Last time we saw New Girl, a long two weeks ago, Jess’ older sister Abby (Linda Cardellini) had temporarily moved into the loft and the show. It was a good move to throw in a person that effortlessly fits in with the rest of the group (both Abby as a character and Cardellini as an actress) but also, simultaneously, is different enough that she’s going to do some serious damage and throw these people for a loop. And that’s exactly what she does in “Sister II.”
“Sister II” quickly establishes that Abby fits in with the guys by playing games like “Sky Knife” (a game that consists of throwing knives at the ceiling and provides a wonderful recurring gag) and pulling pranks on Jess. The guys like her. She’s not cute, zany, and controlled fun like Jess but wild, troublesome, and up for whatever fun. The roommates love Jess, but they will still welcome her opposite. Abby decides that she wants to permanently move in and it’s a decision that sends Jess into panic mode. Jess loves Abby and wants to help, but she’s not up for living with someone who is wanted in Canada (“No one is wanted in Canada!”). The sitcom solution? Secretly find Abby an apartment and then convince her that it was her idea in the first place. The flaw in the plan is Nick because he can’t tell a lie and doesn’t work well under pressure. The plan does not go well.
But before we dive into that mess, it’s Winston time! It looks like Winston may actually have a real storyline — wait, he may actually have an upcoming extended narrative arc that will further develop his character while amusing the viewers! What a happy day for New Girl, what a happy day for us all. I give the show a lot of shit for its Winston Problem but in truth, he hasn’t been totally ignored this season (I just always want more and preferably more over Schmidt) because there have been bits building in the background, bits with him flailing in the deep end. He’s been going through what happens when you’re unemployed for too long and can’t catch a break: the need to fill a gap makes you become obsessive over something trivial, like puzzles or getting too invested in a feline’s love life.
At some point, Winston apparently took the LAPD police exam and is waiting to hear his results. Abby freaks him out about how it’s a big career change and puts the fear of failure into his brain (because Abby must negatively interact with the roommates for her story to really work). A panicked and procrastinating Winston ends up at Coach’s gym who eventually gets frustrated and checks the results himself. (“Why don’t television characters ever have a passcode on their phone?” I wondered out loud shortly before Coach yells to Winston, “You should probably put a passcode on your phone, dude.” I love this show.) Winston failed. Again.
“Sister II” gets a bit explicit with Winston as he plainly lays out his problems on the table. He’s 31. He hasn’t found a job. He’s having a crisis. He doesn’t know how to deal. Coach tries to get Winston a job at the gym but he quickly blows the interview and learns that he didn’t even full out the back of the application. There’s an “Aha!” moment when Winston convinces himself that was the problem with the police exam — he didn’t fail, he’s just so careless he forgot to finish the back. They head down to the station (I am really loving this Coach and Winston pairing, by the way) and there is this oh so perfect and hilarious reveal that the exam was done on a computer. There is no back page. Coach gives him a terrible but effective pep talk, essentially informing Winston that now that he’s hit rock bottom, he can do whatever because there’s nothing left to be afraid of. Again, too explicit and not quite as earned as I’d like (Winston needed a little more than what the season has given him in order for this to truly be a moment) but I’ll take it.
Jess goes apartment hunting with Cece and finds an acceptable, plain, no-way-to-get-into-trouble-here place for her sister but elsewhere, Nick has already spilled the beans. He has a hard time keeping secrets, especially when stuck with the pressure of Abby climbing on top of a fancy car and threatening to fuck it up if Nick doesn’t explain exactly what is going on. Nick is over his head and calls in backup in Schmidt because, as he puts it, “crazy girls are my Hurt Locker.” Schmidt’s smooth “Let’s go get a taco” immediately works and he takes off with Abby.
There is even more escalation when Nick later learns that Abby and Schmidt have just started having sex — limbs-bound-with-suit-ties, apple-in-mouth sex — which will complicate, well, everything for everyone. This isn’t shocking because it was bound to happen. New Girl wouldn’t introduce Abby without the intention of her crushing on a roommate. We were all just hoping it wouldn’t go the cheap and heavy route of having her crush on Nick.
This adds an extra layer to multiple stories: Nick worrying about Jess getting angry (she might say his name in that short, clipped way where she doesn’t say the “k” at the end), Abby getting revenge and giving herself a reason to stay, and Schmidt doing something stupid because he can’t control himself around women even if he knows Jess wouldn’t be okay with it. Side note: Schmidt really is the worst sometimes, huh?
Everything comes to a head at dinner. Jess and Nick have an awkward, scripted conversation trying to sell Abby on the new apartment that she’s pretending she doesn’t already know about. Abby blatantly flirts with Schmidt, making Nick increasingly uncomfortable. Secrets are revealed and Jess tears into Abby, telling her that she’s done trying to fix her because Abby simply doesn’t care about about anyone or anything. (Lovely, perfectly-written Nick chimes in to say that Abby is a garbage person who should live in a dumpster with snails.) But Abby doesn’t pack up her things and move to the apartment or back home, nor does she stay in the current loft. Instead she decides she’s going to move across the hall with Schmidt (and there’s his punishment!). Abby’s been a good character these last two episodes, effectively screwing up the lives of her core group and setting things up to get knocked down. Now we just have to wait and see how this all concludes next week.