New Girl does Very Special Episodes so well. Last night’s rumination on reproduction felt like a follow-up to Nick’s cancer scare earlier in the season — another chance for the show to get a little emotional without losing its sense of humor. As in the cancer episode, there wasn’t much suspense to the central medical drama: No way was Cece actually pregnant with Schmidt’s baby. But the possibility of a tiny Indian-Jewish Schmidtling with perfect bone structure was enough to power an entire episode, and ultimately take it somewhere genuinely touching.
It’s not that Schmidt and Cece haven’t been using protection. But as Cece explains to Jess in the opening shot, “Schmidt gets so athletic that birth control becomes like one of those plastic barbecue covers in a hurricane.” (Later, we also discover that he told her he was practicing the ancient art of Tantra. The fact that Cece fell for that line, even for a second, suggests that she’s a little more gone for Schmidt than she’s willing to admit.) Cece won’t know if she’s actually pregnant for another six days, because nobody in the show seems to know about those pregnancy tests you can take even before you get your period.
Their gynecologist friend could probably help, but rather than call her, Jess and Cece are busy imagining what a Schmidt baby might be like. They could make a douche baby jar! And maybe they should, since Schmidt informs them that as a baby he was a break-dancer who wore Magnum-size diapers.
Cece’s not the only character concerned with child-rearing in this episode. Jess has been roped into watching Russell’s daughter Sarah, possibly because Russell wants to test her mothering skills. (Jess doesn’t seem to have a problem with this, but isn’t it coming awfully early in their relationship?) Nick, meanwhile, is dating an ambiguously younger woman, although at least this one is more mature than most of the college girls he brings home. And Winston is stuck babysitting his new boss, sports-radio host Joe Napoli.
Napoli’s supposed to be a guest on Michael Strahan’s show, “On the Strahan Narrow,” but he keeps coming up with distractions, picking a fight with a bunch of strangers and flinging himself out of the car when Winston drives him past a yard sale. Finally, Winston gets him to explain what’s going on: He’s intimidated by Michael Strahan. Luckily, Winston’s able to draw on his nannying experience and convince Napoli that he shouldn’t be scared. After all, Napoli’s probably better at yard sales than Strahan.
It’s a shame Winston’s out all day, because the other roommates could probably use his levelheaded advice. Schmidt can sense that Cece’s being weird, but he doesn’t know what’s wrong, so he invites her on a date to see “Italy on Ice.” Cece tells him to take another girl, so he calls Nick, pretending he’s on the phone with someone named Nicole. There’s so much to love about this scene, particularly the deadpan way Nick handles Schmidt’s flirtatious questions. “Are you taking care of that tushie for me?” “I’m not doing, like, squats or anything.”
And poor Jess is having trouble relating to young Sarah, who just wants to ask her ill-informed sex questions in rapid-fire succession: “Are you in love with my dad? Do you and my dad ever dry-lump? Is sexting cool? Have you ever done a 99? Have you ever given anyone plow chops? How do you make love to a person animal-style?” Sarah’s also developed a monster crush on Nick. “I want to rub my face on his face!” she moans, and then locks herself in his room.
With Sarah throwing a tantrum on one side of Nick’s door and Cece panicking on the other, Jess winds up stuck between crises. Cece’s is more serious, but Sarah’s a child. So when Cece demands Jess’s attention, Jess snaps, “Don’t let your dysfunction rub off on her.” Worried that she’ll be a terrible mother, Cece tries to deliver a lecture about responsible birth control through the door. She’s so loud that she lets everyone know she’s pregnant — including Schmidt.
He’s genuinely moved: “We made a caramel miracle.” And he’s excited to start brainstorming names, a list that gets more and more Yiddish-inflected until it ends with a shout-out to Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the now-deceased spiritual leader of the Lubavitcher Hasid sect. (Forget all those references to seder and Bar Mitzvahs; that right there is an expert-level Jewish joke.)
The odd thing is that Schmidt’s not freaked out by potential fatherhood. Instead, he feels like the universe is telling him something: Maybe he and Cece are meant to be. In a sweet, heartfelt speech, he tells Cece that he’ll support whatever choice she makes, as long as he has time to do some Internet research on how not to impregnate the baby when they have sex.
At dinner, Sarah keeps giving Nick’s young girlfriend Chloe the stink eye. Turns out she knows her from the school bus, because Chloe is all of 18 years old. In the ensuing confrontation, Jess lets slip that Sarah’s in love with Nick, and Sarah goes running off again.
Jess is disgusted with everyone. “I might as well call you Bridge to Terabithia,” she tells Nick, “because you make children cry.” (Meaningless trivia time: Zooey Deschanel was actually in the movie version of Bridge to Terabithia. Now you know!) To Schmidt, she says: “I might as well call you Indian in the Cupboard because you put an Indian in Ce … never mind.” Sarah’s mom is downstairs, so Jess comes up with a plan: Schmidt will distract her while she and Nick coax Sarah from her room.
Nick tries being painfully honest with Sarah, telling her that he’s jealous of her ability to feel passionately about another person, even if the passion is misplaced. Sarah replies that she’s stuck and embarrassed, so Nick and Jess start listing embarrassing things about themselves. (Jess originally grew bangs because she hates her forehead!) But it turns out Sarah wasn’t emotionally stuck, but physically stuck in all of Jess’s bras. She emerges just as her mom shows up, which is about two seconds before Cece comes running out of the kitchen yelling that she’s got her period.
The scene that follows is genuinely poignant. Leaving the building, Cece shrugs and tells Schmidt, “No more stupid mistakes.” They high-five. And then Schmidt hustles her into her car before she can see the words “Marry Me” written in the sky. Max Greenfield spends so much time talking on New Girl that it’s rare to watch him express emotions without opening his mouth. But in those few seconds of disappointment, his face registers a whole range of feeling. This is a side of a Schmidt we’ve never seen before; it might be side of a Schmidt he never sees himself.