The silliest moments in The Good Place often lurk beyond your eyeline, fuzzing quickly out of focus or appearing for only a brief instant. If you’re a diehard fan, you’ve surely scanned through the background for hidden self-referential callbacks, groan-worthy puns, and the jokes that’d be impossible to spot without the pause button. Well, now we’re here to help!
After every episode this season, join me for a stroll through The Good Place’s best visual jokes, Easter eggs, and other terrific secret gags.
We’ve already seen these jokes in previous scenes of Eleanor’s untimely death by shopping cart. But just in case you missed them: Behind Eleanor, there’s a sign advertising Tahani’s sister Kamilah’s new album. And then, the truck that almost hit Eleanor is carrying an advertisement for a fictional erectile dysfunction drug.
This one is the name of Chidi’s preferred coffee cart at his university in Australia, and it’s also a sly nod to season two’s amazing bounty of food puns.
This medical directory board, seen as Chidi goes to look up Dr. Simone’s office number, is the best and least visible hidden joke of the season-three premiere. Dr. Fran van Plammaram, Ph.D!
Todd the Lava Monster arrives to provide some emotional support for the gang from the Bad Place, frantically working to find Eleanor and her friends. Thanks for bringing the spiders, Todd!
In an overwhelming gesture of selflessness, Tahani deletes all the best celebrities from her phone, including The Edge and The Edge’s private number that not even Bono knows. The Edge appears in her directory alphabetically before the Queen and The Rock.
So nice of Cormac McCarthy and Malcolm Gladwell to blurb Tahani’s book.
Michael intervenes in Jason and Pillboi’s attempt to rob this Mexican restaurant: La Cantina de los Cielos, a.k.a. The Cantina of Heaven.
I am incredibly unsurprised to find Jason and Pillboi having a heart-to-heart in front of a jukebox with a sign reading “Make Jukeboxes Cool Again.”
Welcome to a flood of visual jokes in “The Brainy Bunch,” beginning with an American-themed restaurant called the Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet. Uncle Sam wants you to stuff yourself!
The Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet decor is a nightmarish mishmash of all the best and worst of America. (Mostly the worst.) Here, some wall art featuring an alternative Mount Rushmore: David Hasselhoff, Paris Hilton, Judge Judy, and Hulk Hogan.
Eleanor and the gang are too late to sit at the Florida table — and they don’t purchase the Manifest Destiny package that would let them sit wherever they want — so they end up at the Montana table, which is decorated with both Dana Carvey’s Church Lady and a sketch-artist rendering of the Unabomber.
There’s no clear shot of the Cowboy Skyscraper menu in the episode, but here’s an image of the prop itself! You can see the listing for the Fourth of July drink special, which the gang learns about when they first arrive, but you can also find more details about the buffet itself, the items the Australian government specifically warns you not to eat, and your options for a personalized buffet bucket. You can see the full selection here.
As Janet and Michael discuss strategy and the frustrations of being earthbound, Janet pours pints of Hasselhoff cider.
Every shot of the restaurant offers new delights. Here, an unfortunately Australian-ized sign urging you to “TAKE A WALKABOUT THE BOTTOMS OF REDWOOD GIANTS,” a very weird Hollywood mural, and a blurry foreground shot of Jason’s order, which includes something deep-fried and wrapped in bacon.
Why would you decorate your American restaurant with already-racist statues of Native Americans historically used to sell cigars, if you could instead take those statues and add sunglasses and a saxophone too?
It’s tough to find a clear shot of the back of Trevor’s fantastically bad Brain-y Bunch sweatshirt, but if you look carefully, it reads, “I Went to Australia and All I Got Was This Lousy Cross-Disciplinary Academic Study and a Ton of New Best Friends!”
Another one that’s hard to see: Jason, all ready for his morning session of a History of Philosophy class, has enthusiastically written “History of Phil and Sophie” in his notebook.
Poor exhausted Chidi summons the energy to start his lecture, but he can only pull it together enough to write “PALTO” on the whiteboard.
When Chidi tries to encourage Eleanor to come back to class, he finds her reading a copy of AUS WEEKLY. Cover stories include “Meet LARRY, the Hemsworth Brother They Don’t Want You to Know About” and “Coldies With Naomi,” a story about Naomi Watts playing beer pong. Also, don’t miss the advertisement on the back for the Q20 Aeronaut boomerang. Tagline: “You know it will come back, but you still want to let it go.”
When Janet’s all-powerful summoning skills finally return after her trip to Earth, everything she tried to blink into existence suddenly appears in a giant pile. A few of the items: a Barcalounger, a sea turtle, a bicycle, a tractor, an oven, shopping carts, and a billboard reading “Trevor stinks!”
We see even more of Janet’s summoned items as Judge Gen swipes them to try to catch Janet and Michael. The highlight is this restaurant, apparently something that Janet summoned while working at the Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet: a food stand called “Ugly Nick’s Meat Trench.” Open 24 hours!
“The Snowplow” is not as chockablock with visual gags as the previous episode’s glorious Cowboy Skyscraper Buffet, but what it loses in density, it makes up for in individual gag quality. Before we get to this episode’s jokes, make sure to note that Larry Hemsworth’s appearance as Tahani’s new love interest was foreshadowed by Eleanor’s amazing copy of AUS WEEKLY in the previous episode (and also by Tahani herself in season two).
As Janet and Michael move into the university’s hilariously, tragically abandoned journalism wing, be sure to note the framed front page of the Sydney Daily Herald on the back wall. The headline is “ROO GONE TROPPO,” which Urban Dictionary informs me is Australian slang for “going crazy.” Also, the story in the right-most column is one of the best “down under” puns I’ve seen in a long time: “Killer Clown Under.”
Janet and Michael surveil the gang from the privacy of a (former) journalism classroom, and the space begins to fill with their notes about how everyone’s doing in their unwitting quest to make it into the Good Place. Here, we see some preliminary Post-it notes about their progress: Chidi gets stars and several check marks on opposite sides of a column, while hash marks indicate that Tahani has looked in a mirror 35 times, and a separate note reads, “Tahani primping again.” There’s also a note with many hash marks for the number of times Jason has mentioned the Jaguars, one that says, “JASON LOOKS SLEEPY,” and then another right by Janet’s side of the desk that says, “JASON is very cute :)” Aww, Janet!
Jason’s Jaguars fan getup is not a hidden visual gag. It is very, very visible. But I’m including it here anyhow because I love it so much.
Janet upgrades the study group’s computers, mostly for her own entertainment. We get a taste of it here, as Chidi yells, “Super Board, activate!” and we see the agenda for the day. TO DO: “Discuss Jason’s ‘Rawls = Red Starburst, Scanlon = Green Starburst’ Analogy.” Super Board also provides some local news stories, like “Rep. Sackett indicted on 231 counts of fraud” and “Koala exhibit at zoo overrun by extra koalas who just climbed in and won’t leave.”
Poor Larry Hemsworth. While everyone else is reading Kierkegaard and Todd May’s Death (The Art of Living), he’s carefully studying a book called You’re Not So Bad: A Guide to Building Confidence for the Hopelessly Mediocre.
The longer the study group works, the more notes Janet and Michael make about their progress. Here, we get more Post-its, and also a full chalkboard evaluation where they seem to be calculating point values for each action. Jason got some red marks for “CRIME IS NOT ALWAYS THE ANSWER,” amid more minor infractions like “BAD JUDGEMENT,” “CHRONICALLY LAZY,” and “MAKES PLANS AND FLAKES BEFORE NOON.”
Tahani’s red-alert issue is “CONSTANT POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS,” and she also gets negative points for “BLACK MARKET PURCHASE” and “VANITY,” but unlike Jason, she also gets some positive points for “CHARITY FOR OTHERS.” We can’t see as much of Chidi’s column, but he gets “COULDN’T DECIDE” and “FORGETS COMMITMENTS” as negatives, and “HELPED OTHERS BE KINDER AND NICER” as a plus.
Meanwhile, for Eleanor “LIES TO FRIENDS AND LOVED ONES” is a big negative, same with “HIDES IN BATHROOMS AVOIDING PEOPLE” and “FLIPS OFF ANYBODY.” Her positives are also … dubious: “BELIEVES IN KINDNESS” is good, but “DID NOT SHOPLIFT FOR 6 WEEKS & 2 DAYS” is less impressive.
This begins what I suspect will be a rich vein of dumb jokes for season three of The Good Place: ridiculous character names buried in each episode’s end credits. Here, we discover both the delightfully gentle pun “Ken Garoo,” and the much more bonkers “Baroness von Thurn und Taxis.”
We begin this episode with Michael and Janet trying to explain everything that’s happened in the previous two seasons, and as you’d expect, this involves some visual aids.
It’s hard to see exactly what’s written on the leftmost poster board, but it’s clearly an attempt to explain the relationship between our four dummies.
There’s a clearer image of the other poster board, which has more to do with the nature of Michael’s interference and his initial plan to make them torture each other. Apparently there are a total of 322 “people,” including 318 demons (like Glenn and Vicky), and four humans. It also lists other Bad Place demons like Shawn and Val, and a brief explanation of the nature of several of the 802 reboots: “Froyo,” “Kebabs,” “Balloons,” “Clown,” and “Bees.”
This is the most we see of Michael and Janet’s manifesto. Let’s hope we get at least a few more excerpts eventually, although I suspect if you’re looking for Janet’s pizza dough cinnamon rolls recipe, you can find that elsewhere. What we do see is fairly straightforward: “The authors of the following document are Michael, a Bad Place architect and amateur expert on earth and humans, and Janet, a Good Place Janet who has gained knowledge and abilities previously unknown to Janet-kind. We are writing this manifesto to document everything …”
Jason hands a huge pile of cash to a street busker so she can buy a new “chin-guitar.” That busker is none other than the writer of this episode and Emmy-nominated actor Megan Amram!
We saw a different part of this newspaper prop in a previous episode, featuring the headlines “Killer Clown Under” and “ROO GONE TROPPO.” I have absolutely no idea what this headline means, but I do enjoy it: “Biffo blotto bludger turns tall poppy with fazzo frothie biz.”
Where episode four offered us the comparative calm of “Ken Garoo,” episode five is an embarrassment of end-credits silliness. “Cat Pash,” “Lod Raver,” and “Gvonne Eoolagong” are jokes about Aussie tennis players Pat Cash, Rod Laver, and Evonne Goolagong. “Mylie Kinogue,” “Eeth Kurban,” “Gel Mibson,” “Nicole Mankid,” and “Waomi Natts” are riffs on Australian celebrities Kylie Minogue, Keith Urban, Mel Gibson, and Nicole Kidman. “Mark Supial” is probably self-explanatory.
Welcome to Jacksonville, Florida, home of so many opportunities for silly jokes and dumb props!
Beginning with the Jacksonville airport! Excuse me, the Randy “Macho Man” Savage Non-International Airport. (I love the recently added “NON-” label so much.)
When Michael, Jason and Tahani land in Jacksonville, Tahani’s still processing her break-up with Larry Hemsworth. US Weekly is reporting on it, too: The magazine cover reads “IT’S OVER!”, “LARRY HEMSWORTH BLOWS IT AGAIN!”, and “Tahani says ‘Ta-Ta!’” Poor Larry! (Also: The author named on the backpage ad is Gay Perello, the real-life prop master who’s worked on both The Good Place and Parks & Recreation.)
The most noticeable vehicle at the Jacksonville airport is the fantastic monster truck Jason hails (which is labeled “CABZ”), but this subtler one is even more interesting. The advertisement on the top is for the “Mindy St. Clair Rescue Alliance,” the foundation that landed Mindy St. Clair forever in the Medium Place. To remind you: While extremely coked up, Mindy had an epiphany about using her money to change the world for the better, and drew up plans to start this foundation. She woke up the next morning and withdrew all her money to get it going, but then fell on the subway tracks and was electrocuted. Her sister found the plans and started the foundation in her memory. It’s nice, I guess, to know that the Rescue Alliance is out there doing good work? But I bet that means Mindy’s still stuck in the Medium Place with her warm beer, a jukebox full of live versions of the Eagles songs, and a man with wind chimes where his ding-dong should be.
In case you were wondering about all the junk floating around in the pool at Donkey Doug’s apartment building, the answer is: It’s mostly Solo cups.
The decor at Donkey Doug’s place is pretty special. Most of his wall art is stolen signage from streets around Jacksonville, some of which doubles as a nice Parks & Rec wink. (There’s a sign from the Department of Recreation and Parks, and the one behind them in this image reads, “DANGER: OPEN PIT.”) The tchotchkes are also solid: There’s an alligator skull just sitting on their table full of trash and bong detritus, and for some reason Pillboi has a stuffed tiger in his lap.
Compared with the delights of Jacksonville, Chidi’s simulated attempts to break up with Simone are less visually goofy. But the name of their cafe is “French Pressing Nemo,” which is one of the season’s many Finding Nemo jokes. (In the previous episode, Eleanor gets drunk at a bar called “Drinking Nemo,” and The Good Place: The Podcast recently explained why: The show’s version of Australia is so proud of that Pixar movie, they renamed dozens of businesses after it.) Also note the street sign here, which puts the Nemo Cafe at the corners of “THISISA St” and “THISISNOTA St.”
As the Soul Squad flies into Budapest, don’t miss the giant billboard that’s promoting Kamilah’s new art installation, “Conception.”
The full name of the obnoxious waiter who kept bugging Chidi and Simone is “Helmut Deutchermann.” And he’s played by Flula Borg!
This is an unusually emotional episode for The Good Place, and accordingly it was also lighter on the background silliness.
The purest bit of straight-up goofing is the name of Patricia’s elementary school, seen here in the sign behind Eleanor’s mother. Poor little Patricia attends the MGM GRAND Luxury Resort and Casino Elementary School, whose slogan is “Always Bet On Read!”
You gotta love a good dunking on the hifaultin tendencies of modern art. Kamilah’s description of her show is parody, but the parody is a wafer-thin distance away from many actual artist statements. Here’s what it says in full: “THE PERSISTENCE OF CONCEPTION: A REVERIE is a work that explores the relationship between gender politics, copycat violence, and the protective shells we find ourselves in as we grow, mature, and search for meaning. With influences as diverse as Caravaggio, Francis Bacon, and Miles Davis, new variations are distilled from both mundane and transcendent structures. Ever since she was a young woman KAMILAH has been fascinated by the unrelenting divergence of the moment. What starts out as hope soon becomes corroded into a carnival of lust, leaving only a sense of failing and the unlikelihood of a new beginning or a satisfying ending. As momentary replicas become distorted thorugh diligent and repetitive practice, the viewer asks which came first? KAMILAH or her ART?”
The Good Place is back on its end-credits naming game! Peaches McPlum!
A return to scenes in the afterlife also means a return to one of The Good Place’s favorite silly jokes: pun-based store names!
But first, Michael and Eleanor camp out in a place guaranteed to be abandoned: a public library in Arizona. In this case, the “Tostitos Presents a Public Library brought to you by Go Daddy” Library.
The library does have some books in it, but many of them are like this, a work by Jeff Foxworthy called Roses Are Red … and So Is My Neck! “Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer’s Daytona 500?” asks the back cover. I would be remiss if I did not also note that although this is supposed to be a public library (brought to you by Go Daddy), the shelving markers make clear that it’s organized on a Library of Congress system. What kind of public library uses Library of Congress rather than Dewey decimal? This was filmed in an academic library, The Good Place, and don’t think I wasn’t going to notice!
While they sit in the library, Michael shows Eleanor a memory of one of his failed attempts to make the Good Place concept work, the one when Eleanor and Chidi actually fall in love. While other reboots had different food themes — like frozen yogurt or clam chowder — this one is kebab-themed. Here, Bambadjan and Vicky walk past a store called Satay Day Night Fever.
This one’s hard to see, but among the other Good Place stores, including All the Books, Infinite Light, and a clothes store called Everything Fits!, there’s a sign for a place called What About Kebob? (It’s in the top-right third of the above screenshot.)
We get one very brief image of Jason’s ideal afterlife pet, a penguin wearing a Jaguars jersey whom he obviously calls “Blake.”
Eleanor and Chidi do finally fall in love, and they do it while sitting in front of a store called Kabob Patch Kids.
When she needs to explain determinism versus free will to Michael, Eleanor turns to her best resource at an Arizona public library: Philosophy for Dingdongs … for Morons.
Shaken by their disagreement about determinism, Eleanor and Michael decamp to a local restaurant called The Sandy Spoon, which serves a special named the Arizona Junk Breakfast. I can’t quite see everything listed as the components for an Arizona Junk Breakfast, but it ends with jalapeño poppers served with ranch dressing.
This is just one slide of Eleanor’s worst qualities — it doesn’t even cover her teen years! — but there’s plenty of revealing information. We could all have surmised she’d have a problem with “shrimp farts,” and the fact that her mom once made her mac n’ cheese with wine is not surprising, but one shudders to think of what the “ambien-hamster mishap” could’ve been. Her enemy status with Neil deGrasse Tyson (which is one-sided from his side) also seems to warrant further investigation.
The opening sequence of this delightful episode is its own visual reference: As we follow Doug Forcett while he begins his day, the montage is a re-creation of Lost’s second-season premiere, where we watch Desmond’s daily routine down in the hatch.
From the first moments of the episode, there are hints about Doug’s system for getting into the Good Place. He’s reading Peter Singer’s The Most Good You Can Do, a book that theorizes and critiques the concept of a “happiness pump.” Eventually, Janet figures out that’s exactly what Doug is: someone whose unending devotion to making others happy also means he completely neglects his own desires.
The opening montage also gives us a brief image of Doug’s daily logs, where he keeps track of how he’s doing and sketches out ways to improve the lives of others. He describes his radish garden, notes that he’s repaired the clothesline the squirrel chewed through, ponders whether the squirrel is still mad at him, and asks, “What else can I do to make the squirrel happy?”
Meanwhile, the Soul Squad is back gathering their thoughts at a lovely Canadian drinking hole called the Puking Moose.
Another piece of Puking Moose signage, this time featuring beautifully green puke rendered in stained glass.
After accidentally killing a snail, Doug lays it to rest along with other fallen comrades: Rosa Parks the Deer Tick, Franklin Delano Raccoon, and Abraham Lincoln Einstein Mandela Goose.
The accounting office is a fantastically boring place, full of dull inspirational signs that say “SUCCESS” and “COMPETITION.” The cubicle walls all have identical postcards picturing beautiful beaches that say “Greetings from,” with no location listed. And the office recedes infinitely into the distance, marked only by direction signs on the ceiling that are a combination of alphanumeric characters and wingdings.
The only real differentiating feature throughout Accounting is the precise job description of each staff member. We spend some time with Matt, the poor sucker in charge of “Weird Sex Things,” but we get a glimpse of how many specifically differentiated positions the department has created. Walter works on Borrowing (Money), Milton’s stuck with all Borat impressions (pour one out for Milton), Clementine does Songs With Specific Dance Instructions, and Anastasia, bafflingly, works only on Stuffed Vegetables.
We also get a shot of the wanted poster for our four interdimensional fugitives. It’s great for the expressions they catch of each character, but also for the chillingly bland smiley face made out of thumbtacks next to it.
The parts of the episode spent in Janet’s void are less fruitful opportunities for background visual jokes, but I do want to point out the greatness of Janet’s flat-screen of Jason memories. She’s got their Save the Date in here (wedding in 10 minutes), a few pictures of the ceremony, and also a little illustration of Jeremy Bearimy, with a little arrow to highlight what must be the exact position of their anniversary. Awwww.