The Good Place: Tahani Al-Jamil

Eleanor: “Oh yeah, so now I’m supposed to be nice and make friends and treat people with mutual respect?”
Chidi: “Yeah.”
Eleanor: “That’s exactly what she wants me to do, Chidi. Wake up!”
Chidi: “That’s what everyone wants everyone to do.”

Eleanor’s good person lessons have a rough start; she needs to learn to appreciate get along with tolerate name-dropping, stuck-up-British-accent-using Tahani Al-Jamil (whose name literally means “hello beautiful”).

Tahani gifts Eleanor a giant plant to welcome her to the neighborhood (even though, as Eleanor points out, they all arrived at the same time) and that plant becomes a metaphorical extension of their strained relationship. It whimpers, it wilts, and finally it catches fire. Hanging around Tahani to get to know her (at Chidi’s suggestion) does not seem to do any good.

Through Eleanor’s flashbacks we see that the problem isn’t Tahani’s pure obnoxiousness. The problem is that people who try to do good make Eleanor feel insecure. It’s only when Eleanor see’s Tahani’s vulnerability that she finally softens to Tahani. Tahani feels like she doesn’t belong, too. Despite all Tahani’s efforts, she can’t connect with Jianyu. What Eleanor needed was to see that Tahani (and, probably all the other good people) are only human, people trying and struggling to do good and connect with others, just like Eleanor herself. By helping Tahani and Chidi (who suffered an existential crisis of his own when he saw his philosophy book was a crazy, meandering mess) Eleanor shows that she can do good, as well. She can support her friends and lift them up when needed.

The show does all this while also expanding its character development and being just completely hilarious. We peek through Tahani’s fa├žade and learn more about Chidi and his life struggles (that he is an insane over-thinker who wrote a 3,600 page dissertation). It looks like next we’ll learn more about Jianyu, who, at the very end of the episode, behaved very un-monk-like and declared he doesn’t belong, either.

Bits and Pieces

-- The show does these twists so well. It reminded us how strange it is that Jianyu still refused to drop his vow of silence even in the afterlife, showed how this bothered Tahani, and then flipped that around without making the impending twist too obvious.

-- Chidi’s attempts at finding new hobbies were pretty funny. What made them even better was the many shades of Janet accompanying him.

-- Eleanor should’ve known the “you don’t belong here” message wasn’t from Tahani; there was no way that scribbled handwriting would’ve been Tahani’s.

Eleanor: “Who died and left Aristotle in charge of ethics?”
Chidi: “Plato!”

Chidi: “I have what doctors call directional insanity. I once got lost on an escalator.” I really feel that. I feel like I might have directional insanity, too.

Janet: “Fun fact: Columbus is in the bad place because of all the raping, slave trading, and genocide.” Fun Fact Janet is my favorite Janet.

Michael, to Chidi: “You never even named your dog, did you? When he ran away you posted signs saying ‘he responds to long pauses.’”

3 comments:

Victoria Grossack said...

Thanks for this! You gave me a lot of insight into the episode.

Ariel Williams said...

Thanks! It's crazy difficult writing these reviews without spoilers so I really appreciate it!

sunbunny said...

This is a great episode and not just because of Tahani's hat.

The "Who died and left Aristotle in charge of ethics?" "Plato!" is probably the best joke the show's ever done or ever will do period. Chidi's tone of voice is just...ah comedic perfection.

I really enjoyed Chidi's side of the episode which sees him explore different hobbies and have a meltdown over every single one.

IT IS SO HARD WRITING THESE REVIEWS WITHOUT SPOILERS. I keep wanting to point out foreshadowing. I've written retro reviews before but this show makes it so much harder.