New Girl Recap: The Dolphin Show

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Photo: Fox
New Girl
Show
New Girl
Episode Title
Shark
Season
4
Episode
12
Editor’s Rating
4/5

Am I the only person in America who’s never been to a City Council meeting? Parks and Recreation, Modern Family, The Simpsons, and now New Girl, just to name a few, are all starting to make me wonder if they’re not some sort of hyperpopular, well-advertised activity in which I’ve just never been included. Is there a community bulletin I should sign up for? Honestly, I don’t even know who my City Council representatives are, much less when and where I should show up for a climactic and highly personal ideological battle.

Luckily, Jess and Schmidt are slightly more aware of their local political structure, because as soon as they decide they can no longer stand the nighttime construction taking place outside the loft, they know to take their complaints to Councilwoman Fawn Moscato. What they don’t know is whether they should approach her as a shark or as a dolphin (Schmidt’s words, not mine). New Girl, especially this season, loves to deal in these invented dichotomies — shark versus dolphin, fridge person versus toilet person, last pieces of pie versus dice-diez-ers — and while they have very little basis in reality, they do act as convenient setpieces on which to hinge character-based conflict. 

Ever the dolphin, Jess uses the proper government channels to voice her concerns, filling out pointless paperwork and eventually staging a skit to illustrate her point at the aforementioned City Council meeting. It’s well-worn Jessica Day territory, but watching Ryan’s enthusiasm and willingness to participate made a plot that could have easily been boring if not exciting, necessarily, then at least full of hopeful foreshadowing for exciting plots to come. As much as I liked Nick and Jess, Kaya and Ryan are such easy and perfect fits for both of them that all the will-they-won’t-they seems more and more like an inconvenient formality the show had to address once upon a time.

Of course this makes Schmidt (whose Judaism is, for whatever reason, called out even more in this episode than in most) the shark, all wily manipulation and bared grinning teeth. The blood in the water is the perceived sexual interest from Councilwoman Moscato, but it turns out that’s little more than chum.

Councilwoman Fawn Moscato may sound like the name of a minor character from Parks and Rec (likely from Eagleton) but, for better or for worse, her character is pure New Girl. It’s the same balls-in-a-vice-grip generic toughness displayed by Emma and Cat before her, and though it was a less interesting character choice than the show seemed to think it was, she still could serve a kind of awesome role on the show. Namely: I want Moscato to make Schmidt her political wife. Schmidt, whom Moscato says “looks like a Jewish Kennedy,” falls easily into a role that was actually kind of made for him. Politicians’ spouses wear expensive clothes while smiling for donors and enthusiastically espousing hard-line opinions that they might not necessarily believe. It’s actually a role that’s kind of tailor-made for Schmidt (hardy har-har). Unfortunately, Moscato looks to be a one-shot deal, so I guess all we can do is hope that season four takes a wild turn and ends in Cece running for office. 

Speaking of Cece, in the end, it’s she who really wins the day. Her shark-esque assist flusters Schmidt past the point where an attempted seduction can’t even begin to save him. The episode doesn’t seem to know why Moscato actually rules in Jess’s favor, but it’s New Girl; does it really matter? I’ve come to understand that New Girl is best viewed with your sitcom-bullshit detector tuned down two notches past where you’d think to put it.

It’s that newfound freedom from logic that’s allowed me to finally, tentatively embrace the possibilities of future Winston — I’m sorry, Officer Winston Bishop — story arcs. The idea of a gun in Winston’s hand is still … let’s go with “unsettling,” on a fundamental level.  But the fact that the gang now has a full-fledged member of the LAPD on their side could provide a lot of fun, even if, in this day and age, comedy about cop impunity feels less absurd and more disturbing (ahem, Let’s Be Cops).

So, yes, Winston is finally a Police Academy graduate, which means he’s ready for his first day on the job under his new supervisor, Officer Nielsen. As Nielsen, Nasim Pedrad isn’t given a ton to do this episode besides sit through jokes about her size, but if she sticks around, I hope over time she’ll settle into the same idiosyncratic weirdnesses as her new New Girl co-stars. Coach and Nick worrying about Winston’s on-the-job safety is sweet but, again, perhaps a somewhat-poorly timed story given recent national events. Still, bros watching out for their bros is never not cute, and the promise of Nasim Pedrad back on a non-Mulaney show is hard to resist.

It was also a small but nice touch that Nick brought Kaya to Winston’s graduation. I love watching the little New Girl family expand. Even so, as much as I love Steve Agee, the writers are going to have to be careful with Outside Dave. He’s a fantastic character when used sparingly, but I don’t necessarily want to know too much about him or have him actually involved in any plots. As of now he’s not really main-character material, but he’s nice to have as an occasional garnish.

My biggest gripe with the episode was probably the fact that Winston’s week of being evil was mentioned but never shown in a flash sideways. (What’s that about? If there’s one thing that needs to be illustrated after being mentioned, it has to be Evil Winston.) That said, I wasn’t particularly a fan of “Shark,” either.  It was a solid episode, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to rewatch it.

It is tempting to say that “Shark” lacked bite, but because I don’t want readers to storm my apartment with torches and pitchforks, instead I’ll say this: For a show that’s had as many ups and downs as New Girl, just to reach a place where there can be solidly middle-of-the-pack episodes is more than achievement enough.