This The Good Place review contains spoilers.
The Good Place Season 4 Episode 4
The Good Place season 4 episode 4 “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy” ends with a moment that suggests a set up to one of the most tried and true methods in the sitcom handbook: the odd pairing. Michael and Jason stand on a railroad handcar, wearing their finest zootsuit attire, and preparing to race into hell to rescue Janet.
A Michael/Jason pairing, whether it be for a series of scenes or an entire episode, is a thrilling concept for The Good Place to explore. But before the show gets to that, take a moment to appreciate what “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy” does for both Michael and Jason’s character development before it inevitably gets them together next week.
This fourth installment of The Good Place season 4 is very much a Michael episode and Ted Danson showcase with a bit of Jason and Manny Jacinto sprinkled in for good measure. The hooded figured seen advancing on the neighborhood last week turns out to be Sean’s meekest demon Glenn (Josh Siegal). Glenn, sick of all of Sean’s mean, but fair insults, has come to Eleanor’s team with an important bit of information. The being they know as Michael, is not really Michael but rather Vicki wearing a Michael suit.
When The Good Place introduced the Michael suit in the season 3 finale, with the intention of tormenting Michael, it never seemed as though it would pop up again as an important plot point. But “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy” makes an excellent use of it as a threat, and in the process creates a nifty little bottle episode that operates like a game of Clue. Perhaps its no coincidence that this half hour opens with Chidi, Brent, John, Simone, and “Jianyu” playing a game of Pictionary…and even less of a coincidence that Chidi creates an abomination of a horse that briefly terrorizes the neighborhood before Janet can put it down.
This being a half hour episode per usual, “Tinker” doesn’t have much time for Eleanor to establish a real plan of attack on how to figure out if Michael who he says he is. The best she can do is isolate Michael and Glenn in different rooms to begin the process of interrogation. For the benefit of the watching masses, Michael ends up in a room at Mindy St. Clair’s that is positively filled with grotesque sex toys that Mindy uses for her amusement with Derek.
“They make me feel silly when Mindy and I are playing upstairs/downstairs Derek,” Derek says of an imposing pink apparatus.
The one real rule of engagement that gets established is that only a demon can take off his skin but no one else can. The solution then seems to be a simple one: ask Michael to remove his human suit and prove that it’s not Vicki underneath. Of course, that leads to another unique problem.
Let’s make something clear: Ted Danson will never shuffle lose this mortal coil. He is going to be the first man who lives forever and will delight generations of TV viewers to come. But should the unthinkable somehow happen and Ted find himself in an In Memoriam reel, I pray that his explanation of his corporeal form make it on there. Michael, as it turns out, is a fire squid. What exactly does that entail? Let him explain.
“I’m a 6,000-foot tall fire squid. I have tentacles. There’s teeth everywhere. I’m on fire and my neck is long. And there’s a smell and lots of juice. There’s so much juice, Eleanor.”
Michael’s fire squid monologue is genius comedic writing with an even more genius-er comedic line read from Danson. It represents the highlight of the episode from a pure humor perspective but also from an emotional, and daresay human perspective. Michael isn’t just concerned about the practical drawbacks of removing his human suit (he’s 6,000 feet tall and the neighborhood would see after all) but the implications for his relationships with his human buddies.
All clad in Ted Danson’s genial grandfatherly threads, Michael has never actually appeared demon-like and therefore it’s sometime easy to forget his core nature. If Michael’s friends saw what he started from, would they ever be able to reconcile that with what he currently is? That, at its core, is what The Good Place is all about and it’s touching to see that represented once again through Michael’s perspective.
Thankfully, Michael has the opportunity to offer to commit a selfless action. After Janet’s demon detector “accidentally” blows up Glenn, Michael declares he will do the same thing to himself. The experiment can’t afford to be restarted again without Chidi’s help and if Eleanor is never going to be able to fully trust him, the other solution is to remove himself entirely…for the three-ish months it takes for a demon to generate.
Even more thankfully, Michael doesn’t have to resort to this extreme measure, thanks to the action of another one of “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy’s” unlikely heroes: Jason Mendoza. Jason as the world’s dumbest man always plays well comedically for The Good Place, but the show sometimes has a hard time balancing that out with his brief moments of general competence. This episode finds the absolute perfect way of doing so, in which Jason proves himself useful not through any complex thought processes but rather his love for Janet.
Jason figures out that Janet is actually Bad Janet because when he calls her a girl she doesn’t respond with her trademark “not a girl.” With an uncharacteristic bit of quick thinking, Jason slaps some of Mindy’s cuffs on her, and Bad Janet is revealed.
The fact that The Janet of the past two and a half episodes is really Bad Janet, certainly isn’t one of The Good Place’s strongest twists. It even negates a perfectly logical and touching moment in which Janet breaks up with Jason (and delivers the news about Blake Bortles). But it does work for the purposes of this episode and at least the show didn’t bother to try to sustain it for longer than it did.
The Good Place season 4 thus far hasn’t truly vaulted into the mile of plot per minute action mode that it’s capable of elevating too. These early, episodes, however, have done a solid job of reestablishing the stakes for the characters where it matters and giving them new opportunities to shine. That should continue in the near future with whatever Michael/Jason adventure the show has planned for us.