And where are Schmidt and Winston in the midst of all of this tomfoolery? Well it turns out that Schmidt had an equally as obese older brother growing up, though he was “the strong kind of fat” and made Schmidt’s life a living hell. This Thanksgiving is Schmidt’s chance to prove himself to his older brother, though the title of alpha is not so easily won. To decide which Schmidt deserves to carry the name of Schmidt, Winston suggests a battle of manliness, consisting entirely of made up and extremely asinine competitions of Winston’s own devising. Such as doing the wheelbarrow, cutting jullien-style peppers, plating food, among many others. Winston, however, is unimpressed by either contestant (“You both bailed on the fifth testicle punch”) and gives up. Thus, Cece steps in and offers the greatest test of manliness: kissing another man. Unfortunately, with Jess’s father ruled out, that only leaves Winston.
This being a Thanksgiving episode involving estranged family members, there must of course be a massive blow up at the dinner table with many old scars bared and old grievances put to rest (while Winston just begs for someone to serve some food). Things pan out exactly as you would expect, with Jess coming to accept the hard truth that her parents are happier apart, and that she cannot continue trying to force their hand back toward reconciliation. This doesn’t preclude them hooking up in the elevator after saying goodbye to their daughter, though of course only in a purely physical sense. In a show that embraces the messy emotional reality of real life, it’s a relief to see her parents regressing to the kind of relationship their daughter had just left, showing that in some ways we are never really done growing up.
Likewise, after the elder Schmidt kisses Winston and declares himself the victor, it becomes clear his competition has been a way of covering the pain of his own faltering relationship. Schmidt comes to his side, and the brothers share a moment of honesty and understanding that results in both calling one another “Schmidt.” It’s pretty pat, but some things are cliches because they work, and this is one of them.
And for anyone still hoping for a Jess and Nick hookup at some point, we get some pretty good evidence/foreshadowing in a hilarious scene between Nick and Jess’s father. The two men sit side by side in equal states of repose, scowling as they discuss the problem with sports teams moving to L.A. before bonding over a further similar streak in their personalities – following the money. Their cynicism is too perfect, and they way their mirror one another is only helped by what they deem the ultimate in corporate greed and corruption: Corn. Even better than this is when Nick delves into the plot of his oft-mentioned zombie novel, only to find out that it sounds an awful lot like Twilight (though Warm Bodies would also be a reasonable comparison). The scene is sealed by Nick’s line regarding Stephanie Meyer after he learns all the ways she beat him to the punch in terms of story: “Well… then whoever wrote that is smart.”
We can readily say the same thing about whoever wrote this stellar episode of television, one that didn’t move the main characters forward much, but which did help us come to a better understand of Jess’s reliance on romantic cliche and Schmidt’s need to view himself as the alpha in all things. All in all, not bad for a seasonal episode that most shows would use to coast on a guest star.