Wednesday, January 13, 2016

New Girl 5x02 "What About Fred?" (A Risotto in Your Heart)

"What About Fred?"
Original Airdate: January 12, 2016

I find that the older I get, the more and more I relate to Jessica Day. There was the entirety of “Walk of Shame” in which I understood her frustration with not being where she wanted to be in life. I get the fact that as a woman and an adult, there are certain expectations placed upon you. By a certain age, you should be married. By another, you should have your first child. And then, after that, you should own a house with a picket fence and a porch swing and have your life figured out. I loved that episode for a lot of reasons, but one of the primary ones was because it was so true to life and true to how I feel. Sometimes, I’m a mess and I don’t know what lies ahead. Sometimes I feel like a failure in the eyes of society because I’m almost 27, single, and childless. I don’t really have my life together yet in a lot of ways. I’m kind of, like Jess and Cece, just faking it.

And then there is “What About Fred?” — an episode filled with shenanigans but also really important character development and revelations. While this episode was not the funniest of the show to date and I liked it less than last week’s “Big Mama P,” this was still a great episode especially for Winston, Jess, and Nick as characters. And, once again, I found myself immensely relating to Winston and Jess.


In this episode, Winston and Jess lament the fact that they don’t have the kind of relationship Schmidt and Cece do. They are both (but especially Jess) tired of having to put in the work of dating and getting to know someone. They want to skip all of that messy, uncomfortable, time-consuming stuff and get right to the part where they’re happy and content and in sync with someone. Winston and Jess want the result of years of work without having to trudge through the work it requires. I get that. I really do. I’m at the point in my life where I don’t want to go through the awkwardness of first dates — I want to skip straight to the part where I’ve found someone who I can laugh and joke with, who my family loves, and who I want to spend the rest of my life with.

So Jess goes out with a guy named Fred (played by the always-hilarious Taran Killam). Fred is kind of the worst. He’s dull and boring and it takes everything within Jess’ power to muster up the energy to even date him. But Fred has amazing parents. He has the kind of parents that everyone dreams of, but — for Jess — that’s not exactly what draws her in.

No, see, Jess wants a relationship like Fred’s parents have. They’re the ideal for her. She wants to spend time with them because they’re amazing and the kind of relationship she’s so desperate to have. They represent a sort of comfort to her and an inspiration. So she deals with Fred, but loves his parents. They’re fun and wise and dote on Jess (and, later, Winston). They love one another and have been married over 30 years. THAT is what Jess wants — not to sit through a dinner with a guy who talks about model trains or have a five-minute conversation about cheese.

She wants the real stuff without all of the stuff that comes before it.

Winston gets that, too, and he gets sucked into Flip and Nancy’s charms. Together, Jess and Winston scheme to figure out a way to still hang out with Fred’s parents without Jess having to date him. And our heroine comes dangerously close to compromising and settling just so she can spend time with Flip and Nancy. They want her to date Fred. They want to be around Jess. But what Jess realizes at the end of the episode is that she can’t just fake her feelings for someone in order to get what she wants.

She can’t take shortcuts and make compromises in order to get to the end goal. Jess almost does, and she spends the entire episode lamenting the fact that dating is work. And when an opportunity to forgo all of the work of dating and get what she wants without having to work for it arises, Jess doesn’t take it.

I love that she doesn’t. We all knew she wouldn’t, but it’s nice to see the fact that even though she doesn’t know what’s ahead in her romantic journey, she knows that she has to take the harder road to get there and make it all worth it.


Our B-story this week focused on something that New Girl likes to focus on: the relationship between Nick and Schmidt. We’ve had countless stories about their differing dynamics as adults (everything from “Bells” to “Tinfinity” to “Swuit” and in between) and the fact that Nick doesn’t enjoy responsibility. We know that, after five years of spending time with these characters, Nick is always the slacker and Schmidt is always the one with the plans and ideas. Nick is usually the failure and Schmidt the dependable, reliable one.

And though this episode spun a lot of the same wheels that those other episodes did, there was a slightly different groove to it and I think Nick is growing into the kind of person and character he was always meant to be. Schmidt tries to change him into the man that HE is — the one who cares about wearing ties and wielding power and not apologizing for mistakes. But that’s not who Nick Miller is at all. He’s a mess and a goofball, but the reason people love him is because he genuinely cares about customers and treats them like people. Remember “Clavado En Un Bar”? Nick takes his role as a bartender seriously, even if other people dismiss him and belittle him. He takes care of people and willingly gave up being a lawyer to be a bartender.

So when Nick tries to become Schmidt, it doesn’t work. At all.

The thing that really gets Nick though and causes him to change the way that he manages people is the fact that Schmidt reminds him that the livelihoods of his friends and co-workers are now in THEIR hands. If the bar goes under, it’s not just Schmidt and Nick who are out of money and jobs — it’s EVERYONE in the bar. And that rattles Nick in a way that he hasn’t been rattled since becoming a part-owner of the bar. He realizes that if he doesn’t become a good manager, he’s dooming the people he cares about.

But when Nick tries to be the kind of leader that Schmidt is, no one takes him seriously. Nick Miller isn’t the guy who wears the suit jacket and fancy tie and barks orders. He’s the kind of guy who makes “your mom” jokes with his bartenders and lets things Cece does slide because he cares about her. I think that what Schmidt and Nick realize at the end of the episode is the fact that both of them have to become the kind of managers that the bar needs, not that they think it should have. And that means adjusting how they operate and treat people. Schmidt recognizes the fact that people respect Nick because of the kind of down-to-earth person he is. And Nick realizes that he has to start telling people want to do if he wants the bar — and the people in it — to succeed.

I love that Nick is forced to learn how to become a manager and that he remains essentially the same. It’s proof that New Girl doesn’t have to change anything inherently about his character in order to have him grow and mature. The same could be said of any of our other characters in “What About Fred?” too — they all learn that to become better people, sometimes they have to make sacrifices.

And that’s okay.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • This episode was penned by my favorite former-Community-now-New Girl duo, Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson. I love that they manage to make funny episodes that are also wonderfully poignant (like their season three episode, “Menus”).
  • “Nick’s in charge. He’s got this.”
  • “Within every man there is a MAN...ager.”
  • This episode had the absolute best guest stars. I mean, Henry Winkler, Julie Hagerty, and Taran Killam, you guys. Does it get much better than that?
  • FERGUSON RETURNED! I missed that cat.
  • “Ferguson, clear your schedule. I need a word with your sister.”
  • “I feel like a car rental agent.” “But you look like a prince.”
  • Schmidt and Cece’s little moments when they were flip-flopping between personal and professional were so perfect.
  • “You’re being so assertive right now. It’s almost attractive.” WINSTON/JESS. SO FANTASTIC.
  • We got a mini-Saturday Night Live reunion in the episode between Nasim Pedrad and Taran Killam. It was HILARIOUS. Also, can Taran Killam just be on this show permanently and dance all the time? Thanks.
  • “Oh my geez.”
What did you think of this episode? Hit up the comments and let me know!


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