At Thanksgiving, we met Jess’s quirky parents, Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner, and “A Father’s Love” continued the trend by introducing us to Nick’s old man, played by perpetually-typecast-as-a-con-man-or-a-cop Dennis Farina as, well, a con man. I braced myself for the inevitable heartbreak, but Nick, being quite used to his father’s whims and well aware of the emotional damage he’s suffered from them, channelled his disappointment into semi-constructive anger. Attaboy son, you angry-fix the hell out of that sink.
Oh, and Robbie the apparently oblivious unintentional racist returned to woo Cece with his battle cry of “White guy power!” Even Schmidt was mortified.
Papa Miller claimed to be in town to buy Nick a horse because he felt bad about being a sucky dad and Nick had always wanted a horse. Sure. That totally sounds like the paranoid Nick we know and love. Despite voicing firsthand knowledge of Nick’s dislike of living things, the ever-gullible Jess was driven by her passion for second chances and happy families to help Walt out by “investing” $500 in the purchase. True to his word, Walt bought a horse, and true to form, Nick confirmed his disdain for pets. Walt’s manipulation was painfully clear to pretty much everyone except Winston with his daddy issues and Jess with her willful negligence of anyone’s faults, and Nick demanded to be in on the illicit sale of the horse—which had been named “A Father’s Love”—in order to get Jess’s money back. Aww.
There’s something kind of terribly sad about the sale of a horse called “A Father’s Love.” I was partially expecting this to be a Very Special Episode of New Girl about, you know, family relations and parents and stuff and by the end of it, we’d all want to tackle Nick into a group hug that would be entirely against his will, but New Girl has made it a habit of avoiding those cliches. Kids of shoddy parents ending up with hurt feelings and low expectations are a given. It’s not difficult to imagine a ten-year-old Nick being super-bummed about his criminal dad missing some vital childhood moment due to his “work.” However, the adult Nick has moved beyond moping and into anger. We get angry products of broken homes on TV too, but rarely is their aggression treated as a positive thing. There’s a reason for that—generally speaking, it’s not healthy to go around resenting your parents (even if they totally deserve it) or lashing out at anyone around you who routinely encourages some sort of reconciliation. But: Sometimes children and their parents just don’t get along... and that’s okay.
With the introduction of Walt Miller, New Girl upheld that time-honored TV tradition of deadbeat dads and the children who despise them, and it did so with more nuance and understanding of just how complicated those relationships can be than we get in most comedies. Nick gave up on a healthy, fulfilling relationship with his father long ago and holds him accountable for the damage he inflicted; Nick can trace his trust issues, his anger issues, and his “blood pressure of a hummingbird” back to the experience of growing up with a man like Walt for a father. However, he has also grown to appreciate, in a slightly twisty, Christopher Titus-esque way, the few positive experiences he did have with Walt, like performing the “Sugar Ray,” a ruse to distract angry victims of his father’s cons by pretending to be a diabetic kid so he and Walt could orchestrate a getaway.
Jess, conversely, is the eternal optimist. Her dedication to the "perfect" runs deep, as we saw in “Parents,” with her decades-old mission to mend her mother and father’s marriage. In Jess’s book, parents are supposed to be married and children are supposed to adore them and yeah, that’s a little childish, but that’s Jess, and that works for her. There’s no wrong way to have a relationship with the ‘rents... unless you keep them locked in the basement or something, but even then, wasn’t there a movie back in the '90s where some kids did just that and everyone lived happily ever after? (Yes there was. It’s called House Arrest and it stars Jamie Lee Curtis.)
Jess’s dedication to “fixing” Walt and Nick led her to the botched horse sale where, once Nick’s lie-fuelled sweating ruined negotiations, she sped off (well, sort of) in hopes that father and son would be forced to talk about their issues while hiking back to civilization, or waiting for a taxi, or whatever. While Nick got the apology he always wanted—and his father’s pants—a simple “I’m sorry” doesn’t magically make a terrible parent a better parent, though it’s certainly a start.
When Walt bailed in the morning, unsurprisingly, Jess was more upset by the abandonment than Nick. Nick has learned to roll with it over the years and wasn’t even surprised by his dad’s absence come morning. He even commented that it was kind of nice to see him, however briefly. So was it a devastatingly sad conclusion for those of us who want to live in a Norman Rockwell painting? Sure. Was it also sort of sad for those of us with slightly lower expectations of family? Absolutely, but like Jess said, Nick could have turned out way worse. Real life doesn’t always resemble television, but sometimes television does a pretty good job of resembling real life.
– One-liner of the night: From Jess, “There’s more to A Father’s Love than semen! ... Eew. Poetic, but eew.”
– Feely Cup! Guys, New Girl has the best random games.
– Robbie returns! To... stalk Cece and... team up with Schmidt to woo her away from her Indian suitors? Uh. Okay. Schmidt claimed that his endgame is to reunite Cece and Robbie, then smite Robbie. Do it, Schmidt! DO IT!
– “She’s into Ghandi... we could self-immolate... ” Hunger strike, Schmidtty. You mean, hunger strike.