Jess invited her cute teacher friend to Thanksgiving, and it was as adorable as a calamitous night climaxing in the discovery of a dead body could be

By Lanford Beard
November 16, 2011 at 10:30 AM EST
Patrick McElhenney/Fox
S1 E6
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Jess developed a crush on her fellow teacher, Paul Gunslinger (Justin Long) this week, and it was easy to see why. He was the kind of guy who’d bring a violin to a virtual stranger’s apartment, who’d call football halftime “intermission,” and who’d laugh when Jess asked, “Whatcha gobblin’ about, turkeys?” Is it any coincidence you can condense the phrase “Male Jess” into one word: Mess? Oh, I kid! All in all, Long was winsome as he began his three-episode arc on tonight’s Very Special Thanksgiving episode of New Girl. And by “special,” I mean there was singing, a turkey partially cooked in a clothing dryer, and the entirely unexpected addition of a dead body in the third act. All that without even mentioning Jess’s crazy-funny rant about wanting to get it on and Schmidt’s obsessive-compulsive persona in the kitchen.

It all began backstage at the elementary school Thanksgiving pageant. Dressed as a man-sized gourd, Paul revealed to Jess (who was decked out in a pretty impressive turkey costume herself) that he always spends Thanksgiving with his Nana, but she died last month. Jess’s first instinct was to invite him over to her place for Thanksgiving because it’s always a great idea, as Nick said, to “be the girl who replaces his dead Nana.” (Cue Jess’s peppy response: “I know!”) On the bright side, at least she has the wardrobe for it. Naturally, Nick had some arbitrary ideological opposition to Thanksgiving because he’s like a snarky shark — if he’s not grousing against something, he’ll die.

Too late, Jess told the guys later that night, because she’d already bought a gigantic turkey and invited Paul. Schmidt: “Be honest. Is the turkey named Paul?” In fact, its name was Hank, Hank Sgiving. Jess adorably gushed about how hot Paul was, which was met by a subtle but definite look of jealousy from Nick. But there was no time to dwell because Thanksgiving was upon them! As you might have guessed, Jess has no expertise whatsoever in cooking or organizing a large dinner of this magnitude.

But what she does have is a whole lot of moxie! Hoping to lure Schmidt to her side — where Schmidt goes, the others invariably follow — she dropped CeCe’s name into the mix. Soon enough, Schmidt volunteered to prepare the feast under the condition that no one jeopardize his culinary mission: “I don’t want you touching anything, and I don’t want to hear, ‘Schmidt, Schmidt! You’re using too much tarragon’ because I’m not.” The Tarragon Issue (which should totally be the name of a Peoria-based garage band) was one thing, but the other stipulation? Let’s put it this way: Schmidt just gave the okay for CeCe — whose only joy in life is to mess with others — to be part of this event, so I think we all knew where this was going.

NEXT: It’s Turkey Lurking Time for CeCe

It wouldn’t be an easy row to hoe, starting with the fact that Jess literally snapped a meat thermometer in half trying to spear it into her still frozen turkey. Then, with only three hours to cook, she and Schmidt couldn’t fit the massive bird in the oven. She whined, “I can’t get it in!” Schmidt couldn’t resist: “We’ve all been there, am I right?” Schmidt set about beating the fowl with a tennis racket, which was absurd… and awesome! When that failed, Jess wrapped her arms around the Butterball and curled up in a fetal position: “Maybe if I take off all my clothes, the heat from my body will warm it up?” Jess, this is cooking, not that ridiculous tent scene from Twilight: Eclipse. Alas, Jess wasn’t a hot-blooded werewolf, and the gang didn’t have a million hours to spare. CeCe arrived amidst this desperation and, despite the guys’ urging, didn’t get naked and lie on top of the turkey with Jess. So they skipped to Plan Z and threw the bird into the clothes dryer. As you do.

Paul arrived before Jess had changed into her party dress, but she made up for any adorability deficit by wearing the Ms. Day’s JAM-boree T-shirt she fought to keep some weeks back and also by breaking into a Michigan J. Frog-style ode to Thanksgiving. While the others stared blankly or cringed at her, Paul jumped right in, tacking on his own crooning verse. Mission: Accomplished. We have found the Male Jess, the Matthau to her Lady Lemmon. Color Nick horrified.

While the turkey “cooked,” Jess took Nick aside and gave him explicit orders not to do “that thing” that he does. What thing, you ask? Turtle face. (Much credit to Jake Johnson for bringing the physicality to this bit.) Elsewhere, Paul knocked back pumpkin ales and got to know the roommates. Anticipating the possibility that Paul might become a regular presence at the apartment, Winston led the charge, urging his bros, “We don’t know him. We need to figure out if he’s the right guy for us.” He invited Paul to play a game of word association. By which I mean, Paul sputtered, “Kazoo!” before the game even began, then punctuated his final answer by pulling out a — you guessed it! — kazoo.

Over in the kitchen, CeCe inadvertently triggered Schmidt’s OCD by sticking her dirty hands all up in his food. He literally recoiled when she tried to feed him a walnut she had touched, threw an entire bowl away because it had been “compromised,” and began washing his hands furiously as he muttered, “Beautiful savage…” Ironically, his squirming proved an aphrodisiac for CeCe, and she began to flirt with him by shoving mashed potatoes on his nose and sticking her fingers in his pudding (neither of which is a euphemism). All he could muster between gagging convulsions was, “So gross!” Of course the only time CeCe actively pursued Schmidt would be the one time he was too in his own head to notice.

NEXT: Smoke gets in your eyes

Since the gang was out of walnuts, Jess urged Nick to drive Paul (who was tipsy from two pumpkin ales) to the store. Along the way, Nick learned that Paul is also prone to bursting into song, they exchanged some riveting patter about the weather, and Paul managed to insult Nick about 14 times in the space of a minute before pointing out his local photocopy shop. Thrilling stuff. Suffice it to say, by the time they returned to the apartment, Paul had an inkling that Nick wasn’t his biggest fan. Not unlike their relationship, the turkey went up in flames seconds later. Schmidt sprinted to the dryer like he was auditioning for Backdraft: The Musical, removing his shirt and fanning the plumes of smoke wildly. Once he had saved the turkey, the other guys joined in, but the smoke soon took over the whole apartment. Schmidt: “It’s like a Prince video in here!” (And later, “My Lasik eye is freaking out!”)

Jess saved the day by using her key to the apartment of the next door neighbor, Ms. Beverly. Once the others headed in, Jess slammed the door in front of Nick and called him out for being rude to Paul. Nick insisted he was learning all about Paul — how else would know he likes Air Bud 2? (Note that Nick’s list of facts about Paul would probably overlap significantly with his list of reasons to hate Paul.) More to the point, Nick wondered why Jess would care if he likes Paul since Nick wouldn’t be the one sleeping with him. That was all Jess needed to go off. What followed was a masterful improvisational riff on sex delivered by Zooey Deschanel. It was quintessential Jess — a wacky, utterly misguided attempt to summon every scrap of Karma Sutra or Urban Dictionary she’d ever heard. “I want to sleep with him! Big time! … I want to take him down to Chinatown and slice him off a piece of this pumpkin pie, okay? … I want to do it standing up and sitting down and half up and half down, the Wiggly One and the Bear Attack and the claws and the head stuff that the figure skaters do and the Woods for Lunch and the ‘Give Me That Hat!’…” Winding down (or just running out of made-up sex positions), Jess defiantly told Nick she didn’t care what he thought. He shot back, “Then why did you ask me?” Needless to say, everyone else could totally hear everything she said. Paul stood there, equal parts agasp and agog, as Schmidt gave him the thumbs-up.

Despite the fact that he had a sure bet on his hands (which was even more obvious when Jess weakly lied that she and Nick were rehearsing a new play called Big Time), Paul was concerned about the blatant sexual tension between Nick and Jess. She assured him there was nothing there, which wasn’t strictly a lie since she is in full-on denial. He said his piece to Nick (“At this point in my life, you will never hate me as much as you hate yourself”) and told Jess he would like to see her again… big time.

Schmidt eventually salvaged Hank Sgiving. Everyone gathered around the table, and Schmidt asked Paul to play his violin for them. While Jess recited lines from the school Thanksgiving play, Paul retreated to the back of the apartment for dramatic effect. When he came running at the gang, screaming like a girl, “Dead body! Dead body!” Jess took a minute to register that these were not, in fact, lines from the play. Sure enough, Ms. Beverly was a goner. The ambulance came, and the gang sent a traumatized Paul on his way home… in the very same elevator carrying the days-old corpse.

Some hours later, Paul regained his composure and caught up with the roommates in the pre-sale line at Best Buy. He played a fiddle ditty for Jess, gave the guys footlong sandwiches, and all was right in the world. At least until some jackhole freaked out that Paul was cutting in the line. In a tacit stamp of approval, Nick sacrificed his spot in line to Paul. But he didn’t head to the back alone in the end. Jess and Paul joined him in solidarity, and the others followed. As the dorks in love began belting out a spontaneous song, Schmidt declared, “It’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better.” Even Nick couldn’t suppress a knowing, affectionate laugh at that one.

NEXT: Dudesgiving is definitely on the sexy holiday list 

Notable dotables:

Nick: No, Jess. We’re not doing Thanksgiving. We talked about this. We’re just going to watch football, drink beer, and then we’re going to Best Buy for Black Friday.

Winston: Or as I like to call it, Friday.

Schmidt: It’s our thing, Jess — Dudesgiving.

Nick: Okay, no matter how many e-mails you send, that’s not a thing.

Schmidt: Here’s another tip — don’t ask a guy out on a first date on the least sexy holiday in America.

Jess: What are the most sexy holidays?

Schmidt: The most sexy holidays are Fourth of July, uh… Independence Day obviously, Women’s History Month, and Christmas.

Jess [after throwing a turkey in the dryer]: I put it on permanent press.

Nick: Good, so you don’t have to iron it.

Jess: He’s here early! How do I look?

Schmidt: It’s better if you don’t know.

Jess: I forgot to tell you — Paul brought his violin, and, with a little coaxing, he might fiddle with the old horsehairs.

Paul: Only if you don’t mind being enchanted!

Winston: Okay, here’s what we’re going to do, Paul — just so I can get to know you better and you can get to know me better — we’re going to play a little game.

Paul: Oh, great, fun. Yeah.

Winston: I’m going to say something, and you’re going to say the first thing that pops into your head.

Paul: Kazoo!

Winston: Okay, we haven’t even started yet.

Paul: Okay… I’m going to stick with kazoo.

What did you think, Newbies? Were you cracking up at Schmidt’s culinary OCD? Did you buy CeCe’s sudden crush? Will Nick actually do something about his jealousy or just keep making his turtle face? Where did this episode rank in terms of all the ones we’ve seen so far? Was Paul the fiddlin’ fool a good addition to the mix? What do you want to see from him next?

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Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.
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  • 09/20/11
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