Saturday, May 19, 2012

New Girl 1.20: "Normal"

“It’s actually 90 percent drinking, and it’s got a loose, Candy Land-like structure to it.”

“Normal” wasn’t really a stand-out episode of “New Girl,” but it had it’s fun moments, and it once again proved that the writers are somehow directly plugged into my brain. It was the debut of the drinking game “True American,” which is one of the things the show has really become known for in the weeks since it aired. If I drank more than just the very, very occasional glass of wine (I can’t for medical reasons), True American is definitely the nerdy kind of drinking game I would play. I’m too much of an American history nerd not to be intrigued by a game that involves shouting out the names of Presidents an Presidential quotes. Oh and the 80’s kid in me loved the “loose, Candy Land-like structure.” This episode also highlighted the central premise and character arc of this show that I particularly identify with. These are 30 and almost-30 year olds who need to take those final steps to truly “grow up.” I know there are critics out there who can’t believe that people would actually be happy in this lifestyle (pushing 30, took a few wrong turns, hanging out with friends in a broke-ass apartment while you’re figuring it out), but as someone who’s pretty much living it (my roommate’s and my fights with the garbage disposal and dishwasher prove it), it’s really not so bad! Yes, the characters need to grow up, but that’s why there’s a story to tell. If they were perfectly well adjusted, had the life they wanted, and had no growing left to do, it would be quite boring.

The episode opens with Jess still trying to be a bit more grown up. She’s with Russell at a political fundraiser for a senator. They end up having a little bit of an argument when Russell says he wants Jess to stay at his place for the weekend. Jess wants Russell to try staying at the loft instead, because she’s worried that she has left the guys to fend for themselves for too long while spending time with Russell. It turns out she was sort of worried for good reason. We quick cut to the loft, where the guys appear to be climbing on the furniture and pelting beer cans at each other. We later learn that this craziness is actually True American, the wonderfully nerdy drinking game I mentioned in the introduction.

We then fast forward to what I presume is the next morning (or at least later in the afternoon) at the loft, where Winston is prepping for a job interview with Joe Napoli. According to Winston, Napoli is pretty much a sports radio God, and he needs a new research assistant. Jess finally arrives home from her time with Russell, and she’s rather sad to find out that the guys played True American without her. Cece is at the loft (still wearing a sheet from her latest tryst with Scmidt), and they have a talk about Jess feeling torn between the loft and Russell. Jess decides to invite Russell over for the weekend, and she begs the guys to be on their best behavior. Nick wants to share his file of invention ideas with Russell, especially something called “Real Apps,” but Jess says no. There’s a really hilarious argument between Nick and Schmidt over who should get the credit for “Real Apps.” Nick came up with the idea, but Schmidt came up with the name, and according to Schmidt, “the name is the game.”

Winston has a talk with Elvin, the kid he nannies, about how he needs a grown-up job. Elvin understands immediately, because he’s one of those stereotypical humorously overly-wise little kids, and he tells Winston he needs to work on his resume. Because in 2012, typing is not a special skill! The interview goes well. Napoli knows Winston’s college and Latvia basketball career forwards and backwards, and he wants to hire him anyway. Winston hesitates for a few seconds, but when he sees that Kareem Abdul Jabar also works for Napoli’s radio show, he accepts. Right after he accepts, Kareem passes Winston a note warning him to run. It turns out that Kareem had really good advice. Napoli is obnoxious and wants a certain number of perfectly-made shakes stocked in the fridge at all times. And he spills the shake on Winston’s desk when it’s not perfect.

Russell spends the weekend at the loft as Jess asked, and he’s quickly overwhelmed by loft life. He doesn’t really like the super cheap “ethnic noodles” Jess makes for dinner or Schmidt criticizing his taste in sushi restaurants. Winston barges in complaining about the new job, and then there’s a typical big battle with the garbage disposal. Jess can see the tension building, and she tries to clear the air by suggesting a game of True American. Like I mentioned in the introduction, this sounds like the greatest, nerdiest drinking game ever. If I drank, this would totally be my game. It has a “loose Candy Land-like structure,” and it involves jumping on the furniture because the floor is lava and shouting out names of Presidents. Various other folks out there in the ether of the internet have tried to piece together the rules of the game into a coherent whole (Google it), but it looks like just a lot of nerdy silliness. Which is fine by me. Russell gets pretty into the game, and he starts getting along better with the guys as he gets more drunk. When Winston complains about Napoli, Russell suggests Winston contaminate Napoli’s shakes by dipping his nuts in them. Jess is getting a little irked by Russell’s behavior.

Despite being irked, Jess doesn’t come right out and confront Russell. She explains to Cece that after Russell’s tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife, she thinks he likes that not fighting is kind of their thing. Cece (rightfully) doesn’t think that arrangement will work long-term. Meanwhile, at the radio station, Winston gets really pissed at Napoli for embarrassing him on the radio show (he impersonates Winston). When he’s completely had it, Winston starts eyeing the shakes. We can see, thanks to Lamorne Morris’ acting choices here, that he’s seriously contemplating Russell’s advice. Back at the loft, Russell himself is hung over and very grumpy. Nick and Schmidt choose that moment to try to pitch Real Apps. In the middle of their presentation, they start sniping at one another, and it only gets worse when Russell points out that the invention’s name sounds like “Relapse.” The final straw is when Nick accidentally cuts Russell’s hand with one of the “apps” glued on to the cell phone, and when Jess tries to dress the wound with a napkin and Scotch tape, Russell gets upset enough to storm out of the loft.

When we next see Winston, he’s back to chatting with Elvin about how he’s going to quit his new job. Elvin’s not having that, so he takes away Winston’s nannying safety net by telling his mom that Winston smokes pot. The plan works, of course. Back at the radio station, Winston confesses to contaminating Napoli’s shakes. Instead of being angry, Napoli thinks it’s hilarious and shows Winston has spunk. He wants to do the same prank to Kareem. Over at Russell’s house, Jess is waiting for him when he gets home. It turns out that he needed a stitch in his hand, and he and Jess have their first real fight. Jess ends up quoting the Spice Girls to make her point about how Russell needs to be accepting of her friends. They decide on a compromise of sorts. They’re going to hang out at Russell’s house for a little while, then go over to the loft. At the very end of the episode, we’re back at the radio station, where Napoli and Kareem are on the air. Napoli keeps trying to push a shake towards Kareem, and Kareem wisely refuses.

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