“Sister” isn’t a bad episode of New Girl, but it’s not a great one either. It’s an uneven episode, one that nails the big punch lines and comedic moments but underserves the story, due to lack of time and an attempt to give everyone in the main cast something special to do. Out of all the plots that feel half-baked throughout the episode, however, the one where New Girl drops the ball the most is with Jess and her older sister, Abby, a self-destructive, wild child played by Linda Cardellini of Freaks and Geeks’ fame. Fortunately, as the episode’s ending scene with Abby moving in (and hitting on Nick) shows us, it looks like Cardellini will stick around New Girl for at least another episode or so, which will hopefully allow the writers to more strongly develop her character and her relationship with Jess.
While I did feel like the Jess/Abby storyline was a little bit rushed (plus I wasn’t a fan of how it made Nick yet again question his worth is Jess’s eyes), it did shed some light/potential reason on why Jess was such a straight-laced, goodie-goodie when we first met her in New Girl’s pilot episode. Abby and Jess are total opposites: day and night (pun intended), oil and vinegar, black and white (or insert whatever contrasting image you would like to). Growing up alongside Abby, a sister who takes all the whimsical, free-spirited nature of their mom (Jamie Lee Curtis, who makes a surprise cameo in this episode, her second of the season) and channels into something even crazier, it would make sense that Jess would embrace the more thoughtful, fun, and reserved version of that whimsy. Now, things like Jess’s affinity for a cappella singing or her initial aversion to promiscuity make sense more on a character level than they ever did before. These attributes now feel like realistic personality traits that have shifted over time (the longer the Jess has lived with the guys in the loft, the more spontaneous and confident she has become) rather than just a cheap marketing ploy that the New Girl team used at the beginning of its run to have people think that Jess was so “adorkable.”
Speaking of New Girl’s past, it has been a long time since we’ve gotten a good Nick/Schmidt episode and “Sister” does its best to give us one, as Schmidt attempt to recruit Nick to be his wingman at a bar mitzvah in order to win the affection of a rabbi’s daughter. When Nick is reluctant and tries to leave in order to meet Jess’s sister, Schmidt expresses how marginalized he has felt all season by the Nick/Jess relationship: he believes all Nick cares about anymore is Jess and that he has forgotten that he and Schmidt were best friends long before Jess ever moved into the loft.
This conversation leads to some great wingman lines from both Nick and Schmidt (which I will post in the “Other thoughts” section of this review), but, more importantly, it allows both these characters to step up and be there for each other in a way that we haven’t seen recently. Nick causes a scene at the bar mitzvah, with the intention that Schmidt will stop him and therefore become the hero of the whole party, winning the rabbi’s approval so that Schmidt can then date his daughter. (Of course, this doesn’t end up going according to plan.) And Schmidt bursts through the door to the loft near the episode’s end (hilariously stating how he has been “tossing and turning” all night even though he and Nick have only been home for five minutes) to tell Jess that she should not be embarrassed by Nick. It’s touching to see Nick and Schmidt being there for each other again, especially since so much of this season’s comedy between the pair has stemmed from one of them disapproving of the other’s lifestyle. It’s also a nice reminder that despite the endless lists of differences that Schmidt and Nick have, their decade-spanning friendship is still enormously important to both of them.
And while Nick and Schmidt reignite their friendship, New Girl has Coach and Cece begin a new one, as the series directly addresses the pair’s hookup and quickly dashes the possibility that they will become a real romantic couple this season. New Girl’s handling of the Coach and Cece relationship was smart for many reasons. However, most importantly, it sets up a new dynamic for the two of them to have as the season progresses and paves the way for a possible Cece/Schmidt reunion by season’s end, as both Schmidt and Cece have been slowly but surely maturing and evolving in the background throughout this third season. Coach and Cece are no Nick and Jess or Winston and Bertie (at least not for the foreseeable future) and that’s fine, because as New Girl proves with “Sister,” as it’s done in the past with episodes like “Tinfinity” or “Models,” the series is just as good at exploring romance as it is at exploring friendships.
– The weirdness of Winston is only intensified when he’s around Bertie and I love it. The best, most awkward lines from dinner: “You know Birdie had a dream she killed me” and “You guys should try the Fisherman’s Bisque. It has just the right amount of tang.”
– That’s Jon Lovitz as the rabbi at the bar mitzvah. Watching him and Max Greenfield go back and forth, debating the differences between a “nutball!” and a “goofball” was great.
– Linda Cardellini’s performance here, along with her work last season on Mad Men, just reaffirmed that I need to finally sit down and finish watching all of Freaks and Geeks. I can’t wait to see more from Abby.
– Nick taking off his yamaka and “tipping his hat” when introducing himself to the older woman at the bar mitzvah gets my vote for the funniest moment of the episode.
– Runner up for funniest moment: Jake Johnson’s facial expressions as Nick reacts to first meeting Abby.
– All these wingman lines from Nick and Schmidt were amazing: “The wingman never gets to flap his wings; the bird never gets to be the main bird,” “I’m the best wingman that’s ever wung,” and “It takes two wings…for a bird to dance.”
– “Did you see a girl who looks like me but with chaos in her eyes?”
What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of New Girl?
[Photo via Jennifer Clasen/FOX]