New Girl Review: Leather, Teddy Roosevelt and Wistfulness

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It’s a clash for the ages. Little ol’ Jessica Day from "Main Street America" with her quirky bowler hats and condom-covered-cucumbers comes face to face with a totally, incredibly, normal person who just happens to be straight out of a movie about Wall Street (they’re people, too... I think). So what does Jess do when Russell Schiller (Dermot Mulroney) waltzes into her classroom in "Fancyman (Part 1)?"

She’s awkward and feisty and confused. Essentially, she’s herself. But Tanya, the principal, doesn’t like that Jess confronted Mr. Schiller about his stance on creativity for his daughter (spoiler: he’s against it), and since he’s one of the biggest donors to the school, Tanya demands that Jess apologize.

This doesn’t sit right with Jess, and "Fancyman" quickly becomes a plot about power, a classic American struggle between the have and the have-nots, an age old tale of a pretty girl who accidentally gets soaked when she pushes the wrong button on the Japanese bidet.

Dermot Mulroney on New Girl

Russell isn’t an easy guy to like at first. He’s pompous and condescending, but his actions somehow contradict his tone; he rescues Jess when her car breaks down, gets her car fixed, invites her to his barbecue. These all seem like decent things to do, but they come across as manipulative. For all the ladies out there... didn’t this creep you out? He’s like a scheming Prince Charming, and Jess is on to him. She doesn’t want to become a victim of his upper class charisma. 

Nick commiserates with Jess. Having officially joined the ranks of the financially disenfranchised due to an incredibly low credit score, which bars him from buying a cell phone, Nick is brimming with Occupy rhetoric to fan Jess’ fire. But the rest of the gang isn’t so sure. 

CeCe thinks Russell’s self-sufficiency intimidates Jess. She’s unsure of how to interact with him because she wouldn’t have to take care of him; in fact, he could take care of her. Unlike Jess, CeCe is a power player like Russell, so it’s easy for her to offer advice to our confused little Jess. But is it the right advice? Did you guys bristle at the idea that Jess needs to find a man to take care of her? 

It’s true that Jess should steer clear of relationships where she has to “mother” her significant other, like with Spencer, but giving a guy a chance just because he can take care of you seems like a bad idea. It makes me wonder what, if anything, "Fancyman" is trying to say. 

New Girl is not a political show, but it’s hard to ignore "Fancyman’s" context. Bringing the Occupy rhetoric into a story shouldn’t just be cultural shorthand to suggest financial and political activism; it should mean something. Then, pairing that with overtones of feminism (should Jess give in and date the rich man who can take care of her, or should she stand up for her principles?) in the midst of all the upheaval over women’s rights is a tricky line to walk. 

But, in the end, it seems that Jess can have her cake and eat it too. After struggling with her socio-economic and just plain regular awkwardness around Russell, she discovers that he’s actually a pretty decent guy. She admits that she thinks his stance on his daughter’s creativity is wrong AND still gets to go on a date with him.  

Nick is a different story. His fervent support of the 99% simply drains away when he enters Russell’s home. He’s seduced by the lavishness and masculinity of it all, and has some really hilarious things to say about it. There are a bunch of his one-liners on the New Girl quotes page, but I know I missed some, so leave them in the comments below!

What’s troubling about Nick’s storyline is that Russell’s success and wealth is attributed to him just growing up. We all know Nick needs to mature a little and get basic things like a wallet, but it seems that New Girl came dangerously close to suggesting that people who try to buck the system, people like Occupy Wall Street supporters, need to grow up. 

While Jess and Nick are off trying to stick it to the man, Winston and Schmidt battle it out over trivia. Even though it seems like Winston is always relegated to the B plot, there are some good things this week such as the return of Elvin, who Nick is a part-time nanny for, and Winston and Shelby finally sealing the deal and declaring themselves in a relationship.

"Fancyman" is apparently a two-part episode (either that or New Girl is getting really meta and just titling this "Part 1" to mess with us), so hopefully this dynamic between Jess and Russell can continue to unfurl and, as Mulroney has hinted, add some much needed complexity.

Stray Observations

  • I didn’t really feel like this needed to be a two-part episode. Usually there’s some sort of cliffhanger at the end of the first half, and there wasn’t here, which makes me think maybe New Girl is playing with us?
  • Being in Jess’ sexual health class is probably uncomfortable and awesome all at the same time.
  • How long do you think you could last in the court of the Sun King? Bonus points if you know who the Sun King was. 

Fancyman (Part 1) Review

Editor Rating: 3.3 / 5.0
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User Rating:

Rating: 4.3 / 5.0 (118 Votes)
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New Girl Season 1 Episode 17 Quotes

Do you have like a box of charity phones you're sending to Africa? Can he just have one of those?


He smells of strong coffee and going to see a man about a horse.