New Girl Review: "Normal" (Episode 1.20)
For the second half of this season of New Girl, the show has refined its ability to give all of its characters worthwhile, fleshed-out storylines. But sometimes, it is fun just to watch the cast screaming the names of presidents during a drinking game, while being careful not to touch the ground since of course, it is lava. Such is the spirit of “Normal,” an episode that doesn’t only give us individual storylines, but also great group moments that show just how far the writers of this freshman series have come.
Since we last left Jess with her new guy Russell, she has stayed at his house for a week, resorting to stealing his boxer briefs. She returns to her apartment and tells Cece, who is comfortably in Schmidt’s bed, about her week-long adventure and soon decides she should get Russell to stay at her place for the weekend. This is dangerous, since the guys act weird around him. Nick looks up to Russell, Schmidt wants to be Russell and Winston seemingly just wants to scare him. But Winston is scared as well at his new job as research assistant for an aggressive radio host. His new boss gets mad when his milkshakes aren’t Beyonce-colored, and even his co-worker Kareem Abdul-Jabaar warns Winston to get out. Meanwhile Nick and Schmidt have decided to create a iPhone add-on called Real Apps, to allow users to do things apps won’t let you, like light a cigarette or do some light cobbling.
The weekend starts off awkwardly, with Schmidt grilling Russell about types of sushi and Nick’s shoving a baseball bat down the garbage disposal to fix it. But as soon as the roommates start playing True American, a nonsensical drinking game that seems incredible, Russell is just one of the guys. However this becomes a problem and starts a fight between him and Jess. The fight comes to an abrupt end though when in a hungover “business meeting,” Nick and Schmidt stab Russell with their Real Apps.
In the end, Jess and Russell make up after having their first fight. Winston decides to get some revenge on his new boss by putting his beans in his milkshakes, but then admits to it, softening up his boss a bit. Unfortunately, the episode ends before the show can give the audience the proper rules to True American. Maybe future episodes will solve this riddle.
Integrating new boyfriends and girlfriends into the mix is always amusing for the way their interactions change. Lizzy Caplan’s Julia showed us the angrier side of Jess, while Justin Long’s Paul showed how the group can get even more awkward. Russell is great in that he wants to be involved to make Jess happy, an admirable goal that backfires in his face. Russell’s dynamic with everyone in the house is different and all interactions are equally fun, with Nick’s full-on crush being the best.
It also seems like Jess is growing from her relationship with Russell. Her strength in standing up for herself in a relationship has vastly grown since the beginning of the show, and while she still is quirky, the show has reined in it to a manageable, not ridiculous level. We start the episode with Jess at a political dinner, a situation that would have most likely involved her doing something embarrassing by the end of it, had this been at the beginning of the season. But now, she controls it, allowing her to be herself, but also not be overt about it.
As far as her relationship with Russell goes, it is great to see it going on this long, even lasting past the first fight and spending all week together. But it does seem like Russell’s family might be looming in the horizon to be just the situation that may end this happy union.
It has been a while since New Girl has had the group having fun together as a centerpiece to an episode. Yes, in “Injured” the group interacted, but they were mostly tearful as they thought that Nick was dying. Here it is just pure fun, watching the crew drink, yelling names of presidents as we the audience try to make heads or tails of what the hell is going on. Having everyone together, screaming and goofing off, is enjoyable and creates one of the best moments of the show so far. “Normal” also shows growth, in everyone from the writers to the characters, even if these characters still are anything but normal.