Fork yeah: The Good Place is back. This season, as we follow the show that is so devoted to understanding what it means to be good and bad, we will be applying the NBC comedy’s own standards and practices in determining the Worst Person of the Week. The weekly winner — well, “loser” is probably more accurate — will be judged by their ethical choices rather than any subjective measures. Think of us as another Shawn, only less into encasing traitors in slimy cocoons. At the end of this ethical exercise, we’ll also hand out episodic awards for more frivolous things. Let’s dive into Thursday night’s episode, “The Ballad of Donkey Doug.”
Stop me if you’ve heard this before: The Good Place is reinventing itself. Eleanor, Chidi, Jason, and Tahani aren’t wallowing in the bleak reality that they may never be accepted into the Good Place because their experiment on Earth was tainted. Instead, the erstwhile Brainy Bunch—now the Soul Squad—are going on a global salvation tour, beginning with their own families in “The Ballad of Donkey Doug.”
While Eleanor and Janet stayed back in Australia to help the perpetually indecisive Chidi break up with his girlfriend Simone—so he doesn’t accidentally eternally doom her as well—Jason, Tahani, and Michael made their way down to Jacksonville. The mission: Help Jason’s friend Donkey Doug, who, as it turns out, is also Jason’s father. “I don’t think of him as my son,” Donkey Doug explained. “I think of him as MAH BOI.” Dope, got it.
Seeing Jason reunite with Donkey Doug, as well as Pillboi—a.k.a. Jason’s bromie/accomplice in the Mexican restaurant robbery that got him killed in the first place—is a mind-blowing experience, for Michael, Tahani, and the viewer. It’s as though the three of them have created an entirely new type of human communication, entirely formed by daps, BOIIIIIIIIS, and an earnest, albeit misguided, entrepreneurial spirit. (Donkey Doug previously sold “counterfeit truck nuts” and tried to create a dodgeball-horseshoe hybrid sport that, unsurprisingly, resulted in the deaths of all the participants.) But the reunion also served as a showcase for this week’s worst person (and we’re stretching the definition of “person” here, but just go with it): the amorphous, lawless, swampy area known as Jacksonville, Florida.
Through three seasons of The Good Place, Jacksonville has been anecdotally described by Jason as a hellscape riddled with a disconcerting amount of alligators—even as he contends that the city is dope. Last season, Jason told Tahani that his high school, Lynyrd Skynyrd High School, was “just a bunch of tugboats tied together” where teachers frequently had sex with students; one of Jason’s favorite activities in Jacksonville was throwing batteries at drones. And in “The Ballad of Donkey Doug,” the trio arrived at Randy “Macho Man” Savage Non-International Airport and hailed a cab … only to be picked up by a monster truck.
Here’s the thing: Jason and other Jaxsons on the show have a sincere affection for the city and their One True God, Blake Bortles, and exuding pride for Jacksonville isn’t inherently bad. But Jason, while always a lovable doofus, has become a better person only when he’s left the city and its tempting vices. When he first returned to Jacksonville this season for his second chance at redemption, it didn’t take long for his dance crew to start stealing stuff again.
The Good Place treats the city like a swampy, modern-day Gehenna, all the inhabitants of which are doomed. Donkey Doug’s apartment complex—which has a dirty pool with a dude passed out in it, solo cups everywhere, two chairs in the water, and a floating pizza box—is Jacksonville’s ethos in miniature. (Note: To all the Jaxsons reading this, I’m sure actual Jacksonville isn’t like this and is a lovely, Bortles-supporting city—I’m just relaying how this TV show depicts the place, which is as Swamp Hell.)
By returning to Jacksonville, Jason once again puts his morality at risk. About as quickly as he tries to convince Donkey Doug to get his electrician’s license and make an honest living, Donkey Doug tells him about a new business proposition called Double Trouble, an energy drink that is also a body spray. Of course, to launch Double Trouble, Donkey Doug needs to steal some energy drinks, as well as cologne … and also bottles to put them in. Jason ultimately meets up with his dad at the Red Bull factory, mostly because he doesn’t want Pillboi to be implicated in grand theft energy. Ethically speaking, Jason’s motivations come from a place of goodness—his actual actions are anything but good though. And naturally, when Jason and Donky Doug show up at the Red Bull storage facility, the police aren’t far behind.
Donkey Doug tells Jason to make a break for it while he distracts the cops—a sacrifice his father made for him, his grandfather made for his father, and one that he expects Jason will make for his own kid one day. It’s a vicious, amoral cycle, life in Jacksonville. Were Jason to stick around, this loop of failed businesses, tugboat high schools, monster-truck cabs, and Mendoza incarcerations would likely continue. The only way to truly be saved in Jacksonville, is to leave Jacksonville. Unfortunately, not everyone can do that. Perhaps for the last time, Jason bids farewell to his dad, who distracts the cops with the city’s depressing rallying cry: “BORTLES!!!!”
And now, some weekly awards.
Most Questionable Parenting: Jason fondly tells Tahani and Michael about how he and his dad used to go hang out near Randy “Macho Man” Savage Non-International Airport and “try and blind pilots with laser pointers.”
[Holds back tears.] Jaguars rule.
Best Tahani Burn: “‘Reach for the stars,’ as I said to my good friend, Elon Musk. And then he shot his car into space … what a weird creep. Why was I friends with him?”
Most Concerning Australian Obsession:
We’ve already seen Eleanor get a drink at the bar Drinking Nemo, and now Chidi goes to a cafe that’s called the French-Pressing Nemo Cafe? Was Australia so thrilled that it was featured in an extended bit in Finding Nemo that it named all its restaurants after the movie?
Also, shout-out to the street names in this shot: “ThisIsASt” and “ThatsNotASt.” Is this a deep Crocodile Dundee reference? I couldn’t love The Good Place any more.