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Masters of Sex 3.03 “The Excitement of Release” Review: To Feel Wanted

27 Jul

At the end of Masters of Sex this week, Bill asks Virginia “Who goes somewhere where they’re not wanted?” and this is an important question that runs through Bill’s quest to get approval from the birthplace of the study. The book has been released and to glorious reviews from the medical community; a community which Bill has felt ostracized from thanks to the controversial subject matter. This is not enough from both a monetary and personal perspective and they must sell themselves and the work all over again in a variety of ways.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty and VirginiaPerception is important because they are trying to change how society thinks about sex and those old misconceptions about immorality and smut are still prevalent. There are bags of hate mail and someone from the Committee for Decency hanging around the lobby just waiting to tell Bill that hell is real place (“no worse than St. Louis in August” is Bill’s retort). Suitors or rather investors are just as interested in Bill and Virginia as those who object to the study and there are plenty of people who feel like they could have a mutually beneficial relationship. Motivations vary, but the one thing they have in common is using sex as a jumping off point to sell something else; hand massage machines, magazines, the sexual revolution and perfume. For Bill it is about teaching his work across the country.  

Pretending that everything on the outside is fine is something that runs throughout “The Excitement of Release” and Libby is queen of denial; denial about her own happiness and relationship with Bill. Libby’s neighbor Joy has confided in her that she wants to leave her husband because the idea of a future is a “straight, flat highway into the sunset.” The dreams they had are long gone and the monotony is too much to bear. To Libby ‘husband + wife + kids = happiness’ and she kind of ignores everything that is so blatantly obvious to everyone else; Bill’s grumpy demeanor when he returns home doesn’t sell Libby’s idea.

Masters of Sex 3.03 BillLibby sells out Joy or at least attempts to as she sets up a hangout for Bill and Joy’s husband Paul, much to Bill’s dismay. The two bond over football and when it looks like Bill might reveal Joy’s intentions to Paul he instead gets out his prize collection of football cards. What Paul does is tell Bill going it alone is sometimes the only way to get things done, but the final scene of this episode reinforces the idea of having a team to support. Maybe this is why Paul has a shitty marriage as his wife feels alone.

Paul does a very bad job of pretending he is interested and Bill realizes Paul couldn’t give a shit, but continues regardless; pretense to uphold social pleasantries run throughout this episode as do the catastrophic moments which threaten them. Joy doesn’t get to follow through with her new apartment/life plan because she has a brain aneurysm and even though it doesn’t kill her, the brain damage sounds significant. The ‘what ifs’ generated by this tragedy could send Libby further down her spiral of misery while acting like everything is fine or it might make her reexamine her own life choices. Is this the push Libby needs to admit that all is not well in her ‘happy’ home?

One home which is still under a considerable amount of strain is Virginia’s as her relationship with Tessa is still fractious. Tessa is accused of being ‘deliberately difficult’ and the back and forths between this pair tread closely to forced teen daughter storylines, which have been detrimental to other shows. I worried that Tessa Johnson would be more Kim Bauer than Paige Jennings, but this week showed just how vital Tessa is in relation to the work her mother has been doing and how sex is perceived. Tessa’s sexual assault is sadly just as relevant now as it was 1966 and while I thought her drunk moment in the first episode was a misstep, this was handled in a sensitive manner rather than for shock value.

Masters of Sex 3.03 TessaTessa is embarrassed by her mother’s work and she has been acting out at school; she claims she is being bullied because of the new book and while we don’t see any evidence of this the book does play a big part in how she is perceived. She hangs out with a cute boy on the bleachers reading Human Sexual Response and acts like she knows all about sex from personal experience; it is common to exaggerate sexual prowess and both Tessa and Matt suggest that they have ‘done stuff.’ Derogatory terminology is used with Matt invoking the word ‘nympho’ and he doesn’t get that women can like sex too without being sneered at. Matt has not been paying attention to the information from the book which is being read to him. Also if this is what they call someone’s mother who has simply been reading a book which includes sex it is easy to imagine that Tessa’s peers are saying some truly awful things about Virginia.

The homecoming dance is another source of contention between Tessa and Virginia with Virginia offering to chaperon as a way to show she is there for her. Tessa rejects her because of the notoriety factor and is then pissed when Virginia lets her go because she figures Virginia only changed her mind because she has work (which is true). Drinking games and smooches turns ugly when Matt reveals his level of inexperience and how he wants Tessa to ‘teach him.’ Making excuses as to why she can’t have sex is Tessa’s way out of not wanting to do this while trying to save face, but then Matt forces her head towards his lap and sexually assaults her.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Tessa bathroomVomit is how Tessa immediately reacts to this violation getting it all down her pretty new dress which we see her scrubbing in the bathroom afterwards before breaking down sobbing. It is a heartbreaking scene which is further compounded by her silent tear stained interaction with her mother in the car afterwards. Virginia is late to pick her up and takes Tessa’s insolence as a reaction to this. Her questions about boys at the dance further add to the gulf between them and I definitely yelled ‘tell her’ at my screen. This is not the relationship they share and even though Virginia is so good at talking to strangers about sex for some reason she cannot with her daughter (as evidenced by her asking Bill to have the chat with her in the season premiere).  

At school Matt approaches Tessa as if nothing bad has gone on aside from the schnapps that he thinks made her throw up; is he so clueless that he doesn’t realize what he did was wrong? Tessa smiles through the ordeal, but it is clear she is hurting and Isabelle Fuhrman’s performance throughout is excellent showing Tessa’s vulnerability and how she tries to cover it up.

Teen characters can be hard to warm to when they act out in a way which is detrimental to the leads; Tessa highlights the failings Virginia sees in herself as a mother so it is easy to feel just as exasperated as Virginia is in this moment. The sexual assault could be read as an easy way to get an audience to feel sympathy toward this character and there are shows which have done this, but in this case the escalation is meant to reveal just how out of her depth and isolated Tessa is. Motherhood is something Virginia feels like she has failed at and while Bill gave her an excellent pep talk last week about being a working mother, he’s kind of an ass this week as he worries she is spreading herself thin. Virginia is late for work because she is dealing with Tessa at school, she is late picking Tessa up because of work. The middle ground is hard to find.

Masters of Sex 3.03 VirginaThe timeline settles this week and this in turn means the overall story is a lot more focused. There are a couple of welcome returning faces as well as some equally welcome new ones. Beau Bridges is back as Barton Scully and he has a new wife and different job at the university after rumors led to his demotion (which he claims he is fine with). Bill has turned to his old friend for help getting his book on the curriculum at his old university, but the stigma remains as does Bill’s passionate response to academic rejection. Bill can’t fathom why Barton still works somewhere where he not respected and offers him a job where he is wanted.

Jane is back much to my delight even if she is far from the optimistic and happy person we last saw back at the start of season 2; gone are the bold yellows and here is the miserable and tired look. She’s still rocking excellent pins.

Masters of Sex 3.03 JANEWhile I assumed Barb was the wife Lester referred to in the premiere it is actually Jane and Lester fucks up big time when he calls her a ‘morbidly grumpy housewife’ when she is stood behind him. Awkward. Lester later refers to her as a ‘she-wolf’ to which Betty tells him to get a clue and understand that Jane is miserable because she is bored and she is too smart for the stay-at-home life she is currently living. Betty’s idea is to get Jane to go through their bags of mail as there might be some valid letters among the threats. Lester repeats Betty’s thoughtful comments to his wife and while she’s still mad at him things look a lot better between the pair.

Betty really is a “student of human nature” and a vital part of the team, particularly when it comes to meeting potential investors. Before we get to that here are all the amazing patterned outfits worn by Betty this week. With bonus skeptical looks in places.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty and Lester Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty pattern Masters of Sex 3.03 Betty Masters of Sex 3.03 Josh CharlesThe charm offensive comes down to Hugh Hefner and Josh Charles (who is recurring as Dan Logan – flavors fragrances expert) with the hand massage dude really not being up to the save selling technique as these guys. Hef has the resources and a huge built in audience, but Bill objects because it will cheapen the work. Dan sells his business proposal hard and it is so good to see Josh Charles in this mode as it felt very much like having Will Gardner back in court, but selling fragrance instead. Bill might regret his choice as Dan is very interested in Virginia and he certainly has the flirty skills down.

Bill might end up feeling insecure when it comes to Dan Logan, but at the moment all is pretty solid with Virginia aside from his not so subtle watch check when she rocks up to work late. Cut that out, Bill. Returning to the question from the end of the episode as Bill ponders why people go where they are not wanted and Virginia assures him he is wanted by her. He takes the babies crying as a cue to make his exit, but instead he is told to stay and is content to share the bed with a baby that is not his.

Masters of Sex 3.03 Bill, Virginia and LisaConflict swirls around them and yet in this moment there is peace; now to apply this kind of harmony to those around them who are experiencing rejection and isolation.

Make Believe and Fairy Tales on Hannibal: “Belief Comes with Imagination”

19 Jun

Once upon a time there was a little boy who lived in a castle in and then he transformed into the monster we see today. What made him become this way doesn’t involve spells or curses or a wolf in the woods and on Hannibal this week we found out a little more about how Hannibal came to be. Imagination is a tool used to protect from past experiences, to conjure up an idea for a better future or to understand what it taking place in the present and on Hannibal this tends to involve a dead person or some kind of horror. This is a land lacking in handsome princes or fairy godmothers waiting to save the day.

Hannibal 3.03 WillWill Graham’s mind has been twisted and manipulated by Hannibal, but he is not the only one who has take liberty with Will’s rare empathy skills. In season 1 Jack asked Will if he could borrow his imagination and this haunts Jack in “Secondo” as he joins the list of people who survived the bloodbath, but he still bears the physical and mental scars of this encounter. Jack tells Inspector Pazzi that he is not here to catch Pazzi’s monster instead he has come for Will Graham as ultimately he set him down this path by borrowing his imagination in the first place. Guilt plays a big part in this journey and as they are chatting in a church it is not too much of a leap when the discussion turns to a belief in a higher power. It also delivers yet another magnificent shot and this location continues to stun. The color palette in Italy is mostly golds with red being uses sparingly for the candles, Bedelia’s dresses and well, blood. 

Hannibal 3.03 JackJack thinks belief comes with imagination and “we also imagine the possibility that we all live on after death.” He goes another step further citing that they both died on that night and unlike Abigail they are still part of this world. Jack also believes that while borrowing Will’s imagination he broke it, but somehow Will has managed to piece it back together again unlike the tea cup in Hannibal’s own story. 

So what of Hannibal’s past and how he came to be the way he is? Well first of all I want to preface this with saying that my Hannibal knowledge outside of this show consists of Red Dragon (the book) and the movies Silence of the Lambs and Manhunter. So it is somewhat limited and I found some of the sister chat to be a little bit vague in places because I know nothing of Mischa aside from the brief mention last season and what this episode reveals. And these revelations involve a lot of inference to what actually happened to her; however it is clear that Hannibal ate her and now he feels like this is the only way he can resolve things with Will. That is an interesting solution from the various discussions between Bedelia and Hannibal this week which take place in front of the fire, while taking a bath and during piano playing. Unconventional in both form and conclusion. Not sure how happy Will is going to feel when he finds out he might be the next dinner party main course and the center piece of Hannibal showing his cooking prowess.

Hannibal 3.03 Will mistBack to Mischa and the creepy looking misty castle which could exist on the pages of Grimms’ Fairy Tales as the catalyst and Will won’t allow this trauma to provide an excuse for what Hannibal does, but what did happen to her? Well she definitely died and they play with who did the deed; it appears the imprisoned man did it, but when it comes to Hannibal’s manipulations it really is hard to figure out the reality from the fiction (I seem to recall someone mentioning that in the book Nazis are involved somehow).

Will makes an interesting point as he tells Chiyo “we construct fairy tales and we accept them. Our minds concoct all sorts of fantasies when we don’t want to believe something.” This relates to what he is telling her about Hannibal and the ‘smile’ he left him plus the various other crimes Hannibal has committed which all points to inaccuracies in the story she has been living with. Chiyo has been living in limbo out in the woods in a more twisted version of a princess locked away in a tower.

Hannibal 3.03 Will and ChiyohWill then pulls a very Hannibal move manipulating the situation so Chiyo will kill the man she has been in charge of for however many years. He claims he did this for her and this is eerily similar to how Hannibal would justify this action of setting this man free just so he will attack her.

We have seen Hannibal do this in season 1 when he sent Gideon after Alana and then Will after Gideon. The result was the same except Chiyo killed her mark whereas Will simply wounded his. And up pops the word which circles around the show constantly as Chiyo tells Will “you are curious too.” Everyone is and it’s how these characters manage their curiosities which defines them. Hannibal is the only one who knows the truth as he “created a story out of events that only he experienced. All sorrows can be warm if you put them in a story.” Even monsters need to construct a version to make them feel better or to justify their actions.

Hannibal 3.03 firefly manWhat of Will’s transformation and the tableau he creates at the end; is it a calling card for Hannibal even though he knows he will never return to see it? Maybe he took a photo and sent it to him on Snapchat. Like many things on this show there are plenty of ways to interpret this setup as Will might be doing this to emulate Hannibal or merely understand him.

Is Will slipping again thanks to how far he has been pushed by both Jack and Hannibal? It is also unclear what Will wants to achieve when he does catch up with Hannibal or which side he is on; he has a bond with Hannibal due to Hannibal’s deep understanding of him which makes his actions very hard to predict and this firefly creation only makes him seem more unstable. One thing that is clear is that Hannibal would be proud of this creation and manipulation.

Hannibal 3.03 dinnerThe game of cat and mouse keeps expanding with new players joining the party each week; Hannibal doesn’t seem too bothered and is acting in a cavalier manner drawing everyone to him. This includes the dinner party which featured Hannibal making a funny and it made me full on snort laugh (super dark I know) as after he plunges an ice pick into Sogliato’s brain he mentions how this “may have been impulsive.” Except it wasn’t all that unplanned as he served Punch Romaine noting it was given to the first class passengers on the Titanic which ended up being the last meal for some. Bedelia also technically kills Sogliato by removing the ice pick from his brain which Hannibal notes with some glee. Bedelia tells Hannibal that he is enticing his would be captures and this goes back to something she said last season when she mentioned that whimsy would be his downfall.

Hannibal 3.03 Bedelia hair washingLast time we saw Bedelia she displayed a nervous disposition regarding her current situation whereas this week she seems more in control and she goes as far as mentioning that she has an exit strategy, which is surely a dangerous thing to mention in front of her companion. There is a trust between them and it seems like the more awful things she witnesses Hannibal doing the more she lets herself get drawn in. The hair washing scene is the height of this kind of intimacy and Bedelia acts as a surrogate to his sister and this relationship does not come across as sexual in any way.

Hannibal 3.03 Bedelia bathShe once again submerges herself in the bath water but it is no longer inky black and instead is a murky brown, which is more to do with what Hannibal has used on her hair suggesting she is now far more comfortable with these circumstances she finds herself in.

There are some other repeated images that Hannibal loves to throw up and twist including these stunning shots of Will in his memory palace chatting to Hannibal about the creation of this space. Oh hey Hannibal in your old plaid suit.

Hannibal 3.03 graveyard Hannibal 3.03 Hannibal's houseThe kaleidoscope effect of Hannibal’s Baltimore home/office reflects how this room “holds sound and motion” although it also suggests the fragmented nature of those long ago places which represent “pain and shards of glass.”

Imagination twists with reality and the fairy tales that take place in this world don’t end with a happily ever; the beast will not turn into a prince and the surviving characters will have to construct a safe space of their own to deal with the aftermath. And next week it looks like some more players will be joining this party.

Music Monday: Orange is the New Black and “Coming Down” with the Closing Credits

15 Jun

While the main TV season is over there is still plenty to watch, obsess over and feel devastated about. While recovering from a particularly bleak and bloody Game of Thrones season finale (even by their bleak and bloody standards) we have a soothing song to start the new week. The third season of Orange is the New Black debuted on Netflix last Friday and I’m taking it at a relatively leisurely pace, which might be for the best as out of the first five episodes I’ve been emotionally broken by at least three of them. And this season was meant to be lighter.

OITNB S3Avoiding getting into too many storyline specifics because everyone is at a different place in their viewing schedule and offering up the vaguest of plot hints with this song choice. Orange is the New Black utilizes its credit music much in the same way as other Music Monday favorites such as Girls and Mad Men reflecting the tone of the final moments on screen.

“Coming Down” by Dum Dum Girls comes from the end of episode 3 “Empathy is a Boner Killer” and while some of the lyrics are a little on the nose for the action that is taking place on screen it is also a fitting track for the heartbreak several of the characters are expressing. The room definitely got a whole lot dustier as these scenes played out and hearing this track over the final credits meant that I didn’t just hit the menu button so I could dive into the next episode. Instead let this hypnotic track wash all over you. 

Also getting a whole lot of Morello vibes from Dum Dum Girls lead singer Dee Dee Penny in the video for “Coming Down.”

The Americans 3.03 “Open House” Review: Wants and Needs

12 Feb

A variety of philosophical debates that have very real consequences continue to take place on The Americans as Philip and Elizabeth both stand on opposing sides when it comes to their daughter. At the center of the argument is this idea about choice and whether Paige will be have this taken away from her if she is brought into this world. While we ended last week at an impasse of monumental proportions after Elizabeth attempted and failed to sway Philip by baring her soul, it seems that all you need is a very close call to open up the line of conversation. Well, that and a very intimate scene involving pliers.

The Americans 3.03Pulling teeth isn’t easy; it’s not just one yank and it is free much like the Paige problem, which they still don’t have a solution to. Now they are communicating again and what both the very close call and this incredible moment of intimacy have done is open up the channels again. Prior to this very intense scene (which I will come to in a bit) Philip is making sure his opinion is heard loud and clear. When Elizabeth tries to entice him with her naked skin he continues to read his magazine (an issue of Time from November 1982) and offer up thinly veiled passive aggressive comments giving her the green light to sleep with Hans suggesting “You recruit men. That’s part of it, right?” All this stems from a conversation about what to get Paige for her 15th birthday when Elizabeth mentions a necklace she thinks Paige will like. Philip asks how she knows this and his petulant attitude is as a result of everything that is going on. Still this look doesn’t suit you, Philip.

As with most things on this show there are layers to pretty much everything and the original plan was to get her a 10 speed bike. A bike represents freedom (and all I can picture is Angela Chase riding Brian Krakow’s bike) while a necklace is far more sentimental. Both are the kind of presents you can imagine any parent getting their teenage daughter but on The Americans nothing is quite what appears to be on the surface. They also don’t want to get her both as that would be too much and their ideology this makes sense; it also demonstrates how they must choose one and on this occasion Philip is pretty whatever about the whole thing. This is in contrast to the open house tour with a room full of toys with the realtor commenting “It’s impossible not to buy your kids everything they want, right?” This is not an issue in the Jennings home, except that one time they didn’t buy Henry a video game console and he broke into their neighbor’s house. Now Henry has a photo of Sandra Beeman in a bikini hidden away and it might be time Philip and Elizabeth checked in with their son instead of only paying attention to Paige.

One thread which runs throughout the episode and the series in general is this idea of wants and needs. Philip and Elizabeth are from a country with an ideology focused on needs whereas the one they now live in has an ethos which focuses on wants. Philip has assimilated to this with far more ease than Elizabeth and in the pilot we saw how comfortable he was with this lifestyle. Last season saw him get a fancy new car which was quickly tarnished by a mission gone wrong but as he has pointed out to Elizabeth she also likes the things that come with living in America. Just because it is easier doesn’t make it better in Elizabeth’s eyes and while she claims to Hans that she has no idea about fashion, she does have an effortless and chic style as Elizabeth Jennings. Maybe not so much with some of the disguises, but in the role she plays the most she is stylish. Also Hans don’t get the stonewash jeans.

the Americans 3.03 blonde wigChoice is also looped into this debate and it is Philip’s main argument why he doesn’t want to tell Paige about who they are. Gabriel continues to play the concerned and caring parent role to Philip and Elizabeth as he tells Philip everything he thinks he wants to hear; that Paige will have a choice as there is “always a choice.” Philip is having none of this and storms out after emphasizing how young Paige is and because she has grown up in this comfortable environment she isn’t “equipped to deal with this shit.” Earlier in the episode over a game of Scrabble – I love that they haven’t gone for the obvious chess or checkers route – what happened with Jared comes up and while I don’t think Philip fears an act of violence I do think he is worried Paige will reject them.

The channels of discussion remain open even with Philip’s hostility toward Elizabeth about the present; she hasn’t gone ahead and bought the necklace because she wanted to talk to him about it first. Gabriel mentions how Elizabeth looks at Philip differently now – similar to his observation to Elizabeth last week – and if this event had occurred when we first met them I don’t think Elizabeth would have been all that fussed about consulting Philip, she would have probably just done it.

So how to you solve a parenting quandary like this? Currently there is no solution; however they are in harmony once again. The risks this season are somehow even higher than last year and Elizabeth has had two near misses in these first three episodes. While the premiere involved serious physical danger, it is this protracted tailing situation which had me noting SO MUCH TENSION (all caps required) and even though at this point we know Elizabeth will get away the stakes have been raised. The push/pull is between how much they need the information about the CIA’s Afghan group and how close they will get before they get caught. This one ended up with a big score even if Gabriel is reticent about their methods; now they have a babysitter to target and if only Paige was already in the family business.

Elizabeth tells Hans that even though there is chemistry between them (it’s a spy thing) nothing is going to happen in part because “sex is dangerous” but also because there is “someone in my life, someone important and I don’t want to screw that up.” An incredibly significant moment as this is the first time Elizabeth has ever explicitly said something like this, even though in Philip’s anger earlier in the episode he expects her to sleep with him. This follows one of the most intimate scenes this show has done and with a lot of these emotionally vulnerable moments on The Americans (like my favorite scene from last season) it doesn’t involve actual sex. It starts with Philip waiting by the phone and gripping the cord as if that might help followed by an emotionally broken Elizabeth as she doesn’t even try to hide her teary and tired eyes. An all enveloping embrace which mirrors the one from the season 2 finale turns into a passionate smooch which is quickly killed by Elizabeth’s continuing tooth problems so what’s a guy to do but help out his wife in her time of need.

At any other time this moment would have led to sex, on this occasion what we get is an excruciating but incredibly tender scene involving pliers and tooth extraction. Even watching through fingers it is hard not to miss the parallels between this and a sex scene. Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys are both incredible throughout the episode and particularly here as Elizabeth gives herself entirely over to Philip trusting him that he can get this done. Like many I find scenes involving teeth hard to watch (ditto anything involving finger/toe nails) and as with last week’s bone breaking they don’t shy away from showing just how grim it is. It takes not one but two attempts to get the full tooth and throughout the close ups on their eyes and the way he smooths down her hair and she grabs hold of his shoulders reveals that despite their current conflict they are united. This is true love. And Stan’s whiskey gift is used in the process which is rather poetic considering it was the FBI that did this.

One quick nitpick – don’t the KGB have a dentist on retainer?

“Tell them what they want to hear over and over and over again. People love to hear how right they are.” This is Stan’s tactic when it comes fooling his target and it is something used on multiple occasions by Philip and Elizabeth. Sometimes you have to go the opposite way and when Oleg’s father wants him transferred back to Moscow most likely as retribution for his conversation with Nina last week, Arkady gives him a choice even though it could negatively impact his own career. Oleg of course decides to stay citing his father’s wish for him to grow up and he is doing so by defying his father’s demand. Sometimes you do get a choice in the KGB.

Shot of the Week

the Americans 3.03 evidence wallWhile this is not quite on the Carrie Mathison level of an evidence wall (needs more color coding) this shows three seasons worth of work in attempting to catch Philip and Elizabeth. Stan notes “They are hard to get” and if only he knew just how close they are. Agent Aderholt could be a problem on several levels; he has caught a KGB spy in the past, he is tenacious and he has taken a shine to Martha. Watch your back Clark.

Disguise of the Week

The Americans 3.03 disguise of the weekAny time Elizabeth has to wear glasses it is pure joy and it seems like with each disguise the frames get even bigger.

Outfit I Would Wear in 2015

The Americans 3.03 OOTWFulfilling both TV and my own leather jacket obsession and pairing it with jeans which are far, far way from stonewash.

New Girl Review: Schmidt’s Dating Mess

2 Oct

At the end New Girl’s second season Schmidt was asked to make a choice between Elizabeth and Cece and he ran away. He’s been doing this since we returned this year and his two timing has come to a head in “Double Date” as he told Nick what he had been doing and it all spiraled from there. This plot has been a bit of a drag as the conclusion was pretty inevitable – that Schmidt would end up with alone – and it’s been a bit of a slog getting here, putting Schmidt firmly in the douchebag category that has been joked about since the pilot.


“In your little brain how do you see this ending?”

Schmidt’s response to Nick’s question is full of awareness, he knows that he’s gone too far and whatever the end result is, it’s going to be terrible and hurt all that are involved (including Nick who gets not one but two junk punches from Cece). So why the big delay? Schmidt blames it on everything from his upbringing to his former weight; the big surprise is who he blames for this resolution and that’s Nick and Jess. The threat he delivers at the end is enough to lose any good faith that he has earned from the audience as a result of his heartfelt confession to Cece and he’s already lost points because his hand was forced. So they’re going full douchebag with Schmidt and it probably isn’t his smartest idea to try and break up two of the three people he lives with. Delivering this threat with pie all over his face was wonderfully absurd and made the whole thing so ridiculous that you can almost forgive that Nick and Jess didn’t stand up to him over this BS.

There is no one to blame but Schmidt and it’s not like he has been two-timing women who he only met recently; Elizabeth is his first love and his feelings for Cece run deep. Hannah Simone nails the heartbreak of Cece as her eyes tear up and this quiet reaction is the opposite of what she has just done to Nick. Simone’s role within the group is often as the outsider as she is the only one of the regulars that doesn’t live in the loft and it will be interesting to see how they incorporate her now that she doesn’t want to see Schmidt ever again. The last time they had a period like this was between seasons 1 and 2 so that was all off screen.

Tonally this episode was all over the place and the breakup scene in the restaurant was pretty laugh free. Last week I discussed how New Girl excels at balancing the absurd moments with real emotions and while both of these factors were at play in “Double Date” it wasn’t as successful in switching between the two. Something felt off and Schmidt’s delaying tactics help turn him into the loft villain – as much as a villain as a sitcom can have – coupled with his Nick/Jess threat. This is probably just laying the groundwork for some Schmidt self-discovery, but at the moment it just reads as pointless bitterness.

One aspect that continues to play well is Nick and Jess as a couple from their country lawyer sex fantasies to the rather healthy bathroom discussion about how they feel about each other. It turns out that Nick’s driving style (because he totally needs glasses) is more likely to cause contention than their divided BFF loyalty. The funniest moment is as they list all the things that Schmidt might try and use to break them up including being sexually attracted to ladybugs, thinking the Kilborn Daily Show is better and being banned from Lake Ontario. It also turns out that they both think horses are from outer space (and I really want to see all the alt takes for this scene). Oh and Jess happens to know a lot of Spaceballs quotes that are perfect for no kissing sex.

Hanging by himself once again is Winston and this makes the third week where Winston’s story has been mostly solo. Hopefully this is building towards something and they definitely made a point of him realizing that he is the only one of the group who doesn’t have a significant other, unless you count Ferguson the cat. Now Schmidt is also in this position he might try and get Winston on his Jess/Nick breakup team especially if he dangles the prospect of pranks in front of Winston. Lamorne Morris excels at the crazier aspects of Winston so trying to keep hold of a community table for several hours allowed him to showcase this. Winston performed an important PSA too and you should always check that mints in restaurants are in fact mints and not a piece of glass.

This is of course still early in the season and events from the finale are still having a big impact on the narrative. So while it wasn’t the best episode of New Girl there has been it’s a necessary one to sort out the Schmidt/Cece/Elizabeth business. On the whole it made me laugh a bunch and Hannah Simone made me incredibly sad with her reaction to Schmidt’s cheating so it covered the emotional scale. So long Merritt Wever, you’re brilliant and I really hope you will come back on this show in the future.

Julie Hammerle

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