The True American’s Guide to ‘New Girl’ Thanksgiving Episodes

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Published November 24, 2021
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The cast of "New Girl" during the episode "Thanksgiving." Photo courtesy of Netflix

Thanksgiving episodes have become a staple of American sitcoms, but few shows do Thanksgiving better than “New Girl.”

“New Girl,” currently available on Netflix, features a group of quirky and lovable roommates navigating life together, with plenty of fun, wacky twists along the way.

It stars Zooey Deschanel as Jess, a quirky optimist who moves into a loft with three men following a breakup with her boyfriend. Despite her initial clashes with Nick (Jake Johnson), a grumpy bartender, Schmidt (Max Greenfield), the ultimate ladies’ man, and Winston (Lamorne Morris), a silly prankster, the four quickly become friends.

The cast also features Jess’ best friend, Cece (Hannah Simone) and, during seasons three and four, Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.), an intense yet approachable athletic trainer.

Over the course of its run, “New Girl” had five Thanksgiving episodes full of laughs and zany plotlines. Here are the episodes ranked worst to best:

#5. “Last Thanksgiving” (Season 6, Episode 7)

"Last Thanksgiving" fails to compare to other Thanksgiving episodes of "New Girl." Photo courtesy of Netflix

“Last Thanksgiving” fails to compare to other Thanksgiving episodes of “New Girl.”
Photo courtesy of Netflix

Season six’s episode is the most underwhelming of the Thanksgiving episodes. While it features talented guest stars and has some funny moments, it ultimately pales in comparison to its counterparts.

The main plot features Jess debating whether or not to break up with her boyfriend Robby, played by Nelson Franklin. The plot drags on and fails to engage the viewer. Furthermore, Deschanel and Franklin do not have much chemistry, making it hard to root for their relationship.

The second plot involves Schmidt reconnecting with his dad, who is played by Peter Gallagher. This would have been interesting if it had not been done before in episodes such as “D-Day” and “Return to Sender.” Thanksgiving episodes of “New Girl” were previously used as an opportunity to be inventive, so the mundaneness and repetition of this episode is disappointing.

#4. “Thanksgiving III” (Season 3, Episode 10)

The friends go camping during "Thanksgiving III." Photo courtesy of Netflix

The friends go camping during “Thanksgiving III.” Photo courtesy of Netflix

Sometimes the concept of an episode is better than the actual execution. This is the case for “Thanksgiving III.” The friends’ plan to spend their Thanksgiving camping quickly goes haywire when Nick announces he did not pack any food. The episode sounds promising, but it falls flat.

The main issue relates to characters being underutilized. Cece and Winston are not given enough moments to steal the spotlight and thus fade into the background as a result. The only thing that resonates about Schmidt and Coach is their petty fight over who the best camper is.

The dynamic most explored in the episode is the one between Nick and Jess.

After a carefully crafted slow burn, the characters are finally together for the first time in season three. The executive producers of “New Girl” admit they had trouble maintaining the original tone of the show once the relationship between Nick and Jess began. As a result, Nick and Jess fight over small things throughout the season just to create a sense of drama. Their dysfunction in this episode affects everyone’s Thanksgiving and knowing this makes the resolution at the end of the episode feel incredibly forced.

#3. “Thanksgiving IV” (Season 4, Episode 9)

The episode "Thanksgiving IV" allows the cast of "New Girl" to shine. Photo courtesy of Netflix

The episode “Thanksgiving IV” allows the cast of “New Girl” to shine.
Photo courtesy of Netflix

While “New Girl” has great love stories, this Thanksgiving episode demonstrates how the single life can be just as entertaining. The roommates organize a “Bangsgiving” event, where they set each other up with other single individuals. This opens the episode with an element of suspense as viewers anticipate who everyone got set up with.

The drama increases when Jess realizes Coach set her up with Ryan (Julian Morris), a teacher from her school who she has a crush on. Schmidt and Nick have an interesting subplot because Schmidt has been set up with Nick’s ex-fling, Lucy (Meghan Falcone). Winston and Cece play more of a supporting role, but they shine with the material they’re given.

While the plot is nothing extraordinarily crazy, the humor laced into it and the performances given by the actors make this one of the better Thanksgiving episodes.

#2. “Parents” (Season 2, Episode 8)

"Parents" features incredible guest stars like Jamie Lee Curtis. Photo courtesy of Netflix

“Parents” features incredible guest stars like Jamie Lee Curtis.
Photo courtesy of Netflix

What makes season two’s Thanksgiving episode of “New Girl” stand out is the caliber of the guest stars and the way they interact with the cast.

This episode introduces three of the best recurring characters: Jess’ parents Bob and Joan, played by Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis, respectively, and Schmidt’s cousin Big Schmidt, played by Rob Riggle. These talented actors blend in seamlessly with the original cast and make the group’s Thanksgiving even crazier.

The antics of this episode include an elaborate scheme to get Jess’ divorced parents back together, inspired by “The Parent Trap,” and a competition between Schmidt and Big Schmidt to see who is the manliest. The viewer even gets to see the budding friendship between Winston and Cece, who go on to become one of the best non-romantic pairings in the series.

#1. “Thanksgiving” (Season 1, Episode 6)

The cast of "New Girl" during the episode "Thanksgiving."

The cast of “New Girl” during the episode “Thanksgiving.”
Photo courtesy of Netflix

The first-ever “New Girl” Thanksgiving episode shows that sometimes you truly can not beat a classic.

The setup for this episode is genius in that it truly represents the difference in personalities between Jess and her roommates. Nick, Schmidt and Winston wanted to spend their Thanksgiving drinking beer, watching football and going to Best Buy for Black Friday sales. Jess decides to cook an elaborate meal to impress Paul (Justin Long), the music teacher at her school, instead.

The characterization in this episode is close to perfect as well.

Schmidt insists on taking control in the kitchen and obsesses over cleanliness, which is fitting for a character who does many of the loft chores and is a major germaphobe. Cece realizes her potential attraction to Schmidt and spends a large amount of time assisting him in the kitchen. Jess pushes Nick to drop his grumpy exterior and be welcoming to Paul. Winston is the first of the roommates to accept Paul, a preview of his wacky personality.

The seemingly simple plot devolves into chaos, with the group setting the smoke detector off and finding a dead body in their neighbor’s apartment. It is also filled with memorable hilarious one-liners, such as Winston’s “Or as I like to call it, Friday” and Schmidt’s “Well, I can blanch or I can talk, but I can’t do both.”

Beyond the humor, the episode illustrates the beginning of both the Nick and Jess relationship and the one between Schmidt and Cece. This episode represents everything great about “New Girl,” including humor, friendship and romance.

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