TV Review: ‘New Girl’ 5×02 “What About Fred?”


Welcome back to my weekly New Girl review! To catch up on last week’s episode, check out my previous coverage here.

The season 5 premiere of New Girl was, in my eyes, a triumph for a show that had once lost its way. It was finding its way back home, less so by retracing its steps but by closing its eyes and remembering how strong it had once been. “Big Mama P” heavily hinted at a shift in character/show evolution that the season’s second episode, “What About Fred?” seems to uphold. Or, at least, attempts to. Development and maturity are pivotal to the success of a show. Audiences want to watch a story unfold and see how a character battles through the storm or blooms in fair weather. We’ve long ditched the static for elastic, but some sitcoms still have rigidity lingering about. What has me excited about New Girl is this genuine feeling of movement, and I so hope it continues throughout this season.

Let’s take a look at each character and see how their personal growth is coming along in this week’s episode.

Jess: Little Ms. Day is getting set up by her friend Sadie – remember her? – but, unfortunately, the man in question is possibly the dullest person on the planet. Fred (Taran Killam) is a socially inelnewgirl_taranegant, cheese-obsessed thirty-something who invites Jess over to watch a movie in his “dope-ass home theater,” an offer that Jess says makes him seem like “he’s a boy that’s allergic to everything.” While Fred is stale and unstimulating, his parents Flip and Nancy (Henry Winkler and Julie Hagerty) quickly become Jess’s muses. They are a coffee-bean roasting, picnic-having, Parisian-living couple with 35 years of marriage under their belt, and Jess falls madly in love with them. So much so that she considers settling for Fred’s dry personality to continue spending time with the fascinating and fun-loving duo. Thankfully, after a long-winded monologue about Fred’s intense love of model trains, Jess realizes she is worth much more than someone in whom she has no interest. Her biggest breakthrough? The self-realization that she shouldn’t make relationship decisions based on impatience or envy of others: “I can’t just settle down to settle down.”

Winston: In the same vein as Jess’s, Winston’s development stems from relationship woes. Winston, who had previously been down-on-his-luck in terms of romantic prospects, gives Jess some sage advice: she must start somewhere if she wants a real, mature relationship. In some ways, he is also speaking to himself, as he has had difficulties figuring out where his relationship with KC stands. Though it is slight, this minor development is the first step toward who, and what, we know Winston can be.

Nick: Nick Miller, Nick Miller. I am so proud of him! The acquisition of 10% of the bar was a major milestone for Nick and Schmidt, and it comes as no shock newgirl5x02_nickthat the pair have different managerial styles. While Nick wants to keep up his shot-glass-sliding antics with co-worker Javier, Schmidt wants Nick to toughen up and rule with an iron fist. Though he fumbles with a leadership speech during his first meeting — opening with, “I am Nicholas Miller, an American from Chicago” — Nick finds a comfortable middle ground. He compromises, being just firm enough to make sure the bar doesn’t go under, but still remaining true to his class-clown-like roots. He takes things in stride, marching to the beat of his own drum all while being conscious that he doesn’t fall out of line. Like he had done in last week’s episode, Nick expresses a want to take more responsibility, to be a better man. A round of drinks in Nick’s honor would be fitting.

Schmidt: Like Winston, Schmidt didn’t show a ton of development this week, but didn’t go entirely without. The most notable shift is Schmidt’s faith in Nick. While the buds have always been the best of, and have had one another’s back countless times, Schmidt took the training wheels off Nick’s life this week. “Within every man is a ‘man-ager,'” he shares with Nick, telling him that he needs to prove himself a leader, and if he fails, his friends will be without a job. His sternness is an important wake-up call for Nick, and differs from the skirting-around-the-issue we had seen Schmidt do in the past for fear of causing conflict with Nick.

Cece: Save the worst for last? Cece confused me this week. As a Cece Parekh supporter, I know how much potential the character has, and how well Hannah Simone works with her quirks to portray her in a well-rounded light. But this week, Cece wasn’t just flat; she wasn’t Cece. Her rebellion against Nick’s newly-implemented bar policies, and her subsequent walk-out, felt not only forced but completely out of character. I truly hope this was an isolated incident of awkwardness for Cece, and that the upcoming episodes find her on the right track.

In terms of humor, “What About Fred?” was batting nearly a .400. From lines like “I gotta break up with that human pile of saltine dust,” to the many Schmidt-isms, the episode was solid in its cheek and sass. But New Girl making me laugh isn’t surprising, and isn’t something I’m entirely worried about for this season. What I am concerned with is what I think a lot of the audience is as well: development. “What About Fred?” was a step forward for some characters — mostly Nick, whose growth is showing incredible promise — but also threatened a total derailment for others — most surprisingly Cece. Progress isn’t straightforward, however, so I am definitely looking forward to future episodes to see how the gang fares. New Girl, don’t fail me now!

Highlights: Schmidt insisting he’s more of a “show up late at night with [his] Argentinian friends” kind of bar owner. Winston’s lines, “You seem like you’re on cocaine,” and “Don’t talk to me like I’m some bastard who doesn’t enjoy a good sunset.” Comparing being in a relationship to making risotto. “SAVE YOUR GROANS FOR BIRD-MUN!”

Rating: 8/10

AJ Caulfield is a 22-year-old writer, massive goofball, and quite possibly Leslie Knope's long-lost twin. She's a big fan of 80's rock music, female-directed films, and Mad Men.