Back from a healthy spring break, New Girl delivered one of its finest episodes of the season with ‘Quick Hardening Caulk’, a hilarious half hour about the people Jess and Schmidt want – and how they both fail at being able to coherently express those feelings. Strong from start to finish, both with its jokes and its characters, ‘Quick Hardening Caulk’ is among New Girl‘s best.
At first, Jess’s sudden sexual attraction to Nick might feel a little contrived, but this is Jess Day, a girl who is prone to falling in love with the idea of people. She was into Paul because he was just like her (in fact, too much like her), and dating Sam was Jess trying to embrace some other life style she was using as a distraction from her true feelings. So when Nick starts talking about taking vitamins and being a responsible bartender (instead of getting so drunk, he pisses in the register), it makes perfect sense that would flip a switch in Jess’s brain, already in a precarious position when it comes to her feelings about him.
Schmidt’s also struggling to hold his feelings in, pulling Winston into his marine-related CeCe metaphor, trying to hunt down an elusive fish. It’s a very thinly veiled metaphor by construction (despite Schmidt’s insistence on its subtlety), but it provides a good comedic avenue for Schmidt to express some of his frustrations over seeing CeCe get engaged. I also like those scenes because it’s a rare example of the show finding a direction for Winston, who shows how loyal he is to his friends, even when they might be off on slightly bat shit tangents.
‘Quick Hardening Caulk’ also makes a very intelligent point about bottling your feelings – notice the shape Schmidt, Nick, and Jess end up in by the conclusion. Nick’s got a bruised face and burnt head, Jess has a concussion, and Nick gets a nasty jellyfish bite on his face. It’s not healthy to avoid emotional truths, and although the consequences are played up to comic effort, the truth underlying it is quite sincere, tying the protagonists of the episode together beautifully.
The episode culminates in two perfectly written scenes, with Nick and Jess passionately confronting each other in the kitchen, and Winston talking to CeCe while Schmidt rested in the hospital. The latter of these was really well done: Winston points out to CeCe that she’s getting married, and being around all the time to remind Schmidt is only hurting him. It’s a quick scene, but again, it gives Winston a purpose he’s often missing in the show, and adds a great dynamic to the scene.
The highlight, though, is the scene between Nick and Jess, which is equal parts honest, sappy, and funny as hell, as their injuries incurred while avoiding their feelings end up preventing them from expressing them in the manner they’d like. Plus it’s more of Nick and Jess yelling at each other, which is still written well enough that it’s not worn out yet.
‘Quick Hardening Caulk’ doesn’t fit most people’s definition of a ‘classic’ episode – there are a few minor flaws, like Nick’s boss and girlfriend Shane, who’s basically a non-presence in her two scenes, despite being the catalyst for the episode’s climatic scene. But for my money, it’s one of the best episodes of the season, able to indulge itself in a bit of slapstick and Schmidt schtick while also moving its characters forward in meaningful ways, a masterful balance of the show’s comedic and dramatic elements.
– Winston can’t pee on Schmidt’s face to help his jellyfish sting – he’s already gone in the ocean. More importantly, it represents the fact that while Winston is there to help Schmidt while he’s down, Schmidt ultimately has to heal himself. He’s not quite there yet, but in this episode, Schmidt learns that shoving your head underwater to avoid reality is only going to hurt worse.
– the signature joke was given away by the title, but the entire hardware store scene was hilarious. Nick holding the steel pipe like it was his dick, Jess reading off his shopping list… right down to Jess cooling off in front of air conditioners, reminding herself that she’s seen him masturbating to mail-order steak catalogs.
– I love Jess’s reaction to Nick’s use of the phrase ‘butt love’.
– yes, using drugs to get Jess to express her feelings is a tiny cop out – but the show makes great material out of it, so it’s forgiven.
– “An aquarium the size of a sixth grader just broke, and you’re going to get paper towels?”