Here’s my difficulty with this week’s episode of New Girl: they did everything right but in the wrong way.
I laughed throughout the episode, each character got a moment to shine and the dramatic moments really sold. I’ve always held the belief that comedy is at its best when it isn’t simply a redundancy of jokes followed by punch line and repeat—there needs to be substance. A great comedy tells a story, no matter how ridiculous or relatable, it has a focus and most importantly it makes us love the characters. If we’re going to be watching a show for multiple seasons there needs to be reasons to invest the time: we need to like the people we’re following. And as of right now we do.
They’ve also successfully managed to bridge drama and comedy—I choked on laughter as Winston’s insanity took another step into the deep end as he saved a table for hours-I was shocked by how stricken I was by Max Greenfields performance as Schmidt tells Cece he’s been lying and cheating on her.
We’ve always known that the storyline was going to end messy-how could it not? But it’s saddening to see Schmidt turn so drastically from loveable idiot into a potentially unlikeable character in a single episode. I don’t know exactly what the writers are trying to accomplish with this storyline but the episode was one where every component works but lacked execution finesse.
And it had all started out so well!
When the episode opens Jess and Nick and Cece and Schmidt have congregated in the living area after each having enjoyed the night with their significant other. Schmidt however had already made plans with Elizabeth when Jess suggests that the four of them go on a double date. Schmidt scrambles to try and fix the problem but it’s set in stone. Winston joins them momentarily as well—his cat Ferguson in tow—and tells them that he wants in on the double date—a double date plus one.
Totally and completely not awkward to be the fifth wheel.
Lamorne Morris has an elastic face. When trying to get his point across about wanting to join the group he went through maybe twenty facial expressions. If season one was Greenfield’s breakout and season two was Jake Johnson’s, I’m hoping that season three proves to be Morris’s because his slow slide into insanity has been the most consistently funny thing to come from the season so far.
Nick and Jess are lying in bed, still simply enjoying couple time, when Cece barges in to ask them a question about Schmidt. She’s worried he’s on drugs because of how he’s been behaving and how he hasn’t been blinking. It’s one of those scenes that would have been funnier if the audience didn’t know what the true cause was. It’s difficult to make two timing funny.
However, Nick gets some laughs at his being uncomfortable being naked under the blankets as Cece sits on the bed too. Cece asks Nick to talk to Schmidt about what’s going on and while Nick would rather stay out of it completely ends up conceding because of Jess.
Meanwhile, Winston is at a high-end restaurant trying to make a reservation and instead ends up stuck at a community table (something I didn’t even know existed) and tried to make everyone uncomfortable enough to leave so that he could save four seats for his friends…for hours.
Nick goes to speak with Schmidt and tells him he’d rather not be having this conversation and before he can escape Schmidt pulls him inside the room to drop the bomb on him: he’s been cheating on Cece and Elizabeth with the other and he’s been confused and really doesn’t want to hurt either of them.
Too late Schmidt.
Nick, as expected, doesn’t know how to handle this revelation. Schmidt has done stupid things before, he’s done selfish things before, but it has never seemed as destructive. Nick tries to deny what his best friend has done before losing it asking Schmidt how he envisions this whole scenario turning out for him. Schmidt at least is self-aware enough to admit that he doesn’t see it ending well.
Schmidt than tells Nick that he can’t tell Jess.
Which of course lasts a good ten seconds.
Nick tries to avoid confrontation by wearing a helmet because Nick logic deems that reasonable. It almost works too when Jess believes it’s a prelude for the no kissing sex they’ve been meaning to try out but afterwards she gets straight to the point and asks Nick how the talk with Schmidt went.
It just so happens that Nick can’t lie to Jess and in a rampage Jess yells at Schmidt and tells him that either he has to tell Cece or she will. Cece is her best friend and she can’t believe that he would screw her over like this. It’s her job to protect her now that Schmidt’s failed that job. For a second, it looks like Schmidt agrees with her and makes the adult decision to tell a woman he supposedly loves the truth but it quickly turns into another escape. Cece arrives and Schmidt races off with her telling them that they should take two cars to the restaurant.
In the two cars two very different conversations are going on. As a way to test the waters Schmidt tells Cece that Nick is cheating on Jess and like Jess, Cece responds poorly to someone mistreating her best friends. She tells Schmidt that cheating is cowardly, mean-spirited and anyone who does it deserves a punch to the groin.
In the other couple’s car Jess is telling Nick that he should have said something back at the apartment where instead he was trying to distract them by doing a happy dance. He tells her that Schmidt is his best friend and she responds by saying that’s why he should have intervened.
So once they get to the restaurant—where Winston is still waiting and growing sadder as the time passes— Nick confronts Schmidt one last time and tells him he needs to tell Cece the truth, for both of their sakes.
Cece however beats all of them to the punch—literally—and throws a well-aimed punch or two to Nick’s junk before Schmidt has a moment to intervene and tells her the truth, finally.
It was a nice touch to have Cece seemingly come to the realization a second before Schmidt said it aloud.
This is a great scene for Greenfield. It’s sad despite him being the instigator of the problems. Typically one to rely on over-the-top enunciation and bizarre facial expressions—all to wonderful effect—he is unsettlingly subdued in this scene, his character sobering in his almost out of character sincerity. He tells Cece that he loves her, that he really didn’t mean to hurt her and that because of his past with being insecure he still hasn’t managed to grab a handle on women and love and how it all works out.
And I believed him. Greenfield manages to showcase a range that the audience was unaware he possessed before this scene.
If only the same could be said about Hannah Simone. While Simone has always done well with the material she’s been given she’s also always undoubtedly been the weak link in the acting talent on the show. She’s a broad actress, painting in broad strokes rather, and when a scene calls for subtlety she can only partly deliver which is a shame considering the scene really isn’t impactful especially when she tells Schmidt that his apology isn’t enough and leaves him standing alone.
His second breakup also goes poorly but isn’t as impressive as it seems to simply be yet another weight gag at Elizabeth with her throwing a pie in Schmidt’s face. It’s deserved, yes, but for a relationship I’d invested time in it would have been nice for its ending to be treated with a little more seriousness.
The episode ends with Schmidt blaming the fiasco on Jess and Nick (why? I don’t know) and telling them that he vows to break the two of them up.
I’m hoping it’s simply a heat of the moment declaration but Jess and Nick seemingly take it seriously and the two begin to divulge information and secrets that could possibly be used to tear them apart. Amongst the funniest confessions is Jess saying she’s afraid of pears and pear-shaped people and Nick admitting that he’s not convinced he can read and thinks he’s just memorized a lot of words.
I don’t know. All of the pieces were fine but by the episode’s end I wasn’t sure if I liked it or not. I know for sure I don’t like evil Schmidt or the idea that he could break Nick and Jess up. I can’t tell how the show wanted us to treat Schmidt and his actions, if we’re supposed to find them funny or saddening.
This week’s episode was full of a lot of ideas, a lot of good ideas and most of them played out successfully, but the ones that didn’t left big enough marks that it deterred from my overall enjoyment of the episode.
Oh well, till next week when hopefully everything jels a little better.