New Girl Season 4 Episode 9 Review: “Thanksgiving IV”

New Girl 4.09

In recent weeks, New Girl has valued comedy over character, and for a show that dealt with so much romantic drama between its two leads last year, a story decision that sometimes got in the way of the show’s comedic rhythm, I can’t really fault New Girl for wanting to be “just funny” for a little bit. However, when the show puts together episodes like “Background Check” or last night’s “Thanksgiving IV,” ones that not only are filled with some amazing jokes but that also dig deep into who these characters are and want they want, that’s when New Girl goes from a good sitcom to a great one. This week it’s pretty simple: everyone just wants to be loved.

While the idea behind “Thanksgiving IV” isn’t revolutionary (it’s pretty much the story New Girl has been telling all season: the battle between shallow hookups and real connection), the series does an excellent job at exploring it in different ways. The initial setup (Schmidt has everyone pick a name from a hat and then bring a date for that person to “Bangsgiving”) ensures that we will have some interesting guest stars interacting with our favorite group of weirdos, but it ultimately all boils down to the scene on the roof. And no, I’m not talking about the one where Winston complains about the hot lunch lady and Coach does a hilarious impression of Ryan; I’m talking about the scene between Nick and Jess.

As I’ve talked about in some of my reviews of New Girl Season 4, if there is a central story for this season, it’s about how two friends (in this case roommates) move on after they break up. In “Thanksgiving IV,” New Girl addresses this issue head on with Cece telling Nick that he’s been sleeping with “terrible” women because he’s scared to get hurt again; it’s the same type of message that Nick then relays to Jess (via a speech from Ferris Bueller) when they sit together on the roof, as he tells her that she can’t be afraid of what will happen and has to just go for it. Season 4 hasn’t been about the enjoyment or embracing of the “hookup culture” as much as it has been about how that type of behavior acts as a protective but unfulfilling shield to real intimacy. It’s a place that both Nick and Jess have gone to because of their fears–because, no matter what they say, they’re still recovering from their break-up.

This idea also rings true for Schmidt and Cece, who appear to be, more than ever, on their way to rekindling things. New Girl understands the significant connection between these two characters and does not want to repeat the past mistakes it has made with their relationship. Both of them telling each other that they’re on their “never lists,” plus the fact that they do not end the episode in bed together, but instead sitting in the living room playing Tran’s Thailand-inspired board game is another way in which New Girl is saying that its characters should embrace real intimacy, no matter how terrifying it is.

It’s even scary for Coach and Winston, although in different and funnier ways. For them, it’s less of a story about “getting back out there” and more about self-confidence, of feeling sure of themselves in their own skin. Coach is a personal trainer and now teacher, who, as we saw last week, isn’t sure if he’s really where should be in life; it makes sense that he would be threatened by a woman who seems stronger than him, even if it’s on a purely physical level.

The same can be said for Winston, who has been (much to New Girl‘s and our enjoyment) a type of punching bag for the show for much of the past two seasons. It’s easy to laugh at Winston when he’s being his crazy self (and Lamorne Morris is just so good at delivering all the weird one-liners they give him), but as we saw in “Background Check,” with Winston’s disappointment that his friends didn’t believe he could be a good cop, he’s still a guy that has some deep insecurity issues. Even though his problem with the lunch lady is mostly mined for laughs, there’s still something real and understandable about his concerns.

Honestly, I would have loved “Thanksgiving IV” if it had just been an entire episode of Nick and Tran (TRAN!!!) sitting together, drinking beers and hanging out. That the episode did so much more than what I was expecting from it was a pleasant surprise and a reminder of how just how funny, real, and touching New Girl can be when the show is at its best.

Other thoughts:

– I have no idea how long he’s supposed to be on New Girl for, but Julian Morris has been absolutely fantastic as Ryan. I’d have no probably if he stuck around for a while.

– Tran was back for this episode! And really, nothing else matters besides that. Some of his many memorable moments: his high tolerance of alcohol, his hilarious grin when his daughter showed up (Tran had a plan for Nick the whole time), and his fist bumping with Nick.

– Jess telling Schmidt he looked like “Jewish Pharrell” in his pilgrim hat was a great way to start an episode that had way too many one-liners for me to keep track of.

– Coach’s impersonation of Ryan may have been Damon Wayans Jr.’s best moment yet on New Girl.

– Coach on Winston’s personality: “If an old white woman popped out, I would not be surprised.” The look on Winston’s face when he said, “I would be very surprised,” was amazing.

– Schmidt’s friend Geoff really has some weirdly bad luck: “Apparently a wild peacock got loose on the freeway and is holding up traffic.” Although at least he stayed with it, as it died in his arms.

– There really are no losers in the loft: “According to the statute, if you two can’t agree, we take it to a vote. The winner gets the girl, the loser gets five grilled cheese sandwiches.”

– “It’s like Thailand Monopoly. All the pieces are jail except for one piece of property we all have to fight each other for. But don’t land in the Red Light District. I didn’t mean to make fun of Thailand, if that’s even where you’re from.”

– “Did you ever watch her dog?” “Trick question: She had fish and I killed them.”

– “Hey! He fought in Korea! I’m not sure which side, but he’s a warrior!”

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

Photo via FOX

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