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New Girl Recap: Y Tu Landlord También

NEW GIRL:  L-R:  Winston (Lamorne Morris), Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) have a secret they are keeping from their landlord (guest star Jeff Kober, R) in the "Landlord" episode of NEW GIRL, airing Tuesday, Feb. 7 (9:00-9:31 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2011 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Greg Gayne/FOX NEW GIRL: L-R: Winston (Lamorne Morris), Nick (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel) have a secret they are keeping from their landlord (guest star Jeff Kober, R) in the "Landlord" episode of NEW GIRL, airing Tuesday, Feb. 7 (9:00-9:31 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

Last night’s episode asked a question that has bedeviled philosophers and religious thinkers for centuries: Are people fundamentally good or fundamentally evil? Jess believes in basic human goodness because life has generally treated her well, whereas Nick thinks people are essentially jerky because that’s been his experience. But when they decide to act out their worldviews in a fight over their creepy landlord Remy, both of them discover that they’re wrong. Sometimes, humanity is neither good nor bad; sometimes humanity is just a guy who lives in the basement and wants to experiment with group sex.  

The debate begins when a stranger in a truck pulls a gun on Nick and Jess because he thinks they’re stealing his parking space. Nick thinks the guy is psycho, but Jess insists that he must be having a bad day, then she defuses the situation with a series of cute apology faces and hand gestures. This is exactly what Lizzy Caplan’s character Julia was talking about last episode when she cold-bloodedly assessed the power of Jess’s girlie-helpless schtick: “The big beautiful eyes, like a scared baby. I'm sure that gets you out of all kinds of stuff.”

What’s insulting about this speech is that it suggests Jess is faking her spaciness as a way to appeal to people, especially men. But last night’s episode implies that Jess isn’t manipulating anyone, at least not on purpose. She just lives in a bubble, the sort of place where a stranger in a van might legitimately offer candy to a little girl because his grandma made too much. (In a flashback, we actually see Grandma in the backseat, smiling at young Jess with a sack of sweets on her lap.)

When the apartment sink breaks, Jess decides to call Remy the landlord, inadvertently raising the stakes of her argument with Nick. Jeff Kober of Sons of Anarchy plays the part of Remy with all the intensity you’d expect from a guy who was also in The Hills Have Eyes II. He’s gruff and terrifying and seemingly unmoved by Jess’s offering of cupcakes, not to mention her attempt at small talk: “Cool office. I like your bucket of gasoline. Super-practical.” Then Jess lets slip that there are four people living in her three-person apartment, piquing Remy’s interest.

Shortly thereafter, he knocks on their apartment door, forcing them to frantically convert the space back into a three-bedroom. Schmidt wildly throws all his chinos out the window, grabs a suitcase, and pretends to be a visiting tourist from Panama. Remy isn’t fooled. Nor is he impressed with the “sexually charged zero-gravity tea ceremony” that Schmidt painted on Winston’s wall back when he lived in that room.

Jess finally wins Remy over with her Jess skills, though she’s unable to save the intergalactic sex mural. She does manage to get him to fix up the apartment, but after Nick watches them interact, he warns Jess that Remy is just trying to sleep with her. And he has a point: Remy pulled the classic “I’m going to teach you how to play pool” maneuver while helping Jess open a sliding door.

This seems like a test of Jess’s near-cartoonish obliviousness. Many women would pick up on, and be disturbed by, romance vibes coming from the guy whittling a broom handle in the basement. But Jess still seems to believe she’s just made a new friend. She even invites Remy over for dinner. Nick, still protective, insists that he’s coming too.

Dinner is naturally awkward, even though Remy brings up a bottle of something he fermented himself. Jess tries to get Nick and Remy to bond by mentioning that they’ve both been through bad breakups, but the party doesn’t really get started until Remy excuses himself to go to the bathroom and comes back with no pants. Turns out he thinks they’re having a threesome.

Nick says this means he’s right about Remy, but Jess isn’t ready to back down. Remy is still getting over a bad divorce, she says. He’s just confused. So Nick volunteers for the threesome just to get Jess to admit that she’s wrong, and Jess calls his bluff. Remy attempts to make the situation less weird by putting on Rusted Root and nominating Nick as “Underpants Captain.” Then he suggests that Nick and Jess get things started while he blissfully plays some air flute. (That’s not a euphemism; he actually plays an imaginary flute.)

Somehow, the threesome scene manages to sustain a high level of tension while also being packed with hilarious details. All of the tension explodes, though, when Nick actually tries to kiss Jess and she starts squealing, “Okay, fine, I admit it, I’m wrong!” Remy, bless his heart, is fully willing to accept sometimes people get cold feet. Just then, Winston pops his head into the room, and Remy says he can’t handle a foursome and flees.

Speaking of mixed signals, let’s talk for a minute about Schmidt’s plotline. He’s having problems because he can’t tell if his boss Kim is hitting on him. On the one hand, she’s always saying sexually suggestive things like, “Schmidt, my files need sorting. Do it here. So I can watch.” On the other hand, she seems unimpressed when he responds by seductively tonguing her paperwork. It’s also worth noting that Schmidt thinks the UPS guy is hitting on him when he says he has a package to deliver, so his flirt-dar might be broken.

Cece tells Schmidt to just got for it, since there’s nothing less sexy than asking for permission. So Schmidt pounces on Kim in the parking garage. She’s delighted, but the building’s guards watching the scene on security cameras think he’s attacking her, and they grab him.

To let her know how he really feels, and to save face after the embarrassing parking lot incident, Schmidt shows Kim his 2007 New Year’s resolutions, which include thinking about her only every other time he masturbates. (Also: “Just pick a color of Crocs and buy them already.”) Kim tells him to go into the conference room and dial her into the Tokyo call. Schmidt takes this as a come-on, and the episode ends with him gyrating on the table in his underwear as a roomful of Japanese businessmen look on.

For a while, it looked like the two plots were going to gel into some greater point about sexual confusion and mixed signals. But they never came together in any way that made sense. Was this a story about two guys (Schmidt and Remy) who don’t know how to read the messages they’re getting from an attractive woman? Or was it a story about two people in positions of power (the boss and the landlord) trying to get laid? Is Schmidt’s boss a better person than Remy, or is she just better looking? This episode had some of the funniest individual scenes of the season so far, but it raised a lot more questions than it answered.  

Photo: Greg Gayne/FOX