Monday, March 3, 2014

New Girl 3.16: "Sister"

“The problem is, her dad is my Rabbi. He hates me. So I just need to charm Rachel before he gets to her and he tells her horrible-slash-true things about me.”

“Sister” was the first episode of a multi-episode New Girl arc (at least three episodes that I’m aware of), and it very much felt like that. It didn’t really have a self-contained story. Most importantly, the episode introduced us to Jess’ rebellious older sister, Abby, although I have a feeling (or at least a hope) that we will learn much more about Abby beyond her rebelliousness in the following two episodes. There were two additional subplots going on to use all the other characters, and I feel like more happened in those subplots than happened in the main Jess and her sister plot. Overall, I found the episode kind of disjointed. I’m not liking the three story structure overly much. I feel like sitcoms have so little time in which to tell the story that an A and B plot is plenty. Adding a 1 to 2 scene C story just doesn’t add much value. Plus, this episode didn’t especially make me laugh. That’s probably my biggest critique.

The set-up to this episode is pretty simple. Jess gets a very troubling call from her mom (Jamie Lee Curtis). Jess’ sister, Abby, has been arrested in San Diego. Jess is supposed to drive to San Diego, pick up her sister, and put her sister on a flight up to Oregon to stay with their mom. Nick overhears some of this conversation and is instantly intrigued. He has never met Abby, and Jess rarely talks about her, so he is really curious to learn about this rather mysterious aspect of Jess’ life. I feel like this was a bit meta. I, as a viewer, can’t really remember Jess ever talking about a screw-up sister, either, and if the creative team hadn’t hung a lantern on that fact, I really would have gotten distracted wondering why the fact that Jess has a sister has never really been mentioned before. Additionally, I think it’s interesting that Abby is Jess’ older sister. Usually, by TV rules, it’s the younger sibling who is the screw-up of the family (see Richie Castellano on “The Mindy Project”).

Anyway, Jess really, really doesn’t want Nick (or any of her friends, for that matter) to meet Abby, because she thinks Abby ruins everything, and she doesn’t want Nick to think less of her after meeting Abby. Nick really wants to meet Abby, though, and he gets Jess to agree that she and Abby will meet Nick for dinner later that night (Nick thinks Jess is going to the airport, not jail). Jess tells Cece that she has absolutely no intention of letting Nick meet Abby, though. She’s going to make some excuses to Nick and put Abby directly on a plane. Abby doesn’t exactly make this plan easy to execute, though. Abby is kind of the opposite of Jess in every way. She starts a fight between the two other women in her holding cell, and she almost makes Jess get in a car accident on the drive to LA.

Meanwhile, after being guilted by Schmidt, Nick agrees to be Schmidt’s bar mitzvah crashing wingman. They’re going to the bar mitzvah of someone presumably from Schmidt’s congregation. He doesn’t really know the kid, but he’s trying to hit on this woman, Rachel, whose father is the Rabbi. Nick’s job is to be the wingman and help Schmidt get in good with Rachel before the Rabbi realizes Schmidt is there and tells Rachel what a horrible person Schmidt is. The plan starts to go well, and Schmidt and Rachel are happily bantering Judaisms back and forth, but then the Rabbi sees them. As predicted, he goes on a rant to Rachel about how terrible Schmidt is. Meanwhile, Nick is upset when Jess tells him that the dinner with Abby won’t be happening. He thinks Jess is embarrassed by him. Anyway, Schmidt and Nick come together for a final plan to right things with Rachel. Nick pretends to be horribly anti-Semitic, and Schmidt stages a fight with him. The scheme works as planned.

The C story kind of underpins the whole episode. Winston and Birdie are hosting a dinner featuring multiple types of cream soup made by Birdie, and Winston wants all of his friends there. Gradually, though, everybody starts dropping out. First Jess leaves to deal with Abby, then Nick and Schmidt leave for their Bar Mitzvah adventures. The final line-up is Winston, Birdie, Coach, and Cece. This is super awkward for Coach, because it’s a de facto double date, and Cece hasn’t contacted him since their make-out session a few episodes ago. It’s super awkward until Cece and Coach go outside to try to has things out. They try to recreate that make-out magic, but to say it doesn’t go well would be an understatement. They just have no chemistry at all. It so bad, in fact, that they decide they are really, truly much better off as friends. Coach goes in for one more kiss just to be sure, and again, it’s a tooth-chipping disaster. So Schmidt and Cece are endgame, I take it?

Anyway, Jess and Abby hang out at the loft for a little while, and things seem to be going well. They’re bonding over what I imagine bonds all siblings (I wouldn’t know, being an only child) – making fun of their mom. Jess goes into her room to get a photo album with some embarrassing photos, and Abby takes a peak at Jess’ phone. There’s a text from Cece about whether or not Abby has ruined things yet. Abby flees the apartment. Not long after that, Jess gets a phone call from her mom asking when Abby can be expected in Portland. Jess tells her mom that something is going on with Abby, and when Jess’ mom calls Jess “baby,” Jess decides that this is a problem she needs to solve herself. She needs to prove she’s a grown-up once and for all.

Jess finds Abby in a hotel bar about to run up quite the tab that she doesn’t intend to ever pay. This is how Abby got in trouble in the first place (she was caught stealing from a hotel in San Diego), so it’s a good thing Jess stopped her from repeating the mistake. Abby admits that she’s been getting into extra trouble lately because she’s afraid of going home and becoming too much like their mother. Jess is sympathetic to this and lets Abby come back to the loft for a while. Nick gets home and confronts Jess about her being embarrassed of him. Then he meets Abby and realizes that she isn’t at all how Jess has described her. Nick wants to know what ever made Jess think that having a black sheep relative would make him feel differently about her. His own father was a con man, after all, and Nick says there are plenty of other Millers in jail now too. The air cleared, Abby asks if she can stay for a few weeks to get on her feet. Or a month. Or six months. Jess seems to have opened Pandora’s Box.

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