When tonight’s New Girl ended, my roommate Jason (a screenwriter) and I found ourselves rewinding and reviewing the footage like it was the Zapruder film or the black-box recording from a crashed plane. What had we just seen? How could we make sense of it all? What kind of world do we live in now?
“Sister” puts an ambitious number of balls in the air but neglects to catch any of them. That’s not juggling. It’s just throwing things at the sky, which is not impressive. The show sets four separate, occasionally overlapping story lines into motion and then allows them to fizzle and evaporate like the missing Olympic ring at the Sochi Opening Ceremonies. For the sake of my own sanity, I will break the plots down in order from least nonsensical to most nonsensical.
1. Winston and Birdie’s Soup Party
At the beginning of the episode, Winston is very concerned that this soup party go well. Birdie has planned to make ten or twelve soups, all of them cream-based. Winston is insistent that everyone show up … except for those who can’t. Also, he is transfixed by the depth of a ladle and confuses the job of a sommelier with the Somalian nationality (at least, I think that’s what happens). Then he thinks “tang” is an ingredient in soup. No one except Cece and Coach show up, and they leave to make out (more on that later). Does Winston feel this party was a disaster? (It was.) Is he cool with having thrown a bad party? We never know! Why? Because Winston’s character is often treated with the gently condescending tone one uses to speak to a child who just met a mall Santa. We quietly giggle at his overblown excitements and disappointments, but we attach little weight to them.
All in all, it was slightly nonsensical, but that’s to be expected. Perhaps Winston and Birdie handled the fallout from their soiree off screen. I’ll give them credit for that.
Sensibility Grade: Wishing on an eyelash. Not super sensible, but harmless.
2. Schmidt and Nick Crash a Bar Mitzvah
Schmidt has big plans to woo his rabbi’s daughter. The rabbi hates him. We are not told why. Maybe it’s because Schmidt has a history of womanizing or isn’t a doctor or needs a contrived plot device to keep him from getting what he wants. (And what she wants! Rachel is ready for Schmidt to be tefillin her up with kosher salami, if you know what I mean. If not, it’s probably because you don’t know that tefillin is a Jewish prayer wrap whose name sounds like a euphemism for sex. To-fill-in. Glad we’re all on the same page again! Oh also, kosher salami = Jewish man’s penis.) Anyway, the rabbi is Jon Lovitz, and he tells a delightful string of jokes about Jewish people that he would not get away with if he didn’t look like every Jewish person’s dad.
So then Nick botches his duties as a wingman because he thinks Jess is embarrassed of him, which she sometimes is, but tonight she isn’t. STAY WITH ME.
But then Schmidt and Nick devise a second plan to win over Rachel, who, of course, was already won over. He had her at “My dad hates you.” Even though the plan doesn’t work at all, Schmidt and Nick rekindle their love for one another.
In a lot of ways, New Girl is friendship porn. In sex porn (or as most people call it … porn), people engage in coitus for what seems like no reason at all. On New Girl, people require essentially no motivation to declare themselves BFFLs. (Pretty sure no one says BFFL anymore, but I’m sticking with it.) If a pizza guy showed up, Winston would befriend him, is what I’m saying.
Sensibility Grade: Playing the same lottery number every day. Slightly destructive but ultimately excusable. I hope in the future they dive more into Schmidt’s need to create a lifelong narrative for a nonexistent relationship with a woman who is clearly ill-suited for him. We all do that sometimes: Decide people or things we hardly know are the solutions to our problems. Schmidt’s in a dark place. Why is no one acknowledging how badly he’s struggling?
Nick calls Schmidt out for talking in monologue, which is a nice touch. But Nick also thinks a bar mitzvah is a circumcision, which is insane for someone with a Jewish best friend.
3. Cece and Coach, Sitting in a Tree, C-H-I-P-P-I-N-G T-E-E-T-H?
Cece makes Coach nervous. Nervous and frustrated. I stress these words because they are human emotions with consequences. Finally.
At Birdie’s party, tension bubbles to the surface like an overflowing tureen of New England clam chowder. Coach and Cece leave the party in a thick fog of sexuality only to realize IMMEDIATELY that they have less sexual chemistry than the dish who ran away with the spoon. (How would a dish and a spoon even do it?)
“Wait, Josh,” you might say. “I thought all they had was physical chemistry.”
Well, apparently they both do and do not. Their tongues are Schrodinger’s cats in the boxes of each others' mouths. Their lust for one another is both inescapable and impossible to realize.
What happens next? Do they go home dejected, wondering how their lives came to this? Does it have to do with age? Nerves? Cream-based soup?
NOPE! They decide to be friends! Why? THEY WERE NEVER FRIENDS!
Who cares? This is friendship porn, and gonzo friendship porn at that. Anything can make you friends on this show. Being bad at kissing! Ruining a bar mitzvah! On New Girl, Captain Ahab would ride into the sunset on Moby Dick’s back. Because EVERYONE HAS TO BE FRIENDS!
Sensibility Grade: A ghost story told by a 9-year-old.
4. Jess and Abby Break the Law
Nothing about this story makes sense. Here are some of the many nonsenses we have to endure:
* An extremely broad version of prison, which I refuse to stand for in a post—Orange Is the New Black world.
* Linda Cardellini as the world’s oldest brooding teenager, who was arrested for stealing from a hotel. Stealing what? Soap? A printer?
* Jess’s weird desire to keep Abby away from Nick for a reason as vague as why Rabbi Jon Lovitz hates Schmidt.
* The mother-daughter dynamic. Jess seems to resent being the baby of the family, but her displeasure never pays off. It’s similar to the Rabbi J.Lov’s connection to his own daughter. It’s a motif that appears and evaporates like the melody of a critically acclaimed jazz song I’ll never understand.
* The last scene where Abby is in the loft after we saw her leave to catch her flight. There must have been a scene cut out of the episode, because this makes less than no sense. Jess is mad at her sister, and for every reason. Abby’s good qualities seem limited to “Not Stingy With Overtly Sexual Compliments.” Why does Jess bring her home? Was there one line I missed? Is this a glaring, absurd example of telling and not showing? Or is it just madness. Please send help. It seems like it just happens because it’s the kind of thing that would happen on a TV show. People learn lessons. Siblings forgive each other. Hilarity ensues. But the resolution is intensely unsatisfying because it’s completely unearned. Abby seems distraught but not contrite. Jess has no reason to welcome her into her home, especially after hiding her from Nick all day. Family friendship porn! (Not as gross as it sounds.
Sensibility Grade: A dream David Lynch might have on malaria medication.
I don’t know. Most of the scenes are funny enough, but they play like sketches from a 22- minute short film called Quirky Movie. Nick’s seduction of the old lady was terrific. Jess’s description of her sister as, “like me, but with chaos in her eyes,” was perfect. Winston and Birdie’s relationship is delightfully unsettling. Importantly, Jess dealt with problems instead of running away or freaking out as she had done in the last three episodes (an observation made by Vulture blogger Halle Kiefer). But as a story, everything is a total mess.