It’s Jessica Day’s birthday in this week’s episode of New Girl and Nick has a fantastic surprise in store for her.

Jess, however, has a bad history of birthday celebrations, not because there’s ever been anything remotely bad but because she sets her expectations too high which allows for the subsequent letdown. So she tells Cece that she was going to do what she always does on her birthday and go to the movies alone but Nick has told her that he wants the two of them to spend the day together.

Cece makes her way back to the bar where the boys are gathered and tells Nick that Jess has no idea about the party he has planned. Nick checks in on everyone’s tasks; Winston is on cake patrol, Coach on decorations, Schmidt on electronics and Cece has agreed to cover Nick’s shift at the bar the next day so that he can be with Jess during the day.

That’s all covered so Cece asks Nick what he has planned. He tells her the party, of course. Cece meant during the day and Nick tells her that he hadn’t planned anything for the day, believing that the party was enough. Cece says that it’s their first birthday together and that coupled with Jess’s high expectations he needs to do something. He still believes he’ll be fine, thinking that Jess will want to sleep in since it’s her birthday and he’ll only have to worry between noon at the 7:00 pm party time.

He was wrong.

Jess is awake early at 7:00 am the next morning, leaning over to Nick to tell him that this was the time of day she was born and she’s wide awake. Nick’s immediate reaction is to simply slow down breakfast but before he can start he finds another glitch in the plan as Winston accidentally picked up the wrong cake. He tells him to fix it and move on.

Nick’s breakfast plans are hijacked as Jess realizes how slow Nick was moving—but not knowing why—and steps in making it so that her birthday breakfast is all set and done in a matter of minutes.

So Nick thinks birthday sex, which will take up some time.

Wrong again as the scene cuts to the two of them lying in bed after the deed is done and Jess talking about how that must have been the quickest it has ever happened. Nick tells Jess it’s just because she’s so pretty—a line fantastically delivered by Jake Johnson. Nick quickly realizes that barely any time has gone by and he has to figure out a solution. He suggests a six hour nap but Jess has the winning suggestion of going outside somewhere.

Schmidt has decided to check in on Cece at the bar considering the trouble she’s been having learning how to make drinks and getting along with a fellow co-worker Mike. Mike tells Cece that he isn’t going to go easy on her like Nick does. This is one of the few alone scenes Cece and Schmidt have had all season, something I didn’t put together until later in the episode.

Meanwhile Coach and Winston are arguing about the party preparation as Coach brags about how successful he was with his decorations job while Winston massively screwed up his one task. There’s more taunting which is interrupted by Nick calling, needing ideas on where to bring Jess. He tells them he has just brought her to a drugstore for a diabetes test and is running out of things to do. He tells them to finish the cake and leaves to distract Jess some more.

Coach and Winston challenge each other to a bake-off to see who can make the best cake for Jess’s birthday. This episode might be the best utilization of Coach’s character and Damon Wayans Jr.’s personal brand of face pulling comedy to date. Wayans and Lamorne Morris have a fantastic comedic chemistry that delivered most of the big laughs.

At the bar, Cece is instructed to make an Old Fashioned by Mike. Schmidt, realizing she doesn’t know how, subtly instructs her on how to do it until she’s completed making the drink and appeases Mike. It’s a nice way for the characters to interact in the side plot as well as manage to get the audience to believe that Cece would slowly allow Schmidt back into her good graces.

Nick over at the park is still failing to successfully distract Jess and this leads to Jess finding a children’s party setup and believing that it’s hers due to Nick’s strange behavior. Of course just as she runs over to the table the actual party goers arrive, embarrassing Jess.

And myself as well, I am absolutely terrible about second hand embarrassment it’s just the worst.

Jess apologizes to Nick, telling him that she doesn’t know why birthdays are such a big deal to her and thay she doesn’t know how to stem her expectations. She tells him that everything he’s done today is good for him and it shouldn’t matter since he shows how much he cares every day in their relationship so such a big weight shouldn’t be placed on him on just one.

Nick is still stuck at the “for him” bit and Jess says that he’s the guy who doesn’t plan anything. So in short what Nick takes from it is that she shouldn’t have expected much from him, which stings. Jess runs off to go back home and Nick stays put, hurt over the accusation.

At the apartment, Coach and Winston are in the midst of their bake=off when Jess runs in wailing. I wasn’t able to tell if Zooey Deschanel’s crying was supposed to be hammy or serious but I’m hoping for the former. They try to comfort her as they also hide the party decorations.

At the bar, Schmidt is giving Cece a pep-talk after she causes a mess. She says she has no marketable skills and believes she won’t be able to succeed. Schmidt tells her that she’s confident and she’s strong and that those are fantastic skills to have in your arsenal. This gives Cece a boost and the two leave to go to Jess’s surprise party and it seems that at the very least, the friendship between the two has been repaired.

Nick returns to the apartment, just as Coach and Winston are pulling out their cakes which have meshed together, leading them to making amends. Nick discovers that Jess has left to go to the movies alone, her original plans, and Nick says that they can still make the party work.

At the movies we see Jess hunker down with her two buckets of popcorn, with extra butter, and await the beginning of her movie. However, the movie doesn’t start and instead Nick’s face turns up onscreen.  It turns out he has rented out the theater and all of her friends are in the seats around her, waiting to celebrate. The video onscreen plays as friends and family wish her a happy birthday and tell her just how much she means to them, with messages ranging from Winston describing her as human (two eyes and bangs) to Cece’s heartfelt message about being her best friend. It’s sweet, it’s trite, it’s ridiculous and it says a lot about the natural charm of the show and the characters that we can suspend our disbelief.

Because this was just cute.

So cute that the technicalities of it go out the window and I force myself to stop wondering if renting out a theater for such an event is even possible.

As the video ends Nick turns to Jess who has once again disappeared and he finds her in the lobby, crying. He’s afraid he’s done something wrong but she tells him that she’s sorry and that it’s the nicest thing anyone has ever done for her.

As funny as screw up Nick is there’s only so much of it we as an audience can watch and then believe that Jess would fall for it. Eccentric oddball is one thing, unmotivated man-child is another and the former works much better in smaller doses so to see Nick succeed in the surprise is welcome progress for the character but especially for the relationship. Nick is so head-over-heels for Jess that he’s willing to go that much out of his way to try and make her happy.

I’m still rooting for this couple and as long as the writers continue to write the relationship with as much care as they’ve been taking I can’t see myself giving up on them anytime soon.

The sentimentality made up for the lackluster first half and the laughs provided by Morris and Wayans were fantastically delivered, making this another strong episode.

Make sure to tune in for the post-Super Bowl episode guest starring Prince!

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