Janet is the tenth episode of the third season of the American fantasy-comedy television series The Good Place. It is the thirty-sixth episode overall and originally aired in the United States on NBC on December 6, 2018 as the shows mid-season finale. The episode was written by Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan and directed by Morgan Sackett.
The plot picks up from the end of the previous episode, with the four humans entering Janets "void" to escape demons from the Bad Place. However, upon arriving, they find themselves transformed into versions of Janet. While there, Eleanor tries to address her romantic feelings for Chidi; when he denies any feelings for her, she has an identity crisis that threatens to destroy Janets void. Meanwhile, Michael and Janet visit Accounting, the section of the afterlife that calculates point totals for peoples good and bad actions during their lives, and try to figure out if the Bad Place is manipulating the points system.
The premise of the episode originated during The Good Place s second season, and planning for it began earlier than normal due to filming challenges. DArcy Carden, who plays multiple versions of Janet in the episode, spent a significant amount of time preparing for her role by watching her castmates and emulating their characters. Upon its release, the episode was seen by 2.58 million viewers and received praise from critics, with Cardens performance receiving widespread acclaim. The episode won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, and Siegal and Morgan were nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series for their work on the episode.
Upon arriving in Janets DArcy Carden void, the four humans are accidentally transformed into versions of Janet. The original Janet gives each person different clothes to identify them before she and Michael Ted Danson leave to visit Accounting. The humans stay in Janets void, as they are now fugitives within the afterlife. Janet also urges the humans to not summon anything, as it could destroy her void.
Michael and Janet meet the head accountant, Neil Stephen Merchant. When the two voice concerns that the Bad Place is tampering with the points system, Neil insists that is impossible but agrees to show them the system anyway. He explains that everything someone does on Earth is logged and assigned a positive or negative point value. If something new occurs, an accountant gives it a value based on its intentions, effects, and other factors. Every new value is verified by three billion other accountants, leaving no room for tampering. Despite this, Michael asks to see Doug Forcetts file.
In Janets void, Eleanor-Janet talks with Chidi-Janet about their past romantic relationships. Chidi-Janet argues those experiences did not happen to him because they occurred in a different life and cites several philosophers to prove his point. Eleanor-Janet becomes frustrated and thinks he is avoiding a discussion of his feelings.
Neil finds the "Book of Dougs" and says Doug Forcett is on track for the Bad Place. Michael considers this proof of tampering, as Doug has spent his life devoted to good actions. He asks to see a file for someone on track for the Good Place; Neil reveals that nobody has reached the Good Place in 521 years. Elsewhere, Jason-Janet and Tahani-Janet discover signs of Janets romantic feelings for Jason.
After more failed attempts to get Chidi-Janet to talk, Eleanor-Janet gives up and wonders why she is even bothering to reach out to him. Her identity crisis causes her to change into new bodies, and Janets void begins to collapse. To restore her identity, Chidi-Janet lists off Eleanors memories and the good things she has done before ultimately kissing her. This causes the four humans to regain their normal appearances, but it also forces them out of Janets void. Michael, Janet, and the humans flee; Michael takes the Book of Dougs with him. The six escape via a vacuum tube and arrive in a mailroom. Eleanor Kristen Bell realizes they are in the Good Place.
2.1. Production Development and writing
According to series creator Michael Schur, the idea for an episode featuring multiple Janets originated during the second season, over a year before the episode aired. Planning for the episode began right after the second season ended production. At one point, the idea was to be limited to just the first act, but Schur and the shows staff realized they needed to use the concept as more than a gimmick, which led to the idea of Eleanor questioning her sense of self while trapped inside a Janet. The writers also met with philosophical advisors Todd May and Pamela Hieronymi to learn about concepts of identity and the self before writing the episode. Writers Josh Siegal and Dylan Morgan sent a draft of the script to May for input; he suggested small tweaks to improve how the relevant philosophical theories were explained.
Schur told DArcy Carden, who plays Janet, to begin preparing for the episode in March 2018, four months before the episode would be filmed, and the cast as a whole began rehearsals for it earlier than normal. Carden later said she was "stunned" when she learned about the episode and was grateful that the writers and producers trusted her to pull it off. For the episode, Carden plays a wide range of characters, including her normal character, each of the four humans as a Janet, a "Neutral Janet" in Accounting, and one scene in which she plays Eleanor pretending to be Jason. To provide references for the impressions, her co-stars recorded footage of their performances for Carden to listen to and review, including a rehearsal on set with the cast playing their usual characters. The actors movements during these performances were also tracked for use with special effects. Additionally, Carden followed the actors around when she was not in scenes and would mimic what they were doing. The other cast members provided help in various ways as Carden was learning to portray them; for instance, William Jackson Harper sent a copy of Chidis lines the way he liked to memorize them, while Manny Jacinto showed her a video that inspired his portrayal of Jason. Carden later explained that she struggled to perform her impression of Harper as Chidi even though she could imagine it, while she found Kristen Bells subtle actions to be hard to emulate.
2.2. Production Filming
For the episode, Janets void was represented by an entirely white set, though director Morgan Sackett decided to add furniture to prevent the audience from becoming bored by the setting. Filming required significantly more planning and visual effects than normal; Schur later called it "the opposite of how usually make television" due to the precision required. Though some scenes used stand-ins in costumes and wigs, many were filmed with only metal poles to represent the other characters. Carden remarked that "you kind of lose your mind a little bit" in those situations and called it the hardest part of filming for her. To film the kiss, Carden had to kiss a pair of wax lips placed atop a pole, which was a particularly difficult shot due to how her body had to be positioned and the alignment of the shots. After combining her multiple roles, Carden spent about 40 minutes performing in the episode, which was only 22 minutes long.
At one point, Eleanor transforms into a series of different individuals as she loses her sense of self. Morgan and Siegal credited the idea to Schur and explained that they carefully scripted what each new person said for both emotional impact and humor based upon who would say the line. In the same scene, visual effects producer David Niednagel used special effects to simulate the void and the furniture breaking up as Eleanors struggles continue. Carden, Schur, and Siegal all remarked that there were instances during filming when the crew wondered if the final product would make any sense.
Stephen Merchant, co-creator of the British version of The Office, makes a guest appearance in the episode; Schur worked as a writer on The Office s American adaptation. In the episode, Merchant holds a mug reading "Existences Best Boss", an allusion to a similar mug used by Michael Scott. The mug was printed with this slogan, but Merchant held it the wrong way during filming, so the words were reapplied using special effects during post-production.
In one scene, Janet accidentally sings an excerpt of Chers "Believe" as her void becomes unstable. Carden sang a version of the song for the episode, which was then auto-tuned, but Schur explained that they ultimately went with the original version because it was easier to get permission to use it that way.
3.1. Reception Ratings
In its original broadcast on December 6, 2018, "Janets" was seen by 2.58 million American viewers and received a 0.8 rating in the 18–49 demographic. This placed the show fourth in its timeslot, behind Thursday Night Football, Young Sheldon, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. Both measurements were the lowest of the season up to that point. After factoring in seven-day DVR viewership, the episode rose to 4.23 million viewers and a 1.5 rating in the 18-49 demographic.
3.2. Reception Reviews
The episode received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, with many considering it a major improvement over the seasons earlier episodes. Dennis Perkins of The A.V. Club gave the episode an A- grade, calling it the ideal version of a mid-season finale with plenty of "incident and action". He remarked that while Janet had been sidelined for much of the third season, this episode marked a significant course correction. Noel Murray of Vulture gave the episode 5 out of 5 stars, calling the idea to turn the humans into Janets a "masterstroke" that elevated an otherwise routine B-story. He deemed it a "dividing line" within the history of the show and, like Perkins, praised it for giving Carden more to do as Janet after receiving smaller roles earlier in the season. Alec Bojalad of Den of Geek also gave the episode 5 out of 5 stars, praising it for both the creativity of the premise and the emotional truths the humans face.
Alan Sepinwall, writing for Rolling Stone, remarked that the shows return to the afterlife helped to produce one of its best episodes. He found himself appreciating the Eleanor-Chidi relationship more and praised Michaels growth as he took the situation into his own hands. Emily VanDerWerff of Vox found the episode to be "a surprisingly romantic and sweet story" and praised the setup for future episodes, particularly after the less enjoyable episodes from earlier in the season. In a retrospective review, Beth Elderkin of Gizmodo called the episode a "fantastic exploration of identity".
Cardens performance in the episode, which was described as a "showcase" for her character, was widely singled out for acclaim. Brian Grubb of Uproxx called it powers". VanDerWerff praised the show and Carden for committing to the premise and nailing the performances, suggesting that Carden deserved an Emmy for the performance. The editors of Paste later named Cardens performance as Janet as their top television performance of 2018 and singled out her role in "Janets" for displaying her talent.
3.3. Reception Awards and nominations
The episode resulted in several nominations for major awards. It received the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, the shows second consecutive win in the category. For their work on the episode, Siegal and Morgan were nominated for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Comedy Series, ultimately losing to Phoebe Waller-Bridge for "Episode 1" from Fleabag. The episode was also nominated for an ADG Excellence in Production Design Award for Half Hour Single-Camera Series and a Golden Reel Award for Outstanding Achievement in Sound Editing - Live Action Under 35:00. Some people, including Schur, felt that Cardens lack of an Emmy nomination was a snub.
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