It had to happen. Jess had to find a male counterpart, one who’s as adorkable as she is, (six episodes in, I had to use the cringeworthy word at least once) to double the quirkiness of the show. With this week’s episode, the appropriately titled “Thanksgiving,” we meet Jess’ match, Paul, a teacher at Jess’ school played by Justin Long.
Paul has recently lost his grandmother, whom he used to spend Thanksgiving with. Jess takes this as an opportunity to invite him over for the holiday, even though she has no idea how to cook and, as Schmidt points out, Thanksgiving is the least sexy holiday— unlike the sexy holidays “Fourth of July, Independence Day, Women’s History Month and Christmas.” Schmidt decides to make the Thanksgiving dinner, even though despite hugs and putting it in the dryer, they cannot unthaw their turkey, named Hanks Giving.
Paul shows up, and Long does a pretty decent job as the male version of Jess; he’s incredibly awkward, and he would rather watch the robot turkey on the Thanksgiving Day Parade then watch the Lions play football. Winston instantly takes to Paul, bonding over grandparents. Nick instantly dislikes him, having double the weirdness in his apartment, and Schmidt is too busy cooking and being a neat freak to even notice Cece clearly hitting on him, let alone Jess’ new violin-playing beau.
When the dryer catches on fire due to thawing out the turkey, making the apartment look like “a Prince video,” Jess volunteers the apartment of the nice old lady down the hall, who is out of town and has given her a key. Jess confronts Nick’s stubbornness by explaining a myriad of different sex moves she wants to try with Paul, like the “Give Me That Hat” move. Their Thanksgiving comes to an abrupt halt, as they find the apartment’s tenant dead on the toilet, causing Paul to run away. Later that night, the group gets together for Black Friday outside Best Buy, where Paul plays the violin for Jess and apologizes for running away, as well as finding favor with the guys by bringing turkey subs. The two actually run into the distance, hand-in-hand and skipping, leaving the rest of the line to watch in awe of this odd, yet perfectly matched couple.
“Thanksgiving” is kind of an unusual episode. It sets up future elements, such as the fact that now Cece wants Schmidt just as much as he wants her and the jealous nature of Nick. While Paul is a fun addition, with such a high-profile guest star, it’s obvious his appearance on the show will be short-lived, so it’s hard to invest too much into this character. Also, it seems somewhat clear that his ultimate undoing will be that he is just too similar to Jess.
After last episode, it is nice to see Cece joining the cast for much larger portions of time. She gets some great comedic moments here with Schmidt, and Winston even gets a few nice moments like he did in “Wedding” with Paul.
The show’s creator Elizabeth Meriwether has recently stated in interviews that Jess and Nick will not get together this season, but will grow closer as friends and then in the future, who knows? But six episodes in, it seems like their relationship is still building towards a season-ending acknowledgement of mutual affection. It would be nice if New Girl could pull a Community and defy the relationship goals it is clearly trying to set up in the first few episodes.