Saturday, April 14, 2012

New Girl 1.17: "Fancyman (Part 1)"

“You were denied a cell phone because you have the credit score of a homeless ghost.”

“Fancyman (Part 1)” was one of the better “New Girl” episodes this season almost entirely due to a stellar comedic performance by Jake Johnson as Nick. Between Johnson and Max Greenfield as Schmidt, “New Girl” is really consistent with the comedy. The tag with Johnson having fun with Nick feeling important when sitting at Russell’s desk was every bit as inspired as Greenfield’s douchebag jar montage in the tag of “The Story of the 50.” It’s sort of interesting to observe how long it takes the zeitgeist to make it into television, and this episode was a great example of that. This was the first that I had really seen the Occupy movement in scripted television. There’s a hilarious scene where Nick keeps saying over and over “We are the 99%!” This episode made especially good use of Nick’s financial predicament. His loser-ness was played for laughs expertly. Overall, the episode was a lot of fun, and I think it was a sign that the series as a whole is really firing on all cylinders now.

The episode opens with Jess and Nick in a phone store. Nick broke his cell phone and needs a new one, but his credit score is an abysmally low 250. The salesperson who had been helping Nick finds this so hilarious that he calls over all the other salespeople to hear about it and they all have a good laugh. On the way home to the loft, Jess tries to cheer Nick up about the whole no phone situation. She thinks Nick should make “guy with no phone” his thing. It could be badass. It just sounds kind of pathetic to me, really, but what do I know. It’s also going to make things rather inconvenient for Nick throughout the rest of the episode. He likes to pretend that writing letters and having to give his friends’ phone numbers to his mom in case of emergency is fun and cool, but it’s really getting him down.

There’s a very small Schmidt, Winston, and Shelby subplot running through the episode. The three go to a bar trivia night, and Schmidt turns out to be a trivia genius. Shelby is very impressed by this, which of course makes Winston jealous and brings out his super-competitive streak. Winston and Schmidt end up having quite an argument over it, where Schmidt basically just says he’s smarter than Winston and that’s okay. Winston ends up working with the kid he nannies (a nice bit of continuity from “The 23rd”) to try and memorize the answers to all the potential trivia questions. That particular scene was rather adorable. The actual trivia night is kind of a disaster because Winston keeps mixing up all of his memorized answers. Shelby assures Winston that she likes him just the way he is, and they end up making out to awkward commentary by Schmidt. They also make their relationship official. I liked tis little subplot because of the continuity, mostly- I always appreciate continuity.

The main plot of the episode involves Jess and Russell, the father of one of her students. He stops by the school because his daughter has created some rather macabre art, and Jess needs to talk to him about it. It involves bloody doll heads and is just plain creepy. Jess says that the artwork was created during “dream” time when she just lets her students be creative. Russell doesn’t like the sound of this, and he says that from now on, his daughter will be spending that time with a private math tutor. Jess protests because she thinks creativity is important too. The assistant principal is upset that Jess talked back to Russell because Russell is very wealthy and a major donor to the school. This made me wonder if Jess works at a private school, because no self-respecting person as rich as Russell would send his child to public school (speaking as a product of a very good public school myself). The assistant principal wants Jess to grovel. Later, at the apartment, Jess tells the guys that she really doesn’t want to grovel. Schmidt tells her groveling makes the world go ‘round, but Nick’s in Occupy mode and is all “fight the power.” Winston, always the centrist, thinks Jess should “apologize like a human.” I personally agree with Winston, but Jess decides to go with Nick’s advice.

We next see Jess driving to Russell’s office. She’s on the phone with Nick, and she tells him she has prepared an elaborate lecture about the Gilded Age and the Robber Barons (haven’t we really returned to that era?), and she’s going to finish up the confrontation with a bluegrass version of “Fight the Power.” On the way to confront Russell, however, Jess’ beat-up old car breaks down. Russell happens to be driving by, and he stops to help. He calls a tow truck and lets Jess borrow his rather sweet car. It’s hilarious watching Nick and Schmidt listen to this on speaker phone. Nick just keeps repeating “We are the 99%!” Jess protests at first, but she does eventually take the help and the car. Russell wants Jess to return the car by attending a cookout he’s throwing at his mansion that weekend.

Jess and Cece discuss the Russell situation, and Cece thinks that Russell intimidates Jess. Jess is used to being the caregiver in a relationship, not the person who is taken care of. Cece thinks Russell would be good for Jess because Jess needs to grow up. That’s really the theme of the series overall, I think. Late 20-early 30 –somethings who need to grow up. Since I fit that description, I identify with and love this show quite a lot. For some reason I don’t quite understand, other than perhaps the desire to take his fight directly to the one percent, Nick accompanies Jess to the cookout. They’re having a lot of fun insulting the fanciness of Russell’s mansion until they get to the study. Nick is overcome with a love for the leather and manliness of the place. It’s quite an awesome performance by Jake Johnson.

Jess does try to go confront Russell, but he gets pulled away by another guest to tell a story about how he once delivered twins. After he tells the story, Russell finds Nick still in the study. Nick is wearing one of Russell’s sweaters too, although he claims that since he found it on the desk chair, he thought it was a “chair sweater.” Russell lets Nick keep the sweater, and he also gives Nick a new cell phone. He likes Nick because he was once like him. But then he grew up. Again with the growing up arc- it’s good stuff. Speaking of needing to grow up, Jess goes to use the rest room and has trouble using Russell’s fancy Japanese bidet. It ends up spraying water all over her before Russell runs in and fixes it. Jess is extremely embarrassed and runs outside. Nick finds her there and tells Jess she should grow up and try dating Russell because it would be good for her.

Jess goes over to apologize to Russell, and he ends up asking her to dinner. Jess accepts, but moments later, she falls into Russell’s koi pond. Nick sees this happen, and he comes running to try to save Jess. Before he can dive into the pond, though, he has to fold his new sweater just like Russell told him to. And Russell can’t see that Nick and Jess belong together why? The episode ends with a wonderfully hilarious montage of Nick having fun with Russell’s desk. My personal favorite is when he’s “President Miller of Earth” calling some aliens about money. As I mentioned in the intro to this post, it’s just as good as Max Greenfield’s douchebag jar moments montage from “The Story of the 50.”

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