Saturday, February 18, 2012

New Girl 1.10: "The Story of the 50"

“Nick, this is it! This is my twenty-ninth birthday party. This is the year. After this, I don’t know, it’s just, it’s just all darkness.”

“The Story of the 50” is one of my very favorite episodes of “New Girl” thus far. It’s right up there with “Wedding” and “Thanksgiving.” It’s got a lot of really insightful and really hilarious character-based humor. And the Douchebag Jar, one of my favorite aspect of the show’s pilot, made a comeback in a big, big way. The whole episode was, in a way, an ode to the legendary Jar. Because of that, we were treated to multiple montages of Max Greenfield saying all sorts of pretentious and sometimes gross things. I never realized what a talented actor he is until I started watching “New Girl.” I especially enjoyed his work on “Veronica Mars,” and his character on “Greek” was interesting as well, but he didn’t really stand out in either of those roles. Perhaps he is just better suited to comedy in general. Anyway, this episode was a wonderful showcase for Greenfield, because the episode was all about Schmidt. It’s his twenty-ninth birthday, and all sorts of hilarity goes down.

The episode has an in media res structure, opening with Schmidt being told he needs to put $50 in the Douchebag Jar. This is more money than he’s ever had to put in the jar at once before, so we’re left wondering what he could have possibly done to warrant such a severe punishment. That’s the mystery which will be solved by the end of the episode. We flash back to one day earlier, where Schmidt has run into trouble trying to plan his big twenty-ninth birthday party. The party bus rental company just called to say that they gave the bus he had reserved to Frankie Muniz instead. Schmidt explains to Jess exactly why throwing this huge blow-out party to send off his twenties means so much. One of his friends from college, Benjamin, is going to be there. Benjamin is an even bigger douchebag than Schmidt. They moved out to LA together several years earlier when Schmidt was still fat. We see a little flashback of Benjamin having Schmidt sing “We built this Schmidty on Tootsie Rolls” to illustrate this. Nick and Winston, in a hilarious conversation, warn Jess that she’s not ready to host a party for Schmidt’s douchebag friends, but she insists on going ahead with the plan anyway.

Nick runs off from the conversation about Schmidt, and Winston points out that Nick is wearing his “jury duty pants,” all of which is rather suspicious to the gang. It turns out that Nick has a new girlfriend. Her name is Julia, she’s a lawyer, and she’s played by the very talented Lizzy Caplan of “True Blood” and “Party Down” fame. They’re at a party at Julia’s firm, and Julia complains that the purpose of the party is to kiss the asses of law students to get them to want to work at the firm. This didn’t quite compute with me, because just about any law student would kill for a job at any firm these days- no ass kissing needed. They trade Bill Cosby impressions when Julia makes fun of Nick’s sweater, which I thought was kind of sweet. Julia wants to go back to Nick’s place after the party, but Nick hesitates mostly because he’s embarrassed by his roommates. This makes Julia kind of suspicious that Nick is married or something, so Nick finally relents and agrees to let her see where he lives.

Meanwhile, in one of my favorite sequences of the episode (and perhaps the series), Jess is on the phone with “Miss Fatbooty” trying to order a “last minute stripper” for Schmidt’s party. The way she treats the whole thing so nonchalantly is what makes it so hilarious. Nick walks in and introduces Julia, and Julia gets the opportunity to meet everybody but Schmidt. Winston invites Julia to Schmidt’s party, which kind of pisses Nick off. He really does not want her to get to know who he really is. Jess, proud of herself for ordering her first stripper, asks if there’s anything else she needs to order for the party. Next thing we know, she’s searching through the drawer of confiscated contraband in the office of her school’s assistant principal. The assistant principal walks in and sees Jess, and she grills Jess about why she needs contraband. Jess explains that she’s planning a party, and the assistant principal is willing to let the incident go if she’s invited to the party. Jess, of course, agrees.

The actual birthday party itself is absolutely hilarious. Schmidt’s new party bus is a heavily decorated school bus. Nick is highly embarrassed by how his friends, especially Schmidt, are acting, but Julia repeatedly assures him that she thinks this friends are cool. On the bus, Jess, always the teacher, tells the group that they each have a bus buddy, and if they need to get up and move around, they need to wear a “fashion helmet.” Everything is going along swimmingly until the stripper shows up. Because the stripper is a guy. He explains that whenever the person who handles booking the strippers hears a woman on the phone, he gets sent on the job. Jess has to do some damage control, and she begs the stripper to do something else for tips other than stripping. He ends up singing gospel music as the party bus gets going.

There’s a brief interlude where the party guests are supposed to have shots by the side of the road. They’re drinking a concoction called “bro juice,” and Winston announces that Nick is the inventor of bro juice. This embarrasses Nick in front of Julia yet again. Meanwhile, Benjamin informs Schmidt that he’s going to be going after Jess romantically. Back on the bus, Jess announces that the next stop will be a club called Plague, and Benjamin informs her that you need to be on a special list to get in. While this is going down, Schmidt is having a conversation with the stripper about the career prospects of stripping. They talk about what Schmidt’s stripper persona would be (luxury, desert, a warrior poet), and the stripper seems to think Schmidt would have a promising career. Schmidt loses interest, however, when the stripper informs him that he’s most often hired to dance for dudes.

Benjamin says that he talked to Tristan (who apparently is a bigwig at Plague), and Tristan will only let Benjamin and Jess into the club. When Jess refuses to go along with this, Benjamin starts insulting Jess, Schmidt, and the party. Julia intervenes and ends up decking Benjamin. After she throws a few punches, a horrified Nick yells out “Who are you!” It turns out that Julia is far from the perfect person Nick believed her to be. She has anger management issues and is in court-ordered anger management classes. This led me to seriously wonder how she’s still a practicing lawyer, considering that criminal convictions (which I’m assuming is what led to the court-ordered classes) generally get you in trouble with the Attorney Grievance Commission. The bus crashes amidst all the chaos, ending the party, and everyone goes home but Schmidt and Jess. Schmidt thanks Jess, because nobody has ever taken the time to do something like this for him before, and he tries to kiss her. When Jess pulls away, Schmidt tries to play it off like she had some fuzz on her face that he was trying to get rid of. It was the attempted kiss which resulted in his having to pay $50 to the jar.

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