New Girl 3.10 “Thanksgiving III” Review: Into the Woods

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“Thanksgiving III,” New Girl‘s third attempt at tackling the holiday in its three year run, may be the series’ best Thanksgiving episode yet. However, I would say that, when compared to the rest of season three, it didn’t really stand out in any way.

There are some fantastic moments in “Thanksgiving III.” I nearly had tears in my eyes from laughing at Nick’s enthusiastic making of the Thanksgiving invitation with Jess (“He’s announcing Thanksgiving! With his little trumpet, he’s announcing the feast! We should name that little guy Roger!”) or when Schmidt described that his “cowman’s hat” was an exact replica of Viggo Mortensen’s from Hidalgo. Yet despite these insanely entertaining scenes, the episode’s central storyline (Nick attempting to prove his manhood to Coach by camping out in the woods) simply felt like another rehash of the questions from earlier in this season. Is Jess changing Nick? Is Nick changing Jess? Is their relationship too toxic to work?

After a few episodes where the Nick/Jess romance has acted as a backdrop to other funny antics going on in the series, New Girl thrusting these issues to the forefront of the show again seemed too repetitive and uninteresting for me to really connect with them. I much preferred the new dynamic between Coach and Schmidt, as they are both unsure of how to act around Cece, or the bond that Cece and Winston formed with their hatred of camping. Although Nick and Jess will always be New Girl‘s two main characters (as they should be), I enjoy the series so much more when the conflicts that it is focused on are individual to the characters and not manufactured drama apparently caused by their relationship.

Thankfully, we do get the scene near the episode’s end of Nick admitting to Coach (who initially attacks Nick’s manhood after seeing the Thanksgiving invite that he and Jess made together) that he liked creating that invitation with Jess and that he likes doing different things with her, even if they seem to be less masculine. Nick Miller is very much still the character he has always been; he still drinks too much, yells at inanimate objects, and tries to fix any housing problem with duct tape, but his love for Jess has also matured him in certain small ways, illustrating how these characters are always evolving even while their personalities remain intact.

And maybe that’s been the major issue so far during New Girl‘s third season. The show has been so focused on whether this relationship has shifted Nick or Jess’s behavior, always coming to the same conclusion that the two of them are the same two people. As I’ve said in my reviews for the two past weeks, the New Girl writers know these characters so well, and they all feel so real. So why not stop with the questions and the manufactured problems and give us more scenes like the group coming together in the hospital for Jess at the episode’s end? New Girl is an ensemble comedy and, beneath everything else, a show about family. I hope New Girl can tap into both of those aspects a little bit more when it returns in January.

Other thoughts:

– This is the last New Girl episode for 2013, which is really sad, because last season’s Christmas episode, “Santa,” is one of my all-time favorite New Girl episodes, and I wanted to see what the writers could have come up with for season three.

– Jess’s hallucinations after eating the dead fish that Nick caught were pretty darn funny.

– Even more hilarious though was Winston’s idea of going to a free pottery seminar getting shot down by the group. “We could’ve made the craziest mugs, man…”

– I’m enjoying the slight competition for Cece’s affections that’s going on between Schmidt and Coach, especially during the scene where Schmidt gives Coach advice and finds himself smiling as reflects on his past with Cece. That scene was really well done.

– Nick’s main fear that came out of this episode: his lowering alcohol tolerance. “I drank three beers and got all giggly and tired and I didn’t want a fourth.”

What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of New Girl? What are your thoughts on the first half of season three?

[Photo via Adam Taylor/FOX]

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