A popular television trope that I not only enjoy but actively look forward to is the “Parent Comes To Town” episode of a sitcom. These episodes are especially welcome a few seasons in when we get to see, through the parent, why a certain character is the way that he is. We’ve seen a few parents on New Girl already (most notably, Jess’ folks have appeared a couple of times) and this week, we meet Schmidt’s mother Louise (Nora Dunn) who pays a visit to the loft and temporarily disrupts the status quo.
The rest of the roommates get plenty to do in “The Right Thing” as well. Jess has sexted a man for the first time in her life (though it’s barely a sext, considering she’s wearing a bra over her t-shirt) but he hasn’t responded. When she investigates, she learns that her hook-up has a good reason for ignoring her: He died in a freak accident. Now Jess has to go to his funeral in order to delete the sext from his phone, and she enlists the company of Coach and Cece to help her out, though only Coach sticks around the whole time. Those two are an odd pairing, and not as funny as they should be.
Meanwhile, Nick and Schmidt have the opportunity to buy a percentage of Nick’s bar but don’t have enough cash to do it without help — and it’s not like they can go to their friends: a teacher, a community college student, a cop, etc. This coincides with Louise’s visit and Schmidt reluctantly realizes that he can just ask his mother for his long overdue bar mitzvah money. Because of Schmidt’s age, it’s such a silly plot (but one that works well because of the way he regresses and unravels around Louise) and it only gets sillier when Louise agrees to give him the money under one condition: He finally writes the equally long overdue thank-you notes for all of his bar mitzvah gifts.
While all of this is happening, Winston is trying to bond with his cop partner Aly (Nasim Pedrad, who happily returns) outside of work but she shoots him down at every turn, refusing to even just get a drink together. So when Winston runs into Nick and Schmidt trying to remember names and details of the recipients for the bar mitzvah thank-you notes, he spots an opportunity to get Aly to hang out, claiming that they need to do detective work in order to help them out. Aly wonderfully (and hilariously) commits to the idea that this is work — and only work, certainly not socializing — by going hard on Schmidt, playing bad cop and harshly interrogating him until he comes up with the correct information. It all works but once it’s done, Aly is done, too, and once again declines Winston’s invitation for a “job well done” drink.
Schmidt and Nick finishes up the thank-you notes and bring them to Louise for her approval but she nitpicks and gives Schmidt a list of changes to make, resulting in a miniature freak-out. From there, “The Right Thing” veers into typical adult-and-parent conflict and resolution with Schmidt asserting his independence by claiming he will find the money and buy the bar percentage himself without relying on her. Louise, meanwhile, opens up to a stranger (Cece; Louise has no idea she’s her son’s ex-girlfriend) about the family happenings and gets the advice to essentially back-off because Schmidt is an adult.
All of the storylines resolve pretty neatly: Jess spends a lot of the episode running around being silly and trying to keep her cover at the funeral, only to blurt out why she’s there; Winston has a honest conversation with Aly who admits that she’s hesitant to bond outside of work because her previous partner ended up falling in love with her; Louise agrees to give Schmidt the money and he and Nick become (partial) bar owners.
“The Right Thing” wasn’t an uproariously funny episode of New Girl and I doubt I’ll remember much of what happened a few weeks from now (except Nick’s desperate “Can I have an alcohol?!”) but these episodes are to be expected from time to time. It’s only a little worrisome because New Girl hasn’t been firing on all cylinders recently. It got renewed for a fifth season which normally I would have celebrated but instead the news was met with a shrug; there is nothing in Season 4 that made me wish the show would end while it’s still pretty good but there’s nothing that made me desperate for Season 5.