- ❝ Teaching him to be good is like...teaching me how to be not hot! How would you even do it?! You'd have me hunch or something and then stand there and say 'Gurp. Gurp. Gurp.' or I don't even know! I can't picture it; I've been hot my whole life! ❞
- —Eleanor to Chidi
While she initially did this solely for self-preservation, she begins to gradually become more selfless and thoughtful as time goes by the decision to go back for her friends when they were in danger of going to the bad place.
Eleanor Shellstrop was born in Phoenix, Arizona, on October 14th 1982 as an only child. At the age of about six to seven-years-old, her mother left her dog in the car. The dog passed away from heat exhaustion. When her mom lies and says he went to a "farm," she asks if they can visit him. Her mom coldly reveals she lied and that the dog is buried underneath the deck in a duffle bag before asking Eleanor to get her another bottle of white wine.
At the age of fourteen, on her birthday which her parents forgot, Eleanor emancipated. She then reveals that she has been working two jobs after school, using hair extensions to appear older, and has saved up enough money for the legal emancipation proceedings and her own studio-apartment. From this point on, Eleanor maintains little-to-no contact with her parents. After high school, she moves to Tempe, Arizona to attend school but later moves back to Phoenix.
Attending her father's funeral with her boyfriend at the time named Samuel, her mother arrives already drunk, with a glass of wine, and still talking to her as if she is a child. Eleanor introduces her as her mother, who quickly tries saying she is actually her sister but gives up since its her ex-husband's funeral. Her mother then slips Samuel the key to her hotel room, angering her.
She later refused a high-paying job because she was expected to befriend her co-workers, preferring to become a salesperson for a sham pharmaceutical company where she sold fake medicine to the elderly. She swiftly became the company's top salesperson, surprising even her shady boss, Wallace, with her lack of scruples.
Later on, Samuel shows her a video of coffee shop owner Andy sexually harassing a journalist while she is undercover as an applicant to work at his coffee shop. Despite the footage, Eleanor laughs and continues to go to the same coffee shop while also calling things off with Samuel before he could, revealing she read his emails to his dad.
After an unspecified time, she goes to a super market where she buys large amounts of chips, candy, "lightly-expired" shrimp, and margarita mix and goes through the 10 items or less lane. She reads a quote saying to live each day like it's her last but responds by saying "Bite me! Imma live forever, bitch!" before throwing the magazine on the ground. She tells the cashier her weekend plans involve watching "wedding fails" on YouTube while drinking margaritas through a Twizzler straw until she passes out on her vibrator and casually walking away. An environmentalist asks if she can talk about the environment and Eleanor insults him. When he asks why she is like that, she whirls around saying that he doesn't know her and dropping the margarita mix in the process. When she goes to pick it up, a row of shopping carts nearly run into her but she able to grab onto the side. However the row of carts are then hit by a truck advertising erectile-dysfunction pills called Engorgulate, killing her. Long story short, she didn’t live forever...
Throughout the Series
Eleanor dies, but when she reawakens in The Good Place, she has no memory of her death. Michael, the creator of her neighborhood, tells her that individuals with embarrassing or traumatic deaths have their memory wiped for their convenience.
With her permission, Michael tells Eleanor that she was killed when she was hit by a truck carrying a billboard for "Engorgulate" erectile dysfunction pills, and that one of the first EMTs to arrive at the scene was one of her exes. Michael tells Eleanor not to worry anymore and that she's in The Good Place for the countless selfless acts she did to benefit not herself but the world.
Michael pulls up a video showing her memories of the times she worked as a lawyer who fought against the death penalty and did human rights missions to Ukraine. Eleanor agrees the mission was a good one.
She is introduced to Chidi Anagonye, an ethics professor, as her soul mate. As soon as Michael leaves she sits down and asks Chidi if he'll stand by her no matter what. He agrees since she is his soul mate. She confides in Chidi that those aren't her memories, she wasn't a death row lawyer, and she doesn't belong there. In real life, she was a drug sales associate who took advantage of the sick and elderly. Eleanor tells him that she needs his help to teach her to be good so she can remain in The Good Place.
However, that turns out to be more difficult than expected when during the neighborhood party, she calls Tahani a giraffe and stuffs shrimp up her bra. Afterward, The Good Place turns chaotic with physical manifestations of her rude behavior wreaking havoc.
Faced with the reality of going to the Bad Place, Eleanor earnestly tries to become a "good person" to remain in The Good Place. Although she believes eventually she will be found out she plots to keep the con going as long as possible. All the chaos is a result of the negative energy she puts out into existence in The Good Place. Eleanor also finds it difficult to believe that some are genuinely good people that do not have a hidden agenda.
Chidi attempts to help Eleanor along, volunteering her for selfless acts, but Eleanor finds it hard to keep on track and can't help but find the negative in everything. These sort of thoughts and actions lead to more disastrous consequences for the neighborhood. For example, Eleanor skirts clean-up duty for flying and trash begins to rain from the sky. This prompts Eleanor to "clean-up" her act and seriously focus on being good.
However, her secret isn't a secret for long, as Eleanor then receives an anonymous letter stating that they know Eleanor doesn't belong here. At first, Eleanor believes that Tahani was sending her that threatening letter, but after shadowing her neighbor for a while, Eleanor then believes that the letters are actually a subconscious guilt-trip made by her own mind.
This view changes when Eleanor receives another message from anonymous saying to meet them in the town square.
The sender reveals that he is actually Tahani's self-mute soul mate, Jianyu, whose real name is Jason Mendoza. Like Eleanor, Jason was a mistake. He was a drug-dealing, EDM amateur DJ from Florida who likes to play video games. He was not a Buddhist monk who took a vow of silence since the age of eight.
Together, Eleanor and Jason attempt to stay in The Good Place but that proves more and more difficult as Jason isn't exactly the sharpest tool in the shed. Despite this, they both begin attending Chidi's classes on ethics and the study of being a good person in an attempt to belong.
Jason wants to be himself, but Eleanor recognizes that if Jason is his true self, then they're going to be discovered fast. In an attempt to avoid being caught, Eleanor executes a plan of diversion which involved destroying a cake that her fellow neighbor spent three days working on.
Michael tells them earlier that people spend their time in The Good Place fulfilling their life's purpose. For her neighbor, her life's purpose was to open her restaurant. When Eleanor destroys the cake, this has an insurmountable effect as she ends up literally "breaking the world." This creates a sinkhole in the middle of the restaurant, which Michael believes will fix itself after 3 days. However, Tahani discovers that the sinkhole is actually becoming larger, to her shock.
Chidi's teaching seems to help as Eleanor begins to notice that she's subconsciously doing good things, a trait she didn't have when she was alive, to the surprise of Chidi who considers it a common courtesy. Eleanor is excited to become a good person and is willing to spend hours of Chidi's time dedicated to learning ethics, which ends up tiring him.
When Michael assumes that he is the problem in the neighborhood and he's going to Retire, Eleanor is originally happy. However, once she finds out Michael retiring is actually a horrible ending, Eleanor can no longer keep up the façade. In an effort to stop him from leaving, Eleanor says that she needs to kill Janet so she can't call a train. Chidi tries to talk her out of it, but ends up killing Janet himself to stop Jason from doing it. Eleanor, upset that she is causing Chidi so much pain and suffering (and stomachaches!) knows she must speak up. In front of the whole town and Michael, Eleanor confesses to actually being the mistake in the neighborhood, to everyone's shock. Faced with the possibility of going to the Bad Place, Michael takes pity on Eleanor and arranges for her to stay in the Good Place but needs to prove that she's good. He gathers testaments from Chidi, Tahani, and Jason. He determines whether they're telling the truth via a square white block that changes color depending on whether the answer is true (green) or false (red).
Michael negotiates with his superiors, who've determined that at least two people must go to The Bad Place—they don't care which two. Eleanor immediately recognizes that it has to be her and Jason, the two people who were placed here by accident. Jason is reluctant to leave Janet, having found love with her. Chidi believes he should go because he helped Eleanor when he should've given her up. Tahani, who thinksChidi is her own soul mate, doesn't want to leave Chidi and demands that it be her and Chidi who leave instead.
The group continues to argue and then Eleanor is struck with a revelation. She deduces that they are not in the Good Place at all and that they are actually in the Bad Place being tortured by Michael. Eleanor had to keep the secret that she was a horrible person, Chidi was faced with the dilemma of harboring a fugitive and his inability to make choices, which managed to make everyone miserable and destroy all his relationships, Tahani was fulfilling her good motives with bad intentions, and Jason who is from Florida and thinks Molotov cocktails can solve every problem.
When Eleanor confronts Michael and his superior about her discovery, they begin to laugh evilly. Everything was true. The four of them were specifically chosen to inflict pain on one another, not with whips and fire, but with social engages. Michael was irritated at how fast Eleanor was to understand everything. He didn't expect her to confess in front of the entire neighborhood, Chidi's lessons were working. But, he learned from his mistake. After he wipes their memories, he's gonna start over, but this time he's going to spread them farther apart in order to make it more agonizing and longer.
With the prospect of having her memory wiped, Eleanor realizes that the only one who hold onto something through a reboot would be Janet. Grabbing note paper, Eleanor writes something down and places it in Janet's mouth.
Once the world resets, Janet presents the paper to a memory-wiped Eleanor who looks at the note that reads "FIND CHIDI" to which she replies, "What the fork is a Chidi?"
Eleanor finds Chidi at a party she attends. She shows him the paper with "ELEANOR - FIND CHIDI" written on it, and explains how she obtained it. At first, Chidi does not believe her. After the party, the two head to Eleanor's house to discuss this, but then Michael walks in on them, followed by several others, including Tahani, Jason, and Eleanor's new soulmate. Just like in Season 1, they begin arguing after talking for a short period of time, and Eleanor realizes that they aren't in the Good Place.
Michael tries several hundred more attempts at torturing the four, but Eleanor keeps figuring it out.
But, Vicky threatens Michael. She says that she would tell Shawn that there have been over 800 attempts. Eleanor and Chidi go to Mindy St. Claire's, where Eleanor finds out in a previous version, she and Chidi were in love. Michael then asks Eleanor, Chidi, Tahani, and Jason for help in hiding this fact, they form "Team Cockroach." Michael also starts to regularly attend Chidi's ethics classes, but one day, Eleanor makes him have an existential crisis.
After Shawn finds Michael's records, the four are roasted by Michael. Eleanor finds that he has hidden clues into the roasts, and she figures out what to do in order to prevent being caught by the demons of the Bad Place. After, Michael finds them and creates a hot-air balloon to take them to the Good Place. Eleanor is happy about this, but then Michael tells them that the only way to get into the Good Place is to go to a judge in the middle of the Bad Place.
Eleanor comes up with a plan to get into the Bad Place. The group disguises themselves while Michael goes to get special pins to get into the portal. She explains to Chidi why lying is ethical in this situation.
Then, when they are about to get into the portal, Michael finds that he had forgotten a fourth pin for Eleanor. He then sacrifices his own pin to get her to the judge.
The judge says that every one in the group must complete a test in order to get into the Good Place. Eleanor says that she wants everyone to test together, so that if even one person fails, they all go to the Bad Place together. Eleanor's test was a test of her own selfishness.
In the end, everyone in the group, with the exception of Eleanor, fails their tests, but she still chooses to lie and pretend that she failed to accompany her friends. The judge is about to escort them to the portal when Michael and Janet appear. Janet confesses her love to Jason, which inspires Chidi. Chidi walks up and kisses Eleanor, both realizing that their feelings are reciprocal.
Eleanor: "ExCUSE me, why am I LIKE THIS?! You don't know me, man!"
Everyone gets reset, Eleanor gets saved by Micheal and starts being a better person.
Eleanor: "Hold out your hand?... And think about a book."
Chidi: "Oh ho ho! I can summon philosophy books like Thor's Hammer?!"—Eleanor showing Chidi his apartment in "The Good Place".
After Chidi is rebooted, Eleanor has to give him the tour of the neighborhood as if he were a resident. She takes him to his apartment which is lined floor-to-ceiling with philosophy, decorated with leather furniture and equipped with a fair number of reading lamps. However when Chidi goes to thank her, he tells her he forgot her name, which she chokes back emotion as she says she is Eleanor. When he says he won't forget this time, she snaps back and says he might. She returns to her office where she is comforted by her friends before Michael launches into a speech to inspire them, successfully cheering her up.
As the experiment continues, they encounter a road bump when Linda, an old, dull woman, arrives to the "The Good Place". While giving her the tour, Eleanor proposes that perhaps she was sent to torture Jason, Michael liking her to be like the scrapped Disco Janet. Utilizing this, Eleanor calls for Janet as a means to get through to Linda, telling her she can ask Janet for anything and proceeds to give an example of a baby elephant made of pure light that tells you true secrets about the Universe. Though much to her dismay, Linda merely asks for a peppermint. She then welcomes the arrival of Brent Norwalk, an over-narcissistic, racist, sexist and arrogant man, and is visibly disgusted when he ask Michael if he agrees with him; she then theorizes that Brent was sent to torture her.
During a meeting, she informs the group they need to learn more about the new humans. She encounters another road bump when Simone begins to insult the residents as she believes none of what is happening is real. She orders Janet to make a popcorn river, much to Janet's annoyance, and then holds another meeting about the set-back. She believes that the welcome party will change her attitude but this proves to be incorrect as Simone arrives in a clown outfit and begins to harass the residents. When Michael informs her that Simone needs to meet Chidi, Eleanor initially refuses this but then understands that the experiment could fall apart if they don't. However the meeting doesn't go as planned and Simone insults Chidi. Eleanor tries to tell her its not all in her head as Simone would've thought of something much more insane just as a Janet Alert caused by Derek's murder is announced in the sky, selling Simone that it is all in her head. After another meeting, they try using Flying Day as a means to get through to Linda.
Michael: "And EXCUSE ME but where is your shirt?!"
Chris: "I think it got stuck in the skin suit-"
Eleanor: "And keep it there!...."—Eleanor, Michael and Chris after learning Linda wasn't a real resident.
However, Flying Day doesn't go as planned when Linda suddenly attacks Eleanor, Michael and the other residents. Confirming Tahani's suspicions, it is revealed that Linda was actually the demon Chris sent by Shawn to tamper with the experiment. They then all meet back in her office where they call the Judge to inform her what happened. The Judge then tells Shawn that he will not send another human, but that Chidi is now part of the experiment and threatens Shawn that she will restart the experiment from Day 1 if he continues to interfere, which Eleanor does not like. A train is sent to collect the demon alongside a Bad Janet. Unknown to them, there were two Bad Janets aboard the train, one to distract Michael and Eleanor while the other marbleized the real Janet and sent her to The Bad Place to take her place in the experiment.
Discussing Brent, Eleanor comes up with a plan to make him think he doesn't belong in "The Good Place" by hosting a talk-show like gathering. While a resident says she saved all the ducks on Earth and Chidi explains he was a morale philosophy professor, Brent aggressively explains that he earned his way to Princeton, bought Netflix shares, and misquoted Martin Luther King, shutting Eleanor down when she corrected him. After summoning a car, Eleanor voices her disgust to Michael while saying they need a new plan. Remembering her own experiences in Michael's neighborhood, they decide to perform the Chaos Sequence the following morning, consisting of a giant Princeton mascot, raining beer, and giant golf balls wrecking havoc on the neighborhood. However this plan backfires; while he admits he doesn't belong in The Good Place, he believes that is because he belongs in "The Best Place", saying that he has felt this way since he arrived.
Brent: "Also, frankly. My assistant, Janet, is a little uptight. I mean she hasn't worn any of my gifts!"
Michael: "Have you been asking Janet to make herself clothes...that you give back to her?"
Eleanor: "Yep, you're doing the math right there, bud."—Brent, Michael and Eleanor during the Chaos Sequence.
After going for a walk, Eleanor arrives back at Mindy's to overhear Tahani and Janet telling Michael that Eleanor isn't cut out for the leadership role. After hearing their concerns, and how Janet's calculations on success have decreased from 9% down to 7%, she lashes out at them and explains how she did not ask to be the Architect and is only doing this because Michael had a meltdown when it was time to greet the first resident. She then says Tahani can be team leader and that she quits before walking to the town square. Talking with Michael, she voices her concerns about the residents and how this is above her pay grade, saying she is "just a girl from Arizona". Michael then reveals that because he isn't human and can't understand human emotion or nature, it takes a human to do this job and that only Eleanor can do it.
She then rejoins the group at her office and reveals her new plan to the group; they are going to tell Brent that he is right and that he belongs in "The Best Place", but that he has to perform a number of good deeds first before he can go there. When Michael voices that his motivation will be corrupt because he is only doing good deeds to get something out of it, Eleanor reminds him that she did the same thing at first before eventually she started doing good things just out of habit. Eleanor then realizes that Michael faked his meltdown in order to have her assume leadership of the experiment. She then meets with Chidi and says she needs his help to get Simone settled into the neighborhood, saying that they are "soulmates" and that the system paired them together. Having successfully figured out plans for the first three residents, they still have the issue with John.
Talking with Michael, they voice how the ethics classes are going well but then Chidi walks up, saying that Brent only showed up once and that he should've been the professor. They return to her office where she voices her anger that the classes aren't working and Michael points out that Eleanor improved because Chidi was being tortured under the pressure of not revealing Eleanor's identity. The two then come up with the idea of using Jason, under the guise of "Jianyu", as a means of torturing him.
Eleanor tells Chidi that "Jianyu" is having a hard time getting settled in and to take care of him. A week later she and Michael arrive at Chidi's apartment to check-in on them and ask if Chidi can accompany "Jianyu" to the Lou-out; there she checks in with Jason on how it is going, with Jason saying it's easy but that Chidi is under a lot of stress and they should ease up a little bit. However, Eleanor denies this and says that they haven't done enough yet. She comes up with a plan of having the residents toss a rock into a fire and getting their truest desire in return. When "Jianyu" gets a motorcycle with Pam Andersen's breasts on the side, Chidi says it's his truest desire. In her office, Eleanor says its going great and to do more, though Michael voices that he blatantly lied and that they should ease up on the torture before he becomes too freaked out to help anyone. But Eleanor again denies this.
Chidi arrives hyperventilating and the two calm him down. He then voices he has been miserable since arriving and that while he usually enjoys moral dilemmas, he feels like this more of him being tested or punished. Eleanor then begins to cry at realizing what she is doing. She nearly reveals that he was rebooted before Michael says its the job of the Architect to take care of the residents and that they feel emotional if they're failing. The next day, Eleanor says she still feels terrible because she took the torturing too far, and that she was starting to like it. She then vents to Michael that she is mad at Chidi for leaving her, but that she knows that's not fair because he erased his memories to save them. Michael tells her that she is allowed to still feel angry and that it's natural but they still have work to do. Tahani then arrives to tell them that it was human connection that got through to John and that the plan is finally gaining momentum.
A few weeks later, the Soul Squad and the Four Humans are playing a magical form of pictionary where their pictures come to life. However things take a turn for a worse when Chidi starts drawing a monster that came to life. Eleanor starts questioning what happened and that something is off since they have made very little progress. So she says they are to stay at Mindy's until they come up with a plan. Though they receive an alert that someone unknown has entered the neighborhood, that unknown person being the demon named Glenn. Glenn then accuses that Michael is actually Vicky in a Michael-suit.
Eleanor trusts Michael and says that they need Glenn thinking she doesn't. Glenn then insists they call the judge but Eleanor refuses and that they will figure this out themselves. Eleanor asks what the point of replacing Michael with Vicky was and Glenn reveals it was to drive them apart and have the experiment crumble, along with providing "proof" that the Michael before them was Vicky, though Eleanor points out that they could just be pictures of Michael. But Glenn says they are real since he helped design the Michael-suit. Eleanor says he is lying since Michael would've told them about the suit but Michael reveals that he hid the truth and he saw Vicky in the suit shortly before the experiment began, angering Eleanor that he hid it from them.
After Tahani insists she calls the Judge, Eleanor refuses again since it means restarting the experiment and puts Glenn and Michael in separate rooms. Eleanor then points that there have been a lot more issues than normal, thinking that maybe Michael's slumber party was a way to distract them. Eleanor then tells Michael to come clean, Michael telling them that Sean was going to use it to torture the Soul Squad. Eleanor and Tahani are then angered that Michael lied numerous times to cover those lies and that she has a hard time believing him now. Eleanor asks Janet if she can come up with a Demon Lie Detector; though Janet is skeptical it will work, she makes it.
Eleanor asks how Michael could've been replaced, Glenn saying it as when they were turning over the demon. Eleanor then suggests they have Michael remove his skin suit to prove he isn't Vicky. But Michael refuses, stating his true appearance as a "6,000 foot-tall fire squid with lots of teeth and tentacles" and he refuses to take of his suit not just because its dangerous for the neighborhood, but because they will never be able to look at him the same again. Janet arrives with the Lie Detector and attempts to use it on Glenn. However this causes Glenn to explode, though he isn't actually dead and will reform over a few months. Eleanor is still unsure who to believe and goes for a walk, encountering Chidi where they were just playing Magic Pictionary.
- Eleanor's primary form of torture was to place her in "The Good Place" with the knowledge that she did not belong and that her existence was "destroying" the neighborhood. Not only leaving her with the stress of maintaining her secret, the guilt of "endangering" the neighborhood, but also forcing her to endure lessons with Chidi.
- Although Eleanor is the "worst" of the four, she has also shown the greatest ability to grow and improve her person. This is likely because she has no delusions of what kind of person she is and is able to tackle her negative aspects head on.
- Her favorite TV show is The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
- Her favorite "book" is Kendall Jenner's Instagram feed.
- Eleanor died after being run over by a boner pill truck after dropping margarita mix in a parking lot.
- It is strongly implied in the show, and has been confirmed by William Jackson Harper (the actor of Chidi) that Eleanor is super bisexual. She has slept with Chidi in eight different reboots and has admitted attraction towards Tahani, Vicky, Simone, and even Janet.
- Eleanor has a thing for sexy mailmen. The deeds which contributed to her entering The Bad Place included deliberately setting a mailbox on fire to get a mailman to remove his shirt, and at one point she replaces one of the disliked clown portraits in her Neighborhood 12358W house with one of a sexy mailman.
- In the episode The Burrito, when the Judge was giving tests to Team Cockroach, Eleanor was the only one who passed, showing that over the course of the series she has improved the most.
- Typhoon Falls was her favorite water park growing up and was thing that made her the happiest , as revealed in Chapter 37: The Book of Dougs
- In the episode Chapter 23: Best Self it is revealed that she hates camping.
- She hates Jazz music (as mentioned in Chapter 9: Someone Like Me as a Member and seen in Chapter 16: Dance Dance Resolution as well as Chapter 32: The Ballad of Donkey Doug, when she cringed at the sound of it playing).
- She also hates Baby Showers (as mentioned in Someone Like Me as a Member and seen in Chapter 26: Somewhere Else).
- She hates any pointless group activities like office Christmas parties or Jury Duty (As she revealed in Chapter 30: The Snowplow).
- She has a very low tolerance for men who wear sandals. (Which was revealed by Chidi in Chapter 36: Janet(s).
- Her worst nightmare is having someone say something nice about her to her face. (Revealed by Chidi in Janet(s).
- She has frequent sex dreams about Sam the Eagle from The Muppets (Which Michael says in Chapter 34: The Worst Possible Use of Free Will)
- She hates expressing any kind of vulnerability. (As seen in Chapter 36: Janet(s) and Chapter 34: The Worst Possible Use of Free Will).
- Her favorite "movie" is the video of John Travolta saying "Adele Dazeem." (Revealed by Chidi in Chapter 36: Janet(s).
- Eleanor's zodiac sign is Libra.
- Eleanor’s favorite food is shrimp scampi.
- Eleanor's and Jason's fathers are both named Doug.
- Eleanor was born exactly ten years after Doug Forcett predicted how the Afterlife works.
- Eleanor was voted "Most likely to die young and unaccomplished" by her high school.