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New Girl Recap: The Slut Butler Did It

False teeth! Natasha Lyonne! A cute little kid! Last night’s episode busted out a lot of gimmicks, some of which worked better than others. It also forced Zooey Deschanel to ham it up even more than she already had in the previous two episodes, thereby drawing a line in the sand: Basically, if you do not enjoy watching a gifted comic actress cut herself out of a pair of little girl’s bike shorts with a butter knife, then this might not be the show for you.

Jess has crammed herself into said bike shorts because that’s the only way she can fit into a saucy one-shouldered purple dress. She’s wearing the dress because she’s accompanying the boys to a wedding. And she’s going to the wedding because Nick needs her to pretend to be his girlfriend in front of his ex, Caroline. To help her prepare for the occasion, Schmidt informs her that she needs an outfit that says, “Who let the dirty slut out of the slut house?”

Jess knows the answer to that question, rhetorical though it may be: “Probably the slut butler!” She also knows exactly what the boys mean when they tell her that she’s not allowed to wear her wacky prop teeth, perform her own version of the Chicken Dance, or otherwise act like a weirdo: “Suppress the Jess.” You get the feeling she’s heard that advice before.

At the wedding, Schmidt immediately spots Brooke, who used to get drunk and pass out on his porch freshman year like a hot, alcoholic cat. He announces that she goes on top of the Kill List. Jess: “Is that because you’re going to attempt to kill her by having sex with her?” Schdmit says the answer is pretty much yes. “Oh, Schmidt,” sighs Jess, somehow defusing the creepiness with the swish of her enormous eyelashes. “One day you’re gonna kill the nicest girl.”

Meanwhile, Winston is struggling with status anxiety because he’s unemployed. He resolves to apply all his professional drive to his job as wedding usher, but he’s thwarted by his alternate, a wisecracking child named Jimmy Longjam. Is this really a show that needs more cuteness? It’s possible that we are on the writers’ Kill List, and that they are trying to twee us to death.

But this show is all about balance, and the yin to young Jimmy’s yang soon shows up in the form of Natasha Lyonne playing Gretchen Nelson, the girl whom Schmidt always winds up banging at weddings. Lyonne’s Nelson is a butch-but-hetero power top who immediately starts cooing to Schmidt about her pantsuit: “This is a new one. It’s got way more stretch. In the pants.” Initially, her character gives off a Melissa McCarthy–in-Bridesmaids vibe, but when she starts talking about forcing Schmidt to look at her vacation photos, it becomes clear that her comedy DNA goes back farther than that. Schmidt, it seems, has fallen into a wedding-only friends-with-benefits relationship with Selma Bouvier.

Weirdly, Nick’s plan to make his ex Caroline jealous seems to be working, even though she’s also clearly confused by Jess, who keeps pretending not to understand her name (“Carolee? Caraloo?”) while stroking Nick’s head. Eventually, Nick sends Jess away entirely, causing her to stumble in front of the bride and groom as they make their big entrance — and causing the other guys to panic. Caroline likes to flirt with Nick, they tell Jess, because she considers him a Plan B. Inevitably, she’ll break his heart again unless someone stops her.

Jess tries to protest that her bike shorts have made her thighs too numb for the job, but the boys aren’t having it. So she tries to dance her way back into Nick’s heart, miming pulling herself along a rope and explaining, “I’m mime-walking. I’m Mime-chael Jackson.” When that somehow fails, she tracks down Nick in a photo booth with Caroline and accuses him of betraying her. And their baby. And their other baby! Caroline tells her not to worry because she has a boyfriend, sending Nick into a drunken meltdown.

As for Schmidt, it seems like he might actually have a chance with Brooke, even though she only remembers him when he introduces himself as “Fat Schmidt.” She says she’s not drinking because she’s six months sober, so Schmidt tells her that he’s seven months sober. He also claims that Jess is a mistake he made when he hit rock bottom. “It was like I was her Sid and she was my Nancy,” he says, adding that Jess is really dangerous when she drinks.

Brooke offers to leave the party with him, but she wants to go to the bathroom first. There, she finds Jess attacking her own bike shorts with a knife. “Oh, I’m just cutting off my underwear,” Jess explains. “Girl stuff.” Brooke thinks she’s drunk, which makes sense because Jess is the world’s drunkest sober person. When Jess points her knife at Brooke and tells her not to break Schmidt’s heart, Brooke runs off, ditching Schmidt. Then everyone yells at Jess for being impossible, causing her to put in her prop teeth and run off too.

At this point, we’ve seen a lot of Jess and Schmidt, and we’ve seen a lot of Jess and Nick, but we still don’t know too much about the relationship between Jess and Winston. An earlier incident in which Winston threw down in a dance-off with Jimmy Cuteface doesn’t really add much depth to his character, although it did dispose of the kid. So now it’s time for a heart-to-heart between Jess and Winston. First, he tells her his embarrassing secret: He loves bubbles. (This seems minor compared with Jess’s love of wearing hideous novelty teeth at weddings, but never mind.) Next, he tells her the truth about the boys: “Those guys are jerks, but I know they’re glad you’re around.” If Schmidt is the horndog and Nick is the sensitive guy, Winston has just revealed himself to be the house grown-up.

But it turns out Jess can behave like an adult, too. Nick, still drunk and miserable, has barricaded himself in the photo booth, where he’s yelling her name. She climbs in with him and suddenly becomes very wise, explaining with compassion that he can’t be Caroline’s backup plan forever. (This scene reminded us that she’s supposed to be a teacher. Maybe she’s really good at it!) Her advice works, and Nick sobers up enough to tell Caroline that he has to let her go.

Which means it’s officially time for this episode’s Adorkable Moment, when the guys do something ridiculous to prove to Jess that they care about her. To refresh, episode one involved everyone singing “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life,” while episode two involved everyone putting on silly hats. This time around, the adorkability kicks in as the D.J. puts on “Groovy Kind of Love” and the whole gang solemnly performs the Chicken Dance in slow motion. Later, Schmidt will go home with Gretchen. But for now, the group is together, pecking in unison.

Photo: Greg Gayne/FOX