After several weeks on the sideline, New Girl returned to TV this week with “The Right Thing,” and they brought several guest stars with them. Plus, Pete died! What an eventful episode it was!
There are sort of dueling main plots in this episode. There was Nick and Schmidt and Schmidt’s mom. On the other side, there was Jess and Coach and a bit of Cece. Meanwhile, as per usual, Winston was on the sidelines, flittering in and out of the other’s stories while having a secondary story of his own. Fortunately, he had Nasim Pedrad as his cop partner along for the ride, and Pedrad makes everything better.
Anyway, we meet Schmidt’s mom, played by Nora Dunn, fresh off playing John Mulaney’s mom on his titular sitcom. This is probably a bit of a step up, and she’s also a very different kind of mom in this role, showing real mom range. Unsurprisingly, she’s very strict with Schmidt and wants him to be perfect in everything, perhaps explaining part of Schmidt’s neuroses. Schmidt and Nick have the opportunity to buy into the bar where Nick works, but they need some cash, and they want Schmidt’s bar mitzvah money.
Thus begins the battle between Schmidt and his mom for Schmidt to get what is his, and, to a degree, for Schmidt’s independence. Schmidt won’t get the money unless he writes all his thank you notes, thus beginning a scheme that lassoes in Winston and his partner. It is important to note that Winston has been trying to be friends with Aly, his partner, but she refuses. However, since they manage to turn this into a sort of interrogation of Schmidt, it becomes a work thing. It’s silly, but it’s very funny.
Eventually, after a falling out, Ms. Schmidt realizes that she needs to let her little boy go, for he is a man now, and thus he gets his bar mitzvah money. Also, apparently, Schmidt and Nick will be doing stuff at the bar more now? Fair enough. It will give them stuff to argue over, which is always fun. Also, Schmidt’s mom meets Cece at a nail salon, apropos of nothing, but she also says that no non-Jewish gal is good enough for her son. That will probably come up some day.
This was an excellently done storyline. It was substantive, it was funny, and it made narrative and emotional progress. Dunn was very good as Schmidt’s mom, and it wouldn’t be terrible if she came back. Schmidt can often be rather broad, so these sort of things that humanize him a bit help. As for the briefly-mentioned Winston and Aly thing, eventually when Aly realizes Winston isn’t interested in her romantically, she relents to being friends with him. Will this mean more Pedrad? We can only hope, because she delights, as always. She spent an extended period of time condescendingly hemming and hawing, and it could have gone on even longer and still been worthwhile.
As for Jess, her storyline was a bit more in line with what Jess’ storylines tend to be. She’s seeing some guy named Pete, sending him sexual texts and such. He doesn’t get back to her, so Jess and Cece track him down, and find out he died. Jess wants to “do the right thing,” which means her, Cece, and Coach going to his funeral. Alas, it turns out to be a fairly small funeral, and also Pete’s girlfriend is there. Awkwardness ensues, in traditional farce fashion.
Jess is doing her best to pretend to be Pete’s co-worker at a sports agency, a job that justifies J.J. Watt showing up as himself. Watt, if you don’t know, is the star defensive lineman of the Houston Texans. He’s a great football player. Is he a great actor? No! Is he better than expected, perhaps even adequate? You bet! Jess, Coach, and Watt all end up in the garage, looking for Pete’s phone to avoid secrets being found out, and this culminates in the trio singing songs about sports food. Yes, football player J.J. Watt sang on this episode of New Girl, alongside occasional professional singer Zooey Deschanel. And he’s alright, too! Of course, they do eventually all get found out, and that’s pretty much that.
New Girl was floating by on the good graces of its cast and its joke writing for a few episodes before the break, but “The Right Thing” brings the show back with force. It’s not just a very funny episodes with several guest stars, but one of the better structured episodes from a plot perspective in weeks. The show was just renewed for a fifth season, meaning we are in for at least another year of Jess and friends getting into scrapes and kerfuffles. If future episodes can be as good as this one, we should all be rejoicing in this fact.
Chris Morgan is an Internet gadabout who writes on a variety of topics and in a variety of mediums. If he had to select one thing to promote, however, it would be his ’90s blog/podcast, Existential Parachute Pants. (You can also follow him on Twitter.)