The Good Place has paid homage to Lost before. Last season’s finale kickstarted a timeline-twirling reboot reality, a defining plot twist from the ABC serial’s last season. That episode also introduced Sydney as a key new setting — another nudge, since the Australian city recurred throughout Lost, a regular background for flashbacks. We’re maybe far enough from Lost‘s 2010 series finale that we don’t have to directly credit that series for The Good Place‘s flashback structure, since that episodic format’s been adapted across TV’s genre landscape: Pre-prison timelines on Orange is the New Black, island memories on Arrow, eerie peeks at a basically-right-now America on The Handmaid’s Tale. But surely Good Place‘s willfully constant philosopher shoutouts owes a debt of gratitude to the series that named one character John Locke and then renamed him Jeremy Bentham.
This week’s episode, “Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By,” kicks off with the most specific Lost homage yet. It begins with a closeup on an eye-opening, one of the earlier series’ running visual motifs. We don’t quite see the man waking up, but we watch him begin his day with some musical accompaniment. He’s listening to an old-school audiotape: “Mama” Cass Elliott’s Mama’s Big Ones. That’s the album which features “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” the tune that memorably soundtracked a roughly identical dude-gets-up-and-does-weird-household-chores montage at the beginning of Lost‘s second season. (That LP also features “It’s Getting Better,” the tune that soundtracked a bleakly funny suicide attempt in Lost‘s fourth season.)
Our mystery man’s listening to “Don’t Let The Good Life Pass You By,” which, hey now, is the name of the episode! A knock at the door reveals Michael and Janet, who introduce themselves as journalists from the Calgary Times Examiner. “My name is Michael… Scoop,” Michael says, lyingly. “And this is my photographer, Janet… Scoop. She’s my sister. We’re the Scoops.” They know the man well, though he doesn’t realize it. For he is Doug Forcett, the fellow who Figured It All Out about the afterlife decades ago, with the aid of some mind-expanding magic mushrooms.
Doug’s now played by Michael McKean, channeling his hermetic Better Call Saul character but with a slightly cheerier outlook on life. Doug’s lysergic experience gave him total consciousness about the point totals that earn you a place in the Good Place. So now he lives out here, off the grid, growing his own food, specifically just lentils and radishes. The water he drinks comes from a compost toilet hooked up to a filtration system, just like Kevin Costner in Waterworld. He adopts every dog and wolf that wander onto his property. He’s friendly with the snails that surround his home, so friendly that he won’t even deign to name them, for surely they’ve named themselves something in the beautiful language of the snails.
In a nearby bar, the human members of the Soul Squad take a long-overdue break. It’s been a real spin-cycle of travel for them lately, Sydney to Budapest to Phoenix to Calgary. “I’m so jetlagged I can’t even regrender my chorf,” says Chidi with impressive confidence. He joins Jason for a special Jacksonville style of pool, colloquially known as Special Jacksonville Style of Pool. Meanwhile, Eleanor seeks Tahani’s advice. She’s still reeling from the revelation that she and Chidi declared their love for each other in one of Michael’s many reboots. “When is the right time,” she ponders, “to tell someone you were passionate lovers in an alternate timeline in the afterlife, but he doesn’t remember because technically none of that happened in this strand of the multiverse?” No joke, I think this was also a subplot 24 hours ago on American Horror Story: Apocalypse. Peak TV, man.
Things take a dire turn at Doug’s farm. Michael and Janet hoped to turn him into a blueprint for better living, a new good example pointing humanity in the direction of the Good Place. But Doug’s gone to a far extreme of philosophical do-gooding. He’s become a happiness pump, willing to do literally anything to make other people happy at the expense of his own happiness. His kindness is inhuman, or anyhow, anti-self. “Would you like to move in permanently?” he asks. “Would you like any more water or my kidneys?” When he accidentally steps on a snail, he insists on a funeral. Posthumously, he names the snail Martin Luther Gandhi Tyler Moore, since he imagines that snail was the greatest and most talented snail of all.
Michael tries to convince Doug that there’s another way to live. Surely, if he’s right about this whole points total thing, he’s accrued enough positive points to chill out a little. Eat some ice cream! Drink water that wasn’t previously his own urine! Doug swears he can’t risk it. He knows there’s an accountant clocking all his sins. He sets off for a long walk of penance, planning to donate dozens of dollars to the Canadian Mollusk Association.
At the bar, Eleanor sits down with Chidi, planning to tell him the truth. “You and I are…” she begins. Then she notices something terrible. “Bambadjan!” she says. And indeed, Chidi thinks they are quite Bambadjan. But no no, Eleanor’s referring to the Bad Place demon, strolling in the door right here on Earth. She calls the crew together, plotting an escape. Jason prepares a Molotov cocktail, it only takes a moment. But Vicky and the other ghouls grab them. Shawn strolls in, triumphant. Now he’s just waiting to see the look on Michael’s face.
NEXT: The Fight