I don't think I was able to fully appreciate the chaos that Abby Day brings to her sister's life when she made her debut two weeks ago. Neither Jess nor Abby are clearly defined good girls or bad girls, and "Sister" made it clear that while Abby is definitely the "bad" Day girl, she's also the troubled one and she's certainly not hopeless. She's flawed, but so is Jess, and if anything, "Sister II"—this week's follow-up episode to Abby's whirlwind introduction—made a conscious effort to highlight Jess's own special brand of chaos.
"You think you're better than everyone and you're always trying to fix people." Whether Abby was trying to be hurtful or just to shift some of the negative attention away from herself is debatable, but with those words, she very succinctly summed up what is probably Jess's most glaring fault. Abby certainly isn't wrong. Jess is constantly trying to fix everyone—Nick, Schmidt, Cece, Coach, Abby, they've all come under Jess's well-intentioned scrutiny at one point or another. More often than not, Jess is just trying to help, but on a few separate occasions, she's crossed some very serious boundaries when it comes to her people projects, like when she stole Nick's money because he was spending it wrong. I mean, he was, but that's not the point. It's absolutely Jess's "thing" to come up with solutions for people, but it's not enough for her to simply present the options and step aside. If her subjects don't cooperate, she'll make them cooperate. SHE'S GOING TO FIX YOU, DAMMIT.
And that's not really cool.
It's not entirely clear what New Girl's angle with Abby is just yet, but one thing is certain: Abby isn't meant to simply pop in for a handful of zany and probably illegal adventures and then just go away until Jess's life needs shaking up again. In just two episodes, Abby's proven herself to be surprisingly deep. I don't know if Abby wants to stop vandalizing museum property or teaching the guys the dangerous delights of Sky Knife just yet, but I think she does want to stop disappointing her family. Problem is, she doesn't know how to do that without giving up who she is. The hurt she feels over their rejection manifests in the way she terrorizes everyone around her by playing on their own insecurities—Winston's inability to follow through, his fears about his future; Schmidt's loneliness and recent relationship woes; Nick's fear that he isn't good enough for Jess, that their entire relationship hinges on the smallest of details and one wrong move could derail the whole thing; and finally, Jess's satisfaction in knowing that she's the "good" sister. Jess helps people. Jess cares about people.
That's all true, but then there's this argument: Way way back in the day, when I was but a wee first-semester freshman undergraduate at a dinky state university known more for the legendary exploits of its alcoholic student population than for any actual contribution to anything, I took an ethics class. I don't remember why. I think I had to. ANYWAY, first day of class, the prof opens with this, the first of many endless debates: If you are a person who is really into charity work, social service, that whole scene, and you do it because it "makes you feel good," have you inadvertently taken what is widely regarded as a selfless act and turned it into something selfish?
We basically broke it down to where the selfishness level depends on why you feel good. If it's the attention that you get from hanging out at a soup kitchen that makes you "feel good" and not so much the actual work, then yeah, that's problematic. If it's that working with underprivileged people reaffirms how privileged you are, and it's the comfort of knowing how much better you have it, then yeah, also problematic.
Sometimes, honestly, Jess falls into those two groups. That does not make Jess a bad person. That does not mean Jess should stop helping. At the end of the selfish/selfless debate, our class pretty much agreed that if someone is making a positive contribution to the world, the why doesn't really matter.
But the thing about "Sister II" was that the argument was reduced to a real personal grievance between a very small, very close group of friends and family. When you're talking abstracts in a room full of 40 people who barely recognize one another outside of a classroom, it's easy to handwave and be all "Hey man, just do good. Who cares how or why?" Abby has seen Jess be elevated because of her goodness for years. For Abby, the why matters a lot. It's a situation where a bit of backstory could go a long way toward explaining the hows and whys of Abby and Jess. So far, Abby's antics have been cheekily dangerous, but generally without malice. She likes to pick at people, to push them, but at no point has Abby appeared to direct actual ill will toward anyone in the loft, Jess included. Maybe somewhere in the Day sisters' past there's some very real hurt, some actual wrong inflicted on one by the other that drove them apart, but right now, we just don't know. What we do know is that despite appearances, the "good" and "bad" labels applied to Jess and Abby respectively are anything but clear-cut.
Elsewhere, while the drama between Jess and Abby stole most of "Sister II," Winston and Coach also managed some quality screen time when it was revealed that Winston did NOT pass the police academy entrance exam, dashing his hopes (momentarily, at least) of having a puppy partner, Turner & Hooch-style. Coach, well, Coach coached Winston with varying levels of success to get back on the job hunt. That's rough, and Winston's disappointment at learning he failed actually made me choke up.
BUT, Winnie's taking the exam again, which is actually quite a high note to end on for an episode that, if you peel away the lulz and the bound-and-gagged Schmidt, was actually pretty solemn.
– One-liner o' the night: "Can I borrow your glasses? We're gonna roleplay as you two." —Schmidt, who was going to be Jess
– Thoughts on Schmabby?
– Winston sincerely believes that women shouldn't handle money. I feel like I should be mad, but really I'm just amused because it's Winston. IDK.
– If you've been keeping score at home, you may have noticed that with Glee's return, my Tuesday nights have gotten a little cray with Supernatural, Glee, and New Girl all airing on the same night and two of them even airing at the same time. The sad reality between my schedule and seemingly declining reader interest in the adventures of Jess and the gang, we might have to cut some coverage. I feel sucky, but I just want to forewarn y'all that after the Abby arc wraps up next week, New Girl reviews might take a bit of a break.
What'd you think of "Sister II"? What's your current take on Abby?