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New Girl 3.16 “Sister” Review: “A Girl Who Looks Like me, but with Chaos in her Eyes”

12 Feb

Extending Jess’ immediate family on New Girl means bringing in Abby; a previously unseen (and unmentioned?) older sister who just happens to be the opposite of Jess. This isn’t particularly revolutionary of course and sitcoms love to do this type of storyline, but it ends up being the strongest aspect in a chaotic episode. Casting Linda Cardellini as Abby is an instant way to make me forgive retconning of this kind and I am very glad that she didn’t end the episode on a plane to Portland. This is one of those episodes where the three stories don’t really mesh even with some connecting elements and so we returned to the disjointed feeling that the first half of this season suffered from.

NG_ep316-sc16_S0A5849So let’s start with the good and everything about Jess and Abby’s conversation about their mom (oh hey Jamie Lee Curtis!) over wine made me practically giddy to have Cardellini playing Abby.* In a short time it is easy to believe these two are sisters as there is strong chemistry between Deschanel and Cardellini. This scene is undercut with sadness from both characters and their relationship dynamic is clearly mapped out; Jess has always been seen as the ‘perfect baby’ daughter and Abby is the delinquent. Even with these fundamental differences they can both laugh about their mother’s tiny blue denim backpack. It’s all going rather smoothly until Abby sees a text from Cece asking if she has ruined everything yet. Abby ends up pulling a move that is expected and somehow Jess tracks her down to a hotel (via her mom’s credit card? Ok we’ll go with that) and this leads to an honest conversation between the pair and Jess doesn’t sugarcoat it reinforcing the notion that Abby does have a habit of ruining everything.

If New Girl is about this second phase of growing up when you hit your late 20s/early 30s then Abby is one step behind Jess et al as she’s still acting like a rebellious teenager. Moving back to Portland to live with their mother appears to be her only option at this point and this feels like failure to Abby. As we saw recently in “Birthday” Jess has a habit of forming expectations that people can’t meet and with her sister it comes across as the opposite; she expects her to fuck up which is why she doesn’t want her to meet Nick. Plus it seems like all of the Day women have a thing for him.

Jess has met Nick’s family and it’s a surprise to him that she wouldn’t be comfortable with him knowing that she has a sister who says inappropriate things and has been in jail (this probably isn’t the first time she’s been in a cell). As with The Mindy Project’s Mindy, Jess tries the whole movie to real life idea just switch out rom-coms for The Parent Trap. Abby is something that doesn’t fit in with this idea of happy families and while Jess has accepted that her parents aren’t getting back together, prior to this episode she also didn’t want Nick to meet the black sheep of her family.

Unfortunately Nick took this as a sign that Jess was embarrassed of him, which couldn’t be further from the truth and this is one of the only connecting aspects of the episodes. Nick is tasked with being Schmidt’s wingman and their BFF status hasn’t been explored all that much since “Keaton.” Schmidt accuses Nick of only caring about Jess and Nick is determined to be a good friend; to be a good friend to Schmidt sometimes it involves smooching an old lady and getting punched in the face. The Schmidt/Nick dynamic delivers some of the episodes funnier moments and I’d liked to have seen more of them together hatching terrible schemes in this unusual dating arena.

The last time Jon Lovitz appeared as Rabbi Feiglin was back in “The Box” when Schmidt was at a creative low and while his joke telling was pretty funny, this aspect of the episode didn’t work for me. Thankfully the writers have worked out a lot of the Schmidt issues and unlike Nick I rather enjoyed his monologuing.

Winston now has a partner in crazy and I’m glad to see he’s still dating bus driver Bertie, even if the soup dinner party only exists as a reason to address the Cece and Coach non-relationship from another patchy episode “Longest Night Ever” – maybe this week feels so disjointed because they are referencing other episodes that have pacing/story problems. Like Cece I had forgotten about her brief tryst with Coach and it only gets brought up as they’re the only people who can make the “night lunch.” It ends in an attempt to recreate that great two hour make out session; instead they end up with a bad back and a broken tooth. Some things should only happen once.

So returning to the Abby of it all and as she is staying for an unspecified amount of time I think we can expect shenanigans or hijinks with a heart. I’m looking forward to exploring this relationship and how her presence in the loft will throw things into disarray. Seeing Jess challenged in this way will be fun, especially as Abby has a low tolerance for some of Jess’ quirks “If you a cappella sing at me one more time, I will rip that stupid little dress off you and shove it down your mouth.” P.S. Abby that houndstooth dress is super cute and I definitely want it, not that I just bought houndstooth bedding or anything.

“Sister” isn’t a great episode of New Girl and it’s the first misfire of 2014, however there is plenty to feel positive about and I’m happy Linda Cardellini gets to flex her comedic chops in at least one more episode.

*I’m a big Linda Cardellini fan and the first time I saw her on TV was not as Lindsay Weir in Freaks and Geeks (which I only watched for the first time relatively recently), but as Nurse Sam Taggart in E.R. and so this wild child past doesn’t seem all that out of the ordinary. Now I want to write a piece on the good girl/bad girl roles that Cardellini has played, with her most recent Mad Men stint straddling Catholic wife with Don Draper mistress. 

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3 Responses to “New Girl 3.16 “Sister” Review: “A Girl Who Looks Like me, but with Chaos in her Eyes””

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Wish List: Jess’ Houndstooth Dress on New Girl | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 20, 2014

    […] mentioned in my review I’m a little into the houndstooth at the moment and if you’re a regular TV Ate My […]

  2. New Girl 3.17 “Sister II” Review: The Dangers of Sky Knife | TV Ate My Wardrobe - February 26, 2014

    […] the second installment in the shenanigans of Abby Day on New Girl and as with “Sister” there’s too much going on and this impacts the overall payoff of the episode. Abby has […]

  3. New Girl 3.18 “Sister III” Review: Roommates or Living Together? | TV Ate My Wardrobe - March 5, 2014

    […] the end of the first “Sister” episode Abby declared that she didn’t want to go home because she didn’t want to […]

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