New Girl Review: “Menus” (Season 3, Episode 8)

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So what’s the big deal with Jess and the ocean? Well, at the beginning, she’s wearing a T-shirt with what looks like a hand-drawn logo proclaiming “Ocean Conservation Day,” a presumably made-up thing (how could their slogan, “OCD Rules!”, not be an in-joke?). She wants to take her children to the ocean, but her head teacher Dr. Foster – of whom we don’t see nearly enough – says no. They just don’t have the funds right now, because even though Jess already has everything already organized with funding, they still need to pay for transportation, which according to Dr. Foster, is the most expensive part of field trips.

A sidenote: in most comedy shows I watch, I’m pretty sure that some jokes go over my head. Dr. Foster’s line about “transportation being the most expensive part of any field trip” passed me by completely, but I have been told – by a primary teacher – that transportation actually is the most expensive part of field trips. So that joke rang true for her. It’s nice to think that such an off-hand joke is actually true, and not just a line the writers threw in. Different jokes for different folks, I guess.

Jess’ failure to secure funding for transportation fires her up and, returning to the apartment to find a million menus delivered, she instigates a war of words with the deliciously malicious Brian (Justin Chon, of Twilight fame), owner of local takeout Hop Foo. He’s initially charming but turns out to be completely evil, surprisingly so. There’s nothing funnier than a character in a comedy show being horrible for the sake of being horrible – Seinfeld built its entire set-up on the entire outside world and everybody in it being repugnant (the Soup Nazi probably being the most famous example) – and Brian is just that. He’s at the very least a sociopath, willing to fire somebody to make a minor point to a stranger or baldly lie about his intentions in a very charming way.

Brian is such a good character, and Justin Chon was so funny in the role, that I almost hope we never see him again. As much as I enjoyed his banter with Jess, her initially being flattered by him and slightly attracted to him quickly changing to fury and disgust when she discovers his true nature, it’d be a shame for him to become a recurring character and have his edge worn down in the process.

Brian gives Jess the impetus to make big changes, to sue the restaurant, even threatening to burn down the place (not really though), but she fails. It is at this low ebb, eating Chinese food with Coach on the sofa, when Nick delivers his motivational speech to the pair and inspires them both, in an odd way.

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