Holidays always give shows an opportunity to gather around big guest stars to act as family for the regular cast. Thus, it was a surprise last year when we got a Thanksgiving episode of New Girl completely lacking in any familial drama (though it did introduce Justin Long in a recurring role as Jess’s boyfriend). The show makes up for it this year with three guest stars of varying levels of fame, and also manages to spin a yarn that serves as further exculpatory evidence for Zooey Deschanel’s Jess. Yes, she’s a bit of a weirdo and a stereotype, but look at her parents, and the sources of solace she searched for in the wake of their deteriorating marriage.
The episode begins with Jess prepping the guys on the coming of her mother and father, who are long-since divorced and viciously unhappy with being in the same room. Her mother, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, is even more bubbly than Jess, and her father, played by Rob Reiner, is a stoic, gruff man. Jess had told them that they would be visiting at different times, but actually told them the same time, as a means of getting them together in the same place. This is all part of her attempt to “parent trap” her parents into falling back in love and being happy together.
This is a hoary old cliche to trot out, but the thing is that the episode knows this, and so does literally every character except for Jessica. There’s a brilliant flashback scene wherein we see the history of Jess’s attempts to run this con on her parents; convincing them to enter a room together and then closing and locking the door; sending her dad a picture of her mom in the shower. None of these tricks could ever work, but given Jess’s reliance on romantic comedies for escape and a vision of something better, her ministrations actually become very sad in retrospect.
Still. given her full-throated belief that she can bring her parents back together over dinner is infectious enough to draw in Nick and Cece. Nick especially takes to his role of having to hit on Jess’s mom. Given that her mother is basically an older, more composed version of Jess, it is fairly predictable that Nick would fall for her in earnest (“I think I’m into your mother… I don’t know how it happened…”), though the plot point doesn’t go as far as you would think, mainly just causing a moment of discomfort for Nick when he has to admit it out loud. Still, the trick works, and while Mr. and Ms. Day are cleaning up in the bathroom following a tragic basting accident they have a brief hookup.
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