New Girl‘s been juggling a number of story lines through the second season: Jess and Nick, Cece getting married, Jess getting fired, Nick and his father, Winston and Nick’s father, Schmidt getting over CeCe and rekindling his college romance with Elizabeth… and in a bold move, they decide to shove them all into a single episode, all under the guise of a single event that actually never takes place (Winston’s birthday party). Although the inclusion of many different plots leave some of them feeling a bit undercooked, the episode is more than funny enough to make up for it – and the emotional sentiments of many of these arcs are in the right place, just not executed to their full potential in the small time frame each is given.
I really enjoy how the episode is constructed, breaking interactions up into short sequences to give it the hectic pace to mirror Jess’s day. It’s also a funny play on the romantic trope of the inherent chaos and awkwardness following a romantic entanglement, keeping the two lovers apart instead of keeping them together for comedic and dramatic effect. It hangs over a lot of the episode – especially with Nick, who confides in Jess’s dad about his feelings without telling him who it is (at first) – but it never saturates what’s happening to the point that it overshadows the other, very funny bits going on.
The best of these has to be Winston, who is completely ignored by every other character on his birthday. He dresses up in a Eddie Murphy Delirious-era leather suit and shows up to CeCe’s house, thinking there is a party for him – but there’s no party, he was just supposed to bring CeCe her wedding sawrey (he also thinks the runny eggs and mutilated grapefruit Nick prepared for Jess is for him). In some ways, it feels like a bit of obvious meta-commentary about how pointless Winston can feel sometimes, but that certainly doesn’t take away from moments like his excitement at Schmidt’s telescope (“you know how much I love to explore space and time!!!”).
New Girl continues to walk a tightrope with its Nick and Jess material, but there’s no denying how well-grounded they’ve kept the two characters about the situation, when most other sitcoms are throwing their hands up in the air and screaming “HOLLYYY SHIIITTT!” about it all. Keeping Jess distracted with an audition for a new teaching job and her father returning for a visit is an easy way to do this, but what interactions they do have are written so well – like the moment they woke up in the morning, realizing they just slept with a best friend – if you’ve ever had this moment in your life, you know exactly how honestly that scene is written.
I do think Schmidt and Elizabeth’s budding relationship comes on a little quickly – but again, I think it works because the flashbacks from last week’s episode did enough leg work to establish the attraction between each other. Elizabeth fell for a really geeky guy with a great sense of humor, and Schmidt fell for a woman who made him feel special. And like the other plots of the episode, it plays with romantic comedy tropes; the guy is embarrassed for hooking up with the non-conventionally beautiful girl, and ignores her in front of his colleagues/friends/whatever. What’s great is how they bring Schmidt back to her (again playing on a trope: this time, the “grand romantic gesture in a restaurant”), showing us that he’s invested (at least, until next week’s finale) in Elizabeth, desperate for the comfort of a familiar face in a time of desperation for him (literally days before CeCe’s wedding).
Yes, things are rushed in this episode – and yes, a lot of it is just playing with the surface ideas of predictable romantic comedies… but there’s a certain energy to the dialogue and scene changes in this episode I found infectious, creating this atmosphere of wackiness that stemmed from the totally-unrelated-to-anything event of Nick and Jess finally sleeping together – the ultimate bit of irony to bring the themes of the episode full circle.
– Schmidt to the band: “Hey Geppeto, make with the oom-pop-pop.”
– Bobby D’s sandwich theory: “lettuce, tomato, meatmeatmeatmeatmeatmeatmeatmeat, cheese, lettuce.”
– Winston: “IT’S HAPPENING!!!”
– Shut up, Bernie.
– Nick tries to describe his girlfriend Yolanda Winston to Bob: “She’s not quirky… she doesn’t have bangs… she’s tall, and fat, and has ugly, beady little eyes.”
– Miguel hands Jess a cigarette as a sign of acceptance – how cute is that?
– Of all the people who scream on this show (male or female), Nick’s is by far the highest-pitched.
– “We had a school goat named Melvin… he hung himself on the swing set.” Holy shit, man.
– I’m a little nervous heading into the season finale… last year New Girl was on a roll heading into the finale, which didn’t quite end the season on a strong note.