In my travels this past weekend (ok, while channel surfing, laying in my bed) I happened upon the commercial for last night’s episode. I audibly groaned when I heard the premise: a pregnancy scare for Schmece (Schmidt and Cece). It’s a tired sitcom plot, and I’ve been exalting “New Girl” for being a more of a cutting-edge comedy than I had forecast when it premiered.
However, upon second thought I realized “New Girl” has mostly been using recycled material, but has been making it fresh with the ways their characters react atypically to the mayhem. “Secrets” was your standard “Everyone finds out” episode that had breathed life into it through each character’s lack of acceptance, and “Normal” was the usual boyfriend comes over fare, but an invented drinking game, “True American” made it stand out. So I was cautiously optimistic about how “New Girl” would treat this subject matter. And my faith was mostly rewarded.
We open with an understandably distraught Cece staring into space, horrified at the prospect of a Schmidt baby. She imagines the newborn nursing 24/7, and Jess adds they’ll need to make a “douche baby jar.” And when they inquire Schmidt about what he was like as a baby she is hardly comforted. Jess is wrestling with her own anxieties since Russell has asked her to watch his preteen daughter (and Jess’ student) for a day that weekend. Of course her biggest obstacle is the behavior of man-children Nick and Schmidt. She forbades Nick from inviting any college girls, but it turns out Nick has settled on one young lady, Chloe, in particular. Winston gets easily the weakest story line. He’s asked to chauffeur his boss, Joe Napoli (he’s racked up some DUIs) to Michael Strahan’s program, “On the Strahan Narrow”—ha! But when he picks him up the radio shock jock, he’s rummaging through other people’s trash.
Zooey Deschanel actually impressed me by pulling off her awkward encounter with Russell’s ex-wife. Her nervous cackling was pitch-perfect, and her panic when the ex refers to Russell as “my husband” even made me uneasy. As for the kid, Sarah, she was inconsistent in believability and in comedic effect. When she tells Nick he has poop eyes, I was disappointed that they were playing her crudely and younger than her age. I thought it would be a perfect opportunity for an “out of the mouths of babes” moment where she could precociously dissect Nick’s regressive dating habits. Maybe I was asking for too much. What we did get had its laugh-out-loud moments though. Her overzealous and disturbing interest in her dad’s sex life made me squirm—as well as the nonsensical and made-up names for sex acts like ‘doing the 99’ or ‘giving plows’—and her obsession with Nick had me rolling at times. Despite Schmidt being the most obviously attractive, Nick is perfect because he is so flawed and possibly the worst target for his affection (though it would continue the trend of him dating younger and younger…ew).
Schmidt is worried that Cece’s behavioral shift means she wants more substance in their relationship. He proposes they go on their first real date to see Italy on Ice (with a possible guest appearance by Drea de matteo!). Instead, she suggests he take someone else, trying not to make him suspicious of her potential pregnancy. This leads to the most overtly hilarious scene where Schmidt pretends to call another female prospect who is actually Nick. Although Nick isn’t in on this deception so he becomes quite concerned. His initial obliviousness and calm though was the best. Schmidt asks what he’s wearing flirtatiously and he blandly replies, “Button down shirt and jeans like I always do.” There’s many more golden exchanges that you can find in L.O.L.Ls. This sort of setup has been done before, but any chance to delve into complexities of Nick and Schmidt’s friendship is a-okay with me. And it’s a brilliant showcase of what Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield can bring and have brought to the table.
When Cece starts venting about the perils of not using protection (and inappropriately in earshot of Sarah), Schmidt overhears. I thought it was a spectacular decision on the writers part to add flair to this overused story by having him be thrilled with the news. It was nice to see Schmidt’s d-bag facade pulled back a bit to see how sensitive he can be. Despite being a control freak he isn’t thrown off by this interruption to his five-year plan. He believes this might be fate or the universe telling him that he’ll never find a girl better than Cece. But he sabotages these displays of his inner sweetheart soon after. When he assures Cece that he’ll support whatever decisions she makes, he undercuts this touching speech with his concerns that he’ll create a “Russian nesting doll situation” if they have sex while she’s with child. Oh Schmidt, don’t ever change.
Sarah’s rage at the dinner table was satisfying. The death stares at Chloe were sufficiently over-the-top, but within the obnoxiousness of a preteen girl’s raging hormones. Jess’ efforts to calm down her possessive attitude fall flat, but we get the gem of a revelation that Chloe actually knows Sarah from riding on the same school bus together. It just so happens that Chloe is a VERY recent high school grad and is 18 years old. It’s awful, it’s abhorrent and damn funny. Worse yet, Jess suddenly remembers that she subbed a few years back for Chloe’s 8th grade class. This has to be Nick’s rock bottom, but he sure seems to have a lot of them. I won’t say I’m actively rooting for him to stay miserable, but as his life enters into further disarray, he becomes more of a rival for Schmidt as the funniest character on the show.
Jess is infuriated by this sh*tshow and berates Nick and Schmidt for maybe ruining her fling with Russell. Her notion that they insist on “making and/or dating babies” was another reason this may have been one of Deschanel’s best performances. Her anger and unsettled demeanor seemed the most justified it has been, and she never ventured into absurdity. Dare I say she seemed like an adult? She has a lot of work to do before she can become the disciplinarian sort of parent, but she recognizes those faults, which is half the battle. When Sarah’s mom shows up she tries her hardest to get it together. She has Schmidt create a diversion while Nick helps to coax Sarah out of his room. It was apropos that when he’s trying to convince her that her loving feelings are misplaced he realizes that his way of dealing—being numb to it all—is more unhealthy, so he tells he to stay locked up in that room forever. When Sarah finally does walk out she’s stuck in a cocoon of Jess’ bras and Sarah’s mom walks in. This only adds to her disapproval, especially when Cece storms in and kisses the woman because she got her period. Jess makes her peace with it and literally closes the door and declares, “I’m not having kids till I’m 80.” Wise choice.
Regretfully Winston’s side adventure is not as triumphant nor did it incite as much outrageous laughter as the rest of the episode. I didn’t care much at all about what Joe Napoli was going through and I still don’t understand the connection between his apparent hoarding (he buys seven copies of “Speed” on VHS at a yard sale) and his insecurities around Michael Strahan (I did like the idea that he has been a dick since he got his Super Bowl ring), but if anything it showed how Winston is the most put-together of the group. He still could work on his own self-image, but the way he encouraged Joe was admirable. I couldn’t help but feel like this plot was an excuse to pull him out of the main stories because he would have been wasted there, but I wish they had given it a shot. Winston has thrived as the voice of reason, and his dynamic with the others has yielded raucous results in the past. But this was the only major disappointment so maybe I shouldn’t cry over this spilled milk (though milk is a precious commodity in my apartment so that saying does not apply to me).
The “New Girl” writers should be commended too for the serious momentum they created with the final shot before the credits. If Winston is the most mature, Schmidt earned some brownie points this week and is sneaking up on him. He surprised me with the intention of a grand gesture—the words “Marry Me” written in the sky. He ultimately chickens out and prevents Cece from seeing it when she’s adamant that they should return to the way things were, before she had her scare. Since this means they’re back to casual sex, Schmidt rescinds his proposal, but with only a few episodes to go I can’t imagine they’ll abandon Schmidt’s unrequited need for something deeper. I’m unsure if this was supposed to be the end of Russell, since he never appears on screen to disapprove of Jess’ babysitting, only his ex-wife did. I hope it isn’t, because there is a lot of comedic ground they could still cover and Dermot Mulroney has been a delight.
I continue to love these characters and be genuinely pleased by how they interact with one another. Between Schmidt’s fake flirting with Nick, and Jess’ foray into motherhood, it’s obvious these people are dangerously inept at being proper grownups, but who is ever totally ready for that? We’re all a little lost, so why not poke a little fun at it? For staying true to who these people are at their cores, even if they didn’t all get five-star treatment, the episode provided four-star fun. Any show that can make me smile this often cannot be a bad addition to the TV landscape.
L.O.L.Ls: Laugh Out Loud Lines
– “I was the bomb-diggity as a baby. They say I was break dancing at eight months. And they say I needed a magnum-sized diaper.”
– “No bringing in college girls, Berlusconi!”
– “Oh my god I love Nick so much. He’s so hot. I wanna rub my face on his face!”
– Schmidt calls Nick and pretends to flirt with him, then Nick expresses his concerns: “Everything all right? You wanna hang out more Schmidt?”
– Schmidt: “Are you taking care of that tushy?” Nick: “I mean I’m not doing squats or anything. I’m trying to eat less donuts.”
– Schmidt’s elation over Cece’s potential pregnancy: “We made a caramel miracle!”
– Jess, on if Nick is hot: “Yeah, in a rumpled, small town PI kind of way.”
– Do his eyes get sleepy? Does he love stuff? I wanna love what he loves. Do you think we’ll ever do animal style?”
– “I can’t wait to take this journey with you. Your boobs are gonna be unbelievably enormous.”
– Schmidt on how young Chloe is: “She doesn’t even know what Netscape is. She thinks Ice Cube is mainly an actor.”
– Joe Napoli to Winston: “You know if you were a woman, or even dressed as a woman, we’d be unstoppable.”
– Not a line, but I loved when Jess compared their group to The Golden Girls. Jess is DEF Betty White and Schmidt is obviously Rue McClanahan, but what about the rest? Winston is like a mother figure so maybe he is Sophia, but I’m not sure if Nick fits as Bea Arthur. Food for thought.