New Girl ‘Backslide’: Nick Versus Nick

For a few minutes, ‘Backslide’ felt like a true backslide to the lower-quality episodes of New Girl from early in the season: Justin Long was in, for one (the show’s worst little story line by far, and Jess’s conversation about being alone forever felt identical to earlier statements she made earlier in the season. But instead, it moved away from character regression, rather than toward it. It also finishes the episode on an interesting – if somewhat predictable – note, setting things up for what’s to come in the season finale.

Some of this ‘growth’ of course is completely artificial: Nick is probably not going to end with Caroline in the season. That whole story is the catalyst that will eventually lead to either Jess or Nick making a move on each other. There’s been plenty of signs for it throughout the season, and I almost thought she was going to come out with some kind of emotional confession about her feelings before Nick said he was moving in with Caroline (thankfully, it didn’t).

At this point as viewers, we just want them to get to the end of the season and finally put some cards on the table about where they’re heading with this. This episode makes it clear both in conclusion and overall structure, and in reality, the episode neither suffers nor benefits from it. The reappearance of Paul for a ill-timed one night stand is less painful than I expected, and really didn’t give him much to do except cry, which was fine with me. And while the whole proposal scene felt weird, it was a necessary reminder for Jess that instincts are to be trusted when it comes to issues of the heart. It’s a sentimental thought, but one New Girl doesn’t try to bog down in too many ‘awwwww’ moments.

With so much focus on Nick’s re-emerging Caroline relationship – which blesses us with a depressed Nick video ala Ron Swanson’s Tammy self-conversation tape – Winston and Schmidt are mostly relegated to one-note jokes, particularly Winston. It helps a lot that the whole earring gag is hilarious, but something is telling me that things are going a little too good with Winston right now (as he reminds us over and over in the episode) and I wouldn’t be surprised for Winston’s luck to change a bit in the coming weeks.

Elsewhere, Schmidt’s C-plot felt a bit rushed: CeCe telling Schmidt that she really wants to have something real with him is only reminding us of feelings we’ve known about for multiple weeks, and comes at the end of a nursing home segment that only serves the purpose of having some old people jokes (and some family figure of CeCe’s to wag her finger threateningly in Schmidt’s face, something every relationship on a sitcom gets at some point).

But I suppose this episode really isn’t supposed to resolve or advance anything, simply set things up to be paid off in the finale. Something is going to happen to Winston, CeCe and Schmidt are going to probably say I love you, and Nick and Jess are going to have a relationship-defining moment of some sort (maybe not a hook-up, but something). And for a table-setting episode, ‘Backslide’ is a nice, light little comedic piece that is entertaining, without feeling lazy.

Grade: B

Other thoughts/observations:

– CeCe: “Is emotional intimacy turning you on?” … poor girl just doesn’t understand love.

– The highlight of the episode for me was Nick talking to his DVD self. And the fact that the other guys have to hide the DVD.

– Schmidt’s dialogue was almost exclusively for boner jokes and earring on a guy jokes. Good thing everything he says is hilarious.

– Coach reference. Can we get him back for a cameo, or add him to the cast if Happy Endings gets cancelled?

– Nick’s jar of tears cracked me up. F-ing hilarious (and reminded me of his crying sessions in girls clothes, a scene that actually aired during the repeat episode that followed ‘Backslide’.)

What did you think of ‘Backslide’? Leave your thoughts/comments below!

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