It’s Thanksgiving week in Sitcomland (and in real life too – call your loved ones), and all your favorite shows are celebrating Turkey Day this week. Let’s see what happened last night on the Thanksgiving episodes of Happy Endings, New Girl, Ben and Kate, and The Mindy Project.
Happy Endings – “More Like Stanksgiving”
CLAY: “More Like Stanksgiving” takes the usual sitcom thanksgiving episode flashback and gives it a new twist. In the beginning of the show, Max reveals that he finally got the DVDs from he and Brad’s season on The Real World: Sacramento, where they met. Before their Thanksgiving dinner, the group sits down to watch an episode where Dave, Penny, Alex, and Jane came to visit. While watching the episode, however, some bad things get revealed. Meanwhile, Dave sets out to show the rest of the gang what a traditional Thanksgiving should be like, since he is so connected with his Navajo customs. He ends up receiving the weakest storyline, after some pilgrims steal his car and wallet, forcing him to roam Chicago offering up bartering in exchange for clams. His storyline is concluded when he trades his jacket for some clams and a blanket (which has cat fur on it), leaving him to wander the streets sneezing, trying to scalp some tickets he had in his pocket. He gets arrested, and after explaining everything, shows up back at his apartment for dinner.
As The Real World begins, we get to see 2002 Max talk about how excited he is for his friends to visit. Dave, Penny, Alex, and Jane come and partake in typical Real World nonsense. In a confessional, Brad reveals that he cannot stand Jane. Next, we see some footage of Penny talking about her feelings for Dave, which angers Alex. Alex becomes suspicious that Penny is trying to sabotage her relationship with Dave. Next, we see the moment Max was waiting for: his coming out on television. Unfortunately he was eating at the time, and it was subtitled, “I’m Greg.” Finally, we see that Jane only ended up with Brad because she showed up in the wrong bedroom. Jane and Brad realize that even though their relationship was an accident, it is still great, and Alex realizes she was overreacting with Penny, and Dave returns with his clams for dinner, which he promptly throws away. The episode ends with footage from The Real World in which Max and Brad first become friends.
Some quotes from the episode:
Dave: (Singing) “Helping strangers on Thanksgiving Day, more like Thanksgiving Dave! Heart of an Eagle!”
Penny: “No, don’t read into this! Reading is stupid, TV rules!
Jane: “Alex, you can help me make the potatoes this year, however you want: the good way, or your way.”
Max: “No… I don’t want to fight you naked…”
Brad: “It’s crazy, i didn’t even say that. What did they do, put computer stuff in my mouth? I… I… good morning Mr. Wiener! Remember that?”
Alex: “I am so tired… of people using the event of Vanilla Sky to defend everything!”
New Girl – “Parents”
SAMANTHA: Hey, children of divorce, can you imagine anything less fun than having to spend a holiday with both your bitter parents? Most of us probably can’t, but eternally optimistic Jess Day willingly puts herself through Thanksgiving torture in an attempt to Parent Trap Mom and Dad back together. Though she tells everyone to get ready for two T-giving meals – one for each parent’s separate visit – she purposefully fudges the invites so Dad (Rob Reiner) arrives just in time to catch Mom (Jamie Lee Curtis) in the middle of an all-roomie hugball. Things do not bode well when he announces, straight away, “You know what I’m thankful for today? Divorce,” and offers to come back later (“It’s alright, I’ll spend my holiday in a Los Angeles coffee shop, sitting around with a bunch of people who have nothing better to do on Thanksgiving than work on their screenplay. I probably won’t want to blow my head off.”) But, bless her heart, Jess is determined to execute the perfect Parent Trap-ping (despite the fact that there’s only one of her). While Cece gives Mom a “slutty Katie Couric” makeover, Nick distracts Dad in one of the series’ more endearing scenes: it turns out the two have a lot in common (opinions on football, conspiracy theories about corn, the usual), and Dad even has some input on Nick’s perpetually unfinished zombie romance novel (mainly, that it sounds exactly like Twilight). After a few strategic moves – like Jess revealing that Dad’s girlfriend recently cheated (“You grieve so publicly on Instagram, all those pictures of sad trees and your lunches”), and Nick doing some awkward flirting with a turkey baster – it seems her plan might actually work when Mom and Dad end up making out in the bathroom. Mission accomplished?
Mom and Dad Day aren’t the only ones dealing with the dissolution of their marriage – Schmidt’s overbearing cousin (Rob Riggle!) is in town, since he and his wife have a “new arrangement”: “I can sleep with whoever I want, but she doesn’t speak to me or live with me anymore.” Between Schmidt’s residual anger over being bullied when he was younger, and his cousin’s poorly-masked depression over his impending divorce, it’s no surprise the two jump at the first chance they get to fight: when they both insist on going by “Schmidt,” they decide to settle things with a bit of competition. From comparing delts (“Say hello to my sister wives, Misses Schmidt and Misses Schmidt”) to touching hot pans, eating candles, and headbutting benches, they compete in earnest, til Original Schmidt gives in: “Know this –your caveman ideas about manhood are so over . Manhood today is about exfoliation, and cheese courses, and emotional honesty, and Paxil.” But RiggleSchmidt’s still got something to prove, and the man-off takes a more creative turn (“Answer me a question – which one of these platings is more masculine?”) After a day of bickering, the household gathers for some turkey, and Jess gives a toast; she tries to play it cool, but ends up triumphantly admitting she saw her parents kissing. When they inform her that, despite their sexual tension, they are Never Ever Getting Back Together, Jess throws a fit – but when Mom tells her that they’re actually happier being apart, she’s forced to admit that, deep down, her parents’ split makes her worry about her own romantic future. In the end, there’s plenty of love to go around: Mom and Dad agree to some NSA elevator action, while the Schmidts – thanks to Cece’s gleeful misdirection – try to kiss Winston (you know, to show how secure they are). Also! Some questions: have they had this amazing rooftop deck the whole time? Is Jess originally from Portland (as Mom seems to suggest)? And will we ever get a flashback ep about the time Jess got high on a pot brownie and Cece crashed her mom’s van?!
Ben and Kate - “Reunion”
BRADFORD: This week’s Ben and Kate sees the gang dealing with the annual Thanksgiving high school reunion that occurs in bars across the country this week, with a lot of us having no choice but to reunite with drunken high school classmates and get asked “What have you been up to?” a million times. It’s a strong, relatable premise and one I haven’t seen on TV a lot (though the classic Onion article “26-Year-Old To See Every Asshole He Ever Went To High School With On Night Before Thanksgiving” is impossible to top) and sends Kate and Tommy each into a crisis. Kate is being pressured by her new pseudo-boyfriend Will to confront an old bully, and Tommy is trying to outdress his fashion rival Soroush.
Meanwhile, Ben and BJ are confronting their past – although it doesn’t have to do with their high school days. Ben married BJ seven years ago so that she could get a green card and stay in the country, but he’s been keeping the sham marriage a secret from Kate the whole time. Ben’s conscience starts to get to him all of the sudden about hiding this big thing from Kate all these years, and he starts to assume BJ is staying married to him because she’s in love with him. BJ reveals at Thanksgiving dinner that she is actually from Texas, not England, and only used the marriage to keep Ben in the country to help parent Kate’s daughter Maddie. It’s an unexpected, funny, heartwarming twist that puts a nice little bow on the episode without resorting to the cheap, common sitcom tactic of “Everything’s suddenly all better now because 22 minutes have passed.” The only thing the episode is missing is some resolution to Tommy’s C-story about attempting to dress nicer than his high school rival, with the plotline being dropped midway through the episode.
The Mindy Project – “Thanksgiving”
BRADFORD: With the recent news of Mindy Project cast members Anna Camp and Amanda Setton leaving the show full-time (Camp will still be recurring), it’s clear that the show, which aired its sixth episode last night, is still in the midst of finding its footing. The Thanksgiving episode sees The Mindy Project playing to its strengths (like giving a lot of screentime to Ike Barinholtz’s breakout character Morgan Tookers) and continuing to flesh out its other supporting cast members, like English doctor Jeremy (played by Ed Weeks) and receptionist Betsy (played by Zoe Jarman, who’s now the show’s lone non-Mindy Kaling female cast member), who are given a nice little storyline together celebrating Thanksgiving with Betsy’s family.
Mindy’s having a bit of trouble in her relationship at the top of the episode, wanting to make things exclusive with the guy she’s been seeing the past few episodes, obnoxious sports attorney Josh. After he says no and heads off for a business trip, Mindy attends a Thanksgiving dinner at Gwen’s house, only to find that Dennis (Ed Helms), the guy she went on an awkward date with in the pilot, is there with his new lady. Mindy ends up making out with Dennis anyway, only to find out that Josh wants to be exclusive after all and opts to stay with him instead of pursuing Dennis. A subplot with Danny Castellano spending Thanksgiving alone in the office doesn’t work as well as the episode’s other storylines, mainly because he has no one to talk to except a mouse.
“Thanksgiving” sees The Mindy Project continue to rely heavily on guest stars, which has been something that’s taken away from the time given to developing the supporting cast in past episodes, with Ed Helms’s return. Helms’s appearance is a little more substantive than his role in the pilot – which was just confined to one scene – and it manages to make the character seem more fully formed instead of the quick “Look, it’s Ed Helms!” we got last time. Past guests like Seth Meyers and Bill Hader have appeared in one long scene usually, which just feels distracting (even though those talented guys are always a welcome site on TV), so it’s nice to see the show work Helms’s character into the proceedings more naturally this time around. “Thanksgiving,” which was written by ex-Community writer Adam Countee (the second Community writer on staff at Mindy after Chris McKenna), sees The Mindy Project continuing to explore and find its footing, but after a few more episodes, you can probably expect the show to be ramping up to full speed.
Bradford Evans is Splitsider’s Associate Editor.
Clay Sublett is a professional writer, an Emmy-winning actor, and a liar.
Samantha Pitchel writes about and watches comedy in Austin and Los Angeles.