Bill Murray once randomly crashed a bachelor party, as is his wont, and this is what he had to say:
“Go to places in the world that are hard to get to, and hard to get out of. And if at the end of this trip, when you get back to JFK, and you’re still in love with that person, then marry them.” Sage advice, and something we all need to remember: Distance and hassle are instrumental in their success or failure — and in the 22 Nov. “New Girl,” “Last Thanksgiving,” distance hung over everything.
Whether Nick’s (Jake Johnson) disappointment that Reagan (Megan Fox) couldn’t make it to Los Angeles, Schmidt’s (Max Greenfield) excitement to finally spend a major holiday with his father (Peter Gallagher), or Jess’s (Zooey Deschanel) anguish over her relationship with the recently injured Robby (Nelson Franklin), it was everybody being either too close or too far apart that revealed the truths they’ve been ignoring.
Nick’s frustration over Reagan’s continued absence sent him on another one of his many drinking sprees, including dumping a whole lot of whiskey in a frying pan so it would crystallize and, he theorized, become edible. Nick’s as anxious as we are to see Fox’s Reagan return, and the distance between them is clearly causing tension for them both.
Reagan’s emoji-filled text about wanting to “tongue his monkey” may have helped take things down to a simmer, but it only seems like a matter of time before the long-distance aspect of their relationship begins to take its toll again. Nothing quite like a holiday about spending time with the ones you love to throw things into sharp relief.
It’s probably Schmidt, however, who gets the spotlight in “Last Thanksgiving” — his dream of spending Thanksgiving playing catch and wearing matching sweaters with his father is ruined when it’s revealed that Gavin’s just been dumped by his longtime girlfriend, Ann Kim. The scenes between Nick, Gavin, and Schmidt drinking and trying to comfort each other brought some of the biggest laughs of the episode, but after spending years and countless holidays apart from his father, Schmidt was capable of anything, trying to save this Thanksgiving — even standing outside Ann Kim’s house, giving a speech on his father’s behalf…
When, of course, Ann Kim reveals she dumped Gavin because of his multiple other girlfriends, at the same time that Gavin is putting the moves on Jess once again.
The realization, once again, that his father’s pain is just a byproduct of his own arrogance and cruelty, Schmidt comes to a satisfying emotional conclusion, coming to terms with himself and with who his father actually is. Gavin isn’t the sweater-wearing, catch-playing dad Schmidt always wanted, and never will be — but that doesn’t rule out another kind of strong relationship moving forward.
It’s Gavin’s Thanksgiving heartbreak — and Winston’s warning about breaking a man’s heart on a holiday — that initially keeps Jess from voicing her misgivings with Robby about their burgeoning relationship, after his injuries mean he’s stuck in LA. Forced to spend the entire holiday with him — and after he spots and freaks out about Gavin’s seduction attempts — Jess eventually tells Robby what she thinks: That he’s nice but there’s not enough of “the oomph” that she wants, and needs, in order to commit…
Until he stands up for her honor to Gavin, explaining in astonishing detail all the quirks he’s grown to love about her. “I felt it,” Jess says, chasing him down to take back everything she’d just said.
Like most of the conflict in “New Girl,” this twist relies on expectations and their subversion: Jess had already resigned herself to a lack of chemistry with Robby before he ever got stuck having Thanksgiving at the loft — it was only when he literally laid out everything they have going for each other in front of her (and everyone), that she realized she may have not given things the chance she might have. Even if it doesn’t end up working out between them, there’s enough there already to make giving it a shot worthwhile.
Written by series creator Elizabeth Meriwether, “Last Thanksgiving” was an excellent example of what can happen when “New Girl” works well on every level. By bringing all of the main characters together, under one holiday and one central theme, it ended with real, actual development for every relationship and series lead.
How much of this growth represents lasting game changes, of course, remains to be seen, but “Last Thanksgiving” managed to tie up and clarify the story of Season 6 so far, leading us toward the new year — and remind us just how consistently funny the show continues to be.
“New Girl” airs Tuesdays at 8:31 p.m. ET/PT on FOX.