimately save themselves is one another. That’s why he’s going through all of this to keep them together. By episode’s end, Gen has discovered Michael and Janet’s frequent trips but a timely Janet distraction allows her and Michael to escape Gen and head back to Earth (permanently this time?). Michael has risked a lot for these four humans who he says are all he cares about in the universe. The irony, however, is that they just might have been able to do this on their own.
Not only did they survive the group-ruining attempts of Trevor, but they even received help from outside their own little group. Simone cares for Chidi and made the decision to help him. She did the right thing and didn’t even need a librarian with a dubious Australian accent to help her…or Blake Bortles and his unusually OK season.