It’s incredible how little things turn into big things in the television fanatics circle.
When it was announced that Vince Gilligan, creator of Breaking Bad, would be guest starring on cult favorite Community, if you listened closely you could hear the sounds of college-aged men openly weeping. When Tatiana Maslany of Orphan Black, a show about clones all played by the mentioned actress, was set to appear on Parks and Recreation fans felt vindicated over their love and admiration for the show and the actress’s performance. It’s, for whatever reason, a BIG deal when actors or directors we love cross over onto another piece of art that we love. Like when Rian Johnson directs an episode of Breaking Bad or Bryan Cranston an episode of Modern Family. The television fan club is extensive, overwhelming and easily exciteable.
Which explains, partly, the strong reaction to Coach’s return to New Girl, played by the fantastic Damon Wayans Jr.
What makes it so exciting? Well Wayans himself, for one, but also and more notably for his role on the critically acclaimed but recently cancelled show Happy Endings.
It’s one of the few shows I’m still irrationally angry about being cancelled.
He played Brad, one half of the best couple on television and was one of the most winning parts of the show—especially his relationship with onscreen wife Jane (played by the equally fantastic Eliza Coupe).
So to see the actors return to television on yet another show that I love is exciting! Also it’s a nice bit of continuity considering his appearance in the pilot episode of the show.
And therein lies the problem.
How many casual viewers are going to remember him considering his brief appearance and one that was on a shaky episode? Will it unfortunately tie in with his character’s joke of the episode about not remembering Jess? Because why would he when he only met her for a brief period of time?
Nevertheless, I am a fan at heart and critical perceptions aside I was hugely anticipating this episode to see how Wayans would integrate himself with the cast and how, two seasons later, would the character be written.
Coach texts Nick and says that he would like to hang out which makes him excited but Winston’s more hesitant saying it’s probably because he’s broken up with a girl since that’s what he does: finds a girl and leaves everything for her and then comes back whenever things go south. Nick, however, only remembers the good times of drunken public behavior.
Schmidt it seems isn’t completely out of the loft life considering he’s already lurking, claiming to only be there to trot his wind chimes over to his place. Coach also texted Schmidt asking to hang out. Nick and Schmidt are kind of sort of mad at each other but can’t help but get along before remembering that they’re angry at each other.
It’s that amazing, 10 year-old boy mentality that can have boys fighting and kicking to running around and having fun over the span of five minutes.
Coach appears and asks if they’re ready to party and the roommates are all too ready but the problem is: Coach doesn’t remember Jess so when he tells the guys that they’re all going to a strip club to celebrate single life, he doesn’t think about Jess and Nick.
Jess takes Nick away to talk to him about it and tells him that she doesn’t want to be “that” girl l (although I’d argue there isn’t a problem at all with being “that” girl) she doesn’t know if she’s comfortable with the idea of him going to the strip club. He’s about to talk about it when Coach comes in and asks Nick if they’re going and then accuses Nick of being whipped.
And since that is apparently the code word that makes guys go backwards in time, Nick tells Coach that of course he isn’t, that he and Jess haven’t even discussed the boyfriend, girlfriend label thing and that it’s totally cool.
Things are totally not cool though with Jess who is livid and wants to know what that’s supposed to mean. Nick just says they haven’t had that talk about being girlfriend and boyfriend and about seeing other people.
Nick is simply digging his own hole now so when Coach comes back of course he replies with “I’m just telling her what kind of cake to bake me, son.”
Thank you, Jake Johnson, for that line delivery.
He says it’s what Coach does to him, he turns him back into an idiot man-child and not in the endearing way that we and Jess love about him. It also turns Winston into a cowering, stumbling fool but hey, whose surprised that that’s the characterization he’s been saddled with.
Jess tells Nick to just go and that she’s going to be going to a bar to enjoy her singles night and that he should do.
Considering her night consists of meeting up with guest star Taye Diggs, I would say she’s having the most luck.
Meanwhile at the strip club Nick is beginning to feel guilty and wants them to head back but Coach is having none of that, determined to keep the night going. Things continue to get worse when Nick tries to drink Coach into a stupor so they can drag him home but it only seems to be making him stronger. After a mutually drunk call between him and Jess that alerts him to her being with Mr. Handsome, Taye Diggs, he tells Coach that they need to leave because what he has with Jess is amazing and she’s sweet and sexy and he needs to go prove to her how much he likes her.
And then Coach cries in a strip club and tells them that his girlfriend broke up with him for another guy. After embarrassing himself with the public breakdown he decides the four should go home but not before a showdown with the guy who stole his girlfriend.
Who is a police officer.
He’s the only one who thinks this is a good idea.
He gets out of the car while the other three stay put. Watching the three of them drunk in the back seat is maybe the funniest thing they’ve done in a while.
The four of them are about to get into a standoff when Nick tells them that they all need to grow up and move on with their lives. This advice lasts for a second before they begin antagonizing the officer when he comes outside but then back up comes they still run away.
But in diagonal lines considering they’re trashed.
They get back to the apartment where inside the loft Jess and Cece are dealing with a naked Taye Diggs in Jess’s bed and trying to get him to leave after Jess has come to her senses about how amazing she finds Nick and how despite some of his shortcomings he’s actually a really great guy.
Outside in the hallway Schmidt in a genuine moment tells Nick to go fix things with Jess and takes Coach and Winston over to his place to allow him some space. This is the Schmidt I’m a fan of: someone who thinks Raiders of the Lost Ark is Nazi propaganda but will perform nice gestures for his friends.
Nick catches Jess in a compromising position and Jess begs him to believe her when she tells him that nothing happened and while in every other sitcom this situation would cause drama over the trustworthiness of the relationship Nick, while not looking pleased, tells Jess that he believes her, no questions needed.
It’s a sweet scene and a defining one for New Girl whose greatest strengths are when the show breaks comedy convention. Nick then follows that up by telling Taye Diggs to get out of his girlfriend’s bed before he makes him. To make things even Nick takes off his pants and climbs into the bed before punching him in the face—he’s out cold.
Jess is understandably in to this Nick.
They dump him into an elevator and Jess tells him that he called her his girlfriend and the two do what Johnson and Zooey Deschanel do and kiss with some of the best onscreen chemistry on television.
The episode ends with the group situated around eating take out bought with Winston’s “bunny money” and considering Coach was mainly used as a foil for Jess and Nick it still works: it’s a good group with a fun dynamic and their realization that they’re adults who need to grow up a little, but not too much, is a great starting base for the new edition.
This was easily one of the better episodes in the past few weeks and depicted Jess and Nick’s relationship the way it should have been since the beginning of season three. They’re figuring things out sure but they’re not immature teenagers who need to shout about their problems. Their relationship is solid, they’re more mature then they give each other credit for and it’s a relationship that despite some narrative pitfalls is still one to actively root for.
And dammit I will, because I’m a television fanatic and I get overly enthusiastic about fictional characters.