Opinion, arguments & analyses from the editors of Scientific American

Fact Check: “New Girl” Episode is All Fun and Games Until Someone Gets Legionnaires’ Disease?


Image: Genevieve/Wikimedia Commons

The popular Fox television show "New Girl" provides laughs each week, but last night it veered a bit off course with its Thanksgiving episode. [Spoiler alert ahead – stop reading if you haven’t seen the episode yet and plan to do so.]

When Jess (Zooey Deschanel) and the gang decide to spend a “back to basics” Thanksgiving out in the woods the trip hits a hiccup when it becomes clear that the holiday food was left behind because Nick (Jake Johnson) wants to opt for hunting and foraging attempts instead.

When Jess eats the fish that Nick contributes to the dinner – a pre-dead fish he found floating in the water – she quickly becomes delirious and wanders off into the woods before taking a fall and ultimately ending up in the hospital. The diagnosis, as Nick relays it, is Legionnaires' Disease and Giardia infection. (Also, something about a foot issue, but I won’t touch that).

Alas, for all its comedic effect, both diagnoses would likely be deeply flawed. Apparently, she ends up in the hospital on the same day they ventured out into the woods and Jess ate the toxic fish. While Legionnaires' Disease can produce flu-like symptoms (so that could explain fever-induced delirium), it typically takes 2-14 days after being exposed to the bacteria to get sick. That’s strike one: the symptoms showed up far too quickly. Moreover, giardia (which is actually the name of the parasite, not the diarrheal disease) takes 1-3 weeks to show up after exposure, strike two. I’m calling shenanigans on this one. You can do better, "New Girl."

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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