by Clio McConnell
via The AV Club
Apparently, ‘normal’ is the watchword on “New Girl” this week. With as quirky a character as Zooey Deschanel’s Jess, though, normalcy is pretty far out of the question.
That said, she has been spending an awful lot of time around her “extra normal” boyfriend, Russell (better known as the Fancyman, played by Dermot Mulroney)—so much so that she hasn’t been back to the apartment in a week. While on a boring (normal) date with Russell, Jess decides that it’s finally time to check in with her wacky roommates.
Sadly for her, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston seem not to have missed her very much. Other than Schmidt inquiring disparagingly about her “sexcation,” the guys barely even noticed her absence.
Offended that her boys didn’t care about her occasional change of address, Jess decides—as per Cece’s passive aggressive suggestion—that it’s time for Russell to spend a few nights at her place. (May we take this time to note that, for being her best friend, Cece doesn’t have much of a grasp on Jess’ pathology. The doe-eyed schoolteacher is both proud and naïve—a very dangerous combination, when given advice of the kind that Cece tends to dish out.)
And so, in her perpetual persuasiveness, Jess convinces Russell to stay at the loft. Before his arrival, Jess pleads with her roommates to be “normal”—a mean feat for those three goofballs. Of course, the three men don’t even begin to live up to this request. Most notable in his bad behavior is Nick, who seems to be more in love with with Russell than Jess is (after all, the spark of infatuation was ignited when Nick spent all that time sniffing Russell’s office a couple of weeks ago.)
At one point, Nick offers the fancyman a cheese plate while reciting the lyrics from Disney’s “A Whole New World.” The obsession is a little bit over the top, but Jake Johnson’s puppy-dog portrayal of Nick as a wannabe inventor is just sad enough to be heartwarmingly funny, rather than just pitiful. (Note: an invention from Nick’s “idea book” is featured in this episode. It might just be crazy enough to work…)
Indeed, even Jess probably shows a bit too much of her abnormal side, when she and the boys challenge Russell to a game of “True American,” a game they made up, which is “fifty percent drinking game, fifty percent real life Candyland.” This ridiculous recreation serves to create a bond between Russell and the male roommates, much to Jess’ envy.
However, the warm and fuzzy feelings quickly dissipate when Schmidt accidentally stabs Russell in the hand, and then Nick fails to find the bandages. This leads to Jess’ first fight with the Fancyman.
Schmidt is mostly on the back burner this week, but Winston gets several moments of glory—not least when his new job brings him into contact with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
With “Normal,” it seems that the “New Girl” writers have finally struck the right balance between serious plotline and silly gags—here’s hoping they’ll keep it up through next season.
Clio McConnell is the theater/books editor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.