10:44 pm EDT, October 17, 2019

‘The Good Place’ season 4, episode 4 review: Getting under your skin

Appearances can be deceiving in The Good Place season 4, episode 4. Here’s our review.

After a few weeks spent getting a handle on Chidi, Simone, Brent, and John, “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy” turns the Soul Squad’s gaze inward. What they find is revealing, in every sense of the word.

But first!

What happened on ‘The Good Place’ season 4, episode 4?

After a game of Magic Pictionary ends with Chidi’s monstrous drawing of Simone’s childhood horse coming to horrifying life, the Soul Squad debate their next move. Eleanor thinks their progress has slowed, while Michael encourages them to relax and enjoy the small victories.

The debate is interrupted by the arrival of the mysterious handcart, which turns out to be carrying Glenn from the Bad Place. Glenn reveals that Michael is not Michael, but rather the demon Vicky who is wearing the Bad Place’s Michael suit — and he’s sabotaging the experiment!

Awkward.

Michael denies this, and Eleanor believes him. Glenn offers photographic evidence of the Michael suit, and recalls Vicky’s first time in the suit (accompanied by copious mockery and “Shut up, Glenn!”s) which was followed by Sean calling Michael to taunt him with the existence of the suit.

The Good Place 4x04 chidi

Michael initially denies this, but faced with the threat of Janet’s phone records, admits that the suit story is true. Eleanor is shocked, and Tahani agrees with Glenn that they should call the Judge to work this all out. Eleanor, however, doesn’t want to risk the Judge restarting the experiment.

In Mindy’s sex-toy-festooned room, Michael admits a few more lies, including the fact that his panic attack was real and brought on when Sean revealed his plans to torture the Squad in the suit. Michael claims that this is all a ploy by the Bad Place to make the Judge restart the experiment, but Eleanor is now thoroughly suspicious. She asks Janet to make a demon lie detector; Janet reluctantly says she’ll try, even though she is under so much stress.

Glenn’s explanation is that Michael was swapped out while Janet handcuffed the Linda/Chris demon on the train. Eleanor remembers that Michael dismissed her concerns over the Linda incident, and decides that the only way to settle the matter is to have Michael remove his skinsuit. Either Michael’s true demon form will be revealed beneath, or Vicky will be.

But Michael refuses to reveal his terrifying true form. Eleanor is unconvinced by his concerns for their friendship and the integrity of the experiment.

Janet arrives with the lie detector, which does not work. It explodes Glenn into a mess of slime, leaving Janet shaken and Eleanor furious about Michael’s betrayal. She leaves and meets up with Chidi, who thinks that he needs to make the world better after hurting it with the horse-monster.

Back at Mindy’s, Jason tries to comfort his ex. “If you ever wanna talk, just know that I’m here for you, girl,” he says. Janet thanks Jason and hugs him.

Eleanor returns, having decided to call the Judge and restart the experiment. Michael decides to blow himself up to save the experiment, as there is no other way to prove his identity. But just as he is about to go splat, Jason has a lightbulb moment. He slaps Derek’s handcuffs on Janet… revealing her to be Bad Janet!

The Good Place 4x04 janet

Jason explains that he discovered Janet’s true identity when she did not say “Not a girl,” in response to his attempt to comfort her. Bad Janet bitterly explains that Janet, not Michael, was switched out on the train. Everything falls into place; the false starts, bad ideas, and internal strife plaguing the Soul Squad had all come from Bad Janet, and Eleanor’s trust in Michael is restored.

Bad Janet reveals that Janet is in the Bad Place, probably having a very nasty time of it. Jason declares that he is going to take on Sean and get Janet back. He and Michael take the handcart to the Bad Place, as Eleanor holds down the fort in the neighborhood. Success for both is uncertain — but they’ll just have to try their best.

Takeaways

With “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy,” The Good Place season 4 sheds the suit of its introductory movements, and reveals the second act pulsing beneath the skin. The status of the experiment subjects has stabilized (at least for now) which means that it’s time for the Soul Squad to reconsider how they are functioning as a group.

The Good Place 4×04 is a look underneath the skin, as it were, an exploration of the collective self. And sure enough, between the fire squids, demon goo, and doubt, the Squad discovers that all is not entirely well in Mindy St. Claire’s house — and I don’t just mean the sex diaper.

#JanetWatch is over! “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy” finally confirms (in hilariously dramatic fashion) that Janet’s high stress levels, breakup with Jason, and generally subdued approach to the experiment have all been signals that Janet is, indeed, not really Janet.

Once again, D’Arcy Carden deserves serious props for playing another incarnation of her not-a-robot character, this time cranked so slightly to the left that the change was easy to ignore. The difference between Janet and Bad Janet, after all, is deliberately deeply-rooted; superficially, Bad Janet had Janet copied down to the molecule. It took Jason’s awareness of Janet’s most unique rhythms and preferences to expose the imposter. In the end, the key was in what lay beneath the skin.

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In The Good Place 4×04, the same is true of the demons. For Glenn, “Tinker, Tailor, Demon, Spy” acts as a neat coda to the arc begun in “The Selection” webisodes. Long the office patsy in the Bad Place, Glenn finally begins to question his raison d’être, which eventually leads to a truly selfless choice. As Eleanor reminds Jason, even demons can be good; even a fondness for pig urine and penis-flattening doesn’t mean that the true self beneath can’t have a strong sense of justice and fair play. Here’s wishing Glenn a speedy re-formation!

Most importantly though, Eleanor tests out what lies beneath Michael’s skin in The Good Place 4×04. Our OG demon architect’s claim that he is a toothy, juicy, fire squid colossus is insane enough to be absolutely true, but either way, Michael’s resistance to revealing his true form drives home the point of the episode. He makes a canny point about the way Eleanor and co. might regard him after seeing the “real” Michael (appearances, as Bad Janet reflects, are not unimportant) — but of course, as Eleanor realizes, that creature isn’t the real Michael at all.

the good place eleanor

The real Michael is the man-shaped being before her. The guy who is full of compassion and willing to sacrifice himself for the good of his favorite humans, and all of the humans that they represent. The guy who can’t tolerate Eleanor’s suspicion; the guy who lied to spare the humans’ feelings, who faces his enemies in the Bad Place to save Janet with Jason.

It doesn’t matter what happens to seethe and slurp beneath Michael’s Michael suit. On the deepest level (dare I even say, on the level that might be regarded as the soul, if The Good Place choses to call it that) Michael is good. That’s why he and Eleanor keep throwing themselves at this impossible task of saving humanity; and it might, in the end, be the reason they have a chance to succeed.

Best quotes

Jason: If you’re a devil, how come you’re not wearing Prada??

Tahani: Why would you help us? One day you’re flattening penises, and the next you just decide to defect?
Glenn: Actually, one of my jobs was to re-inflate the penises so they could get flattened again… it doesn’t matter.

Jason: I say we trust Michael. He’s our friend.
Tahani: Well, he might be our friend. Or he might be a lying trickster who just looks like our friend. A classic Mary-Kate Olsen.

Jason: Right, okay, so it’s decided. We trust both of them.
Eleanor: Okay. Predictably, this was unhelpful.

Eleanor: But a month ago, you told me that you only pretended to freak out, in order to get me to step up and become a leader.
Yes, that also was a lie! It was an inspirational one! Like, “So great running into you! We should get coffee some time!” Or, all of Instagram!

“Janet”: I just had to put down Daisy the Horse Blob, which was exhausting. Emotionally and physically. She fought back, I won’t get into details. I had to twist her head off. Sorry. No more details. She did thrash. She thrashed. Sorry!

Eleanor: What goes best with pig urine?
Jason: Coconut rum.

“Janet”: A demon can take his own skinsuit off, but no one else can. It’s like a very complicated bra.

Michael: I’m a fire-squid.
Jason: Doooooope.
Michael: No. Not dope. I’m a six-thousand-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.
Jason: I think I speak for everyone here when I say, I REALLY have to see this.

Michael: Don’t worry, demons can’t die. He’ll slowly re-form himself over a few months, passing through all the stages of demon growth. Larvae, slug monster, spooky little girl, teenaged boy, giant ball of tongues, social media CEO, and then finally demon.

Michael: Let’s go get our girl!
Jason: Not a girl.

The Good Place 4×05, “Employee of the Bearimy,” airs Thursday, Oct. 24 at 9:00 p.m. on NBC.

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