Tuesday, April 24, 2018

New Girl 7x03 Review: "Lillypads" (When Pre-Schoolers Take Over) [Contributor: Jenn]

Original Airdate: April 24, 2018

One of my favorite things about New Girl is that they only ever tried to do anything remotely romantic between Schmidt and Jess once. And it was in “The Story of the 50” (and in that brief kiss from “Parking Spot”) that we learned how absolutely wrong for each other Schmidt and Jess would be. They’re so much more hilarious as polar opposite BFFs/occasional rivals. If anything is true about them as a pairing, it’s that they share a love for Nick. But flash-forward three years into the future and we see that Schmidt and Jess have a new person in their life to fight and fawn over — Ruth.

“Lillypads” is a hilarious glimpse into Schmidt and Jess as parents. If you recall, only one of them is actually Ruth’s parent. And since our B-story was pretty self-contained and not as exciting as the A-story was (at least to me), we’ll spend the majority of our review discussing Jess and Schmidt’s flaws and strengths.


Jess has always been ambitious but Schmidt is right about one thing: Jess values free thinking and encourages imagination. She’s worked at private and public schools, and has been a teacher of both adults and children. But the constant is that Jess values creativity and fun over rules and structure. She always has. This is a woman who walked into Apartment 4D singing tunes and brought that free spirit into her classroom too. So when Schmidt instructs Jess to prepare Ruth for her interview at a pretentious pre-school, logically he should have known what he was getting himself into.

And yet still, Jess does crafts and practices breathing with Ruth, much to Schmidt’s dismay. Jess wants Ruth to be a creative, free-thinking young woman. It’s not really because of noble reasons though. Jess is still mad at what’s happened to her throughout her career, especially the way she’s seen pretentious private schools destroy the creativity of children and turn them into robots. She doesn’t want Ruth to be drained of her individuality and personality, so she gives Ruth no constraints. If she wants to call the color green by a new name (“Denise”), then by all means, she should! There should be no rules or limits to her creativity.

But Schmidt does not see the world through the same lens Jess does. He sees structure and rules and order as stepping stones to a bright future. He’s got Ruth’s life mapped out for her already, and he wants her to succeed. It’s noble, but at the same time it means that he wants her to be studied and bribed to do her work correctly. Because that’s the thing about Schmidt — he always believes there is a right way and a wrong way to do something.

Obviously, the two are at odds the entire episode, believing that what they’re doing is in Ruth’s best interest. Schmidt thinks that teaching Ruth what is right and wrong from this young of an age will help her succeed in life. Recognizing letters and numbers, being able to cut a perfect circle and always giving the textbook answer will help secure her future. And really, Schmidt just wants his baby girl to have the best life she possibly can. His methods might be a bit questionable and harsh, but he genuinely thinks he’s doing what’s best for Ruth. Similarly, Jess thinks that SHE is doing what’s best for Ruth. Jess has seen kids get burnt out and drained of life and fun from a young age. Kids should be able to play and make up stories and nap without fearing they’re falling behind or doing something wrong. Because she loves Ruth a whole lot, Jess wants her to have the best life possible.

When Ruth arrives at the pre-school interview, she’s meowing like a cat and Schmidt’s panic is evident. But then Ruth cuts a perfect circle in her evaluation, as Schmidt and Jess watch on. And then she asks the teacher about the circle. What if it wasn’t a circle, but a moon? And what if the moon was sad? For a moment, Schmidt seems disappointed by the answer. Not the teacher, though! Even though Lillypads values technical skill and ability in their students, they also value creativity. The teacher evaluating Ruth gives her points (and tadpoles) for creativity. Jess and Schmidt rejoice because somehow together, they’ve become the perfect parent.

You might be wondering how Cece, Ruth’s ACTUAL other parent, and her personality factor into little Ruth. Well don’t worry — it’s hilarious. When Benjamin’s son has a breakdown because his father berates him, Ruth stands up to Benjamin and insults him by calling him “Denise.” She then tells the whole pre-school class and all those watching that the system is corrupt.

And Ruth leads a revolt.

It’s a hilarious (albeit a bit dark) scene that demonstrates one thing — Ruth is Cece’s daughter. She has the feisty, fiery spirit of Cece Parekh within her, the technical skills of Schmidt, and creativity inspired by her Aunt Jess. But the three adults agree on one thing at the end of the episode: Ruth will be whoever she wants to be, and they can’t change or stop that. Nor should they. Slightly traumatized by the experience, they let Ruth choose which pre-school she wants to go to.

I loved this story in “Lillypads,” not just because it’s always fun to see Schmidt and Jess at odds, but because it is pretty true to life. A lot of kids are pressured, from a young age, with placement tests and rigorous schooling exercises. And though tests are a necessary part of schooling, there’s something to be said about a happy medium between Schmidt and Jess. Kids need structure but they also need freedom to play and create and explore. They need to learn what colors and shapes are, but they also need to play pretend and color outside of the lines every now and then. They need the drive of Schmidt, creativity of Jess, and passion of Cece.

There’s no doubt about it, though: Ruth’s gonna do what Ruth’s gonna do.

And now, bonus points:
  • Basically all you need to know about the B-story this week is that Nick procrastinates writing and Winston tries to prep himself for testifying in court. Nick procrastinates when things are important to him because he doesn't feel like he's good enough. There's a sweet moment where Winston tells Nick that he's good enough and he needs to believe that he is. You can see Nick actually feel the impact of his oldest friend's words for a moment, and it's kind of touching. And also Winston gets nervous testifying in court because he doesn't like the pressure. That's about it.
  • I love the recurring references to Banyon Canyon and no one knowing what happened.
  • "Have you not seen Star Wars? Robots are helpful and often delightful!"
  • "I'm not letting your hippie dippie mishigas ruin Ruth's future."
  • Every time I see Benjamin in this show, I'm reminded that he was Todd in Community and ugh, Todd is the worst. (Benjamin is also the worst.)
  • "You know I would have punched you in the face for free."
  • "I need my eyes for TV."
  • *whispers* "Green is whatever I want it to be." Seriously, I'll say it EVERY WEEK, but the girls who play Ruth are the absolute cutest.
  • "Ruth... is that coffee?" "Yup!"
  • "Aren't you 11 pages away from getting punched in the face?"
  • "This place is like the frikkin' Louvre."
  • "Excuse me, she lived inside of me ya jerks."
What did you think of this week's New Girl? Sound off in the comments below!


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