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New Girl Recap: Holiday Dump Fantasy

NEW GIRL:  Jess (Zooey Deschanel, L) is surprised to run into Sam (guest star David Walton, R) in the "Santa" episode of NEW GIRL airing Tuesday, Dec. 11 (9:00-9:30 PM ET/PT) on FOX.

New Girl sailed into its holiday break with an episode full of drama. Plots were advanced, couples broke up and reunited, characters learned things about themselves, Winston got a cranberry stuck in his ear — heck, there was even a musical number.

It’s like the show was determined to sear itself into our memory so that we don’t all forget about it between now and the second week of January, when it returns. It mostly achieved that goal with passionate speeches and heart-to-heat chats. New Girl’s never shied away from emotion, but last night may have been the most emo episode yet. Every few minutes, one character looked deep into the eyes of another and, trembling, confessed something from deep within his or her soul.

This is pretty melodramatic stuff for a sitcom, and if everyone wasn’t so damn likable, it might have been annoying. Knowing all four roommates (and Cece!) as we do, though, it’s hard not to root for each one to find love and happiness. In some ways, New Girl is a prismatic rom-com, with all five central characters playing that main Katherine Heigl role — only, you know, much better and less exhausting than that sounds.

Last night’s basic setup: Handsome doctor Sam, who broke up with Jess a few episodes ago, has decided he wants her back. He tracks her down at a cookie-decorating shindig at Sadie’s, and when she runs away — suavely shouting “Irish goodbye!” and dragging her friends behind her — he bribes Winston into revealing her whereabouts by offering him an ear exam. Which leads us to passionate speech No. 1: Sam’s confessional, to a closet door where she’s hiding with her friends, about how he messed up and wants to get back together. “I’m sorry if this seems rehearsed,” he wraps up. “This is the third room I’ve done this in.”

Jess might have her own dump fantasy (bad choice of words) about getting back together: “We meet in a hospital, during wartime. You can forgive anything during wartime.” But she’s afraid Sam will hurt her again, so she pretends she’s dating Winston. It might be a testament to Sam’s cluelessness that he not only believes this, at least briefly, but also admits that he’s always found Winston’s the biggest threat out of all three roommates. (Remember last week, when Winston spent the whole show having half-naked panic attacks in front of Jess? Yeah, no chemistry there.)

This brings us to passionate speech No. 2. Once Winston gets the cranberry removed from his ear and realizes what’s going on, he stages a faux breakup with Jess in the voice of Theodore K. Mullins. That leads swiftly to, yes, speech No. 3: Jess, false lashes fluttering, explaining to Sam that she won’t take him back because she’s tired of being gullible. There’s a callback here to what Jess says about Santa at the very beginning of the episode: “I just believe things and go on believing them. Someone tells me a fat man’s bringing me dolls ever year, I just don’t question it.” Jess is hyper-aware that she’s easy to deceive, and she’s fighting it.

Schmidt’s also suffering from an adult problem that looks a lot like his childhood relationship to Santa. As a Jewish kid, he was forbidden to reveal the truth about the holiday to his Christian peers: “Ruining Christmas? Very bad for our brand.” Now, he’s a nonbeliever about love, sulking at holiday parties while his friends flirt. When Cece thanks him for saying that he loves her, he replies, “Love is stupid, okay? It is a lie.”

Max Greenfield, as usual, fully commits to the part, spitting “Bah humbug” like a freckled young Scrooge. But even at his most cynical, Schmidt accepts Cece’s peace offering of a bracelet made of tungsten carbide, the most baller metal. (“It’s what Statham wore in the Transporter movies.”) Maybe there’s hope for them yet.

Nick, for his part, found out about Santa at the age of 5. Innocence long gone, he’s not afraid of new girlfriend Angie lying to him; he’s just worried that he’s too boring for her, especially since he’s uncomfortable with her exhibitionist tendencies. Angie keeps accusing him of judging her based on her chosen career, but is the problem that she’s a stripper, or that Nick hates being the center of attention? I think he’d be just as unhappy about falling out of a decorative sleigh with his pants down if he were with an actress or an opera singer.

At first, Nick tries to prove to Angie that he’s tough, declaring, “Lady, I was born on the wrong side of the tracks. I’ve had tetanus thrice in my life.” For some reason, though, using the word “thrice” fails to convince her. So on Jess’s advice, he grabs the mike at Winston’s office party and makes passionate speech No. 4, a declaration of affection that ends in a really awkward lap dance. Of course Angie would try to upstage him by giving a lap dance of her own, and of course Schmidt would jump in and try to upstage her. They’re both people who love having an audience, so it makes sense that they would compete. If Munn’s going to stick around, I hope this rivalry develops further.

As for passionate speech No. 5, it’s delivered by Jess, it’s about drunk driving, and the recipient is black Santa Claus. “I’m not going to cry because I believe in traffic violations and paying your debt to society,” Jess sobs. Black Santa — actually a bearded traffic cop — is willing to forgive her for driving erratically, and his benevolence and beard work together to convince everyone but Schmidt that the spirit of Christmas is alive. Like Fox Mulder, Jess wants to believe, so it’s off to the hospital, where Angie flashes the receptionist, the gang pretends to be carolers, and Jess reunites with Sam.

Will they last? Will Nick and Angie? And will Schmidt and Cece get past their latest round of weirdness? We’ll have to wait until January to find out. In the meantime, have a merry White Anglo-Saxon Winter Privilege Night and a happy New Year.