Did you catch Wet Hot American Summer director David Wain dashing between Cece and Jess during the six-mile charity run last night? He directed the episode, hence the cameo. Wain’s signature style — a sort of sweet-natured comic absurdism — seems like it would be a good match for New Girl. But with so much drama to get through, there wasn’t much room for his usual flights of weirdness.
Even by New Girl’s shouty standards, last night contained a lot of yelling: Winston hollering at Nick about Cece and Schmidt’s secret romance, Jess primal-screaming in her bedroom after finding out that her roommates fantasize about her, Nick’s collegiate ladyfriends howling at each other over the circle scarf. The noise levels came to a climax with Winston’s bravura performance as Theodore K. Mullins, Nick’s down-low gay lover, which might have been the best moment of an otherwise fairly lukewarm episode. New Girl’s writers have been killing it lately, but it’s hard to make good writing stand out when everyone’s delivering their lines at the top of their lungs.
The drama comes, of course, from the big reveal: This is the episode where the rest of the gang finds out Schmidt and Cece have secretly been sleeping together. Winston can’t keep it to himself, so he tells Nick. And Nick gets the back sweats when he’s nervous, so he’s no help. As soon as he finds out the secret, the wet patch on his T-shirt informs Jess that something’s up.
Schmidt takes advantage of the situation to gloat: “Jess, I am so sorry that you had to hear about this like this. But can we just take a minute to celebrate me? Schmidtty really did it this time. I’m mean, I’m having Indian every night.” After weeks of seeing the Schmidt-Cece dynamic at work, we all know that his bluster’s covering some genuine, complicated emotions. Schmidt might feel like a hero for sleeping with Cece, but he’s not exactly in control here. And Cece might be ashamed of Schmidt, but she also can’t get enough of him. Whatever’s happening between them, it’s a lot more than just sex.
That might explain why Schmidt knows the exact time, down to the minute, when he and Cece first hooked up. Or why Cece, in trying to explain things to Jess, compares Schmidt to poison oak that she just can’t stop scratching. Or why two moons have passed since it all started. Two moons! (Jess talks like a Native American when she gets upset.)
The thing is, as members of the audience, we’ve gotten to see this romance develop, so we understand what’s really going on. But the roommates have no idea. And before they can even begin to consider whether Schmidt and Cece are hiding some deeper feelings beneath their friends-with-benefits situation, they have to deal with their own emotions. Jess feels betrayed, Winston’s just baffled, and as for Nick, he decides Schmidt is his new role model.
Ever since his buddy Dirk turned him on to dating college girls, Nick has been sleeping with multiple 21-year-olds, including a ditsy blonde named Holly who is played by 30 Rock’s Cerie. (Does Katrina Bowden get sick of being offered these kinds of roles? Maybe she’s a genius in real life.) Since Nick’s incapable of lying, he’s having trouble juggling all the ladies, so he goes to Schmidt with a request: “I need you to teach me to be a douchebag.”
It’s hard to know how to feel about the douchebag lessons. For one thing, the concept feels very How I Met Your Mother. Also, Schmidt’s advice ought to be terrible, but by the end of the episode, we’ll see that his instructions on lying have actually paid off. And it’s odd that he’s basically teaching Nick to treat the college girls the way Cece treats him. When Nick says, “I just sleep with her and kick her out like she’s a piece of meat?” I thought Schmidt would realize that he’s steering Nick wrong. But it didn’t happen.
Instead, Jess walks in and finds Schmidt and Nick in bed, mid-lesson. “Is this happening too?” she asks. She wants to place a ban on secrets and starts listing the ones she knows. Schmidt, for example, said he was worried Winston was going to be a nanny for life: “He said you were going full Poppins.” Pissed, Winston counters that Schmidt thinks about Jess when he’s “self-completing.” Turns out that Nick has done the same. Winston isn’t entirely innocent, either, since he once had a sex dream about Jess with raccoon hands.
Jess is so traumatized that she starts wearing a winter coat and a ski mask, prompting ice-road jokes from the guys. (This is when we learn that Schmidt uses “delighting ourselves” as a euphemism for jerking off.) In her cold-weather regalia, she stakes out the fridge and confronts Cece when she goes for the almond milk. Doesn’t Jess always tell Cece everything? Aren’t they supposed to be best friends? Cece replies that she’s stopped confiding in Jess because Jess always judges her. As they’re having it out, Holly the 21-year-old shows up, looking for her missing scarf. She discovers it around the neck of another girl.
Cue much shouting from all aggrieved parties, until Winston silences everyone with his Theodore K. Mullins performance. This kind of bizarro comic touch is vintage David Wain. Remember the camp chef with the talking can of vegetables in Wet Hot American Summer? (Or pretty much everything that ever happened on Stella? Or, if you watched a lot of MTV during the nineties, remember The State?) From his cadence, Theodore K. Mullins appears to be a revivalist preacher — which might explain why his romance with Nick is on the down low. His speech doesn’t make too much sense: "Oh, great Negro spiritual, please come down and loose these chains on this woman.” But somehow, it works.
Still, Jess and Cece don’t resolve their fight until the next day. When Jess witnesses Schmidt’s “See Cece Run” shirt at the charity race, she realizes that Cece must really like him: “It’s the only explanation for thinking that’s funny.” Cece’s big secret isn’t that she’s boning Schmidt; it’s that she’s got feelings for him. She’s not willing to admit that to herself, so of course she can’t admit it to Jess.
By the episode’s end, we’re watching Schmidt and Cece bicker as they chop vegetables. It’s conventional wisdom that TV couples become much less entertaining when they officially get together. But these two might be an exception. After all, at this point, neither character’s best lines revolve around being single. Schmidt is actually much funnier as a label-whore than as a ladies’ man. Also, call me sentimental, but I kind of just want him to be happy. Maybe it’s time for Cece to admit that she’s fallen for a man who gives his roommates douchebag lessons.