It’s been a long, long time coming, but everything that occurs in sitcom darkness must eventually come to the light…
“Everyone finds out” episodes are a staple of the sitcom nowadays. The array of ridiculous and irrational responses end up completing justifying why the guilty parties sneaked around and never ever wanted to tell anyone, ever. It also provides us with a non-stop laugh riot as the uninformed slowly become aware and one by one the capacity to accept this upsetting new reality escalates into pure madness. Say what you will about “Friends,” but the NBC comedy mega-hit paved the way for the ensemble “hang-out comedies” of this generation. That, and workplace comedies, seem to be the pervasive trend, and “Friends” definitely sketched the blue print.
Secret romantic trysts between the core characters were business as usual on “Friends” and the “Everyone finds out” episodes are some of the most memorable and hilarious ones from their 10-season run. The butt of the joke, almost without fail was David Schwimmer’s Ross Gellar. Schwimmer was the slapstick king on that set and he redefined the limits of overreaction. He could yell and experience frightening emotional shifts with the best of them and the unpredictability of just how poorly he might take it when, say, his sister and his best friend are sleeping together, or when his ex-wife Rachel and his other best friend Joey start testing the romantic waters, were masterful in how utterly absurd he could be without ever seeming outside the realm of possibility.
That said, “New Girl’s” choice to reveal the powerful secret to everyone in the loft within the first five minutes was bold, but resulted in some comedic genius. And yet at points it was detrimental. Nick’s “sweatback” was gross and peculiar, so totally in sync with who Nick is, as were his per usual facial contortions. Pain is a great look comedically for actor Jake Johnson. Jess, on the other hand, fluctuated between petty and hilariously inappropriate. Zooey Deschanel can’t shoulder all the blame for this because her motivations, aside from the obvious shock, are never explicitly conveyed or are fused with that of the guys’. We never doubt for a second that Nick and Winston’s world is rocked mostly out of envy. Schmidt is banging a supermodel. Wow, that made me angry just to type that, and Schmidt is neither my friend nor real! Add in their perception that his sexual past makes him at least a partially deplorable human being, and the least deserving of supermodel sex, and it’s enough to damage their collective psyches for years.
Jess’ anger was harder to grasp. Since she’s not in lesbian love with Cece (actually that would have been a hell of a twist) so that rules out jealousy. She can certainly be mad about the violation of trust (and space since they’ve done it in a smattering of locations within her apartment including her bed “that one time”), but she portrays it as if it were a personal affront, an unwritten promise between them that was blatantly broken. There was a point where I thought they were going the weak route of “girl code” when Jess makes the snippy remark that she’s “limbering up in case I wanna sleep with one of your roommates.” As a line and a burn it was raunchy and classic, but as a motivation for her disgust it fell on the petty side. Where they ended up, with Jess feeling their bond as friends had been diminished because Cece didn’t come to her, was more earnest, and yet a breeding ground for hilarity as we came to find out.
Casting aside character quibbles for now, let’s take a moment to celebrate the sheer brilliance of last night’s Laugh Out Loud Lines. Obviously, the cream of the crop will be covered below, but Winston had his best episode so far and may have stolen the MVP. The return of Theodore K. Mullins and Schmidt schooling Nick in the art of douchebaggery were incredibly well-done and exemplified how much fun this show has been having. I loved Winston’s bit of meta-commentary,”This is definitely one of the stranger things we’ve done.” Whether it was Schmidt using his imaginary blackboard, Nick surmising that the acronym S.S.V was “Short, Simple, Vagina,” (The V is supposed to be Vague) or Winston’s episode-long struggle to come to terms with the cruel world that would allow Schmidt the privilege of sleeping with Cece, the guys ran a non-stop sprint, never faltering, and cruised past the girls this week.
Although it’s the B-plot, let’s delve a bit deeper into Nick’s dilemma. Since Schmidt has been to the mountaintop (or as he calls her, the Hindu temple), Nick reluctantly begins to acknowledge that he actually respects Schmidt’s prowess as a ladykiller. It’s a painful scene to watch as Schmidt seizes the control, and in true douche fashion, never lets go. Nick’s relinquishing of control, an agreement to study under Schmidt, stems from his crucial error of not turning the ringer off his phone while he’s entertaining another lady friend. See, since Dirk’s soiree, a tidal wave of 21 year-old girls have been throwing themselves at Nick. In characteristic fashion, he’s unable to enjoy because of all the stress it has induced trying to keep up. So when he throws his phone at the wall to avoid his college-age conquest’s jealousy, Schmidt sees him hit this rock bottom and takes him under his wings.
The results, as one might expect, are awesome. Schmidt starts by conditioning Nick into becoming a better liar and escape artist. He tests Schmidt in the arena of pillow talk, of course lying in bed beside him. Nick strains to be cold to the “woman” he just had sex with, but Schmidt insists that he’ll just continue to run into similar traps if he doesn’t embrace his inner jerk. My favorite part still, is when Jess comes in, her face starting to twitch and she stutters, “Is this happening now too?” The idea that Schmidt has scarred Jess for laugh had me in stitches. Does that make me a bad person? However, the real kicker is when Jess demands a honesty policy be implemented in the loft and it backfires miserably. While she’s been harboring some of the petty crimes that the men commit against each other, what they disclose to her is slightly more horrifying. Apparently, in some form or another, all three of them have pictured Jess while “self-completing.” I died. Not only is the term, “self-completing” a delightful turn of phrase, but Winston’s masturbatory fantasy was that she had raccoon hands. “Oh they were DIGGING through that garbage.”
Thankfully, the escalation continues. Jess’ main beef is that Cece hasn’t been honest. She’s kept so much from her for fear of her judgment that their friendship seems built on a foundation of lies. So, Cece vindictively rattles off all of her previously unheard stories. There’s the time she slept with the arms dealer, the time she told Jess that she had whiter feet just to make her feel better, and the time she saw the movie “My Girl” with Jessica P. before she saw it with her. The best line delivery of the night may have come from Deschanel when she followed with “JESSICA FREAKING P!” Chaos ensues on the other side of the loft too when two of Nick’s one night stands meet and one is wearing the other’s scarf.
This causes Winston to stomp out from his room and bellow with a God-like command for everyone to SIT…DOWN. All business, he calms everyone down, plays the consummate nanny and leaves all the grievances on the table (I still want to see more of of him with the kid!). But the gem of a performance comes when he does Nick a solid and gets both of the girls to leave when he channels “The Negro Spiritual” and pronounces that he is Theodore K. Mullins, Nick’s lover on the down low, “Flesh on flesh. When the lights are off, we’re all the same.” I almost cried I cracked up so hard. I have been waiting almost the entire season for Winston to get his chance to shine, and he killed it. All four of the roommates are finally, fully figured out. We know who they are, what their role in the loft is, and they all serve their respective comedic niches beautifully.
The affair’s fallout culminates at the 10K charity run. Nick embraces his inner player and conjures up the excuse of a family emergency for why he neglected to call one hookup, and for the other he rationalizes that he had forgotten to mention he slept with her roommate because “They had a moment so intense I thought we were the only two people on Earth” *Slow clap* Gotta hand it to him, not too shabby. Jess, who is winded almost instantly, stumbles over to Cece where she goes all psychoanalyst and reads Cece’s reticence to tell her as an attempt to hide herself from the truth that she legitimately likes Schmidt. It was also a nice touch that what tipped her off was Schmidt’s “See Cece Run” t-shirt. It’s a messy resolution to say the least, and Jess never apologizes for flipping out, but that could have been the dehydration sucking the manners out of her, I suppose. Still, she was mad rude.
While Zooey Deschanel definitely put on an impressive display of physical comedy chops, she didn’t carry this episode like a David Schwimmer would’ve. So when Cece and Jess are bickering and running around their issues (literally in the case of the charity run), the episode dragged a bit. But when the roommates’ inflated personalities are bouncing off each other, it’s a sight to behold. Some of Jess’ best scenes happen when she unleashes her rage upon the guys, and for once she becomes the most mature person in the room. Well, until she oddly responds to their sickening behavior by sporting winter wear, but these things are bound to happen in “Everyone finds out” episodes.
For affirming my belief that this show was on the trajectory to become one of the most fun shows to drop in on, I want to give this one an A. Winston and Nick’s performances alone sold me, but Schmidt’s gloating and glee as a professor of douchebag studies was icing on the cake. However, as mentioned, those three fellows ran a much smoother relay. The Jess and Cece conflict should have played second fiddle, so the episode labors in the last leg like Cece dragging Jess across the finish line. Though we end on a sweeter, stronger bond with Schmidt holding Cece to his rigid kitchen standards,criticizing her shoddy workmanship, while we know Cece is still harboring the secret that she no longer dreads these moments of togetherness. “Secrets” achieved the highest highs so far, but I cannot be dishonest and say I was wholly blown away. B+.
L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines
– “Good thing I’m a quiet breather. I learned that playing “Who passed out?” with my mom. My mom always won.”
– “Can we take a moment to celebrate me? I mean Schmidt really did it this time. I’m having Indian every night.”
– Winston: “Why do you start talking like a Native American when you get angry.” Jess: “Two moons have passed!”
– “For what it’s worth, I think what I did was really brave.”
– “Since my 20’s, I’ve had a string of lesser paramours that like weathered stone steps have led me to the Hindu Temple. A.k.a Cece. Because she’s Indian.”
– Nick: “Schmidt, I need you to teach me…how to be a douchebag.” Schmidt: “Let’s get to work!” Winston: “What’s happening with the world!”
– Schmidt helping nick practice lying to women: “Hey, what happened to your phone?” Nick: “Jesus took it. A Jesus hawk on a speedboat. The environment. Bears. Family. Magic. I need your help. Schmidt.”
– “Jess I had to give it a try. That was the same hand that was inside Elmo!”
– “Can you say the following words? ‘The ice roads are too dangerous. You’re gonna have to turn back, chief.'”
– “That sports bra is doing God’s work.”
– “My shoes are filled with blood. Ha!”
– End credits sequence where Winston tries to seek reason for why Cece would pick Schmidt: “Are you working for the government?” “Is he holding you against your will? If he is, blink twice. *Blows into her face*” “Are you tired of being turned on?