In this week’s episode we have a morally conflicted Schmidt, a micro-managing Jess and a Nick who’s characterization has been dumbed down to service the plot.
Oh, and where’s Winston, you ask? Well, I’m sorry to say I don’t know. There was certainly an actor who looked a whole lot like Winston who popped up in a few scenes to grumble about money but otherwise the “Winston” character you speak of didn’t show up.
Or maybe he did but I wouldn’t notice considering there aren’t five things I could list that characterize Winston as a character.
Needless to say I wasn’t a huge fan of this episode, but I’m never a fan of episodes of television that change components of their characters just for the storyline they’re telling that week.
It begins when a strange man on the group’s doorstep with a bag of cash for Nick, saying it’s from his dad and he was told to deliver it to him.
Now thinking he’s rich (and hey for many for us $8,000 spells a crazy good time) Nick uses the money to purchase anything and everything of a frivolous nature including bedazzling a photo he had professionally taken to hang in his apartment.
While watching Nick enjoy himself, Winston drops the bomb on Jess that Nick owes him over a grand and that he wants to now bring it up to him since he finally has the money to pay him back.
Meanwhile in a B-plot separate from his roommates, Schmidt is trying to prove that he isn’t a horrible person, feeling guilty about what he did to Elizabeth and Cece. Which, let’s remember, he should. None of his friends are telling him he’s a good person so he’s forced to look elsewhere.
That elsewhere comes in the form of a man who started choking while riding a bike.
Why was he chewing food while riding a bike? Well, who knows?
Schmidt after a moment of hesitation where he hopes someone else will stop by ends up running over to save the man and once he does has a feeling of elation and for a second you think it’s because he’s saved a life but really it’s because it’s confirmed to himself that he’s a good person.
So, you know, it’s still the same old Schmidt. He was really only doing it for himself.
Back at the loft, Nick has decided to show Jess his box, his box of junk, which contains everything he doesn’t want to deal with.
This includes a scary amount of bills and things that a man in his early thirties should be dealing with.
Also plenty of the things in the box could be counted as illegal.
Jess is understandably shocked and tries to convince Nick to pay some of them, maybe open a bank account, do something that takes a step in the right direction of being an actual adult or even a capable human being.
Nick is against the idea saying there is a reason to why all of that paperwork is in his box, he just doesn’t want to have to think about it.
So Jess, in her compulsive nature, decides to take it in to her own hands and decides to pay the bills herself and starts to organize Nick piece by piece.
Winston has foolishly chosen to bring up the money he’s owed to Nick who freaks out a little and turns to Jess for backup, Jess who’s still trying to use Nick’s new money to pay his bills, lies and tells Winston off and then sends Nick off to a bar to drink heavily.
Winston confronts her about it and finds out what she’s doing and uses it as incentive to blackmail her into paying him the money Nick owes him so that he doesn’t tell Nick what she’s done.
Jess agrees to it but not before the funny moment of the episode where they stand off both trying to intimidate the other into doing their wishes.
Nick obviously finds out what she’s done, after telling Schmidt drunkenly that he still doesn’t know if he’s a great person even after saving a life, and is furious with her. He tells her that she has no right to try and fix him and that maybe one day will pass where she isn’t trying to make him better. He tells her that maybe she should try looking at things from his perspective once and a while and see why he does the things he does.
Jess tries to tell him that typically she would but the issues they’re talking about are more concerning. This isn’t just a difference of opinion it’s someone refusing to grow up. I was glad to see the first signs of relationship tension between the two after a few honeymoon episodes but I wish they had picked a different reason for their argument.
This might be the first time in the series that I’ve disliked every single character in an episode. No fault to the actors and how they played them, but the writers did them a big disservice in altering their characters for this episode alone, by exaggerating them.
Nick’s charm has always been his inability to live by society’s expectations but usually it’s played as him having an old man’s sensibility: he thinks things are ridiculous but he does so in a flustered and exasperated manner. Instead, this week he’s turned into a tantrum throwing man-child and he won’t change (of course until he does at the end) no matter what anyone says.
Jess has always been micro-managing but having her spend Nick’s money behind his back just seemed dumb on the character’s part.
Schmidt is morally ambiguous and we get it but having him literally spell it out for us is one hit over the head too many.
And now Winston likes to blackmail—I like him better when he’s crazy.
After Nick’s finished tossing Jess’s things out of the window and they both end up at the bank they make up and it’s sweet because above all else Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel have fantastic chemistry. Schmidt ends his day of uncertainty with Winston telling him he’s a good guy who did a really bad thing and now all he has to do is try and be better.
So everything is cleaned up nice and neat until the next wrench is tossed.
If there is one unifying mistake in the entirety of this episode it was its reliance on recycled plot points. Nothing seemed fresh, it all seemed redundant which is fine typically within the context of a “filler” episode but when you’re going to rely on old tactics you need to make sure the audience is still laughing.
I didn’t laugh as much I would have liked to.
We’ve seen Schmidt have an emotional crisis—that’s essentially been the entirety of season three thus far. Not to deter from Max Greenfield who is truly knocking it out of the park each episode so far, upping the ante for himself as he finds more and more idiosyncrasies to add to his Schmidt performance. His reaction to him saving the biker’s life is an example of how malleable his facial expressions are and his admission to Winston at the end of the episode about how he’s been waiting all day for one person to say that he’s not a bad guy was touching, grounding the typically goofy character.
Nick and Jess go through a similar reenactment of familiar storylines: Nick is an incapable adult, Jess is trying to fix him, he finds out, they argue, they make up and try to be better for each other. We’ve seen this numerous times before and it’s unnecessary: if the writers want to establish tension in their relationship, which is understandable for story purposes, they’re capable enough to think of something new.
Oh, and Winston is shelved. Again. He doesn’t even get to play with Ferguson.
It simply wasn’t a great half hour of television especially coming on the heels of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s strongest episode to date. What makes it all the more irritating is that Elizabeth Meriwether and co. are obviously talented enough to create original and funny episodes and on top of that have admitted the problems with Winston’s character—or his lack of storylines—and have addressed that it should be changed and yet we’re still only allowed brief appearances from him each week.
I wish I had laughed harder, I wish I hadn’t had to watch Schmidt fight a Rabbi and that Nick hadn’t been reduced from grumpy unwilling adult to idiotic man-child and I wish that Winston and Jess could have shared more than a minute of screen time together since they were undoubtedly the biggest laugh of the episode.
All good shows have their faulty episodes and while I wish it hadn’t happened to New Girl none of these problems are hard to fix and next week’s episode is Halloween-themed so I shouldn’t be too worried.
Was this week a total bust? Or did the funny moments save it for you?