The collective anxiety of my fellow twentysomethings in anticipation of this Valentine’s Day was downright disturbing. More than any other year I can recall, the rebels and the traditionalists fled to Facebook and Twitter to voice their grievances. Either those in relationships devalued those who were single, by overemphasizing their good fortune, or single folk devalued the holiday so that those with valentines would feel as though their festivities were trivial. I’d imagine February 14 and the surroundings days are the therapists’ busy season (aside from the winter holidays) because it’s sickening how much weight is put on the perceived stability of our love lives. The message is: no one bought you chocolates or flowers on this designated holiday, well then you are less worthy of personhood! You actually celebrate this inane occasion? Then you’re unworthy for playing into romantic notions that only exist to increase profits for the floral and greeting card industries!
In any case, the discourse surrounding Valentine’s Day had been largely antagonistic. Tonight’s “New Girl” tackled the overriding sentiment that romance, however fleeting, is required on this arbitrary day. Each of our pals deal with it in strange yet characteristic ways that ensured authentic laughs by marrying the insecurity of the holiday with the neurotic and ego-driven tendencies of the roommates. Jess’ game plan for avoiding sorrow and reflection is to “look for some strange” a.k.a willing participants in a one night stand. Schmidt steps up as her coach and prospective wingman in avoiding attachment. Despite Nick’s general apathy for the holiday, he and Julia (Lizzy Caplan, again) set out to embrace the holiday that has scorned them with a typical night out. Winston, agrees to a night-in with Shelby since he’s walking on eggshells repairing the damage his former arrogant baller self caused.
Jess’ pursuit of a hit-it-and-quit-it ended up a stroke of genius that forced Zooey Deschanel and the writers to explore how she adapts to the quirks of others. True Blood’s heartthrob, Ryan Kwanten, plays Oliver, a man so dumb and dull that his most common conversation piece is tacos. Jess tells Schmidt she’s hit the jackpot, because zero bond is established between them aside from physical attraction. But a Lemony Snicket-ish series of unfortunate events unfolds, foiling Jess’ efforts to satisfy her “dirty twirlies” (a Jess-ence phrase meaning she is horny).
The convoluted scenario starts to take shape when Jess requests Schmidt drive Oliver and her to his place (neither of them drove to the bar). Initially reticent, Schmidt obliges. At Oliver’s place, Schmidt gets sucked into watching a movie, but eventually extricates himself, only to find his tires have been stolen by “youths.” Cece (of course Jess’ supermodel friend) calls him, frustrated with her boy toy, Kyle, who’s tripping balls off a slice of pizza topped with shrooms. Schmidt then asks Cece for a ride, so she swings by. In a somewhat shocking turn, Oliver’s ex (and roommate) appears, fuming over his makeup session with Jess. Vulnerable and seeking revenge she kisses a shirtless Kyle shortly after he, Cece and Schmidt arrive much to Jess’ chagrin. When Cece tries to separate her man from this unstable woman a catfight ensues. Thus, Schmidt and Cece and out-of-this-world high Kyle leave for the loft. I’m sure reading that was as exhausting as it was to watch. There is comedic payoff sprinkled throughout, but it struck me a bit like a scenic route to arrive at the twists to come…
Nick shows up at Julia’s office to pick her up for dinner reservations, but she’s deeply entrenched in her work. Despite his disappointment we get to enjoy the company of Julia’s intern, Cliff (Clark Duke). Duke fits seamlessly into this cast, delivering many awkward gems as he acts on his wildly apparent attraction to his boss. Another rewarding side effect of Nick’s waiting is the reveal of his life immediately post-law school. Needless to say, it’s L.O.L.L-worthy, involving dressing in drag, so, win. Unfortunately for Nick his story’s personal epiphany that he didn’t want to work for someone else his whole life encourages Cliff to quit, inciting Julia’s half-hearted attempt to win him back: “Cliff, no! We’re gonna start paying you so soon.” This stunt sends Nick to the doghouse, but he earns his way back into her good graces by incorrectly organizing her papers and their mutual appreciation for each other comes to the forefront. It’s a big step for them, realizing that this inconsequential celebration meant something to him. Julia also channels Jess by donning assorted Valentine’s headgear, recalling her reluctance from “Jess and Julia” where her discomfort with cuteness was a major point of contention.
Winston also gets his not-according-to-plan evening when he is surprised with a girls’ night at Shelby’s apartment. Realizing that his tolerance of the evening could pay dividends as he tries to prove his mettle as a suitor, he endures even offering her friends decent, albeit silly, advice: “Seriously, Tia, you do not wanna be with a man who has fancier underpants than you.” A universal truth I’d say. At any rate, Shelby apologizes for the night not meeting his expectations, but she confesses it to be a test, a slightly spiteful one too. She reminds Winston of his dick-ish actions on Valentine’s Day 2008 where he stood her up. Ashamed, Winston wonders whether or not he deserves a second chance, but Shelby affirms him saying that here he is getting one anyway. The door then literally closes on her resentment and implications of naughtiness ensue.
The wrap-up to the Jess/Schmidt fiasco is messy, yet satisfying. Jess leaves early when Oliver starts to cry over his ex who watches them makeout while munching on his beloved tacos. Jess helps them reconcile (I mean, duh), Skypes with his grandma in Hawaii briefly (okay…) then returns home. Schmidt subsequently instills some pearls of hookup master wisdom, saying Jess doesn’t want a stranger she wants someone she knows who won’t make it weird, who she can leave in the morning without being sucked into the horrors of a post-coitus brunch. Jess connects the dots, realizing Schmidt would be the ideal candidate according to that criteria. I thought Schmidt was too obviously manipulating her into sleeping with him and that Jess should not have been so swayed, but I suppose her “dirty twirlies” make her do crazy things. So she grabs her “hundy pack” of condoms (a hell of a sight gag), about to knock on Schmidt’s door when Nick starts her calling her out on her absurd behavior. She understandably retreats, but behind his bedroom door it’s revealed that it would have been a fruitless endeavor because SCHMIDT AND CECE ARE TOTES GONNA DO IT!!! I found it believable as Cece’s inexplicable attraction has been alluded to for some time now, and with Kyle off in outer space she was vulnerable and geared up for sex.
Overall, the conclusions to the respective romances felt earned and gratifying. If Jess had hooked up with the “True Blood” hunk, it would have felt too easy. Plus, I like that she was pushed to act out of character, but going through with the act would have been asking me to believe her Jess-ence wasn’t so firm. Also, what better way to depict her desperation for Valentine’s physicality then giving in to Schmidt. Cece made perfect sense, especially when you consider their mutual affection for the book, “The Phantom Tollbooth” (see L.O.L.Ls). Nick and Winston were beat for beat solid too. Both encounter obstacles that were deserved, and showed off their better qualities to weasel their way into their woman’s arms.
The successes didn’t entirely overshadow the mental claustrophobia though. I know as a holiday, the episode serves as a novelty, but I’d caution the series about “too many cooks.” Great guest stars also bolster this episode into comedic excellence as the night felt well-rounded in its joke material. The standout lines ranged from pop culture references to character oddities to more off-beat Nick back story to situational hilarity. I’d say “New Girl’s” efficiency was exemplary, utilizing V-day for story momentum and stylized laughs. For softening the blow of singles anxiety, that this wretched yet cutesy day inevitably conjures up, with an at times unsettling and frantic, yet strikingly effective rendering of what happens when we put our hearts on the line, “New Girl” becomes the benefactor of my holiday spirit. I’m spreading the love for this contender to the crown of best episode yet with a A-.
L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines
– “I don’t go out on Valentine’s Day…it’s like a Dominican teenager playing Little League, it’s not fair for everybody else.”
– Cliff to Nick, on his hot boss and Nick’s girlfriend, Julia: “I would take that to Pound Town, make her visit the boneyard”
– “We’re actually gonna meet up later. He says he has a surprise for me.” “Spoiler: it’s his penis.”
– Schmidt’s desert island books: Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, Machiavelli’s The Prince, Freak by John Leguizamo, any script from season 1 of “Vampire Diaries” and The Phantom Tollbooth.
– “I’m here with two other girls drinking cranberry juice talking about Michelle Obama’s upper body workout.”
– “It’s a horrible neighborhood. There are youths everywhere.” Schmidt’s pronunciation of “youth” is priceless.
– Cece’s boyfriend tripping on a tire swing at the park: “I love brown people!” Cece’s curt response: “That’s racist, Kyle.”
– After dropping out of law school and getting heartbroken Nick reacted as such: played guitar in a ska band, gambled a lot, spent a weird week in a blonde wig demanding to be called Sandy Ferguson, and traveled to Mexico to enter into a cockfight…as a human
– Cliff on his plans now that he has quit his job as intern: “I’m gonna drive till I see the sun. And for once I’m gonna spend time with my birds. Boom.” Boom indeed, Cliff. Boom indeed.