When we were last with our New Girl crew Jess and Nick had just gone through a painfully realistic break-up. They had realized, albeit abruptly, that they had nothing in common aside from how much they love each other and that could only spell disaster later down the road. So, to avoid a failing relationship that ends with them hating one another they decide to break it off now and hope to keep their friendship intact.
On the one hand, I respect a show for treating a relationship with as much believability as they can and the writers did make sure to drive home just how many differences the Nick and Jess characters shared as well as highlighting how they were each forcing the other to change for them. That, coupled with a stunning ending scene acted out by Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson, almost made me okay with the break-up.
What has me still doubtful is the aftermath. All of season two was spent gradually putting the two characters together and by the halfway point I was actively rooting for it. I got it. I thought the pairing worked and I thought Deschanel and Johnson had tremendous chemistry that made all of their will they/won’t they scenes spark. To then rip that all away, just as the spring sweeps are in high gear and just as the season’s drawing to a close, seems formulaic for a show that’s gone against the grain countless times before.
My hope was that the returning episode would prove me wrong all while setting up the path for the couple to get back together. A difficult feat.
And somehow, they managed.
It starts with Nick waking up and finding himself covered in Memento style messages. He and Jess broke up, his bed burned down, and no, it wasn’t a dream is all written on his arm. We soon realize that Jess is still living in the bedroom since Schmidt has occupied Jess’s old room. This has led to some technical difficulties with Jess changing in the closet and telling Nick that boob season is over for him.
They try to talk about it like adults, acknowledging that they’re both handling it okay. Jess isn’t watching Dirty Dancing constantly and Nick isn’t drinking or drunk calling her. This must mean that they’re totally fine with the break up but it’s soon easy to tell just how awkward everything is especially since Jess can’t go home. They go to tell the guys about the break-up to make it a little easier, but are derailed when they learn that Winston got into the Police Academy and in order to not ruin his big day that should be all about him, they keep it a secret.
They decide they need to pretend to be a couple for one more day which knowing the two characters and their tendency to overreact, shouldn’t go well. They both assure each other one more time that they’re really okay.
Jess is then seen crying on the phone to her mom about how not okay she really is and worrying about how Nick seems fine.
Nick of course is not fine and is at the park, having pulled his bench mentor out of his dance recital to talk about his problems as well. This (in certain respects) is normal. People mourn relationships especially when it involves two people who really cared about each other. Nick tells Tran that he has to hide his emotions and it’s made worse that he has to hide them from his best friend. He says that he’ll have to fake it for a day and concentrate all of his energy towards Winston, distract himself.
Nick comes home and tells Winston that he needs to dream big about a way to celebrate his best day. He needs a Honey Roast—it’s like a Roast but people say nice things to him. Since Nick is going out of his way to distract himself he agrees and asks for more ideas. Winston wants a throne. And then he asks Nick to MC, as Fergusson, his cat. He says no to dressing up as a cat.
At the bar we’re given a Schmidt and Cece moment where she tells him that she’s studying for the GED and he offers up some real support and tells her that he’s going to take over as her tutor to help. Again, nice to see them as friends however, it hurts Jess’s plans when she runs to Cece for help and finds Schmidt in her living room.
Schmidt gets locked out because girl time always takes precedence. Which is something I love about this show and I always, always appreciate more Cece and Jess friendship scenes. It’s also nice to see Jess having someone to go to in these rough times.
Nick on the other hand still has no one as Coach catches him building Winston’s throne. However, Nick doesn’t last long and he tells Coach the truth and tells him that he feels like his brain is falling apart. Coach tells him that he has to hide the pain from Jess. Good advice (bad). Coach tells him to use Schmidt’s anxiety pills. Great idea (horrible).
Cece is giving better advice to Jess and tells her that she needs to go and tell Nick how she really feels so that Nick can be open about his emotions, too.
When Jess arrives though Nick is already doped up on his anxiety pills and feeling like cotton. So, her conversation doesn’t go smoothly. When she asks him how he feels he’s able to easily say that he feels amazing because of how leveled out he is.
With two other people knowing things are about to get messy and when Schmidt runs in Cece is forced to tell him about the breakup. Wine is brought out immediately when Jess and Nick join the group and when Winston arrives the two of them agree to do ANYTHING that makes Winston happy.
Cut to Jess drunk in a cat costume (that she just had lying around) and Nick, high, and playing the MC. They’re told to keep everything cute and it’s just about as uncomfortable as the show can make it and Johnson and Deschanel play the absurdity of their characters with energy.
To make things worse, Jess, who’s a couple of cups of wine in, decides to turn it into a real roast by saying mean things to everyone in the room and when she gets to Nick, goes off. She says that the worst thing is that he is ok, and she isn’t. Nick tells Jess not to be ridiculous, that he’s falling apart inside and is on Schmidt’s anxiety medicine which is why he seems okay. They let everything out and talk about how they thought they had a future together and now they don’t. Winston asks why they didn’t tell him and they say they didn’t want to ruin his big day.
Winston gets a really nice scene where he says that he appreciates that they’d ignore their problems for him but he’s okay and wants to be there for them now and make sure they’re okay.
Jess in the end does end up on the couch watching her break-up movie and drinking wine and Nick ends up drunk and calling Jess while emotional. He says this is all really hard and she agrees. They don’t know how to interact, where to sleep, it’s all about the social components of their relationship. They say goodnight and it’s a little sad, a little sweet and it’s just how New Girl should be and it marks the end of the first truly great episode of the show in a very long time.
The episode benefits from being the funniest it’s been in a while. From learning about how Winston yawning is agreed upon by the roommates to be his cutest attribute, to Schmidt ribbing on Cece about intelligence and then later being locked out of the room and worried about upsetting the girls with pregnancy talk, to learning that Jess has four cat costumes on standby and then the last group moment where they all hold hands and hum. This is a show about a group of weirdos and the best episodes are the ones where the show plays to that and allows all of the big personalities to shine. It’s very much a Jess and Nick-centric episode, but every character is given a moment to shine or let loose. Lamorne Morris is consistently the dark horse of the show and coupled with the character’s quirks we’re also given one of his first big wins with the Police Academy. And Max Greenfield still has the best line delivery on the show.
But by the end we’re with the two characters we began the episode with, Jess and Nick. They’re sad, and they’re separated by a wall, but they’re still talking and listening and laughing with one another and, while the possibility of reconciliation is still seemingly up in the air, their chemistry and personalities are still parts of the show’s best selling points when executed well.
It was a fantastic episode to come back with after being hit with such a lull, I hope the momentum keeps up.