The Good Place: Chidi’s Choice

“No more thinking, Chidi!”

About six months ago, I discovered a hardback copy of Sophie’s Choice on the remainder table at my local chain bookstore. Priced below five dollars, sporting a nifty vintage dust-jacket, and surrounded by discounted murder mysteries, the book looked lonely. And so I bought it, fully aware I would never read it, out of a sense of pity for the way the book’s plot (which I am familiar with) and its present circumstances (unchosen) intersected.

Stupid decisions like that should make us question the nature of free will. We may have infinite choices, but we rarely make a logical one. And, as the previous episode of The Good Place demonstrated, we are often, like Eleanor, trapped in our own personalities and habits. Breaking our patterns—whatever those patterns might be—is nearly impossible even once we start to recognize the patterns exist.

Chidi, as we’ve seen, has a pattern. He is a high-strung intellectual, incapable of making simple decisions, frozen in the face of…well, anything. His history of indecision (don’t forget his massive dissertation that switched arguments halfway through, and his inability to order soup), is both hilarious (it’s just soup!) and an amped-up statement about the decision fatigue that plagues modern existence.

And now he has three women to choose from.

The cascading declarations of love that precipitated that choice was hilarious: Eleanor decides to stop ghosting everybody and tells Chidi she loves him. Tahani, feeling betrayed by Jason’s revelation, also tells Chidi she loves him. And Real Eleanor just might be his true, assigned soulmate, which somehow doesn’t make the choice an easier.

The fallout was equally funny. I loved Eleanor and Tahani resisting the cliché of two women fighting over a man, and relying on a long-running (almost 30 episodes!) British television show for inspiration. Jason promptly realized he really loved Janet, and now they’re married. (Let’s all agree with Chidi’s “What?!” on that one.) And each woman gradually separated herself from Chidi, just as he seemed poised to make a real choice.

The result is a fast-paced comedy that evokes Lacan’s interpretation of Poe’s short story “The Purloined Letter”: it’s not the content of the letter that matters, but who possesses the letter. In “Chidi’s Choice,” it’s not the veracity of these various declarations of love, but the way they are tossed around like romantic hot potatoes.

“Chidi’s Choice” is also a nice view into Chidi’s own complexity. Reviewing this episode retrospectively, after the third season had aired, I was surprised to realize it wasn’t until “Chidi’s Choice” that we got the iconic flashbacks of Chidi unable to pick a soccer team, unable to choose a soup, and brained by an air-conditioner. Getting a glimpse of his life allows us to understand him a bit more in death.

The Ethical Ramifications of Various Soups:

• Chidi: “Oh, hey. It’s my three favorite yogurts.”

• Eleanor: “I’m not so much ‘hot for teacher’ as I am grateful for ‘semi-cute, surprisingly ripped teacher.’”

• I was so happy we didn’t have to spend much time with the folks from the Bad Place in this episode. They are tedious.

• You know who doesn’t have trouble making a decision? Jason. The episode opened with him quickly and concisely ranking all of the Fast and the Furious movies: “Number five is number one. Number seven is number two. Number three and number four are tied for number three….” If only Tahani hadn’t interrupted we would know what comes next…

Three out of four number ones

Josie Kafka is a full-time cat servant and part-time rogue demon hunter. (What's a rogue demon?)

1 comment:

sunbunny said...

Janet and Jason getting married...I'm not sure TGP has ever or will ever top that in terms of randomness and hilarity.