A review of this week’s The Good Place, “The Brainy Bunch,” coming up just as soon as my brassiere is very thin but very pure gold…
“Also, the Jacksonville Jaguars are good now!” -Judge
Look, a lot of things happen in “The Brainy Bunch,” even though it’s half as long as last week’s season premiere. And we should talk about all of them. But first, let’s all rise in unison and let out the loudest and slowest of slow claps for how The Good Place resolved one of its greatest fact-vs-fiction conundrums.
You may recall that last season, after Michael realized he needed the humans’ help to outwit Shawn, he invited them to ask whatever questions they wanted of him. Jason‘s thoughts, naturally, turned to his beloved Blake Bortles, and he asked if the Jaguars won the Super Bowl last year, or would ever win it. (Keep in mind that hundreds of years had passed between the time of Jason’s death and this conversation, though time seems to work oddly in the afterlife.)
“Jason,” Michael told him, “I can’t predict the future, but … no.”
The problem was that Bortles and the Jaguars improbably turned into one of the AFC’s best teams last season. They even might have made it to the Super Bowl if not for a quick whistle blown against Jags’ defender Myles Jack on a fumble recovery and touchdown run. Mike Schur said he had a plan for how the series would have dealt with the Jags winning a title, or even simply staying good. “The Brainy Bunch” provides us with our answer, as well as an explanation for any and every other discrepancy between the show’s universe and ours, and most of the odd things that have happened in our reality over the last few years:
Michael did it.
The Judge blames Michael’s frequent interference on Earth for Brexit, the success of Greatest Showman, former talk show host Byron Allen buying the Weather Channel and more. But the one that most shocks and upsets Michael, understandably, is the success of the Jags, and the possibility that Bortles himself might be good now. Of course this would baffle and annoy him the most, because he’s spent centuries in the company of Jason Mendoza hearing about this cursed team and its cursed quarterback.
It’s a fun workaround at the end of a fun episode that’s otherwise dominated by guest star Adam Scott doing what he does best — both things he does best, in fact.
Because this is a Schur show, our thoughts of Scott inevitably turn to his long stint on Parks and Recreation as sweet and excitable nerd Ben Wyatt. But Scott first became known (and is probably still most recognizable) for playing insufferable d-bag Derek in Step Brothers. His career mostly trends towards the nice guy roles, but when he’s asked to douche it up again — as he did when he first played Trevor in Season One — he clearly hasn’t lost a step. What makes his extended return in “The Brainy Bunch” such a treat, though, is that it’s essentially Trevor pretending to be a Ben Wyatt type, but making all of it awful to drive a wedge among the group. He brings everyone lemon bars, texts Eleanor his favorite dank memes(*) and loves everything about the perfectly horrifying American-themed restaurant, the Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet.
(*) It’s unclear exactly when these scenes are taking place, but the group all originally died in 2016, and about a year passed before Eleanor found Chidi. So with “Damn Daniel,” Trevor is passing around a meme that was already old by this point — which seems exactly the type of thing the character he’s playing would be into.
He runs a masterful job of attacking Team Cockroach in their most vulnerable spots: convincing Chidi that it’s unethical to be friends with his research subjects, or nudging Jason and Tahani together. (Sometimes, when they hook up, it ends badly; other times, not.) Michael was once great at torturing people, but he’s lost that gift the more human he’s become, so Trevor is constantly two steps ahead of him. (He even suckers Michael into shaking his toilet-stained hand.) And with Janet robbed of her own powers down on Earth, the good guys seem overmatched.
Then the Doorman turns up, and things get very interesting. The Judge tosses Trevor off into an endless abyss (probably so Scott can go make a movie) and is ready to banish Michael and Janet back to the Bad Place, where they’ll both be destroyed in painful, endless fashion. But Janet’s powers coming back online abruptly — like, as she puts it, a printer queue that’s been backed up — creates a physical barrier between the Judge and our heroes. And the Doorman (real name: Jeff, or possibly Geoff) was so won over by the travel mug Michael got him from Earth that he tosses the good guys the one and only key for the door between here and the afterlife, letting them escape punishment for now.
It’s the latest unexpected huge plot twist in a series that’s made a specialty of them. Michael and Janet are now stranded on Earth as well, utterly powerless. Are they now mortal, too? Will this phase of the story last a long time — perhaps through some shenanigans where somebody misplaces Chekhov’s Key? — or will we be back in the Bad Place by midway through next week’s episode? I don’t know (I’m not watching screeners beyond each one I’m recapping this season), but goodness, I can’t wait to find out.
What did everybody else think?
Previously: Heaven Is a Place on Earth