Wednesday, January 7, 2015

New Girl 4x12 "Shark" (Someone Brought A Shark To A Dolphin Show)

Original Airdate: January 6, 2015

I'm a dolphin, not a shark. I'm that person that you go to when you want encouragement or to get something done in a nice, friendly manner. I'm like Jessica Day in that regard. Give me a form to fill out that doesn't require talking to another human being and I'm golden. Tell me that I need to call to make an appointment or speak with someone and I freeze up and retreat within myself. (#introvertproblems) But Schmidt doesn't like dolphins and he certainly doesn't like being labeled as one. Schmidt's default response is never to converse with someone and compliment them in order to get an answer. His method of operation has always been more shark-like: he's calculating and suave and -- in the best kind of way -- conniving. And he usually plays people like musical instruments that way. He certainly used to play women that way. He claimed to be a Romney. He dazzles them with his smile and his compliments. And when he gets what he wants, he's satisfied. Both Schmidt and Jess have always found different means to an end and I presumed that "Shark" would be a recycled version of "Dice" in that regard: that it would be an episode focusing on how different Jess and Schmidt are and how Schmidt thinks he's right when he's really wrong about people and how Jess needs to be tougher and less friendly and by-the-book. In a way, that's where the episode almost headed but it veered into a different and more welcome territory that I'll discuss later on.

Meanwhile, the entire gang is celebrating Winston's graduation from the police academy, but Coach and Winston begin to worry when they meet Winston's partner -- a tiny woman named Aly (guest star Nasim Pedrad), who doesn't look like she could protect Winston if necessary. Though Winston trusts and really likes her, the other two men are skeptical and extremely concerned for Winston's safety which is both touching and hilarious.

"Shark" wasn't a perfect episode of New Girl, but it definitely was hilarious and is keeping on track with the fourth season's group-centric story about growing up and settling differences. Honestly, I'll reiterate the fact that even though I didn't see anything inherently horrid with the third year of the FOX comedy, the fourth has been a marked improvement upon its previous year, providing both the humor and the heart that makes this comedy worth watching every week. And so, let's talk more about sharks and dolphins, shall we?

The winter premiere had our loft gang focused on two major goals: 1) to figure out a way to get the night construction in their building to halt, and 2) to support Winston at his police academy graduation. It was absolutely delightful (and hilarious) to see the entire gang come together and support Winston at graduation -- they gave him a standing ovation and flowers and they cheered and Coach may or may not have thought it was a good idea to bring an air horn. (As someone whose sister works at graduations for her university, I can tell you that NO ONE approves of air horns at graduations.) Schmidt and Jess -- and everyone else in the apartment, really -- both want the night construction to end. It's disruptive and annoying and it needs to be fixed so that they can have normal lives again. But both Schmidt and Jess have different ways to reach their goal: Jess sees a councilwoman named Fawn Moscato at Winston's police academy graduation and determines that if she schmoozes with her, they can get the construction to end. Schmidt scoffs at Jess's approach and notes that it's a very "dolphin"-like thing to do: being sweet and complimentary will get her nowhere, so Schmidt decides that in order to get the construction to stop, he's going to woo Fawn and manipulate her into getting the construction to halt.

I absolutely love stories between Schmidt and Jess. These two are typically at odds, even though they really do love each other. The reason why they're always at odds is because their inherent personality traits frustrate the other person. Jess's inherent goodness and gentleness frustrates Schmidt; Schmidt's inherent desire to try and manipulate people into doing what he wants (and his ego while doing so) frustrates Jess. But in "Shark," we find something interesting and a welcome change from the other Schmidt/Jess stories we've seen -- there's a bigger shark in the waters. And the episode really focuses less on Jess and Schmidt's differences as a source of conflict between one another and more of how their inherent personality traits can be manipulated by people who are more devious than they are.

Fawn Moscato (which is a fantastic name so kudos to whichever writer came up with that) is the biggest shark in the water. She's the one Jess and Schmidt try to convince to side with them about halting night construction. And Fawn uses both of their personalities in order to control and manipulate them like puppets. She listens to Jess and politely laughs at her jokes. She writes a form name and number down that Jess needs to fill out regarding the noise complaint and then sends Jess on her way. Fawn understands that Jess is sweet and even-tempered and so she manipulates those traits in order to get Jess to leave her alone. With Schmidt, meanwhile, Fawn manages to extract his egotism and use it to her advantage -- she compliments and challenges him, impressing him at dinner and distracting him from asking about the night construction. When Schmidt points out that Jess got played (the confirmation that her paperwork went through notes that she will receive a response regarding her complaint in about 365-500 days), Jess also notes that Schmidt, too, got manipulated by Fawn because she distracted him from asking about the construction.

I love that "Shark" proved how malleable and easily swayed both Schmidt and Jess were. Instead of providing a contrast to their characters, the episode reminded us of their similarities -- though they have different means, often times, Schmidt and Jess occasionally have similar goals. The problem arises when someone else expertly manipulates THEM. Jess is resentful, though, that Schmidt calls her a "dolphin," insinuating that she is weak and gutless. And so, right before a resident meeting regarding the construction complaint, Jess -- via Cece -- decides to throw Schmidt off his game by making a comment about his cuffs. Jess knows Schmidt's weakness and in that moment, she manages to extract it and use it to her advantage. It's a rather "shark"-like thing to do... but at the end of the episode, she feels guilty for doing it (proving that Jess really IS a dolphin).

I'm not sure if Schmidt is just a malleable shark throughout the episode or if it's more clear that he's a more go-getter dolphin. Regardless, Schmidt ends up being played by Fawn and while the fact that Fawn manipulated Jess makes her feel like a puppet... Schmidt returns to the woman at the end of the episode. The thing about Schmidt is that he enjoys the chase -- he "loves the game" (as Taylor Swift would say). What's currently happening between Schmidt and Cece is that there IS no game. Not yet, anyway. And if Schmidt isn't chasing a woman with some push-and-pull, he gets bored. He's acutely aware of the fact that Fawn is manipulating him and treating him like a doll that she can pick up whenever she feels like it and walk away from whenever she feels like it. And he's okay with that. Because he needs that chase and the exhilaration that he gets from it. Even though it's frustrating, I think a large part of Schmidt really does enjoy that. But I think what Jess tells him at the episode's end is also true: I think Schmidt really doesn't want to be that guy forever. He doesn't deserve to be that guy forever, either. He deserves to stop playing the game and to have a life or long-term relationship with someone. And he truly does WANT that kind of life. But until then, he's okay with being used as a puppet because at least if he's being pursued by someone -- even when it's on her terms -- he's still being pursued. And wanted. And the thing we need to always remember about Schmidt is that behind the nice clothes and the hair products, he's still insecure. He really and truly is.

Elsewhere in the episode, we get the opportunity to see Nick and Coach bond in the B-story as they discuss their mutual concern for Winston's well-being once he enters the field. This was actually a really sweet story because we rarely get the opportunity to see Winston's friends care about him so genuinely. Actually, we rarely get to see the MEN of the show openly care about each other. Sure, there were punchlines. Sure, there were jokes. And sure, it was hilarious to watch Jake Johnson and Damon Wayans Jr. get slammed to the ground by Nasim Pedrad in a perfect bit of physical comedy. The best part about "Shark" was that it reminded us that even though the loft is an insane place to live and sometimes it's absurd, the people within it genuinely care for each other. Coach and Nick know how gentle and good Winston is and they know that unless he has a partner to protect him, he'll get shot or stabbed in the field. (As an aside, I do love that everyone in the loft is concerned about Winston becoming a cop. It's hilariously meta because yes, we are all wondering how in the world Winston will be a cop, too.)

And when Coach and Nick meet Aly, they worry even more because she's tiny. And I love that this episode (though written by two men) had some great female empowerment moments (Aly physically proving her prowess by taking down and cuffing Coach and Nick; Jess managing to use her plot in order to throw Schmidt off at the forum and secure the agreement to halt night construction) and proved that Coach and Nick can rely on Aly to protect Winston if necessary. Winston, meanwhile, never seemed to question Aly's strength and capability as a police officer -- all he was concerned about was being able to prove that HE was capable and get along with her. (Winston said that he was going to make Aly a sandwich and if that isn't some great role reversal I don't know what is.)

Though their tactics were less-than-ideal (and sexist), Coach and Nick's hearts were in the right place and Aly was able to eventually see how much they cared about Winston. So at the end of the episode, she touchingly brought them to a support group for family of police officers. It was a great reminder to me, at least, that these aren't just thirtysomething roommates who occasionally fight like they're in college and often act petulant like pre-schoolers. These people aren't friends. They're FAMILY. And Aly brought Coach and Nick to the support group because she realized that they were having a difficult time with one of their family members embarking on a dangerous career. It's played for laughs throughout the majority of the episode because New Girl isn't a melodrama, but Coach and Nick actually were really worried about Winston because they really love and care about him and while everyone else is concerned with making jokes about Winston's capabilities, Coach and Nick in "Shark" realize that there is a very real point in which the jokes end and the real stakes begin. I loved that we got a chance to see them, in particular, deal with that throughout the episode.

Here's the secret to New Girl's success: it excels when it is absurd because behind every story -- whether about a background check or sharks and dolphins or delayed flights at LAX -- there is always a kernel of emotional truth. And as that kernel continues to grow, so do the characters.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
  • I loved guest star Nasim Pedrad. I love that her sister works on New Girl (Nina Pedrad), and basically I just want to rescue Nasim from Mulaney and keep her on this show forever. Is that too much to ask for?
  • Speaking of guest stars, Julian Morris got the chance to flex more of his comedic muscles in this episode, especially with his New York accent, and he was absolutely hilarious. I also love drunk!Ryan just hanging out on the couch for a good portion of the episode.
  • "He once broke his arm wrapping presents."
  • "I've seen the Bollywood movies. I've seen the UK Office. Not a fan. Not a fan."
  • Zooey Deschanel's dolphin noise made me cackle really hard.
  • "That girl could drown in a raindrop."
  • Jess called Ryan her "sleeping British bulldog" and now Ryan/Jess is my favorite.
  • Outside Dave returned!
  • "I can't go to jail! I'm too sarcastic for the white kids." "And I'll get passed around like a bomb!"
  • Max Greenfield's physical comedy was hilarious as he had his meltdown over his cuffs.
  • "... Oh my god. I almost hired that guy as a sub."
  • "Oh hello shark. I am woman, the smartest species of them all." APPLAUSE.
  • "I was duped by a doe-eyed pixie and her Indian henchwoman."
Welcome back to the reviews, New Girl friends and fans! Let me know in the comments below how you enjoyed "Shark." Until next week. :)


  1. I enjoyed the episode but not Ryan and Jess, they are so boring. Schmidt and Winston were in top form this week, however.

    1. I like Ryan well enough (still gonna ship Nick/Jess though forever) but "Shark" was the first time I ever thought he was hilarious. As a couple though, they're rather stable which I think is what Jess needs.

      Schmidt and Winston were A++++ this episode!

  2. Hey Jenn :-)

    First of all, i wish you a happy new year :) may all your wishes get true!

    "Jess called Ryan her "sleeping British bulldog" and now Ryan/Jess is my favorite."
    NOOO you can't say that :-D. I can not get used to it! I can't accept them :-D
    But you're right, they are cute, even when they are toooo perfect in my opinion.

    Season 4 is just awsome :-), but i hope, that Nick and Jess will get more chance to spend time together. I still can not cope with their break-up :-(

    But i have to say, that i LOVE episodes where Jess and Schmidt are together, their relationship is almost the funniest :-D

    Yours Aylin :-)

    1. Aylin! Hello, my sweet German friend. Happy new year to you as well! Hope you had a wonderful holiday.

      Oh never fear: I will still always want Nick/Jess to happen most of all. I really like the relationship Ryan and Jess have though. But you are right: at this point, since they overcame the whole "dating when they're not supposed to" thing, they're kind of TOO perfect.

      I really would like Nick and Jess to have another good story or at least some screen time again like they did in "Micro." But I also selfishly want some more Nick/Cece than anything else. Their story with Coach was hilarious in "Dice."

      Schmidt/Jess stories are seriously some of the funniest and best.

      Thanks again for your comment!

  3. "the second thank you was sincere as hell because these flowers are glorious!"

    Bwhahahah. Glorious. I love Winston Bishop.

    1. Winston Bishop is my hero. I LOVE THE LITTLE WATER BOWLS (that's what they were, right?) WITH THE NAMES OF EVERYONE IN THE LOFT. He's so weird but has such a good and delightful heart. :)

  4. Honestly haven't cracked a smile one time at Ryan this season. At first I just thought the writers weren't giving him anything. But I think he was supposed to be funny in this episode, and I was left about as unimpressed as Cece is with him. Sad to see Kai, who is already funnier and more interesting, seemingly cut out of the episode entirely. Maybe she'll get some time next week. The rest of the episode was great, though. The two new ladies were both a lot of fun, and the guys were their funny selves. But if we're done with Nick and Jess and we're barely going to act like they have (more like had) anything unique between them that sets them apart from anyone else, can we please get Nick pointed in some direction? Any direction will do. I mean, even though it's barely been mentioned, we know Cece is taking classes. Nick is just such an afterthought this year, and it kind of bums me out.

    1. I tend to warm to Ryan more because he's played by Julian Morris who used to be on Pretty Little Liars and I liked him on that show. I thought he was funniest during Jess's speech and more endearing (less funny but still cute) during his scenes at the loft.

      I'm honestly on the fence about Kai because I feel like she's a weird mix of Angie's brashness and Jess's adorkable personality. I don't know how I feel about her quite yet. I did like that she was there at least and the show is committing to consistency with her presence! And yes, I absolutely loved the two new ladies and thought the episode itself was hilarious while still being completely true to the characters.

      I agree with you on the Nick front especially after seeing him so desperate for trajectory and friendship in "Landline." I hope we do get some more stories about him. And I'm so glad that the show is committing to running storylines this season: 1) Frequent mentions of Jess's job, 2) Mention of Schmidt's plan from "The Last Wedding" to become a milliionare, 3) Follow-through on Cece going back to school.

      Honestly, I have been really impressed by this year and their ability to pull stories and characters together while also being hilarious. Thanks for the comment, anon! :)