Jess is always looking out for the best interests of her friends and of the environment, but normally she does something to screw it up. This week’s “Menus” episode is a twist on that, when she fights the Hop Foo chinese restaurant down the street in the name of trees and her school principal rejecting her field trip to the ocean idea is only extra motivation.
Ms. Day wants two things in this episode. She wants to take her class to see the ocean because their idea of what it looks like includes a blue rectangle and a bagel with eyes and wings. She wants to stop Hop Foo from passing out so many (nine) to-go menus under the loft door. Somehow she gets both done, with a little help from her boyfriend and a lot of help from Winston in a wheel chair.
Her determination is no surprise, it’s who she is. She tried throwing Schmidt a sweet birthday party, but ended up ordering a male stripper, which is still one of the best coincidences the show has ever had — when we hear a woman’s voice on the phone, we send a man. She tried teaching youths how to play bells, but Winston took over and it only became a moral victory for the both of them. She tried throwing Cece the bachelorette party she always wanted, and then Shivrang’s aunt showed up. She tried hooking Nick up with Brooklyn Decker and you know how that turned out. It never goes her way, but I can’t fault her for trying. It’s awesome to have Inspired Jess back, in place of Whining Jess.
This time, she gets it done and Winston’s crippled jaw comes to the rescue. Poor Jess realizes threatening to burn down the Hop Foo restaurant is probably illegal and probably a bad idea, so when she returns to the loft to find Winston in a wheel chair and with a locked jaw, it’s her perfect patsy. She scares away a lot of customers, using Winston as an example of what happens to people who eat there. It ends up getting the “menu guy” fired, which isn’t how Jess planned it, but it’s still a small victory for her. Meanwhile, Winston spends another episode being trotted around like a prop to play with.
It’s a good thing that this is one of those episodes that brings the whole gang back together. Somehow Schmidt has gotten along across the hall without actually unpacking anything. I no longer have any frame of the time that has passed since he moved out, except for that he moved around around Halloween and Jess mentions the holidays in this episode. This is the kind of episode, like Jess going to Spencer’s to get her TV or the gang helping Nick fight could-be cancer, when everyone is fighting for a common goal. The Spencer’s TV episode remains one of the top five to seven episodes the show has ever made. And Jess needs a win, like Winston needed a win when he got the parking spot, if only because there isn’t a lot going her way at school — the cool teachers hate her and the principal is uninspiring.
It’s Nick idea to bargain for use the Hop Foo van to drive Jess’ class to the ocean, but seriously: How do they get all of the kids together for a field trip on a weekend. That doesn’t happen in real life, but I guess LA isn’t real life. Even so, Jess’ hot dog hat student blows the episode open with this line to Nick: “Is this your dad?” I still can’t stop laughing.