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New Girl Recap: End of an Error

NEW GIRL

Good morning. I am your new New Girl recapper. And just as the reign of Josh Gondelman has come to an end, so has the arc of Abby Day. Not with a bang (unless you count Schmidt), and not really with a whimper either. It just sort of helplessly ends, and though “Sister III” is marginally better than its predecessor, it does little to assuage fears that New Girl is merely spinning its wheels until it figures out where it can possibly go from here.

Part of the problem is that sitcoms force relationships to move big step to big step to big step, without a lot of time to see the Netflix-watching and couch-snuggling in between. But that comfort zone is where New Girl thrives, and if all Jess and Nick accomplished relationship-wise in season three was solidifying the titles of “boyfriend” and “girlfriend”, dayenu. We’re all in this for the perceived stability (what Josh Gondelman called “Friendship Porn”). Instead, due to the Mandates of Sitcom Law, “Sister III” finds Jess and Nick moving in together.

Let me repeat that: Jess and Nick, longtime roommates, move in together.

It’s like New Girl is in a competition with itself to see how much farther it can lower its stakes. And guess what? It’s winning. But as long as the conflict is going to be so minor, why not just go for it whole-hog and have Nick and Jess debate whether they should watch TLC or Investigation Discovery?  At least I’d believe that argument could actually happen; the Nick and Jess story line in this episode is completely implausible unless — well, I’ll get to that later.

Meanwhile, Cece becomes suspicious of Abby and Schmidt’s incredibly suspicious relationship. Despite the fact that this particular story rests heavily on the fact that Cece — completely against her character — won’t confront Abby directly, Cece’s defensiveness of Schmidt is actually the only thing that rings emotionally true in the entire episode. Once the hurt of the breakup washes away, you’re left with a person you used to care deeply about, and likely still do. At least Cece’s still in touch with who she used to be, even if Schmidt isn’t.

As for poor Winston ... Despite the fact that Winston the Cop is the funniest premise put forth by New Girl in a long time, it’s become a backdrop against which Winston can look extra cuckoo! How fun! Let’s take away any of one of our main characters’ dreams’ validity! Basically he’s just hanging around (literally), training for yet another police academy exam, until he can conveniently catch Jess in the middle of her “Me-Party.”

This episode raises a lot of questions, and though I can only guess at the answers, I thought I’d take a stab at shedding light on some of these incredibly confusing issues:

Have Nick and Jess never actually slept together?
There are a lot of things couples learn only after they begin sharing a room, but what their partner looks like changing usually isn’t one of them. What does Nick usually do when he needs to put clothes on after sex? Does he have to cross the hall to his room naked? If Jess really has no idea what Nick’s pre-bed habits are, then I am forced to conclude that Jess and Nick have never had sex and anything that’s ever hinted at it (or stated it outright) has been some sort of fever dream.

What’s up with Nick’s facial hair?
Seriously, though. Watch Nick’s face closely. He’s got a gross goatee in his first scene with Jess, which then seems to completely disappear by the next time we see him. Don’t take this one point of consistency from us, New Girl. Nick Miller is his scruff. He needs it, and so does the audience, to remind us that even though he’s now got a stable relationship, he’s still a hopeless, loveable slob.

So Abby was actually buying zippers? 
Not zippers and crack? Not zippers and a sacrificial goat? Is she into repairing overalls in between violent sex sessions with Schmidt and making pieces of weapon-grade jewelry?  

Introducing a character like Abby and having her most subversive act be jumping on a vintage car is like detonating a hand grenade only to discover that it was filled with marshmallows. It’s no secret that New Girl is conflict-avoidant in a way that puts Entourage to shame, but I’ve got some serious plot-twist blue balls. Now she’s gone and we’ll never know what was really in that box … unless they get Linda Cardellini back for sweeps week.

Is Coach gay?
I’m not saying that any male who’s half of a platonic, opposite-sex friendship is gay, and I’m not saying that Coach’s offensive espousal of GBFF clichés has any actual bearing on his sexual orientation, but that could be a really cool decision for the show to make. As long as he’s not needed as a potential suitor for either of the main female characters, why couldn’t he be gay? 

Was Schmidt body snatched?
Who is this relationship-crazy monster and where is our beloved Schmidt? Moments after allowing a near stranger to move in with him, Schmidt’s proudly wearing Abby’s handmade jewelry and the wounds sustained thereof. And if that’s not bad enough, there’s snooping to be done and he wants no part of it! The Schmidt of season two would be ashamed. His Cece-stalking adventures with Robbie may well be my favorite part of the entire series thus far.

The only possible explanation is that Schmidt and Cece have switched places, or at least become facsimiles of who the other used to be. In which case, all of these baffling, out-of-character decisions could be leading up to the Schmidt and Cece reconciliation the show so desperately needs.

Where has Ferguson been?
Ferguson appeared right as his new owner was hitting his Optimum Weirdness Level™, and ever since, his presence has been as inconsistent as Winston’s character. Ferguson has been mysteriously absent from the past few episodes, and shows up now like a specter of a not-so-long-gone golden era. If Ferguson is anything like me, he’s just idly watching Winston, wondering how long he can spin his wheels before this police academy story line either turns into something interesting or lamely fizzles out like Abby Day.

Is there really a monkey bars section on the police academy physical exam?
Self-explanatory, but baffling nonetheless.

Abby’s departure may clear the air for the show’s return to form, which I do trust will happen once it settles back into a groove. Now that five out of six main characters are living together and Schmidt is once again freed up for rekindling things with Cece, it would be nice to get a few episodes in which everything regains its comfortable, cheery balance.

One last thought: That old woman in the elevator was the highlight of the entire episode. Between her “Bernie, where are you, you idiot?” and the car attendant from last week’s “Why don’t they give us Tasers?” New Girl’s elderly extras are currently the funniest people on television.

Photo: Jennifer Clasen/FOX