Jess, Nick, Schmidt and Winston (left to right) team up for some touch football, but end up tackling deeper issues.

BWill witty, daring comedies forever be overshadowed by groundbreaking dramas because of its intrinsic not-seriousness?

Oftentimes, sitcoms of the traditional order will have “important episodes” where a serious subject matter is injected into this comic universe in an effort to manufacture an artificial sense of importance, but then it’s back to shenanigans a week later. Other shows will pour on the sap. An easy way to tap into the maple tree of emotions is love. No one that inhabits this earth (except the psychopaths, shout-out to Rush Limbaugh!) hasn’t experienced it, and there may never be anything more crucial to your existence then how or who you love.

“New Girl,” like its funny predecessors, feels compelled to be taken seriously, or at least make people cry. So far, on its mission to be noteworthy we have seen many an episode tackle the potentially volatile perkiness of its heroine. In “Jess and Julia” (a contender for the best all-around episode of the series so far) there was a head-on collision of value systems, and Jess was challenged for being superficial and naive. And in “Landlord,” Nick insisted that people are general jerks, and Jess assuming good in others is dangerous. In both instances, Jess came out with her beliefs intact, because whether or not it’s the “right” course of action its who she is, and it helps her navigate this distrusting world with a smily-faced stride.

This week, although her “Jessence” looms largely over the proceedings, Nick is the focus of intense character examination. Though Schmidt has been my favorite character and source of comedy, Nick has been built into the bevy of introspection. He has the richest backstory of all the roommates (Jess included) and is also the most self-loathing. It was always slightly troublesome that I found his pain so hilarious, but now it’s clear: he’s an extrapolation of the twentysomething anxiety. He can’t afford the basic necessities to take care of himself, he’s consumed with how he is perceived by others, and as he divulges, “If I don’t know what’s going to happen, I don’t do it.”

What started with Jess ramming into Nick in a game of touch football, escalated (as is required per maximum laughs) into the threat of thyroid cancer. Sadie reappears (June Diane Raphael) as the OB/GYN, and only doctor friend who won’t charge him, that discovers the could-be tumor when examining his back injury. In a humorous back and forth, she tells him not to take some pain pills because she can’t legally prescribe them to him (they’re intended for heavy menstrual cramps), but Nick gets psyched out and is unsure whether he should swallow them.

Once Jess tells the rest of the gang about Nick’s flirtations with death, silly overreactions commence, culminating in Winston’s delightful and spot-on Aaron Neville impression, Schmidt attempting drunken-freestyle and sober Cece picking up the slack before Jess confronts the real issue: Nick doesn’t want to admit he could be brushing up against death because he doesn’t do anything. Nick resists the accusation at first, but realizes soon after that besides a half-written zombie novel, he’s been too afraid to put himself out there. Whereas some folks can jump in an ocean at night, Nick stays behind to watch their wallets. This prompts the five-some to haul ass to the oceanside so Nick can cleanse himself of his fears. In a refreshing twist, his fears are confirmed by the frigid waters.

Though the obligatory tenderness of this “special episode” does occur, it was tastefully done. Schmidt copes by focusing on the sand imprint of Cece’s perfect butt, and she sets him straight when she references her dead father and how Schmidt will just have to “get through it.” Nick caves a bit and expresses his gratitude that Jess has come into his life, and it caused me to panic some. His goofy hammered grin seems like one that would precede an inebriated kiss, but he just continues to grin, and I exhaled emphatically. Tension is a-okay with me, but the dynamic changes FOREVER if they’re allowed to hook up.

My prior knowledge of the inner workings of network TV tell me that the likely scenario is that the climax of the season will be their epic first kiss. I am willing to become a devout Christian, maybe even resort to an ascetic, monk-like lifestyle for the next couple months just so that my prayers will be answered and I will be proven wrong. There’s no chemistry, it’s more beneficial to the them as people to stay friends, and if this episode showed me anything it’s that this has shaped into a neat ensemble show where Jess serves as the lynchpin and catalyst for behavior alterations. That’s the show I want, and the one that has worked. Also my boy Schmitty doesn’t deserve third wheel status.

Once the sun rises on the California beach, the hungover crew rolls off in Winston’s bucket to the hospital for Nick’s ultrasound. Winston’s beat-up ride was a painfully undercut side story, and it showed how dynamic the show can be when at least three of the four roommates have their own matters to attend to, but for this episode I would have been fine with just the Nick plot. Winston’s junk heap of a truck was just a forced piece of symbolism to me conveying that Winston cannot let go of his old life. Soon there will be no remnants of it left, reflected in how the car breaks down in the conclusion, and Winston will have to be a whole new person. This topic has been addressed incessantly, and I’m starting to grow weary that they don’t have any other material for Winston. His redefinition can be a continuing thread, but we have seen NO other sides to Winston, save his affinity for the bells.

As everyone predicted Nick’s neck was not filled with cancer juice and there is much rejoicing and togetherness, especially when the other four pick up the tab, and only implore that he get an actually wallet. In the most uproarious bit of the night, Nick reveals that his wallet his a sandwich bag with his license and money inside. Nothing else made me cackle quite like that bit of character humor. Bravo.

Judging by the selection of Beach House’s “Take Care” at the end, “New Girl” was not being coy about going for cloying. Their intended for this episode were one that would tug a bit on the heartstrings and spend more time in silence then is customary for a comedy so predicated on the word by word construction of its rapid fire jokes. Whether it was shots of Nick looking out at the sun spilling onto the serene ocean water or Winston yanking his license plate off the car in another metaphorical effort to separate Winston from his old self, it was clear that in all directorial respects they were going for the jugular. But considering they sacrificed little humor, and accomplished their end without compromising character integrity (perhaps they even bolstered it in Nick’s case), I approve of this slight departure from “New Girl” status quo.

Though “Injured” has left me somewhat scarred, still worrying about whether the writers will give Lamorne Morris his well-deserved shot to showcase Winston. And the encroaching possibility of a Nick-Jess pairing that continues to terrorize and threaten. Still, its efforts to attain importance for intelligent comedy were noble. For allotting a half hour to explore the depths of a character’s anxieties without losing out on comedic opportunities—we still got Schmidt being Schmidt and that indelible memory of their liquor-fueled jam session—I will yield positive test results with a B.

L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines:

“I can taste my spine.”

– “You’re walking like a Disney witch.”

– “Did you just Fredo-kiss me?”

– Nick’s excuses for not getting the ultrasound: He has to find a lost stamp, and he has to record the whales.

– “I always told him to treat his body like a temple, and he treats it like a dump!”

– Nick on his menstrual cramp pills: “I feel really warm in my uterus.”

– “Are you really using your friend’s illness to feel my boobs with your face?”

– “You don’t get to speak at my funeral.”

– Great visual gag: Jess trying to put the baby back into the uterus model at Sadie’s office


About The Author

Christopher Peck is a former Blast television editor

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