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New Girl Season-Two Finale Recap: Before You Say No, Don’t Say No

NEW GIRL:  Jess (Zooey Deschanel, R) and Nick (Jake Johnson, L) surprise the guests at Cece's wedding in the "Elaine's Big Day"

Editor’s note: Regular recapper Izzy Grinspan will be out for the final two episodes of this season but is planning to return for season three. Today, Parks and Recreation recapper Jessica Goldstein is filling in.

At last, Cece and Shivrang’s wedding is here! In our real, cruel world, Jess would be wearing an unflattering sari that in no way brought out the blue in her eyes. In Sitcom Land, she looks beautiful. Nick looks great, too. There is nothing wrong with his suit; he wore it to his high-school graduation!

Looming over Nick and Jess is the premonition Jess’s dad made last week: neither can live while the other survives Nick is too childish and unstable to be Jess’s boyfriend. Instead of reacting as the adult he hopes to prove he can be, Nick takes a page out of the Little Mermaid Playbook of Relationships: change everything about yourself so your object of affection deems you worthy. He starts by trading up to Schmidt’s worst suit — as Schmidt said, “If you can get it over your thighs, I don’t want it” — based on the not-untrue belief that every girl’s crazy ‘bout a sharp-dressed man.

Schmidt brings Elizabeth as his wedding date. I like Elizabeth. She shows us this insecure side of Schmidt while still giving him room to deliver great lines, like his reaction to the groom coming in on a white horse: “So basically, they’re just copying my bar mitzvah.”

But when Schmidt accidentally walks in on Cece getting ready, she (as models and brides are wont to do) looks stunning. Meaningful eye contact happens. If you have been watching Nashville, you know that such an intense level of meaningful eye contact can only mean one thing: love.

Schmidt rushes back to Nick and Winston and reveals his discovery: Cece doesn’t want to get married! She told him a long, detailed monologue to this effect “with her eyes.” He begs his friends to help him sabotage the wedding. Winston’s in. Nick, on his “I can be a good boyfriend” campaign, declines. He has gone Full Boyfriend on us. He’s even got Jess’s hot-pink purse slung over his shoulder — and he’s wearing deodorant. Schmidt calls him out. “The real you would help me sabo this wedding.” Yes, “sabo” is short for “sabotage.”

Now seems like a good time to talk about the Winston problem. New Girl features two deeply developed, complicated, and fun-to-watch relationships — Jess and Nick, Cece and Schmidt — each of which is perfectly capable of carrying a story for an episode, or several-episode arc, on its shoulders. Even outside of their coupled context, those four characters have grown and deepened over the past two seasons. And then there’s Winston. Winston, who has yet to really be granted a meaningful character trait beyond “goes too far with pranks.” Last week, his entire plot revolved around the fact that his closest friends could not even remember his birthday. Not a good sign! This failing of the show is as glaring as ever in this episode, probably because everyone else — even Elizabeth, who we met, like, three weeks ago — gets meaty, emotional material for the season finale, and Winston essentially spends ten minutes chasing a badger through the air ducts. (Though he did convince Nick to change his mind and have some key comedic moments — “Hey, bartender, can you call an ambulance? I’m about to bleed out. Thanks, man,” and “I’m just staying positive, but I’m pretty sure this is where we die.”)

Anyway, we know that according to the laws of the sitcom, Cece cannot marry Shivrang. We also know that the course of comedy weddings never did run smoothly (see also: Susan on Seinfeld’s death-by-envelope-licking, Marshall’s head-shaving on HIMYM, “I Ross, take thee Rachel.”). So the question isn’t really if the wedding will break up but how, and New Girl decides to prank the proceedings into disaster.

Step one: blowing an airhorn to scare off the white horse (Taylor Swift cameo foreshadowing!). Step two: blasting “Cotton-Eyed Joe” during the ceremony. Jess is convinced Nick is part of the pranking team; he is uncontrollably fist-pumping along to the music. The third prank, Winston warns, “is bigger than all of us,” so I assume it’s T. SWIFT. But it turns out to be the badger the gang saw earlier. Winston and Nick are taking it up to the air ducts and plan to drop it on the nuptials.

Jess is punishing Schmidt by messing up his hair (he chants, as if in prayer, “I deserve this, I deserve this”) only to discover that Nick was not involved in the pranking from the get-go; he didn’t join until after Jess reamed him out for being childish. Jess is going into the ducts, but Schmidt stays put: “I’m the kind of guy who likes to enjoy the AC, not see how the sausage is made.” Jess and Nick have as much of a heart-to-heart as two people can have in an air duct. And then they (and the badger) fall through the ceiling. This is … not surprising.

Cece looks like she might die. Also, PSA, she’s sorry, but she can’t get married. “This isn’t what I want. What I want is to be with someone else.” Shivrang is relieved. I almost think he’s going to come out, but then I remember TAYLOR SWIFT IS HERE! Wedding crasher extraordinaire! Shivrang declares his devotion to “Elaine,” a.k.a. Taylor, and the nontraditional, liberal-arts-lovin’ life he dreams of building with her. “I want to marry you in a Presbyterian church!” Taylor/Elaine’s reply: “You are not too short for me. I don’t care what my mother says!”

Hmmm. I don’t think Taylor’s thespian skills have improved a whole lot with time. There’s just a lot of bouncing up and down. It’s very, ah, bangs-y? Not the most subtle performance in the history of ever, is all I’m saying. Still, fun cameo! It made Max Greenfield very happy, that’s for sure.

Jess finds herself face-to-face with Nick again. Nick decides to quit on even attempting a relationship because one small part of Jess isn’t 100 percent sure. His logic: “It’s not like we’re in love or anything.” When Jess replies, she looks and sounds so sad, I honestly think Taylor could get an entire album of material out of that crestfallen facial expression alone. “Okay. Let’s call it. That feels good to me. Does that feel good for you?”

Schmidt insists to Elizabeth that he doesn’t have feelings for Cece. “I sabotaged her wedding as a friend. I didn’t want her to marry someone else as her friend.” On cue, Cece approaches and tells Schmidt that he’s the one that she wants, ooh, ooh, ooh, honey! Elizabeth asks him, point-blank, which woman he is in love with. Schmidt sprints away.

Post-requisite-pep-talk from Winston, Nick runs outside to Jess. Let’s pause to cherish this lovely and heartfelt speech by Jessica Day. These kinds of speeches are hard! They have to be sweet but not saccharine, emotional but not melodramatic, memorable but not trite. So few declarations of TV love really nail it. There’s Coach Taylor’s “Will you take me to Philadelphia with you, please?” There’s Leslie Knope’s wedding vows kicker, “You’re all I need. I love you, and I like you.”

And then there are these perfect five sentences: “Look, I know you think we should call this. But I don’t want to give up on this, even if we don’t know what this is. I want to uncall it. Please, can we uncall it? And before you say no, don’t say no.”

And they kiss! Ahhh!! Super-meaningful Jess and Nick kissing > super-meaningful Schmidt and Cece eye contact. Sorry, Schmidt and Cece! It’s just, damn, I don’t know if there’s, like, a spot for Zooey and Jake to put this on their résumés or anything, but wow, they are really, really good at that.

So off they ride, happy yet directionless, the whole world/next season ahead of them. What’s to come in season three? Will Schmidt stay with Elizabeth, jump ship for Cece, or find a(nother) new girl? Will Winston actually get to be a three-dimensional character? Are Nick and Jess in it for the long haul? Speak now in the comments and tell me what you think on Twitter @jessicagolds.

In the meantime, everyone just stay calm. I don’t think the badger is actually rabid. He’s just kind of a dick.

Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX