New Girl 4.03 “Julie Berkman’s Older Sister” Review: Sponges & Second Chances

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Last night’s episode of New Girl, “Julie Berkman’s Older Sister,” was definitely the weakest of the three season four episodes that we’ve seen so far. However, it still had its moments, both in the comedy and character department.

Let’s start with the part of the episode I found least successful. While Jess’s dad, Bob (Rob Reiner), is always a welcomed presence on New Girl, his return to the series along with Ashley, his sex therapist girlfriend and Jess’s old high school nemesis (played by It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia’s Kaitlin Olson), was too simple and predictable. It was obvious from the beginning of the episode that Jess would be wrong about Ashley and somehow go too far with Cece to prove that she was a bad fit for her dad, and nothing about how New Girl presented this storyline felt new or different in any way from other times that Jess has meddled in her parents romantic affairs in the past.

Hopefully, Ashley’s introduction here will lead to some more interesting and unique material down the line (Olson will be a recurring guest star on New Girl this season). Yet while the majority of the plot itself was pretty standard, it did yield some standout moments, particularly the conversation between Jess and her dad in the car (before she is hilariously hit by a parade of bikers when trying to run across the street) and the very funny scene where Ashley, Bob, and Jess continuously repeat call out the word “client,” prompting Cece to ask, “Am I supposed to say ‘client’ now?”

Speaking of repeated lines, there’s another sequence of repetition in the episode’s other central storyline, which focuses on Schmidt trying to land a sponge account at work with the help of Winston, Nick, and Coach. Schmidt, who along with Winston and Coach, has become fed up with the mess of the loft (mainly caused by Nick), but when he learns that he has to find a way to market sponges to men, he recruits his roommates and, in one of the episode’s funniest scenes, tries to get them to associate sponge with a word that isn’t “sponge.”

Later in the episode, Schmidt gets all three of the guys into a testing room for the product, so that potential consumers can say how they feel about sponges. Coach and Winston, for the most part, stick to the script Schmidt gives them, but Nick, in a moment of selfishness, wrecks Schmidt’s whole plan to impress a girl.

Nick ultimately makes up for his mistake (although not in the way he means to), but this plot, much like Jess’s with her dad, feels a little half-baked. Unlike last week’s episode, where we saw the real connection between Jess and Schmidt, despite the differences in their friendship, this storyline just makes Nick look like a bad friend, even when he does attempt to fix the situation. The New Girl writing team needs to provide a better explanation for his decision than simply “Nick’s an idiot and a slob that wanted to get with a hot girl.” Otherwise, there’s no emotional weight to this story, even if it’s mostly (and successfully) played for laughs.

“Julie Berkman’s Older Sister,” like much of season three of New Girl, is an episode filled with a lot of solid ideas and poor execution. The first two episodes of New Girl‘s fourth season were the series at the top of its game, and while this third episode may have been a small step down from the successes of the two that came before it, I give it credit for trying. And for making me laugh at something as stupid as people continuously saying “sponge.”

Other thoughts:

– Sorry about the lateness of this review. For the rest of the season, I’ll try to have these up by the morning.

– Part of me wishes this entire episode had just been thirty minutes of Rob Reiner singing “She’s So High.” Speaking of, nice touch by New Girl to use the actual song when Bob and Ashley get engaged. I mean, it had to be played.

– Loved all the moments of Jess and Cece recounting high school memories, especially Jess’s line about how awful it was to watch her old boyfriend cheat with Ashley from the bleachers above, comparing her vision of the events to God’s. “That’s why God think it’s a sin!”

– I’m a little worried about Ashley’s sponsor. After saying how far he’s come in beating addiction, he looks at Jess and says, “I’d be in trouble if you were black.”

– Nick is always a gentleman when he’s considering how much time he and girl will need in his bedroom. “Give me three to five but no less than three because that’s rude to girls.”

– “I. Am. Thor. And. This. Is. My. Hammer. Mjölnir… Melnir?” Don’t you ever change, Winston. Please.

– I was not expecting New Girl to actually show us the “Man Sponge” ad, but I’ m so glad they did. That was a hilarious ending tag. “The dirtiest thing in your room should be me.” “Sponge…sponge…sponge.”

– “We have to turn her off. Let’s turn on NPR and blare it.”

What did everyone else think about last night’s episode of New Girl?

Photo via Fox

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