Although “Longest Night Ever” has its fun with the four male characters of its ensemble, it’s really a simple episode about masculinity. It takes shape in different forms – for example, Coach’s inability to be normal around CeCe doesn’t quite parallel neatly with Schmidt’s inability to accept his reality – but at their core, the stories of Schmidt, Coach, and even Winston are about a man’s confidence and how its influenced by the women they care about. Be it acceptance or rejection, “Longest Night Ever” sees male characters searching for truth in their lives – and finding themselves unable to do it without the help (or ultimately, the acceptance) of a female in their life.
Just look at how the three plots of the episode intertwine with each other: as the least important character (and the one overlapping all the narratives early on), Nick is given the duty of providing the emotional support of a male friend: which fails on every single front imaginable. By the time the episode reaches its climatic moments Coach has blown his date with Cece, Schmidt is running down the street with candy in his hand, and Winston is driving around the neighborhood looking for his lost cat (avoiding those mean frisbee-throwers, of course). Even though Nick is best friends with all of them, he’s unable to help them out with these particular dilemmas: and it’s not until each of these three characters turn to Jess (for Schmidt), CeCe (Coach), and Bertle (Winston), that these characters are able to be honest and come clean with their struggles.
It’s an interesting little gender study (and probably unintentional): but as a male, I can’t help but find myself intrigued by the resolutions of “Longest Night Ever”. Once Coach comes clean to CeCe about his lack of confidence (and his mother, a double dose of searching for female validation), and Schmidt is finally able to recognize what a child he’s been, and confide feelings in Jess that he could only express to Coach or Nick through awkward high fives and/or unconvincing dismissals (“I’m totally fine!”). Even Winston finds some peace, making a connection with Bertle over some Pepto-Bismol and the fact that dating is really just a cluster fuck of frustration. A few friendly glances, and Winston’s got his confidence back – something many people will dismiss as an easy ending for another shitty Winston plot, but something I think actually makes a strong statement other male-dominated comedies don’t. Straight males seek the validation of women in their lives: call it mommy issues, call it us recognizing who the smarter sex really is, but it’s true, especially in the modern, sex-is-everywhere-and-you-must-attain it world (for a lot more on this in a much more serious context, read Film Critic Hulk’s fantastic piece on rape culture). Biological, sociological, cultural… any way you want to cut it, we’re out there hoping women have the answers we’re looking for (surprise! they usually do).
Eventually, “Longest Night Ever” rewards these men who reject typical masculinity, exposing themselves (not like that) to women in a way that allows them to make the emotional connection they’re missing before (and in Coach and Winston’s case, a lot more). Schmidt doesn’t make it away so easy – but sometimes with truth comes pain, something each of these characters have to face before they can move forward with their lives (and applies to Nick, thinking back to late season one/season two and how him and Jess drew closer together as he took solace in her during the worst times in his life). Again, it’s using simple comedic rhythms (basically, they’re all acting weird), but to make a deft little point – one it’s made many times in the series (in fact, the entire premise suggests the loft family is not whole until Jess becomes a part of it), but one that fits especially well in the context on this episode’s stories.
“Longest Night Ever” is a pretty bold little half hour of comedy, even though it really doesn’t seem to be anything out of the normal on the surface: separate the cause and effect from everything, and you’re left with a lot of awkward Jess and some less-than-desirable Schmidt and Coach antics. But it’s the thematic undercurrent that really carries it beyond just absurd comedic situations: without the women they have in their lives (or meet), the men of New Girl are pretty lost – just look at how much Nick’s grown since the beginning of the season (piggybacking from last season) as proof that extends past this single episode. Since he’s started dating Jess, he’s become more involved in his life: he looks less scrubby, he’s making “inspirational” speeches, and most of all, he’s no longer questioning himself, sitting on the sidelines and pouting. Life is just a little bit easier with a woman to help make sense of it all; a point “Longest Night Ever” makes eloquently – and hilariously.
– as a single cat owner, Winston losing Ferguson nearly gave me a panic attack. Good to see them reunited at the end, if only for my own blood pressure.
– “I don’t know if you heard that, but he’s going to gun it.”
– “You guys hungry?” Nick: “Hungry? Always.”
– Winston: “Hank Aaron was alone for every home run he hit.”
– watching someone make out with your ex-girlfriend while you watch in the corner = getting hit by a car. Beautiful bit of foreshadowing right there.