We knew there was going to have to be more than glitz and glamour—and yes Prince—in the post-Super Bowl episode of New Girl but did we expect an “I love you?” And did we expect it from Nick?
I’m not so sure.
But what a great way to utilize that time slot.
I’ve been really digging the past few episodes of the show as they’ve begun to overcome the slip-ups and messy writing that plagued that start of season three. They’ve refined Schmidt so that he resembles the season one version but with more depth, Winston is no longer simply insane, they’re still working on integrating Coach and Cece and Jess and Nick continue to provide some of the strongest moments of the show.
The post-Super Bowl time slot is a bit of a tricky one to handle. The expectation is that not only will diehard fans be tuning in, but also people who are simply watching the game and caught the show that came directly afterwards. The goal is to draw in new fans, but how is that accomplished by a show that’s already three seasons in with fully developed characters and relationships?
Well the absurdity of the opening scene probably helped some. It was about panties.
There is a domestic squabble happening with the boys in the loft. Winston wants to do laundry but the dryer is overwhelmed by Jess’s lady garments and he doesn’t know if he should be the one to move them. This prompts a discussion amongst the guys on who should be the one to move them, if they should move them and what is their call to action in this obviously stressful situation.
It becomes a group task and Jess and Cece walk in on the four of them with a hamper in tow struggling to get items into the basket.
The opening has no relevance to the rest of the episode but it allowed for enough broad humor to engage a bigger audience. The real driving force for the episode happens in the next few scenes after it’s announced that Jess and Cece got invited to a Prince house party after being nearly run over.
The two of them are thrilled and spend the night getting ready, Jess asking Nick questions about shoes he can’t answer, and Schmidt finding out he wasn’t invited. His plan had been to go the party and begin his new life with new friends because as he tells them in the best delivered line of the night, “Look around, how could this be the finish line?”
Max Greenfield is golden whenever he’s given the right material.
Jess and Cece are ready to leave, with Nick stunned by how Jess looks. Jake Johnson has a knack for showcasing just how much Nick adores Jess with minute facial tics, allowing simple looks to wash over his face.
Which lends itself to the next scene as Cece and Jess get into the limo to go to the party and just as they’re about to leave, Nick lets out three words that he didn’t plan on.
He says “I love you” to Jess.
Jess? She throws out some awkward finger guns and drives away without saying anything else.
Both parties are mortified.
How cool is it that Nick said it first? So often it’s the female character that’s more overtly sensitive, more intense about their romantic feelings, more willing to jump the gun on such statements so it’s a pleasant surprise to have the male, more standoffish character be the one to be impulsive with his feelings. Having it be perpetually grumpy and guarded Nick Miller makes it all the better because it comes as no surprise. From the beginning of their tentative attraction Nick has worn his feelings on his sleeve, and like I said above, his adoration is clear from the dopey expression his face reads whenever he looks at her. From the moment before their kiss, to the moment he saw her in the Elvis getup at his father’s funeral, to when they officially became an item, to now. It feels natural for Nick to have been the one to tell her he loves her first.
It also makes the fallout all the more comical.
The guys rush to the party so Nick can tell Jess he doesn’t love her so that she won’t leave him. Once they get there, they need to find a way to gain entrance. Winston and Coach pull out an old college routine called Fire & Ice, Nick Trojan horses his way in through a pack of models and Schmidt is left in the dust.
Nick finds Jess and tries to talk it out but first Schmidt barges in having climbed over the hedges into the yard. Nick tells Jess he wants to take it back and she’s shocked but still can’t form the words herself. The friends note the discomfort and leave once they’re asked. Jess wants to know if that’s how Nick really feels and Nick wants to know what she feels period.
She can’t answer.
Before either of them can say anything else they’re interrupted by none other than Prince himself.
They subsequently freak out.
Once they’ve had enough time to get over their excitement Prince sits down with them to hear what the problem is between them. After he has listened he tells Nick that he needs a private conversation with Jess about him. Nick leaves and heads straight to get drunk—interrupting Winston and Coach’s routine for getting girls.
Elsewhere, Schmidt is being chased by guards and he takes refuge dancing with Cece and they for the second week in a row have a quiet, touching moment together reaffirming the fact that there was a reason they worked and a reason why they can also play a friendship convincingly—Hannah Simone and Max Greenfield have strong chemistry to work with.
She questions his statement earlier about using this party to race into a better life, leaving them all behind, and he’s never seemed more comfortable to be exactly where he is.
Meanwhile Jess has found herself in the middle of some bizarre fever dream, eating pancakes with Prince as he tells her that the reason why she can’t tell Nick that she loves him is because she’s scared and he’s going to help her.
This sets off a montage of sorts that includes the two of them practicing saying the word love, dressing Jess up in a more outlandish, attention-drawing outfit, the two of them playing Ping-Pong, him showing off his butterfly whispering skills and locking Jess in a closet to face her fears.
The utilization of the rare appearance by Prince could have come off as too gimmicky but he’s given enough comedic and oddball material that it works in favor of the episode, providing some of the biggest laughs in the montage sequence alone.
Prince says that his work is done and sends Jess on her way.
Jess goes to find an inebriated Nick on the dance floor and when she does—and again his face when he sees her—she shouts that she loves him, that she loves Nick Miller. It’s a well-earned scene that the show has done a nice job building up to, not making us wait too long for it while not making them say it too soon after they first admitted their mutual attraction. Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel have a wonderful romantic chemistry, so watching them as a couple is all the more satisfying because of how palpable it is.
The ending is where the show lost me a little. I understand what they were getting at and the scene right before the end nearly saved it with trying to play off the ridiculousness of the musical bit. Prince is onstage about to sing one of his songs and beckons for Jess to come onstage and help him and then midway through the song the gang joins her and it’s a fun bit but it seemed more than anything a way to reason allowing Deschanel to sing on the show.
Later in the loft they all question how they’re supposed to go back to their everyday existence now that they’ve partied with Prince and how on earth did Jess know the lyrics to the song they sang?
Her answer is that she thinks Prince is magic.
It’s trying to make a joke out of the absurdity and while it nearly manages it, I was already lost the minute the number began.
Regardless, this was yet another strong episode that managed to utilize all of the cast—no easy feat—and allowing for some relationships to grow and take new steps whether it be the obvious with Jess and Nick or the friendship-based one between Cece and Schmidt or the rivalry/friendship between Winston and Coach.
Ultimately, this show is sweet and watching it each week is getting the chance to play with six characters that we all enjoy and the post-game show capitalized on their charm.