There comes a time in everyone’s professional life when they question what they do – as a 26-year old writer in the digital age, that time comes usually once or twice a week. Whether it’s driven by financial necessities or bad luck, there are numerous instances in life where it appears like we’re faced with two choices: follow the money and seemingly empty-hearted satisfaction that goes with it, or follow your heart, financial and mental security be damned. “Clavado En Un Bar” embraces this debate whole-heartedly, pushing the main cast together in an episode very reminiscent of last season’s “Virgins”, essentially bottle episodes disguised by the use of flashbacks. And like “Virgins”, “Clavado En Un Bar” uses the same mix of failure and success in each character’s flashbacks to highlight an obvious (but nonetheless resonant) truths about life and careers.
The first two-thirds of “Clavado En Un Bar” smartly boils its characters down to the most simple definitions of their professional character: Schmidt compromised for money, Coach was “the natural”, Winston was the reluctant prodigy, and so on and so forth. But by breaking down each of the New Girl characters to basic archetypes, it allows the script to tease out a common message among them: life’s short, so do what you love. Even their counterexample to that theory – Schmidt – turns out to feed into the same mentality: over the closing credits, he goes back to the old Christmas tree shop in Syracuse (which is 3,000 miles away from their home, if I’m not mistaken) and gets a man in a nice spruce in time for the holidays. Regardless of character, “Clavado En Un Bar” makes its argument for chasing dreams and butterflies by showing just how surface the satisfaction of having money or power can be.
Should the show be passing more judgment on characters like Nick, who sacrifice more financial stability for a job that makes them happier? Nick’s decision to throw away a career he worked towards for years does get brushed off a little easily – New Girl seems quick to forget how much fun it’s had making fun of a broke, directionless Nick over the last few years, and his sudden embrace of being a broke bartender (a career he’s seemed at least mildly uncomfortable with in the past, lest my memory be mistaken) seems a little odd. Yes, he’s doing what he “loves” – but like Winston, I can’t help but what wonder if Nick is someone who will take the easy road out, and say he enjoys something he really doesn’t.
“Clavado” doesn’t ever try to clarify any of that – and despite it being a funny, honest episode about following one’s path in life, there are bits of it that ring a little untrue. There’s really only one other attempt to paint someone’s dream career choice as a mistake (CeCe), and that’s blamed more on the industry than an internal disappointment in the profession she chose. While it’s nice to think everyone’s satisfied with the career field they’re in by their early 30’s, it seems the tiniest bit dishonest: there are some people – like Kevin ’97 – that never feel they’ve made the right career choices in life, and the end of “Clavado” seems to suggest these characters have found it, despite the rough times that led them into the careers they currently have.
Tonally, it makes for a very weird episode – so it’s a good thing that “Clavado” doesn’t linger on any of these things for too long, where the thin conceit under it all would feel much more empty and superficial. I definitely enjoyed “Clavado” – it’s one of the funniest dialogue-heavy episodes of the series and finds some interesting material for Winston, something I’ll always applaud – but there are moments that feel glossed over in order to reach the smiley conclusion, where Nick and Jess share a short conversation and celebrate the fact they decided to make no changes to their lives – which in a way, is kind of a novel conclusion to an episode about dramatic moments that define large life decisions. What began as a major life drama in “Clavado En Un Bar” for Jess became nothing but an easily forgotten decision by the end of the episode – sometimes the moments we think are the ones that will define our adult lives are really just nothing at all. All it takes is the right perspective – and of course, a helping hand from the ones we love.
– Schmidt’s description of the 15-year old scotch: “Hunting. Fishing. Shooting. Fatherhood. Sadness… please don’t leave me.”
– Brian Posehn makes an appearance as the science teacher Jess shares a classroom with.
– Winston was the 9th guy off the best on the 8th best Latvian basketball team, until they traded him to the outdoor league and their damn uneven court.
– Nick: “This moment is so chill and absent of drama, I want to call it Tim Duncan.”
– the scene where Jess and CeCe met is fucking beautiful.
– anyone want some tea water?