In the final moments of tonight’s New Girl, titled “The Last Thanksgiving,” the show’s characters reflect on all the previous Thanksgivings they’ve shared together in the loft, as they note that this year’s will be the last one in which they are all together under one roof. The gang brings up their first Thanksgiving together, in which they had to use their dead neighbor’s apartment in order to cook their turkey, and the one they had a couple of years together back in Season 4, in which all of them brought dates for each other for what Schmidt affectionately called “Bangsgiving.” We even hear them reference last year’s Thanksgiving, which we never got to see since the show kicked off Season 5 at midseason and therefore skipped over many of its usual holiday episodes.
However, even with all of those sentimental callbacks to previous New Girl Thanksgiving episodes, which have been some of the very best installments of the series over the years, “The Last Thanksgiving” instead had me remembering a disappointing storyline from last season: Jess’s pursuit of Sam. Since so much of the focus in tonight’s New Girl is on Jess and Robby and their constantly flip-flopping romance, I couldn’t help but think of Jess and Sam’s ill-fated rekindling in Season 5 and how that romance was simply used as placeholder until Jess acknowledged her feelings for Nick. It did Jess’s character no favors to have her backslide like that, and it also showed the bigger problem that New Girl has had with its main character over the past half season or so: too many of Jess’s stories have been focused on her romantic relationships rather than other parts of her life. It almost seems as if the New Girl writers can’t decide what to do with her character at the moment, so they consistently have Jess unwilling or unsure about a new guy in order to keep their storyline continuing over multiple episodes, and all it does is make Jess look like she’s settling, that she’s forcing some type of romance to happen instead of just allowing it to occur naturally.
As I’ve stated in previous reviews, I love that Robby has returned to New Girl this season. Nelson Franklin is fantastic in the role, bringing all the awkward charm needed to make a weird guy like Robby both funny and lovable, and he also does a very nice job in “The Last Thanksgiving” of selling Robby’s speech about Jess, displaying all the confidence and conviction that the character always seems to lack but never losing his goofy mannerisms while he’s delivering it. I also really enjoy the friendship that Jess and Robby have formed throughout Season 6; it feels real, natural, and believable, and it has also provided plenty of wonderful comedic moments. But there’s only so many times that you can start and stop a potential romance before it loses its appeal, and the New Girl writers have spent so much time showing why the two of them wouldn’t work as a couple that I can’t make myself invested in their relationship anymore. Just like with Sam last season, I want New Girl to explore the many more interesting parts of Jessica Day, whether that’s her job, friendships, or family; she’s the central character of the show, and she has so much more to offer than a haphazard romance.
Looking past the will-they-won’t-they nature of Jess and Robby, though, “The Last Thanksgiving” does give Schmidt one of the most satisfying stories he’s had all season long, as his father Gavin (Peter Gallagher) shows up to the loft for Thanksgiving seemingly heartbroken after his girlfriend, Ann Kim, breaks up with him. Schmidt’s desire to connect with his father has become a very important part of his character since Gavin was introduced last season, and he does everything he can in this week’s episode to make sure that he and his dad have the best Thanksgiving possible, including recruiting Nick and going to Ann Kim’s house to try and patch things up between her and Gavin. Of course, since this is Gavin we’re talking about, Schmidt discovers that his father has been dating five other women in addition to Ann, which is what caused their break-up, and his father’s constant lying and womanizing make him reevaluate whether or not he actually wants to have a relationship with him.
Fortunately for Schmidt, though, he has Cece by his side, as she helps her husband come to terms with something that every child has to at some point: the simple fact that your parents are your parents, and you have to decide whether to accept them for who they are or not. Accepting our parents and their faults, especially when we aren’t able to connect with them, is an incredibly tough thing to do, but by being honest and open with his dad, Schmidt takes that first major step towards acceptance, which will allow him to adjust his expectations and hopefully have a better relationship with Gavin. The complicated father/son dynamic between the two of them isn’t the easiest material for a sitcom to handle well, but New Girl handles Schmidt and Gavin’s relationship with honesty, humor, and maturity, showing that there really isn’t any “bad guy” in this situation; they’re just two very different men who need to work harder to build a connection with each other. It’s a smart, authentic, and very satisfying story, and it provides “The Last Thanksgiving” with a depth and weight that it wouldn’t have otherwise.
Just like the food that’s a part of any Thanksgiving dinner, “The Last Thanksgiving” is a mixed bag of great (Schmidt and Gavin’s storyline), good (Nick and Winston are, as always, consistently funny throughout the half hour), and bad (the constant flip-flopping of Jess and Robby’s romance). It’s certainly not New Girl‘s best Thanksgiving episode but it’s still an entertaining one, and that’s really how I could describe Season 6 as a whole so far. This season hasn’t been as well-structured or emotionally effective as New Girl‘s fourth and fifth seasons were at this point, but it’s still been a fun ride, one I hope gets a little bit better as we head into the series’ final few episodes of 2016.
- Reagan ends up bailing on Thanksgiving dinner because her boss sends her to Omaha instead, which causes Nick to go into one of his binge-drinking spirals. However, by the end of the episode, everything seems to be going well for the long-distance couple, as Reagan sends Nick an emoji-filled text saying that she wants to “tongue his monkey.”
- Of course Winston sprained his ankle in the most Winston way possible: by chasing down a bagel.
- Things get awkward and hilarious very quickly as Schmidt joins Nick and Gavin for drinks. In order to cheer his dad up, Schmidt tells him that he has better “buns” than Nick and tries to get the two of them to stand up next to each other so they can compare them.
- Everyone is impressed by Nick’s work in the kitchen when he believes Reagan is coming, especially Winston. “These knives are a part of me now like that Scissorhand guy,” Nick tells them. “What is his name again? Is it Rick Snip?”
- Nick has a very interesting idea of where Chicago is. “Why are you looking up? Your mother is still alive.” “I’m looking at Chicago.” “You think Chicago is up?” “It’s north.”
- Also, that joke leads to a great callback later in the episode, when Schmidt looks up to the heavens when dealing with his dad’s misbehavior. “Why is my father so sexual?” “Why is he asking Chicago?” “Good question.”
- Jess knows how to deliver the scariest threats to Winston. “If you don’t get out of your room, I will bleach all your bird shirts.”
What did everyone else think about this week’s episode of New Girl? Comment below and let me know.
[Photo credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX]
New Girl Season 6 Episode 7 Review: "The Last Thanksgiving"
Gavin and Robby cause major problems for Schmidt and Jess in an uneven Thanksgiving episode of New Girl.