★★★★½

It’s time for the annual sitcom Halloween episodes!

I confess that I seem to have developed a stronger affection for the horror and sweet laden month this year. Maybe it’s nostalgia, my increased fear of graduating college in the Spring that’s making me grab tight and childhood past times, or maybe it’s simply the barrage of costumes I have planned out. I’ve enjoyed the silly festivities, even took a sip of a pumpkin latte, and have been catching up on all of my favorite Halloween-themed films and television episodes including the best Halloween episode ever, Boy Meets World’s “And Then There Was Shawn.”

Why does this matter? Well that plus my apparent distaste for last week’s New Girl installment means I’m placed to be a harsher judge.

So how did it do?

Pretty good actually, one of the more enjoyable episodes this season for a number of reasons.

The number one reason? It’s stark improvement from last week’s near disaster of an episode that had us reverting back to Season One premiere episode territory where all of the characters were loud, one dimensional and not all that likeable.

This week all of that is back to normal and as a dedicated fan I couldn’t be any happier.

I will confess with the title “Keaton” I was hoping Jess would be dressing up as Buster “Stone Faced” Keaton and didn’t put together Michael Keaton until he was named.

It begins with Jess, Winston and Nick meeting in an empty loft across the hall (oh hey there nice little set up) to talk about Schmidt, who Winston believes is losing it. They all agree that he’s become mildly unhinged since the Elizabeth and Cece fiasco and Jess wants him to be happy again, one for his sake but also because she’s throwing a party later that night and she doesn’t want him ruining it by wiping away his tears with cold cuts.

They walk back to their apartment to see Schmidt confirming their fears as he downs a bottle of mayonnaise and Nick, who had just promised to take care of it, deadpans and says that no, this isn’t something he can handle.

I don’t know many who could witness that image first hand and be able to.

Later after Schmidt destroys one of the pumpkins Winston is working on and reacts maniacally to Jess telling him about the party, they decide to go for their last option, which Nick is against. Nick tells Jess that when Schmidt was about seven, his father left and he was lead down a spiral of crying and chocolate and to make him feel better, his mother decided to write a letter to her son, pretending to be Michael Keaton who was his favorite actor at the time and had played The Batman.

This fake correspondence continued until he left for college, only popping up when he was in moments of distress (moments that despite being played for laughs made me sad for the character) but once he left for school his mother could no longer be in charge of the matter, so she bestowed that responsibility unto Nick, Schmidt’s new and only friend.

Despite how well it worked Nick doesn’t want to start it up again. He says he has too much power and while Jess excitedly points out how Nick is catfishing Schmidt, he says he doesn’t feel like manipulating his best friend again.

Jess however has no qualms about it and the second Nick is out of the room takes to the email herself and writes Schmidt about her party, telling him (after she’s spoken with Cece) that it may be smart to not go to the party.

Moments later Schmidt leaves him room excitedly and tells Jess that he’s received word from his old pal, Mr. Keaton and tells her that he’s decided he won’t be attending her Halloween party because he believes that Cece probably needs her space.

This worries Winston and Nick because they believe it will throw Schmidt too far into a loop and to remedy it Jess sends another reply telling Schmidt that he’ll be going on vacation for a while.

It has negative effects. They find Schmidt lying on his bed moping and eating cheese and he says it doesn’t matter and it’s obvious that Keaton would never want to be friends with someone like him.

And let the games of words begin.

Nick dons his Batman mask, downs some alcohol, and gets to work fixing Schmidt.

However while Schmidt is maybe gullible enough to believe that he’d have a correspondence with a famous actor, he can tell when something is up with his roommates and while they’re off sneaking around he discovers them in the act but keeps it quiet for now.

At the party Schmidt shows up, to Jess’s dismay, in some sort of reptilian costume (a public “serpent) and starts trying to poke holes in the Keaton story but Jess isn’t giving up that easy. Half-drunk she dons the Batman suit in whole and despite Nick telling her that there’s no way that Schmidt will believe it’s the real actor, puts in a valiant effort either way.

Schmidt sees her outside from a distance and moves closer and closer until it’s obvious and he tells them that he knows the truth.

He knows that the two of them hacked into Michael Keaton’s email address to screw with him.

Close, but not quite.

Jess tries to play along rather than hurt Schmidt any further but Nick decides to end it and tells Schmidt the truth. He doesn’t buy it at first, bringing up how he was written to when he was a child, years before he and Nick met. Nick then tells him it’s his mother who started it and on top of being mortified by the detailed letters about erections that he sent to his mother, he’s hurt that this constant in his life didn’t exist.

It’s then he sees Cece and when he tries to run away instead knocks a kid down and is pummeled by the other kids’ bags of candy.

Not to be redundant but jeez, this is really is Max Greenfield’s season so far isn’t it? Lamorne Morris has wildly impressed me with his depiction of crazy Winston but Greenfield is absolutely sprinting away with the material. The story is ridiculous, absurdity at its finest, but Greenfield plays this realization straight and rather than laughing at the image of costumed kids beating up a man in a dinosaur suit, I was feeling sympathy instead.

I even, embarrassingly, let out an audible “awe.”

What follows are two very sweet moments of friendship that help ground the plot. Cece and Jess talk and Cece says that she’s glad she saw Schmidt, it gave her a sense of closure she hadn’t previously had. And then, despite her party, Jess tells her that they’re going to go stuff themselves with tacos and chase away emotions with food.

However, the real gem moment comes with Schmidt and Nick, one of the more interesting dynamics on the show when done correctly. Nick apologizes for lying to Schmidt and he’s told it’s okay despite his embarrassment at how easily he was fooled. Nick tries for a sincere friendship moment saying that Schmidt may have never had Keaton, but he had him.

They both recoil at the sentimentality of it.

But they’re still good and Nick tells him he’ll be okay and on top of that it’s some great work by Greenfield and Jake Johnson who manage to bring some honesty to such a bizarre plot.

The next day however sees Schmidt with some luggage packed and despite all of his roommates believing he’s going on a weekend spa trip (a usual getaway apparently) he is instead moving out. He’s not mad but he thinks he needs his space.

There’s a moment where you think that this is going to be a dour development, the group dynamic is what makes the show as good as it is, but instead the plot swerves and we see him enter the vacated loft across the hall.

The roommates laugh, point out their proximity to him still and say they’ll see him later.

I’m curious as to how this will play out. If this isn’t simply a storyline that will last all of two episodes it could be an interesting development. Think of Friends and how they lived in apartments across the hall from each other and the amount of hijinks that ensued because of it?

This is sitcom gold if done correctly. It was a way to move the characters on in their lives without separating the core group of the show.

Also….the next episode is entitled “Coach” and there is a vacated room now available.

Guess what that means?

My Happy Endings mourning heart will be jumping for joy when Damon Wayans Jr. returns.

New Girl is back November 5th.

About The Author

Ally Johnson is a Blast correspondent

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