Even if you’re allergic to the ukulele, loathe bangs, and can’t stand people who can’t stand people who can’t stand dessert, you’ve got to admit that Zooey Deschanel is a talented comic actress. Last night’s New Girl derived some of its best moments from her facial expressions, especially that demented grin when she decided — spoiler alert — to try to seduce Schmidt, armed with a hundred-pack of TuffSkins condoms.
Of course, it takes a while to get to that point. The episode began with Jess and Schmidt discussing how they’re both single on Valentine’s Day so they should “go out looking for some strange.” Weirdly, it’s Jess who says that. Schmidt doesn’t like trying to pick up girls on February 14 because it’s too easy, like a Dominican teenager playing Little League, but Jess convinces him to come out as her wingman. “Watch out, ‘cause you’re about to get laid, world,” she chirps.
Okay, so yes, the show does seem to have changed the rules a bit. Just a few episodes ago, Jess couldn’t even say the word penis, and now she’s setting out on a Valentine’s Day quest to get “little Jess” some company, complete with a lot of crotch-pointing and nerd-swagger. Maybe living with all those guys has rubbed off, or maybe her character is just inconsistent. Either way, Deschanel sells it.
And in any case, even sex-crazed new Jess hasn’t totally forgotten her habit of making up cute expressions to avoid using raunchy ones. Her problem, as she tells Schmidt, is that she’s feeling “twirly,” which is what happens when you go too long without getting any. It’s not the most mature term for sexual frustration, but then again, neither is “horny.”
While the two single members of the household are out at the bar, Nick and Winston are each attempting to further their budding relationships. Nick really wants to do something romantic because he spent last Valentine’s Day fighting with Caroline. His girlfriend Julia says she’s game, but she’s the kind of lawyer who has to spend her evenings at the office yelling into a phone. So Nick ends up hanging out with Cliff, her intern, who can’t stop speculating about what Julia’s like in bed.
As for Winston, he arrives at the home of his former fling Shelby planning to take her out on a date. But Shelby still wants to make him pay for the way he treated her back when he was a basketball star, and it turns out that she invited him to girls’ night. His evening is about to involve a lot more Bioré pore strips than he bargained for.
Back at the bar, Cece and Schmidt are busy vetoing any guy with whom Jess might have an emotional connection. If she wants to have a one-night stand, they figure, it has to be with someone she won’t get attached to. Schmidt explains that he’s the expert because he’s performed his 10,000 hours of practice, à la Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, which is one of his desert island books. The others: Machiavelli’s The Prince, Freak by John Leguizamo, any of the scripts from the first season of Vampire Diaries, and “a little Phantom T.” The T stands for “Tollbooth,” and maybe this is just hindsight, but when Cece says she loved that book, it seemed like a little frisson passed between them.
After Cece and Schmidt chase her away from a nice Oregonian boy, Jess tries slinking up to another dude and sensually eating his cherry, but first she can’t get it out of his drink and then she begins choking. Luckily, a cute guy named Oliver notices her distress and starts thwacking her on the back. Jess turns to see her rescuer and blurts out, “Schwing!” Which is forgivable, because honestly, what else are you going to say upon meeting Ryan Kwanten? Even better, Jess and Oliver have nothing in common except that they both like lunch. He’s the perfect one-night stand.
Except that he has no car, and Jess has no car, which means that Schmidt has to drive. Once they reach Oliver’s house, Schmidt insists on staying because it’s a terrible neighborhood and Jess has no way to get home. (Schmidt: “There are youths everywhere!”) So the three of them are stuck on the couch watching Planet of the Apes. Even when Schmidt finally tries to leave, he can’t — the youths have stolen his tires.
Back at Julia’s office, Nick and Cliff are bonding over glasses of Champagne. Nick explains to Cliff that he dropped out of law school after a bad breakup led him into a downward spiral that culminated with him driving to Mexico to enter a cockfight. As a person. He quit school because he didn’t want to be stuck working for somebody else, but now he’s a bartender who still has a boss. Cliff, inspired by this story, decides to storm out of the office, drive until he can see the sun, and also spend more time with his birds. Which is great for him, but it leaves Julia with a lot more work to do. Given the chance to make a grand romantic gesture, Nick starts photocopying.
The Oliver situation rapidly starts to deteriorate when his ex-girlfriend Amy bursts in. Turns out she and Oliver just broke up a week ago, and they’re still living together. Her arrival tips everything over into farce: First Cece shows up, then Schmidt comes back, then Cece’s shrooming boyfriend Kyle bursts in. Within minutes, Amy has kissed Kyle, Cece has jumped Amy, and the whole lot of them have been chased out the door — except for Amy, who is now angrily eating tacos and watching Jess and Oliver make out. Eventually, Jess gives up, prompting Oliver to burst into tears and confess that he misses his relationship. In the kitchen, Amy starts up what sounds like a reconciliation smoothie.
Winston doesn’t get a lot of airtime this episode, but his few moments on the screen are pretty adorable. For one thing, he’s a big hit at Shelby’s party, making sangria and doling out relationship advice. When the party ends, Shelby reminds him that in 2008 he said he’d call her on Valentine’s Day and never did. But now he keeps making up for how terrible he used to be. They kiss, and it’s genuinely sweet.
Also sweet: Schmidt’s friendly advice to Jess when she returns from her failed one-night stand. He says her first one shouldn’t be with a complete stranger, but with someone she knows. Most important, “Don’t overthink it.” This is when Deschanel’s face starts doing the hard work. You can see the idea germinating, and watch her fight with herself not to overthink it. In the end, twirliness wins out (possibly helped along by Schmidt’s intoxicating ylang-ylang scent.) Jess marches over to Schmidt’s room with her hundred-pack of TuffSkin condoms, but just as she’s about to knock on the door, Nick surprises her. Condoms fly everywhere, and a horrified Nick drags her off yelling, “You’re not having sex with Schmidt!” Inside his room, Schmidt is with Cece. Eventually she’s going to have to have a very awkward conversation with Jess, but that’s a story for another episode.