“Nerd” and “Double Date” are very much two sides of the same New Girl coin: the former re-establishes the stakes for season three, and the latter executes on these ideas, presenting each of the loft’s inhabitants and the emotional issues they’ll be dealing with this season. Because of this construction, “Double Date” is a much more effective episode than “Nerd” (a terrific Max Greenberg performance in “Double Date” doesn’t hurt, either), paying off many of the moments we’ve been waiting to see since the finale.
The biggest of these, of course, centers on Schmidt’s balancing act of Elizabeth and CeCe, which rightfully blows up in his face in the climatic moments of “Double Date”. The show doesn’t quite execute on the ‘man stuck between child and adulthood’ theme it appeared to set out on last season: it tries to return to that well in his speech to CeCe, but there hasn’t been any time spent with either of them (and Schmidt not freaking out about the woman he currently isn’t with) to give a lot of insight to that. Why can’t he make a decision – the show seems to suggest there’s something lacking in his confidant facade, but doesn’t really come up with a good way to define that. There’s obviously more to what Schmidt’s been doing than a simple balancing act: it seems he’s been struggling with his identity, something the show only briefly grasps when he points out to her that he doesn’t know how to handle the intricacies of relationships and dating, having been a fat kid for the better part of his life.
Although it’s played much less seriously, this ties in directly to Winston’s disconnected antics: Winston is also a man in a crisis of identity brought on by the women in his life, being rejected by Daisy in “Nerd” and nearly forgotten in “Double Date”. He’s showing some signs of an oncoming nervous breakdown – either that, or the character of Winston’s just been reduced “crazy motherf*cker”, and he’ll continue along on these solo adventures for the foreseeable future. I’m hoping there’s more to it, that the writers know that they’ve written a passionate character with nowhere to put his inherent goofy enthusiasm (to save a relationship, he’s willing to attack a cat that he’s emotionally attached to… there’s something more to that than just simple comedy), a man without a country to defend.
Where both the episodes really shine, though, is when they put back the plot machinations of the Schmidt love triangle, and (unfortunately) abandons Winston off on a side adventure: the most subtle, entertaining scenes of both episodes involve Nick and Jess – save for the last two scenes of both episodes, which reach for kitschy emotional resolution with no real need to do so. Nick and Jess are two people of two different minds, from two different worlds – and the writers of New Girl have not only grasped that, but have recognized that their relationship can’t be all jokes about them butting heads. Comedies often forget this: even the Sam/Diane dynamic rotted out over time thanks to the constant badgering they placed on each other, without enough real emotional connection underneath it to keep it believable. Jess and Nick disagree quite a bit in both episodes: but at no time does the show try to dismiss it as simple jokes, using them instead to show the strengths of their relationship, allowing them to shine in moments of conflict – a sign of a strong relationship the show can continue to build on moving forward.
There’s nothing particularly outstanding with either “Nerd” and “Double Date” – but the final minutes of the latter finally push the show forward, rather than continuing to allow the narrative to spin on a guinea pig treadmill, as it has since the season two finale. Schmidt and Winston are both alone at their lowest points, while Nick and Jess are truly going “all in” on their weird, young relationship – now the true stories of the season feel like they can really begin.
“Double Date”: B
– Dreama Walker makes her first appearance in “Nerd” as one of the clique-y teachers at Jess’s new school. More, please!
– Nick was once the leader of the Sack Pack – and the world’s worst CGI hackey sack.
– Hey, Daisy’s still around? Oh wait – just kidding!
– does this mean the end of new Emmy winner Merritt Wever on New Girl? Say it ain’t so, because her lone scene in “Double Date” is a sad way for her to go out – though I do appreciate the writers sparing us another heartbreaking Schmidt speech with his admission to her being off-screen. No matter how self-sufficing his explanation to CeCe was, Max Greenberg just killed it in that scene – as did Hannah Simone, despite being given a lot less to do with.