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New Girl Recap: Courtroom Brown

There are moments in “Fired Up” that make me realize I feel about New Girl much the way my parents feel about me. I love this show so much, and believe in it so fully, that even when it falters, I can’t help but applaud its efforts and encourage it to get up and try again. Which it did, and admirably so — an especially impressive feat given the fact that last night’s episode was charged with dusting off the debris left over from the show's three-episode “Sister” arc. 

What I’m trying to say is that, while “Fired Up” isn’t necessarily a return to form, it’s certainly a great big step in the right direction. 

In the past few weeks, New Girl has broken a sweat trying to force some conflict into the Nick and Jess relationship. “Fired Up” is the first episode in a long time that allows the characters room to breathe. In fact, Nick and Jess have all of one scene together; two, if you count the adorable one where Jess is asleep. It’s not that I don’t love Nick and Jess as a couple (to paraphrase Jack Donaghy, “I have two eyes and a heart, don’t I?”), but maybe this is where New Girl should live for a while. Nick and Jess are together, no need to belabor the point. Now let everyone go have some fun.

Jess gets Coach a job at her school, where he is apparently good at being a coach (even though we never really see evidence of it you know what, it’s fine, it’s fun). In return, Coach helps Jess go after her dream of becoming vice-principal.

The scene where Coach is firing volleyballs at Jess as a way to psych her up might be the first time I’ve actually understood and appreciated what the character of Coach brings to the table. While the rest of the roommates have had enough time with Jess that her presence has softened them, Coach is still new enough to be rough-around-the-edges, an almost alien force in Jess’s life.  It hearkens back to what the guys did for Jess in season one, back when she needed their help to do, um … basically anything, really.

It’s enough to push Jess into asking for what she wants, and, in case you’d forgotten this is a sitcom, she gets it! It’s a funny moment, actually, to realize that only someone with the rosy worldview of Jess Day actually thinks being vice-principal sounds like any fun. It’s an easy, hollow victory, but still exciting for her, and, therefore, for us.

That said, it’s part of an ultimately disappointing plot line that doesn’t really go anywhere. Coach has no scruples in taking advantage of Jess’s weaknesses, so he’s hired back at a school we had no idea he really cared about in the first place. Cool, I guess? Watching Coach the coach could be fun, especially if it means more of Coach bringing out the heart of Jess. Also, did you know that it’s possible to retain just as much money renting out a school library as you can by cutting a teacher’s salary? Apparently it is! School budget crisis, solved!

Meanwhile, we are blissfully spared yet another inactive story about Winston trying to become a cop (in fact, somewhat conspicuously, no Cop Talk regarding Winston whatsoever) in favor of Nick, Schmidt, and Winston engaging in legal high jinks! Yay! The Three Amigos back together! High jinks! Wait, legal? That sounds kind of boring, but it doesn’t matter! Friends!

“Fired Up” introduces us to Poor Schmidt, and while I always suspected Schmidt had Barney Stinson-style reserves of money hidden God-knows-where, it’s nice to know New Girl hasn’t forgotten that actions do have long-term consequences. Back when Elizabeth was introduced, I was sure we would see the return of Fat Schmidt, and I am still disappointed that never happened, but I think this is the next best thing. At their best, every New Girl character hovers just a few feet above Loserville. The best comedic moments come when they slip and find themselves there. 

Winston and Nick try to help Schmidt out by moving his stuff into the store he rented for Abby. I’m not sure why they didn’t just have Schmidt sell his stuff and fall into legal trouble that way.  It kind of seems like a missed opportunity. Instead, a prospective buyer falls and breaks his arm while looking around the “store” and sues, leaving a recently bankrupted Schmidt with few legal options.

“Oh yeah, Nick passed the bar,” you might say. “I guess I’d wondered if that would ever come into play, but then I totally forgot about it.” Yep. Nick serves as the most inept lawyer on Fox since Lionel Hutz, Winston gets in on the action as “Courtroom Brown,” and Schmidt has some great lines (“… you pronounce the g in lasagna.”)

On another note, I love Mike the bartender, and I hope New Girl continues to use him — sparingly, of course. The second you know too much about a character like Mike, all the fun is sucked right out of him. He’s the only redeeming part of the Cece storyline, which was distracting in that it only got two short scenes and I spent much of the time in between them wondering, is Cece actually going to date a 20-year-old? Even if he is cute and Australian?

 Schmidt clapping when Cece accepted Buster’s date was a really nice moment, a reminder of how, given time, things really do work themselves out. And thus, New Girl does make Jess Days of us all. 

Photo: Adam Taylor/FOX