Saturday, November 23, 2013

New Girl 3.08: "Menus"

“Jess, this feels like a something else is going on type of thing. Are you okay to drive? You’ve got crazy eyes!”

The thing that really ties together “Menus” as an episode of “New Girl” is the concept of self-doubt. Jess is frustrated at work because a tight budget means her principal shoots down all her ideas. Nick has to confront the all-important question of whether he’s a “doer or a dumplinger” when Coach offers to train him. Coach has to confront an identity crisis when Nick becomes the first person he doesn’t successfully motivate to exercise. Schmidt deals with the conflict between wanting his own space and wanting to be part of his friends’ lives. Winston, as per usual, just keeps getting hurt a lot. I found this, even with its focus on Jess and Nick, to be a return to the types of stories “New Girl” told in its earlier days. Those feelings of self-doubt are a huge part of being in your early 30s, as you’re supposed to be an “adult” and you’re realizing that actually getting there may be even harder than you originally thought.

A surprising amount of the plot of this episode centers around a local Chinese restaurant called Hop Foo. As all good apartment dwellers know, local Chinese and pizza places do love to slip menus under apartment doors. Actually, now that I live in an apartment that limits access to the front door of the building, it’s not so bad, but I’ve certainly collected plenty of under the door menus in my day. Nick sees a menu for Hop Foo, and he decides some Chinese food would make for a good brunch. Jess thinks Nick’s grossness is kind of endearing, but Coach isn’t having it. He wants Nick to avoid the “boyfriend fifteen” that quickly turns into the “boyfriend twenty” and beyond. He offers to help train Nick, and Nick reluctantly agrees. He doesn’t want to quite give up all his Chinese food, though, which will prove to be problematic for the whole getting in shape thing.

Meanwhile, Jess has a big day planned at school. She’s going to ask Principal Foster if she can do an “ocean conservation day” field trip to the beach with her class. Her school is in an underserved area, and many of the kids have never seen the ocean before, even though they live in Los Angeles. Jess has even gotten donations to cover most of the costs of the trip. The only thing that the school needs to cover is transportation costs. Principal Foster derisively tells Jess that transportation costs are the most expensive part of the whole thing, and he dismisses her idea outright. This puts Jess in a foul mood, and when she gets home to the loft, she takes it out on the nine (yes, nine) Hop Foo menus under the door. Nick rightly surmises that her anger at the menus is stemming from something else, but there’s not really much he can do to stop Jess’ rage.

Jess heads over to Hop Foo to give the management a piece of her mind. She talks to a guy named Brian whom she assumes is a waiter or something. Brian says that he too is appalled at the “eco disaster” that is the over-proliferation of restaurant menus, and he promises to talk to his manager about it. He also talks about all the composting that he does, and he also says he thinks Jess is hot. Jess doesn’t quite know how to take all this flattery, and she leaves the restaurant kind of in a daze. She is furious later when she sees the Hop Foo van continuing to distribute menus, and Brian is in it. It turns out that he is the owner of the restaurant, and he has absolutely no intention of ending the menu distribution.

Meanwhile, Coach starts his first workout with Nick. He really just wants to get Nick warmed up to start out, so he turns on a pretty catchy EDM track, and they get started. What follows is a pretty funny dance bit involving Coach, Nick, and Schmidt (who hears the music from his new apartment across the hall). Schmidt dances his heart out for about 30 seconds before getting sad that he can’t be right in the middle of the action. This is a running theme for Schmidt throughout the episode. He keeps wanting to be part of what’s going on with his friends in the loft, but he also wants to make a point about having his own space now. At one point, the rest of the gang discovers that Schmidt has left a nanny cam in the loft so he can continue to know what’s going on. Stage 5 clinger, anybody?

Nick’s motivation to work out doesn’t last very long, and when he has Cece bring over more Chinese food (and when he eats it right in the middle of the workout), that is the final straw for Coach. Coach is convinced that he’s a failure, and he decides he shouldn’t be a trainer anymore. Unfortunately, Winston is allergic to MSG, and there’s MSG in the Chinese food despite the menu clearly stating “no MSG.” It makes Winston’s jaw lock up. I have MSG sensitivity, and this is nothing like what really happens. If I have food with especially high MSG, I get very lightheaded for about half an hour. It’s quite an odd feeling.

With Winston’s MSG reaction, Jess thinks she finally has her solution to the Hop Foo problem. She wheels Winston down to the restaurant to go and complain directly to Brian. She makes a big scene, but it doesn’t really do much good. Brian admits that Chinese food is pretty much “all MSG,” but the patrons don’t seem to care overly much. To make a point, Brian fires the menu delivery guy. This leads to an all-out pity party for the whole gang on the couch in the loft. Coach sits with a keyboard, and he tells the rest of the gang that making “island beats” is going to be his new job. Nick of all people is the one who gets everybody back on track with a sort-of motivational speech. He asks where they can rent a van to make Jess’ beach field trip happen, and Jess has an idea. The class rides to the beach in the Hop Foo van, and Jess once again believes that “anything is possible.”

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