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New Girl Recap: Babes and Toyland

How are you guys doing? You okay? You need a hug? A cookie? Take a deep breath. We’re going to get through this.

So … Nick and Jess broke up. God, that was a hard sentence to type.

The fact that they brought back True American probably should have been a warning sign that this was the episode we’ve all been dreading. It was the New Girl equivalent of buying us a Barbie before taking us to get our booster shots.

I’d really held out hope that it wouldn’t come to this. But, even after two seasons of occasionally tedious will they/won’t they, New Girl season three was never content to have its central couple just be together. There was no way, then, for the breakup, despite the multitudinous “feels” it inspired, to not feel contrived and convenient. Couples have bigger fights than this all the time and stay intact; only in sitcom-land are people who are truly in love with each other cowed so easily.

I think the problem building up to this point stemmed from the fact that, a lot of the time, you know just as much about your roommate as you do about your long-term partner (up to and including what they look like naked). It was difficult, then, for the writers to find wrenches to throw into Nick and Jess’s relationship when they already were intimately familiar with each other’s annoying quirks and habits. So inevitable though it may have been, I find it hard to believe that the reason Nick and Jess broke up is that they realized they don’t have anything in common besides the fact that they love each other. I find it even harder to believe that they miss their just-friendship. Their sexual tension was their friendship.

Maybe the show was too afraid of this breakup turning either Nick or Jess into “the bad guy,” and was therefore afraid of creating a real reason that they could no longer be together if it meant one or the other would get hurt. Sure, tears were still shed, but it’s not like they’re even going to stop living together. This was a breakup so soft, there weren’t even any hard feelings. Jess hugging Nick in the hallway as a mirror of their first kiss was poignant and heartfelt, but it almost wasn’t even earned.

There was, however, a single, shining, perfect moment in this episode, and no, I’m not referring to Winston’s “Drink it up, Checkers, forget what you saw.” Before the first commercial break, Nick asks Jess point-blank if she thinks they should break up. I just about yelled in frustration at the TV (read: I definitely yelled in frustration at the TV). But then, in the first moment of act two, Jess and Nick immediately laugh the suggestion off, because even they know that all of the things they’ve been fighting about are excruciatingly dumb.

For a beautiful, hopeful moment, it was pure genius. 

In fact, I thought “Mars Landing” was really pretty great overall. Sure, the trajectory of the story was disappointing and (the way I see it) unnecessary, but the episode had a handful of fantastic laugh-out-loud moments, and a lot of fun with the characters in between. The scenes of Jess and Nick arguing over their hypothetical future children, for instance, felt like New Girl at its gleeful, sweet-yet-unhinged best — every line was surprising and yet deeply rooted in character. Jess wants her kids to name themselves; Nick lost a bet and now has to name his first born Reginald VelJohnson. Jess wants to move back to Portland; Nick is holding out for a life as an interstellar long-haul trucker. Jess values education; Nick eats rotting meat. It’s absolutely sublime writing. Watching New Girl, you get the sense the writers would be happier if they could just let the characters sit around and shoot the shit from episode to episode.

Incidentally, “Lake Father, Lake Son” may be my favorite joke of the entire season.

Meanwhile, B-Story Squad is helping some hot girls move into the building. Or rather, Winston is helping some hot girls move into the building. Schmidt and Coach are verbally sparring because they’re the kind of men who say fisticuffs, not the kind who actually engage in them. It’s a nice diversion from the emotional turmoil back at the apartment, and best of all, it forces Winston to be the straight man. Watching him being a “good guy” is a nice reminder that he does, at least sometimes, operate within the laws of a recognizable universe.

Winston also acts as a text consultant for Cece, who is still seeing Buster, the adorable 20-year-old Australian who can’t possibly exist in this or any other universe. It’s a story with minimal conflict, especially because it’s implausible that anyone would break up with a woman who looks like Cece over a few drunk texts. And more implausible still that Cece would be so into a guy barely out of his teens, no matter how dreamy his accent.

It was heartening to watch Cece turn to the guys for advice, even after everything that happened with Schmidt (whose description of emoji is priceless. I love that no one on this show is remotely competent when it comes to technology). That, in the world of this show, a relationship can come crashing down and a friendship can be built back up from its ashes is good news for Nick and Jess, whose relationship didn’t so much crash down as wilt.

The coolest, ballsiest thing New Girl could do now would be to keep both Schmidt and Cece and Jess and Nick broken up. This being a network sitcom, there’s a 95 percent chance both couples will be back together by the end of the season, but if they can resist fan, network, and peer pressure, New Girl has a shot of going where no relationship-based sitcom has gone before.

A final thought: No one seemed upset enough that their apartment building had been set on fire. Especially Winston, because, um, guys? Not to be morbid, but … where was Ferguson?  

Photo: Adam Taylor/FOX