Sometimes, you have to go backwards to go forwards. After a few weeks of stalled momentum, last night’s New Girl managed to push the Nick-Jess plot along using flashbacks to everyone’s embarrassing first sexual encounters. With five different stories to tell, the episode moved swiftly and easily, barely brushing over Nick and Jess’s sexual tension until the very end — which is why that conclusion felt so satisfying. Despite their light touch, the writers still brought in some major seasonal themes and backstory, making this one of the better-constructed episodes we’ve had in a while.
New Girl’s flashbacks can be hit or miss, but they’re best when the production designers really embrace period details. This isn’t Mad Men, of course, but it’s fun to see the show’s interpretation of our shared recent past via music and clothing cues. If Lisa Loeb and Titanic are a tad obvious as nineties references, the use of Sublime in the Winston-Nick scene was flawless. And it’s delightful that someone gets paid to dream up new terrible haircuts for Nick.
Also, regardless of how you feel about fat suits as comic devices, Max Greenfield surely deserves some points for his willingness to run around in that thing. Actually, what he really deserves is monthly lunch dates with Eddie Murphy, John “Hairspray” Travolta, and Courteney “Fat Monica” Cox, at which they all drink green juice and discuss the finer points of acting encased in foam.
With five competing virginity loss stories, it’s hard to resist the urge to compare them. But since the characters have already ranked their own flashbacks from most to least embarrassing, let’s do this another way: the New Girl Virginity Loss Plausibility Index, rated on a scale from 5 (least plausible) to 1 (fully likely.)
5. Schmidt. Slapstick usually asks us to suspend our disbelief, and this was by far the slapstickiest part of the episode. College Schmidt is ready to lose his v-card to Elizabeth, even if he isn’t ready to admit to Nick that he’s never done this before. “Back in high school they used to call me the sex … the sex haver,” he insists weakly. To prepare, he buys a gigantic jar of surgical lubricant and asks Nick to make himself scarce for the big date.
This shouldn’t be a problem, since Nick’s plans for the evening involve taking mushrooms and going to see Dave Matthews. Unfortunately, the troll at the end of his bed won’t let him leave. Also, his arm has become a magnet and the wall is magnetic. So he’s stuck listening as Schmidt gets lube in his lady’s eyes, flounders around on the top bunk, and eventually falls out just as Nick is trying to sneak off. Basically, if you like watching a guy in a fat suit wrestle a guy with a hilarious mustache while covered in KY jelly, then you loved this scene.
4. Winston. This was oddly sweet, considering it’s the story of a teenaged boy losing his virginity to a prostitute. Nick’s dad takes young Winston and Nick along on a business trip to New York and presents them with two ladies of the night, Mysteria and Octopussy. The boys have wildly diverging reactions: Winston, who thinks he has just been introduced to two businesswomen who can dance sexy, starts fixing his hair, while Nick, who understands what’s going on, starts muttering, “Nonononono.”
In the end, Nick remains a virgin while Winston sleeps with Mysteria — and then goes on to spend years believing that this older woman was genuinely charmed by his game. (Mysteria: “Aren’t you a virgin too?” Winston: “Just my penis, baby.”) There’s something adorable about his optimism, and it’s great how the show brings in the dynamic between Nick and his cad of a dad, but seriously, Winston? Mysteria? Somewhere, deep down, didn’t you have to know?
3. Jess. This one’s a two-parter with a prologue: First, Jess announces at the beginning of the episode that she’s going to go on a date with Teddy, the guy who “took her flower.” Nick immediately gets protective and combative: “He stole a flower from you? And you want to have drinks with him?” (Was anyone else surprised when Schmidt said flat-out that Nick and Jess didn’t work out? It never struck me as that definitive.)
Jess’s story starts out after prom, which she attended with the other founder — and also sole other member — of her high school’s gender equality society. The two fight after neither of them can figure out how to remove her homemade dress, and she’s sitting dejectedly in the hallway when she meets a hot guy with a guitar (Teen Wolf’s Dylan O’Brien). Is that Teddy? It sure seems like it, especially in Part Two of this tale, when the same hot guy reappears in L.A. in the mid-aughts — at Nick’s bar, of all places. He and Jess sneak off to make out in a toy castle on a playground and wind up getting stuck, making them the only potential murder witnesses when a dead body is found on a bench nearby. The police arrive, the fire department shows up, and soon enough, Jess is riding off into the sunset with the actual Teddy — the firefighter who rescued her.
In terms of plausibility, this could easily be swapped with Winston’s story, except that a few of the details ring way too true. I believe Jess would retain her virginity into her 20s and then lose it to a dorky-cute fireman. I also believe she would make her own prom dress, that it would involve layers of pastel tulle and fake flowers, and that she would ask her mom to sew her into it. The fact that Jess and Teen Wolf met at Nick’s bar, meaning the three male roommates are wandering around in the background? That was a bit too gimmicky for me.
2. Nick: “Allison Daniels, on a towel in the woods. I cried, she kept her bra on. It was nice.” Everything about this is 100 percent believable. There’s only one reason it’s not No. 1, and that’s the enduring jolie-laide sexuality of Cece devirginizer Mick Jagger.
1. Cece. Of course Cece lost her virginity to Mick Jagger. It would’ve been disappointing if she hadn’t.
What took this episode beyond the realm of an entertaining Buzzfeed list (“The Worst Hairstyles of the Late ‘90s/Early ‘00s”) was the way it neatly incorporated two of this season’s themes. Nick’s dad is gone, but he’s not forgotten. Here, he’s passing on the kind of cracked wisdom that makes him such an outsize figure in the life of his son. Nick’s problem is that he thinks too much, Walt says. He shouldn’t miss out on the things that happen in life when you’re not thinking.
And, of course, the episode ends with the most plausible hookup of all: Nick and Jess, back together again. As Elle Goulding’s “Anything Could Happen” plays, we see Winston with Daisy, Schmidt with Elizabeth, and Cece with Shrivang, ending with Nick and Jess, in bed, with blissed-out, shell-shocked looks on their faces. Score one for not thinking too hard.