Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Girl 2.06: "Thanksgiving"

“And the turkey is named Hank. Hank Sgiving. And we are going to eat him.”

I would say that “Thanksgiving” and “Wedding” pretty much tie for my favorite episode of “New Girl” thus far this season. The episode has its sweet moments, but it also has some macabre humor. The comic sensibility of the climax of the episode kind of reminds me of one of my favorite episodes of the classic British sitcom “Fawlty Towers” called “The Kipper and the Corpse.” People acting stupid around dead bodies in a clearly fictional context is always funny in my book. Maybe that’s why I like Bryan Fuller shows so much. I think he really shines as a writer when he goes to that macabre sense of humor he does so well. Liz Merriweather and crew manage to achieve much the same thing here as Bryan Fuller did in “Dead Like Me” and “Pushing Daisies.” Somehow, even with a dead body thrown in, I still definitely felt the holiday warm fuzzies from this episode. It takes real talent to cover the macabre with a sweet candy coating like this episode does.

We begin the episode at the school where Jess teaches. It’s Thanksgiving Pageant day, and Jess is helping her friend and coworker Paul (played by Justin Long) with the big production. It quickly becomes apparent that Paul is in every way as quirky and musical as Jess. He mentions that he usually spends Thanksgiving with his grandmother, but she recently passed away. Jess ends up inviting Paul to Thanksgiving dinner at her apartment, much to the chagrin of the guys. The guys had just been planning to spend thanksgiving watching football and drinking beer, then heading out to the Black Friday sales. Schmidt, of course, calls it “Dudesgiving.” When Jess comes home with a turkey and announces that they’re having a real Thanksgiving and she’s invited Paul, there’s more than a little chaos among the roommates. The tide starts to turn in Jess’ favor when Schmidt, who is apparently quite the chef, gets tempted into cooking the meal. He says he’ll cook the turkey and all the sides if Jess promises to pretty much just stay out of the kitchen.

The next day, which happens to be Thanksgiving, there’s just one tiny problem. The turkey (named Hank Sgiving) is still frozen. And good old Hank doesn’t quite fit in the oven either. Schmidt makes a comment about that aspect of the problem that results in his having to pay the Douchebag Jar. I was so glad to finally see a return of the Jar! Schmidt is much easier to take when his friends constantly call him on his douchiness. Jess has decided to defrost Hank by laying on him (body heat, you know) when Cece arrives. She thinks Jess is being stupid, but the new solution to the turkey problem isn’t much better. Next we see Hank, he’s tumbling around in the dryer. Paul arrives early, while Jess is still all disheveled, but it doesn’t really matter. They sing a quirky Thanksgiving song together, and Nick is shocked as he exclaims that there’s “two of them.”

Like all proper holidays, the awkwardness starts quite soon after things get rolling. First, Jess takes Nick aside and asks him to be nice to Paul. She wants him to keep the Grumpy Old Man act and the “turtle face” to a minimum. Meanwhile, Winston decides to play a word association game with Paul using words like “boundaries.” He basically wants to know if Paul would be okay as a de facto fifth roommate. The two guys end up bonding a bit over their grandparents. Winston’s got a bunch of really funny pictures of his late grandfather on his cell phone. The shenanigans briefly pause for yet another “Jess is actually kinda hot” moment when she steps out in the living room finally dressed in her Thanksgiving outfit.

One of the more fun plots in this episode is the flirting that’s going on between Schmidt and Cece. Cece decides to help Schmidt in the kitchen, and he gets really upset when she touches the bowl of walnuts before washing her hands. According to Schmidt, this compromises the entire bowl of walnuts, and Nick and Paul get sent to buy more. Predictably, that car ride is plenty awkward. Nick’s doing his best to be nice to Paul, but it’s kind of difficult when Paul decides to pass the time by pointing out the chain store where he gets copies made. Back at the apartment, Cece continues her torture of Schmidt by putting mashed potatoes on his nose. Of course, Schmidt completely freaks out about that, too. Just as Paul and Nick return from their walnut adventure (and Paul tells Jess he doesn’t think Nick likes him), there’s a huge explosion from the laundry room. The turkey is in jeopardy! Schmidt rips off his shirt and rushes into the laundry room to rescue the turkey. When he emerges from the smoke with the turkey, he gets Douchebag Jar’d again. Which was awesome.

The guys want to give up on Thanksgiving dinner, but Paul really wants to eat the food Schmidt has been slaving over, and he rallies Schmidt to keep cooking. Jess says they can use the apartment next door to continue the party, because the tenant, Mrs. Beverly, is out of town and gave Jess a spare key. Everyone starts to pile into Mrs. Beverly’s apartment, but Jess pulls Nick aside in the hallway to yell at him about Paul. Everyone inside the apartment hears the argument, which involves Jess saying how much she’d like to have sex with Paul. Can we say it again? Awkward! Winston pokes his head out into the hallway to let Jess know that everyone can hear her, and she tries to play it off like she and Nick were rehearsing a play called “Big Time” (which is how Jess described how much she wants to have sex with Paul). Of course nobody actually believes that, but they kind of pretend for Jess’ sake.

The gang quickly settles in at Mrs. Beverly’s apartment, and the Thanksgiving preparations continue. Cece tells Jess that she’s kind of into Schmidt now that he’s actually showing some backbone (yelling at her about being messy and such), and she most definitely keeps up the torture. This time, she sticks her hand in a bowl of putting, which Schmidt finds disgusting. Meanwhile, Paul asks Jess if anything ever happened between her and Nick, and Jess denies it. Paul says that’s a good thing because he definitely wants to see her again. Over on the couch, Winston explains to Nick why he likes Paul. Unlike Nick, Paul actually bothered to ask about Winston’s grandpa’s name.

It’s finally time for dinner, and after a request for a song to open the festivities, Paul and Jess decide to perform the duet from their Thanksgiving pageant. Paul decides to make a big entrance, so he goes into the other room while Jess begins to recite the introduction. Instead of Paul chiming in with the song, though, he screams. Apparently Mrs. Beverly never made it out of town for Thanksgiving. The rest of the group runs to see the body, and they’re pretty horrified too, although not quite as freaked out as Paul. Then the episode goes a bit “The Kipper and the Corpse.” Paul decides to go home because of the trauma, but he winds up stick in the apartment building elevator with the coroners and Mrs. Beverlys body.

We next see the gang, minus Paul, waiting in the Black Friday line outside of Best Buy. They’re sniping at each other a little bit, but all of a sudden, they hear violin music. It’s Paul, who has apparently recovered somewhat from his trauma. And he comes bearing turkey hoagies (I’m Philadelphian…I refuse to call a hoagie a sub), which certainly endears him to the guys. The rest of the mob in line starts to get a little unruly about Paul cutting in line, so Nick offers to go to the back of the line to calm them. Jess is touched by the gesture, and the rest of the group decides to join Nick at the back of the line, too. Jess and Paul dance off into the sunset as Paul plays his violin. And the sweetness is cut by a perfectly grumpy Nick yelling “Where the hell are they going?”

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