Pictured: True love.
Photo: Colleen Hayes (NBC)

The Good Place’s “Jeremy Bearimy” is one of the funniest episodes of TV to air this year, with most of its laugh coming courtesy of star William Jackson Harper, whose portrayal of earnest truth-seeker Chidi’s shirtless collapse into existential despair is, frankly, a revelation (“You put the Peeps in the chili pot, and eat them both up!”). But Harper’s amazing work wouldn’t make much sense without the central joke that lends the episode its name, the revelation that time in The Good Place universe isn’t so much a straight line, as it is a shape best visualized as a sweeping cursive signature for a guy with the adorably absurd moniker “Jeremy Bearimy.”

The reveal that, yes, reality actually works that way is the best sort of meta gag for the NBC sitcom, poking fun at the show’s endlessly iterating set of rules and systems, full of “afterlife points,” Medium Places, and burrito-scarfing, reality TV-addicted omniscient Judges. It also came from a real place of frustration with the series’ tendency toward rules-y naval gazing, as one of its writers recently revealed during a panel at Vulture Festival. Per Vulture, new Good Place writer Rae Sanni was attempting to get showrunner Mike Schur to explain how the show’s various time travel shenanigans work, and repeatedly pointed out that none of what he was saying actually, you know, made sense.

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“Mike was trying to explain the concept of time, and I couldn’t get it for a full afternoon,” Sanni told attendees. “I’m new on the staff, I’m the least experienced, and I’m boldly interrupting their conversations because I just wasn’t following. I don’t know how time works! Help me!” Schur, though, made it clear that Sanni was also calling him out on his tendency toward bizarre over-complication: “She’s being modest. She was like, ‘How can time events be happening in the Good Place if they’re not happening on Earth?’ We were like, ‘Well, we’re trying to say it like this,’ and she was like, ‘This doesn’t make any sense,’ and she was totally right.”

Eventually, the show’s writing team decided to just play into the absurdity, and thus J.B. was born. Originally, though, the name/shape of all space and time was slightly different; the first draft was actually “Jeremy Jeremy,” but was changed when Schur and co. decided to really make things silly by picking a name with an “i” in it , so that they could incorporate the dot into the structure of reality.

Let Michael walk you through it:

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