Last night, this recapper watched New Girl with someone who’d never seen it before. Halfway through, he asked semi-seriously if it was a drama. “The one where Nick thinks he has cancer” is an unexpected premise for a show that usually serves up landlord threesomes and sexual cheese metaphors, but if last night’s episode was darker and less joke-laden than usual, it was good for some midseason character development. The relationship between Nick and Jess took a step forward, Cece revealed some inner depth, and Winston underwent a breakup with his car.
Things begin innocently enough with a football game in the park, but when Jess tackles Nick, she really hurts him. “I can taste my spine,” he moans from a prone position on the ground. Apparently Jess has a power tackle, which makes sense: She’s over-the-top in everything else, so why not football?
The gang agrees that Nick should go to the doctor, but he claims he isn’t the doctor-visiting type, possibly because he’s broke and has no health insurance. Insisting he’s fine, he drives off — directly into Winston’s incredibly busted SUV.
The damage is minimal compared with everything else wrong with the car (in fact, Nick thinks he actually fixed a dent), but Winston’s had that car forever. It was an illegal recruiting gift from a college he didn’t actually go to, and it used to be so magnificent that it inspired at least one woman to show him her boobs. So what if it starts with a paper clip instead of keys? It’s a part of who he is, not to mention part of his baller past. When a mechanic tells him it’s basically over, he can’t face it.
Meanwhile, Jess takes Nick to see her doctor friend Sadie, who happens to be an OB/GYN: “She’s a wizard with a speculum.” Nick protests that he doesn’t have a vagina, but Jess tells him he’s too broke for another doctor, so he’s just going to have to shut up and tag the things he wants in Lucky magazine.
Sadie is Jess’s lesbian friend. She gives Nick pain pills designed for powerful menstrual cramps, but since she’s technically not his doctor, she covers for herself by instructing him not to take them. This leads to a great moment where Sadie and Jess respectively chant, “Don’t take those pills” and “Take those pills” while Nick looks increasingly baffled. Finally he tosses them down, and his swallow tips Sadie off: There’s something weird about his thyroid. On closer investigation, it appears he has a growth. He’s going to have to have an ultrasound the next day.
Nick’s the guy who didn’t want to go to the doctor when he hurt his back, so he definitely isn’t interested in an ultrasound. He gives Jess a list of reasons why he can’t go, mostly along the lines of, “One of the reason I moved to Los Angeles was to get closer to whales. So I could record them.” Jess does her Daffy Duck impression to make him feel better. It doesn’t work.
That night at the bar, it’s apparent that Jess told everybody. The guys are staring at Nick tragically; Schmidt even Fredo-kisses him. Only Cece is able to behave like everything’s normal. Things get really maudlin right around the time Nick announces that he likes his pain pills because they make him feel warm in his uterus. First Jess starts crying, then Schmidt and Winston both start crying. They show him a website on a smart phone that says thyroid cancer equals death. Are they being melodramatic and not very helpful? Well, yes, but in their defense, the website has a skull and crossbones on it.
Drugged Nick says Jess isn’t allowed to speak at his funeral after she tells him a terrible Daniel Boone joke. This is a nice setup for Winston’s excellent Chris Rock impression, but it’s also a way for Nick to needle Jess about her Daffy Duck voice and general twee-ness. He says she doesn’t know how to be real. Jess is offended, but she can’t talk it out with Nick because he’s moved on to trying to determine whether he’s wearing a hat.
And then. And then! Schmidt drunk-raps! It’s terrible, obviously, but what makes it so terrific is that Cece follows him and she is a really good rapper. Do we maybe love Cece now? Or at least like her? She’s become a more well-rounded character in recent episodes, and her effortless tough-girl shtick complements Schmidt’s trying-too-hard thing perfectly.
Jess is still pissed that Nick said she’s not real, so her rap goes like this: “Nick Miller, Nick Miller, never does anything.” Burn! Nick says he’s done stuff. He wrote half a book about zombies! And anyway, he doesn’t jump into things. He’s the guy who doesn’t do something if he doesn’t know what’s going to happen. If everyone goes to the beach and jumps in the water, he’s the one on the beach guarding the wallets.
Next scene: We’re on the beach, of course. Jess says she’ll hold Nick’s wallet, but he doesn’t have one, just a sandwich bag with his license and money in it. As he goes hurtling toward the ocean taking off his clothes, Winston points out to Schmidt that he might finally get to see his best friend’s penis. Nice callback.
Nick runs into the water yelling, “I’m alive,” which quickly changes to “Oh my God, I’m so cold.” Reality sets in as his temperature drops, and he starts panicking, shouting about how he’s not okay. Back to Schmidt: “I don’t think this is the right time to bring this up, you guys, but does anyone else think Nick could stand to lose five to seven pounds?”
Sad Nick tells Jess he knows she’s right: He really should start doing things. Also, he likes her a lot, and he’s not going to remember any of this in the next morning. OMG are they going to kiss? There’s a moment of tension, but nothing more. Instead, they fall asleep on the beach.
A little farther down, Cece and Schmidt are having a real, honest-to-goodness non-sex conversation. Cece tells Schmidt her dad died when she was 12. Schmidt says he had a cat who died. “Big cat. Human-sized.” Somehow, this is sweet. In the morning, he gazes fondly on her butt imprint in the sand. Again: Surprisingly sweet.
The whole gang accompanies Nick to the ultrasound. Turns out he’s fine, as he sort of has to be: This would be a very different show if one of the characters was living with cancer. (The writers don’t bother explaining his diagnosis; Nick just says he was too happy about not having cancer to pay attention.) The real reveal here is that when Nick goes to pay out of his plastic bag wallet, he learns that the crew has paid for it. Aw! Now they want him to buy a real wallet. Schmidt has tons of wallet chains that he can borrow.
Outside the clinic, Winston’s car won’t start. As the gang walks away, he shares one last moment with it before saying good-bye.