Ahh, that beautiful tradition. So entertaining, so succulent, so magical. Yes, it’s that time of year again – New Girl‘s Thanksgiving episode! More represented in the show than any other holiday, every Thanksgiving episode has been a real treat. Who could forget “Parents,” last year’s Thanksgiving episode in which Joan and Bob Day (Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner, respectively) come and stay with the gang? It gave us that Nickest of Nick punchlines – “Jess! I think I’m into your mom!”, and his close relationship with Bob sowed the seeds for his and Jess’ future relationship, I think.
That lovely reversal of the usual father/boyfriend dynamic, of Bob disapproving of Nick because he feels that he and Nick are too much alike, gave the episode real festive heart. Same with the previous year’s “Thanksgiving,” when Paul (Justin Long) struggled to find a foothold with Nick despite gelling reasonably well with the rest of the group – again possibly foreshadowing Nick and Jess’ future relationship? I know that it was obvious all along that they would get together, and that there were a million clues like this, but I think that the Thanksgiving episodes have traditionally been used by New Girl to set the table for the rest of the season thematically.
If that’s the case, then we’re going to be OK this season. If you can track the progress of the show through the evolution of its Thanksgiving episodes, to use them as a barometer for the health of the show, then we’re doing great. “Thanksgiving III” is everything it needs to be – funny, daring, mischievous, odd – and isn’t afraid to stray outside of its comfort zone when it needs to.
Of the great book of New Girl episode templates, this is a mixture between “Nick feels emasculated” and “the gang vs. the great outdoors.” There’s a separate article to be written about New Girl’s episode templates, one that would be much more self-indulgent than even our excellent editor in chief could abide – I already get a lot of leeway with these reviews, as you can probably tell – and how those templates can be mixed in different ways.
Coach is the driving force this episode and, for my money, MVP therein. As a Brit, I have no practical conception of what MVP really means, nor Thanksgiving for that matter, but I feel confident in saying that Coach is the MVP of “Thanksgiving III.” This is the first episode where I could envision Coach as an important character for the series as a whole, and would actually feel sad if he were, say, eaten by a hippopotamus. Or the bear than Nick plans to catch in his trap. This was the episode when I forgot that he is a Wayans, and fully bought him as Coach. It felt like they had a good grip on his role this week – to provide Nick with a reason to take the gang to the woods in the first place, and to provide even more tension between Schmidt and Cece – and that he as a performer, recognizing this, appeared to gel with the cast on a deeper level. I realize I might be projecting, but he seemed at ease as part of an ensemble for the first time.