When season 4 is done and dusted, I have a feeling we’ll be considering Spongey McWiping this episode from the official record. Don’t get me wrong, Kaitlin Olson (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) had great comic chemistry with Rob Reiner as Jess’s dad’s girlfriend Ashley. But the chemistry of the core group was sidelined to facilitate a boys-on-one-side, girls-on-the-other structure. I’m not saying every episode has to be a loftmate slumber party, but as we saw last week, the key to successful chemistry lies in how and why the writers combine the strong personalities and complementary talent they have on hand. With all the improv-prone guys in one corner and the straight women in another, Tuesday’s episode felt a little off-kilter. It was a lot of character quirk and rat-a-tat punchlines with very little build-up. Unlike Trashley the sex addict, New Girl needs a little foreplay.
THE BRUNCH BUNCH
Jess invites her father to brunch to meet his new girlfriend, and Cece is tinkling her fingers at the chance to see how the typically hostile Jess will retaliate. Only after the guests arrive do both girls realize they know Ashley from high school. And, well, I’ll just let Jess explain:
“Yes, she sexually intercoursed my high school boyfriend George Jeong under the bleachers—while I was sitting on those bleachers. Have you ever seen sex from above, Cece? It’s horrible. That’s why God thinks it’s a sin. Also? Trashley gave him Giardia in his belly ring. Giardia’s a river disease. She had river mouth. … They called him George Jeong the Giardia Giant, and I never got to hold him in my arms.”
Jess genuinely attempts to accept her father’s relationship; she even listens to her dad sing approximately one quarter of Tal Bachman’s “She’s So High” repeatedly (it was the song he and his cover band the Copays were playing when she first clapped eyes on him). But Ashley doesn’t make the challenge easy with her colorful account of her drug and sex addiction (all conveniently encompassed in an old—yet true—rumor that she’d slept with their high school’s D.A.R.E. officer). Even Bob proudly affirms, “She’s slept with hundreds of men!” At which point, Jess actually starts physically emitting noises of discomfort.
As brunch wraps up, Cece convinces Jess to sneak a peek at Ashley’s phone. They find a text exchange that goes like this (as read by Jess):
At 10:40, Jim heard she was in town.
At 11:52, Jim had his hands down his pants.
And at 11:53, cumin? What? Is he cooking? Cumin?
Ashley indignantly informs Jess that she’s a sex therapist, and Jim is a client. Then she storms out of the loft—but not before saying, “For the record, George Jeong gave me Giardia. I saved you from a hideous river disease.”
After Jess and her dad have a heart-to-heart, Jess spots Ashley heading into her building with a man, and she assumes Ashley is relapsing. Of course the man is Ashley’s sponsor Roy, a self-proclaimed “former sex addict, current chocoholic.” (And, to Jess: “I’d be in trouble if you were black!”) After Ashley storms away again, Jess sends her father after her to enact the spectacular, Tal Bachman-scored proposal he has planned. With only a slight injury to Jess, who gets trapped in a parade of cyclists, Bob and Ashley are officially engaged.
Jess clinks glasses with the loftmates that night: “Here’s to attending a wedding with everyone from high school and my dad’s side of the family. It’s going to be great! It’s like going to prom with all my dad’s friends.”
SPONGEY McWIPEY PITCH
Meanwhile, Schmidt has pinned all his hopes of getting out of the overcrowded, messy loft on landing an account marketing sponges to men, and his boss acquiesces to letting him oversee a focus group. That day. Schmidt calls on the guys for an admittedly “unsavory,” Deep Throat-esque powwow in his office’s parking garage. They think they are getting pizza. Instead they are getting lines (read: LIES!) to memorize for the focus group. A few examples:
“I love sponges because they connect my heart to my hand.”
“Sponges make me feel more exhilarated than any home run or touchdown ever could.”
“I like cleaning. It is the only thing I can control in a world of chaos.”
Predictably, the group is a disaster. Nick spends the session hitting on one of the female participants named Brittany, and Winston and Coach tack bizarre improvisations onto Schmidt’s script. When Schmidt’s boss calls him in to her office, Nick runs in to defend him but just ends up asking if he can borrow their shared room to hook-up with Brittany. Miraculously, the horrifying thought of Nick getting it on in that pigpen was just the inspiration Schmidt needed for his campaign. Framing a sponge as a dude’s ultimate wingman, he intoned, “The Man Sponge: Because the dirtiest thing in a man’s room, should be [a woman].”
Other Noteworthy Tidbits:
Nick is a slob who can’t tell the difference between Sloppy Joe sauce and blood. He’s also seen Winston’s Bishop.
Schmidt has instituted an elaborate organizational system for the loft kitchen, which now houses both a tagine and a French press (that should be in space 64B).
On the other hand, Nick has repurposed a crystal candy bowl as his orange juice “pulp bowl.”
Jess has named her fists Crabtree and Evelyn.
When Coach thinks of sponges, he thinks of cake (spongecake) and “squishy whips.”
Per Nick, Schmidt’s room “is so clean, it looks like the inside of a Japanese subway.”
Nick feels that claiming intercourse takes him 5-7 minutes is “braggy,” but any less than “3 is rude to the girl.” (How lucky was Jess?)
Schmidt-iest Lines of the Night:
To Nick: “You unbelievable pig person. You giant, fat pig person. You sloth. You should be living in a tree in Costa Rica, you know that?”
“No, I’m not happy. I’m poor, and I’m living in a filthy thimble. I’ve gone from riches to rags—it’s a reverse Annie.” (Nick: “Oh, spoiler alert! Now you just ruined Annie.”)
To his boss: “Give me a chance here. Be the one to put Schmidt on the map. Let’s blast America right in the face with a little bit o’ Schmidt.”
“I’m writing my autobiography. Working title: Punting the Sweet Fantastic.”
To Nick: “Do you really think she’s going to have sex with you in that pulp-covered filth bunker?”
Schmidt said it best with his episode-closing personal (and pre-coital) mantra: “Without ash to rise from, a phoenix would just be a bird getting up.” With another spotty episode, it looks like New Girl is still making its way out of the ash. But is it a phoenix, or just a bird?