Writing about New Girl is a bit like roasting Winston: There are so many negative things I would say about it if it didn’t have such a cute yawn. And so, in the spirit of the Honey Roast, I will start this recap off with a list of all the things I liked about this episode:
* Nick waking up with reminders to himself about the breakup written on his hands is a really excellent moment that is as funny, heartbreaking, and true to character as the rest of the breakup arc should have been.
* Tran is back! I don’t know how the New Girl casting department managed to find such a perfectly pleasant face, but he really does seem to possess the ability to melt all troubles away. And they’re using him the exact right amount — once or twice a season is plenty. As soon as we know too much about a character this bizarre, he stops being as fun (Cough-Winston-Cough).
* For everything that I haven’t liked about the breakup or its fallout, Jess and Nick’s first post-breakup conversation rang true. They seemed genuinely uncomfortable, but at the same time there was enough sexual tension present that I half-expected them to start furiously making out. Knowing this show — and recently broken-up couples — there’s no way that’s not going to happen in the remaining two episodes of the season. Plus, Nick’s submissive monkey face was hilarious.
* Cece and Schmidt having scenes together bodes very well for their inevitable reunion, which I fully support.
* An all-around A+ to Coach in this episode. Him screaming at his ex-girlfriend in the bathtub was one of the highlights of the episode. And Coach watching Winston yawn was just about the hardest I'd laughed the entire episode, right behind Jess watching Coach watching Winston yawn. The fact that the character with the least arc was the most fun to watch is unsurprising; one of the major problems this show has is that it doesn’t know how to have as much fun with its characters in conflict as it has with them just hanging out and goofing off.
All of that said, what follows is a list of things that would have to be true in order for any of what happened in this episode (or this season, for that matter) to make sense:
* Nick and Jess are deeply, unavoidably, sexually incompatible. Maybe Jess is really into amputees and can’t get off unless Nick chops off his arm, and he’s unwilling to do that, or something. That must be the case, because we haven’t seen anything else that would force two people who do not want to be broken up — and who did not have a compelling reason to break up in the first place — to stay broken up.
* Nick and Jess are big fans of How I Met Your Mother and thought it would be fun to pretend to be Season Two Ted and Robin, so they break up and decide not to tell anybody for a while. Only, instead of staying together for a wedding, they stay together for an arbitrary celebration with no real stakes, and instead of pretending to still be a couple, they go in separate directions and never really put themselves at odds with each other or with those close to them in any real way.
* The LAPD decided that giving psychological exams to academy applicants was a waste of time. That is the only possible way that Winston Bishop could have made it into the police academy. I know that this is sitcom land, and that the rules of competency don’t necessarily apply here, but Winston is beyond incompetent.
* Cece sustained some sort of traumatic head injury off-screen that has caused her to go from being a competent, successful model who hopes to start a family soon, to a hot mess who dates 20-year-olds while she’s trying to figure out what she’s doing with her life. Maybe a light fell on her during a photo shoot, or maybe Nadia lobotomized her while she slept. It doesn’t matter what caused it, the point is that Cece has undergone the kind of physical damage that fundamentally changes who you are as a human being, while keeping intact your flawless good looks.
* Schmidt is blind, because Jess’s outfit was definitely working.
This was a fine way to spend half an hour of TV time. But it also didn’t do much to course-correct the mess the past season has made. I’m not sure why any sort of real forward motion is so hard for this show. Maybe it’s that New Girl is afraid of finding real faults in its characters, faults that can’t be resolved by the end of an episode. Or maybe it’s that the show has just decided to replace organic conflict development with constant character reinvention as some kind of frustrating experiment.
Fans of New Girl are a patient bunch. We stuck with the show through the first half of the first season and were rewarded when it hit its stride. We defended the show to friends who doubted that any show with such a twee advertising campaign could be that good. We suffered through that insufferable Abby Day arc.
But you know that friend of yours who’s always on-again, off-again with her boyfriend? And you want to be supportive and let her cry on your shoulder, but you also know it doesn’t really matter because they’ll be back together within the week?
New Girl has become that friend, and, God knows, I love her, but she is really starting to grate.