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New Girl Recap: Secrets of the Model Dorm

NEW GIRL:  Jess (Zooey Deschanel, C) watches as Russell (guest star Dermot Mulroney, L) and his ex-wife Ouli (guest star Jeanne Tripplehorn, R) have a heated argument in the "Tomatoes" episode of NEW GIRL airing Tuesday, April 24 (9:00-9:31 PM ET/PT) on FOX.  ©2012 Fox Broadcasting Co.  Cr:  Greg Gayne/FOX

Of all the many professions available to women in this modern-day world, why is Cece a model? Back when New Girl debuted, it seemed like her job was an excuse for Fox to cast someone who was just as hot as Zooey Deschanel. But now that the season is nearly over, that feels like a cynical reading. Clearly, Cece is a model so that the show can give us snippets of life inside the model dorm. After all, how else would we ever get to meet Nadia?

Things we know about Nadia: She was born in Russia. (Jess seems to believe she was kicked out.) She has an inelegant grasp of the English language. She is totally fascinated by Schmidt’s ethnic identity; the first time we see her, she’s clapping her hands and singing, “Jew in the couch!” after he pops out from beneath the cushions. She believes Disney’s most famous character is a rodent named Mick Mouse who flies in a spaceship. And apparently, her vagina contains a right angle. Nadia is not what professors of TV recappology like to call “a well-rounded character,” and Lord only knows what Tyra would make of her, but her halting delivery and strange, bloodthirsty fixation on Schmidt were two of this episode’s best elements.

After last week’s pregnancy scare, Cece thinks it’s time to end things with Schmidt. As soon as she breaks up with him, Nadia snatches him up, although it’s a little tough to see why she’s into him. In her words: “I like his face. I want punch, punch, punch.” Schmidt’s interest in her is equally baffling, other than the fact that she’s a model. But Cece’s feelings are coming across loud and clear. She’s not ready to let Schmidt go, even if she won’t admit it to herself.

This might be another reason it makes sense for Cece to be a model: She’s clearly someone who thrives in situations that require turning off your emotions and toughing it out. That’s one of the ways she works as a foil for Jess, who’s all about feelings and compassion and understanding where everyone else is coming from — useful skills if you spend all your time around 11-year-olds.

Jess is such a people person that she even tries to broker a dinnertime truce between Russell and his ex, Ouli. But the two of them seem to have a smoldering hate-on for each other. They fight through the whole meal, only pausing to gaze furiously into each other’s eyes. Jess tries to distract them by tap-dancing and singing Cheap Trick, which is how she handled her divorced parents growing up. Ultimately, though, she realizes that she’s jealous. She wants to feel that sort of passion for Russell.

The problem is that there’s only one main New Girl character who really meshes powerfully with Russell, and that’s Nick, who opens the episode musing, “Jess, you’re dating a man I could see myself growing old with.” Jess tries to goad Russell into having some sort of high-drama sex showdown, but even when she throws coasters at him, he won’t take the bait. “Passion’s overrated,” he says. Uh-oh. Maybe that’s why Zooey Deschanel and Dermot Mulroney never seemed to have much chemistry in the show; their characters don’t either.

Having failed at relationships, Nick is trying to cultivate tomatoes. He’s not a good gardener, but he’s great with the props, threatening the birds with a scarecrow and chasing Winston off the roof with a pitchfork. (Later, watching Nick try to stuff the scarecrow in the trash, Winston asks, “What is this, Martin Scorsese’s The Wizard of Oz?”)

Winston is driving Nick crazy because he’s in the middle of a honeymoon period with the pleasantly bland Shelby. Eventually he’s able to convince Nick that he can’t just give up on women completely. Since Winston has found love with a girl he used to date, he talks Nick into calling his own ex, Caroline.

Jess comes back from her date just as Caroline is leaving Nick’s bedroom without any pants on, which means it’s time for a completely deranged confrontation. Jess tells Nick he doesn’t have the courage to be alone, kicking off a yelling match and some serious sexual tension. I would definitely have bet money on them making out, and I would have lost that bet, because instead of giving us the obvious cathartic “Here’s the passion Jess was looking for” moment, the show chooses to get weird. Nick starts shaking his ass at Jess, Jess starts shaking her ass back, and then the two of them compete to see who can shake faster. Their fighting styles are so complementary that it feels like further evidence that they’re perfect for each other. Even if Jess does storm off in the end.

And speaking of perfect for each other: Nadia explains to Cece in her deadpan pidgin that Schmidt is in the hospital. “I leave him there. I go make bowling.” Their date may have started with Nadia listing all her favorite parts of America — Connect Four, Wilmer Valderrama, Leon E. Panetta, “ice skating for fun, not to save life” — but sometime after that, she offered to sex Schmidt’s face, and somehow he wound up with a broken penis.

Cece’s so pissed that she forgets to keep pretending she doesn’t care and admits to Schmidt that she likes him. Once again, Max Greenfield’s acting is on a completely different level than everyone else’s. “You like me?” he says, glowing. “You like my personality?” But he can’t kiss Cece, because it makes him feel like his penis is having a heart attack. It’s going to be a long eight-week recuperation period — or a long two episodes, whichever comes first.

Photo: Greg Gayne/FOX