Just a few hours before New Girl returned from its month-long hiatus last night, Us Weekly broke the news that Zooey Deschanel and her husband, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, are getting divorced. For a lot of Deschanel fans, the split might only increase her appeal. Do you like Zooey because her persona is so non-intimidating that it seems like you might actually have a chance with her? Then congrats: That chance has improved! Slightly.
The thing about Deschanel’s girl-next-door appeal, though, is that it’s pretty sexless. There’s a reason she was so perfect as the love interest in Elf: Nothing about her suggests that she’d be unsatisfied in a relationship with a candy-eating, tights-wearing man-child from the North Pole. As Jess, she’s cute the same way a bunny is cute. But anyone who’s ever seen an episode of Friends knows that on a half-hour sitcom about mixed-gender buddies, eventually some of those buddies are going to make out. Which means New Girl has to find a way to establish sexual tension using a character who can’t even bring herself to say the word penis.
The writers’ solution to this problem is pretty clever. If Jess’s relationship with sex is permanently stuck in sixth grade, then the best way to advance the idea that she might ultimately hook up with Nick is through some sixth-grade-style shenanigans. Let the accidental nudity begin!
Nick is going on a date with Amanda (Lake Bell), who works with him at the bar. He hasn’t gone out with anyone since Caroline, so he’s trying to psych himself up by dancing alone in his room to reggae. He sucks in his stomach, tries some poses in the mirror, and finally pulls down his pants. Looking south, he sighs, “It is what it is.” This, of course, is when Jess barges in. Radiant, she lets out a scream-giggle. In case there was ever any doubt, Zooey Deschanel looks adorable even when she’s laughing at someone’s dick.
Worried that things are going to be awkward in the house, Jess announces to Schmidt and Winston that she “accidentally saw Nick’s pee pee and his bubbles.” Then she attempts to discuss it with Nick, in several different accents, while he’s on his way out to his date. When that doesn’t work, she bends over and cheerfully tells his crotch, “The adventure begins!”
After he storms out, Winston explains that he’s seen Nick’s peen, too: “We grew up together. Locker rooms, swimming pools, penis fights, it just happens.” That makes Schmidt the only housemate who’s never seen it, and he’s jealous. After all, what if Nick gets into an accident and Schmidt needs to I.D. him by his private parts? And how big is it, anyway? (Can Max Greenfield get an Emmy for Best Performance by an Actor Holding His Hands Apart to Indicate the Size of a Dick He’s Never Seen? Because he nailed it.)
Nick’s date goes poorly, partly because Amanda’s demeanor is so sarcastic that it’s impossible to tell if she’s serious, and partly because poor traumatized Nick doesn’t want to take his clothes off. He returns home to find Jess waiting with her feelings stick, which grants the bearer the right to state their feelings without being judged. Nick breaks it in half, but Jess has a travel-size extra. Plus, she’s willing to chase him when he runs into the elevator. Cornered, Nick admits that he’s upset because Jess has made him too self-conscious to have meaningless sex with a beautiful woman.
But then Nick turns the tables, accusing Jess of being too immature to say the word penis. The scene that follows proves that Jess cannot in fact state the common name for male genitalia, although she can sing it, yell it in pig Latin, say it in Swedish and fake Italian, and drag it out in slow-motion like a ghoul. Disgusted, poor Nick finally storms off to the bathroom, where Schmidt pops over the top of the stall. “I’m the only one who hasn’t seen it,” he whines.
After consulting with Cece, Jess decides to win Nick over by flashing him, so she waits in his room in a towel. But Nick enters with Amanda, who’s all over him. He’s about to get naked when he spots Jess next to the bed and yells. Both ladies start screaming and Jess runs into a bookshelf, at which point her towel falls off. “Hi. I’m Jess,” she deadpans. “Welcome to our home.”
Among all the pantslessness, there’s also a B-plot centered around Winston’s trouble adjusting to America after two years playing basketball in Latvia. He bombs a job interview because he can’t say anything coherent about Twitter, then begs Schmidt to bring him up to speed. The resulting pop-culture lessons could have felt hacky, but the show does a good job of reminding us how ridiculous the past two years have been. Schmidt’s summary: “Country’s broke. Betty White’s back.” Winston wants to know what happened to the rest of the Golden Girls, and Schmidt looks concerned. “They’re all dead, man.” Later, we see Winston furrowing his brow, simultaneously watching The King’s Speech and Human Centipede.
By the time the next family meeting to discuss in-house nudity has rolled around, Winston and Schmidt have fully bonded. Also, it turns out that they’re both big fans of the feelings stick. Winston proposes, via the stick, that Schmidt has had a bad day, so Nick should show him what’s in his pants. Nick refuses, but that doesn’t curb Winston’s new Internet-addled happiness. He explains his new philosophy to Schmidt: “Everybody has their moment. We might get a cat one day. That cat might play the keyboard. A bear might fall on our trampoline. We don’t have to have it figured out right now.” Truly, it’s a message for our times.
Meanwhile, after the meeting, Jess creeps into Nick’s room and announces, “I worked on something for you.” Pause. “Penis.” And: Chemistry! Amanda still hasn’t called, but Nick might not be ready for meaningless sex anyway. “Maybe when you are,” says Jess, “you’ll be ready to show her your other penis. Your heart-penis.” Will she be seeing Nick’s heart-penis in the future? We wouldn’t bet against it.