By Lanford Beard
November 20, 2012 at 12:00 PM EST
Ray Mickshaw/Fox
  • TV Show

While I’m not entirely sure anything can top last year’s dryer turkey, the news that Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner would guest as Jess’s parents on this year’s Very Special Episode of New Girl was certainly enough to pique my interest. Put two of the most influential people in Christopher Guest’s life on a show that involves a lot of improv hilarity, add in The Daily Show‘s Rob Riggle as Schmidt’s beer-swilling cousin, and we couldn’t lose, right?

The episode basically took the form that of Friends‘ “The One With The Two Parties” episode, with Jess planning an elaborate Thanksgiving day scheme so her rancorously divorced parents wouldn’t have to spend even a second together. Nick explained her parents to the roommates: Her mom was the “perky” one (which, on a Jess scale means mom’s chirp must go to 11), and her dad… well, let’s just say she told Nick, “You’re going to love my dad, he’s so unhappy.”

Needless to say, the entire plan went out the window when her dad Bob showed up early — right as Jess’s Pilgrim hat-wearing mom Joan urged the roommates and Cece to join in on a “hug ball.” He deadpanned, “You know what I’m thankful for today? Divorce.”

Then again, Cece was convinced Jess lied about her scheduled visits and had actually misinformed her parents to enact some sort of Parent Trap-style re-meet-cute. We learned via “Flashback” that teen Jess trapped her parents in a heart-filled room to listen to Vanessa Williams’ “Save the Best for Last” on repeat — and it wasn’t the first time… that day. Nor was it the last — she later sent her father a naked shower photo of her mom in hopes it might rekindle the old flame. In case you were wondering, none of those schemes worked. Which brought us back to the present where Bob and Joan were throwing daggers with their eyes and passive-aggressive jives with their tongues.

It wasn’t long before Jess spilled that her stepmother had cheated on Bob. (“I thought everyone knew,” she qualified. “You grieved so publicly on Instagram — all those pictures of sad trees and your lunches”). Of course that was a ruse, as she slipped away and queued up some Jim Croce to get them nostalgic as Joan comforted Bob. While they reminisced, she went about recruiting Cece and Nick, who poo-poohed, “A Parent Trap takes weeks of planning. This is a makeshift Parent Trap. This won’t work.” And yet he still signed on.

While Cece and Jess tarted up Joan to look like “a slutty Katie Couric,” Bob and Nick bonded over conspiracy theories. Nick even shared the latest on his novel, though Bob almost immediately sussed out that Z Is for Zombie is basically an exact knock-off of Twilight. (Nick: “Well… then whoever wrote that is smart.”) The structure of Jess’s Parent Trap became increasingly unclear as Jess moved Nick from Bob to Joan. She claimed Bob would get jealous if Nick hit on Joan, but I suspect she just wanted to credit Nick with the phrase “bewitching decolletage.”

The site of Nick trying to look sexy basting a turkey prompted Bob to call out Jess for trying for Parent Trap them. As she went to call it off, it turned out that Nick had gotten a little too invested in the act and was experiencing a rush of cougar love for Joan. The resulting altercation with Jess led to Bob getting a face full of basting fluids. Joan offered to help him clean up and, before anyone knew what had happened, they were making out in the bathroom. To be continued…

NEXT: Two Schmidts

Another guest at the party was Schmidt’s cousin Big Schmidt. Schmidt claimed he’d been “raised by wolf-like parents in the wilds of Minnesota” and “put in juvie for stealing the synagogue’s minivan” as a teen. As he loaded cheap beer into a cooler, he assured Winston his cousin had changed. But BS arrived and declared his recent return to bachelorhood, issuing such gems as “I’m thankful for twins. They’re like sisters, only they do it!” It could have easily been surmised that it would be Cece that would spark the competition between these two. BS couldn’t believe she’d ever slummed to be with his cousin, and Schmidt’s pride was ruffled. Winston seized on the opportunity to set up a contest between the cousins to declare “the one true Schmidt.”

Somehow this contest involved BS wheelbarrowing Schmidt while they yelled at Winston, “I could do this all day!” After several mini-contests, Winston was ready to declare the contest a draw. I’ll just let him explain: “You did touch a hotter pan, but he ate a much bigger candle. You belched longer, but he farted louder. You punched a tree, he headbutted a bench. You both bailed on the fifth ball-punch.” Enter BS, who said ominously, “I got the belts rigged up in the bedroom. Are you ready to see who blacks out first?” That was Schimdt’s breaking point, and he declared defiantly to BS, “Your caveman ideas about manhood are over. Manhood today is about exfoliation and cheese courses and honesty and Paxil. And, yes, cutting peppers in classic stile de julienne. You may have bested me in a competition of pre-Clinton manhood, but I am Schmidt — a refined and enlightened pescetarian (90 percent of the time).”

Oh, but it wasn’t over! Seeing Schmidt’s challenge and raising it, BS chopped up some peppers with great aplomb. With that, it was round two. They both excelled at gourmet meal design, so Cece threw down the ultimate gambit, telling them the ultimate test of a man would be who could kiss another man. And — twist! — she decided to turn the tables on Winston. He would be the ultimate prize.

There attention was diverted when Nick let it slip that he saw Jess’s parents hooking up in the bathroom. They insisted it was nothing, somehow the Schmidts volunteered themselves as Joan’s future objects, and Cece revealed that she’d scratched Joan’s van as a teenager because Jess was high on a pot brownie. What I’m saying is, it was one of those only-on-Thanksgiving arguments in which Jess started out making a toast about family and ended up exploding at the rest of the table. Long story short, she accepted the fact that she’d never be able to trap her parents into getting back together, that they were happier apart, and that she might find a better future moving to Miami with Joan to “Grey Gardens the crap out of a condo” together. Then again, all those epiphanies didn’t stop Bob and Joan from banging one last time in the elevator for old times’ sake.

Oh yeah, and Big Schmidt learned that victory is bittersweet when the wages of war involve kissing another dude.

NEXT: “Nice squeeze bottle work there, Bobby Flay.”

Notable dotables…

Jess: I just want to warn you guys that my mom’s a little bit perky.

Winston: Wait, you think she’s perky?

Jess: Well, she doesn’t have my dark side. I got that from my dad.

Bob: No, no, no. It was my mistake. I’ll wait five hours and come back when Joan’s shift is up.

Joan: Bob, just stay! What if we need something ruined?

Jess: Mom!

Bob: It’s all right. I’ll spend my holiday at a Los Angeles coffee shop, sitting around with people who have nothing better to do on Thanksgiving than work on their screenplay. I probably won’t want to blow my head off.

Schmidt: Look at that plating. It is impeccable.

Big Schmidt: Nice squeeze bottle work there, Bobby Flay.

Schmidt: He is still relevant!

Big Schmidt: Where? Phoenix?

Read more:

‘New Girl’: Fifty Shades of Schmidt

‘New Girl,’ ‘The Mindy Project,’ and ‘Ben and Kate’ review: Girls gone goofy for Halloween? Not exactly

Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.
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