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New Girl 3×08 “Menus” Recap

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“Ah, hop foo. Don’t mind if I brunch.” 

This week Nick Miller is yet again forced to admit to his lack of action. And then, yet again, he goes against his nature for his roommates.

In “Menus,” Coach asks Nick- after he sees him binging on a breakfast of Chinese food- are you a dumpling guy, or a doing guy? Viewers already know what Nick is, we’ve seen him forced to address this question throughout the second season of New Girl, and so it’s obvious to us that he’s the dumpling guy. But, in the moment, he yells back “Doing guy!” and agrees to let Coach be train him up. It’s a scene that resonates, having a burst of inspiration to get fit, or to start that new project, but then, after a short time- and in Nick’s case after about ten minutes of warm ups in the loft (played perfectly against Britney’s ‘Work Bitch,’)- you give up. Nick tells CeCe that Jess needs an order of Hop Foo for “an emergency” and promptly gets right back to his new-found morning routine.

In the interim, Coach meets Cece and acts like a complete fool- much like Winston when he tries to talk to women. Which makes sense, really, considering that the writers took aspects of what would have been Coach’s character after the pilot, and transported them into Winston. The short scene sets up for what looks to be the next arc for Cece’s character- and another reason for her to be further involved with the loft, since she’s no longer there for Schmidt.

But back to Nick. He and Jess are both struggling to do things in this episode, Nick to work out, and Jess to get her kids transport to visit the ocean. He tells her at the start of the episode not to try so hard. But that, as he tells her at the end, is a part of who she is. Nick’s a dumpling guy, and Jess can often be seen as the complete opposite of that. And that’s the core of their relationship, really. They’re opposites, but they’re opposites who care about each other.

Before she’s on the rampage against the owner of Hop Foo for their mass production of menus around the neighborhood, she tells him, “It’s refreshing to meet someone who actually cares.” This is the crux of Nick and Jess, and something that the writers and Liz Meriwether keep coming back to. Nick isn’t a doing guy. He starts novels and doesn’t finish them. He works at a bar because he dropped out of law school in his last year. He isn’t a finisher, is what they’re telling us. But he cares about Jess enough to at least try.

As for Winston, he’s once again used as a plot device. But in the best ways, Jess wheeling his wheelchair bound, locked-jaw form into Hop Foo to demonstrate the damage that their food- and their large scale menu producing- is doing. Something that leads to a win for Jess’s cause- but in the worst way. The man who had been delivering the menus is fired, and Jess realizes that being selfless and campaigning for a cause doesn’t necessarily mean the best for everybody. There’s a causality in even the good things, and after the failure of her stalled school trip and now this, she comes home and joins Coach to mope on the couch with Chinese food. Suddenly, Nick is faced with two more versions of himself out there in the world. And he doesn’t like it.

Schmidt doesn’t have a lot to do this week either, feeling like he’s “missing everything” from his new place across the hall. And by everything, he means the regular disasters that occur in loft 4b. So naturally, feeling lonely and left out- and isn’t that so typically, sadly endearingly Schmidt- he reacts in the most outlandish way. The entire gang of New Girl is afloat with lost people who are insecure about their lives, but within Scmidt this runs deeper than the rest. And so, instead of being truthful about his feelings- he’s actually super busy- he sets up a camera in the loft. It’s ridiculously obvious, and Nick immediately calls him out on it. “You decided to move out! So move out!”

The end of this week’s episode isn’t very subtle. Nick, the dumpling, has to knock the do-ers out of their slumps. He makes an inspirational speech- of sorts- and his words; so full of care for these people that aim further and higher than Nick has ever let himself imagine, make Jess realize what she needs to do to get her kids on that trip to the ocean, thanks to Hop Foo and their vans. Nick might be a dumpling guy, but that doesn’t stop him realizing that he needs people like Coach and Jess in his life, and it doesn’t stop him from trying, on occasion, when the people in his life that he cares about need a push.

In the end, Jess hands Schmidt back his key (and by extension the ‘in’ that he didn’t know how to ask for) and Nick yells at Coach to teach him how to run. As for Winston, well, Winston makes the most out of the great material he’s been given, and the episode ends with Jess looking on at her kids- and her boys- on the beach.

“You made a difference, how does it feel?”

Rating: A-