I can’t tell you how badly I wished season four would open with Jess waking up from a terrible nightmare. Happily, she’d realize that she doesn’t have an unstable sister, that Schmidt might be a tool but he would never cheat on two women he cares about (nor would he move out only to lose all of his personal finances almost immediately), and that Winston never entered the police academy due to his questionable sanity. Most important, she’d wake up content to know that her relationship with Nick was still one of blithe, coy tension, and not the muddled mess it tangled itself into last season.
Unfortunately for those of us in the real world, season three did happen, and it was a spectacular disaster. The Jess and Nick debacle in particular was like watching a Gordian Knot being hacked blindly with a butter knife. The good news is that the season-four premiere, “The Last Wedding,” does an admirable job of wiping the slate clean.
Because, at its best, New Girl is the hang-out sitcom to end all hang-out sitcoms, it’s still non-negotiable that the recently separated Jess and Nick continue to live together. We can assume that they both did their fair share of sobbing while watching Dirty Dancing over the summer, so when we drop in on our heroes, they are once again ready to join Schmidt, Cece, Winston, and the rest (Coach) in being single and ready to mingle at the last wedding of the summer.
Side note: “No one meets anybody in the fall,” Schmidt says. “You can’t take your chances on the unknown contents of a bulky sweater.” Is this actually true in L.A.? Does the knowledge that it’s technically fall change people’s hookup habits when it’s 75 and sunny out? I’m genuinely curious.
Anyway, Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Cece, Winston, and the gang (Coach, always Coach) head to the wedding of an unnamed, never-seen friend (I kept hoping it would turn out to be Nadia. I miss you, Nadia.), a sex pact firmly in place. No one is going home alone tonight.
Jess sets her sights on the best man, a.k.a. “the wedding celebrity” (played by Reid Scott from My Boys). Unfortunately, she’s got competition for his affections in the form of Cat (Jessica Biel in her long-promised guest spot). One of the greatest challenges of watching New Girl is accepting that it takes place in a world where Zooey Deschanel isn’t universally appealing. No matter what you think of her as a person, she’s pretty freaking cute, so the idea that she’d have trouble getting a date is a hard pill to swallow. But Cat is forceful, accomplished, competitive, and tall, so it’s game on.
Admittedly, it’s a story about two adult women in an adolescent catfight over a guy whose face is so bland, he's basically a walking saltine, but Deschanel and Biel turned in hilarious performances. Their faux-friendly fire over whose shoes they loved more was perfect. Plus, it introduced the concept of “Biden-ing,” or just hanging around someone until he's forced to pay attention to you. We all know it would never work in the real world, but watching Jess force her way into a three-way dance-off is never not going to be funny.
Speaking of multi-ways, Schmidt and Nick are propositioned by two gorgeous bridesmaids who are — inexplicably — interested in having sex with them, but only if it’s a four-way. Nick’s initial refusal, reinforced by Winston’s botched pre-enactment, is understandable. But there are your good friends, there are your best friends, and then there are the friends who would have a four-way with you to keep you from learning that the ex you still harbor feelings for is once again single.
Oh, yeah, Cece has mercifully broken up with Buster, the oft-discussed but rarely seen 20-year-old Australian she was — boffing? dating? babysitting? — towards the end of season three. A Schmidt and Cece reconciliation is inevitable and necessary this year, and the show has smartly forced both of them to change a great deal since their breakup.
The four-way doesn’t happen, due to Schmidt’s discovery that Nick’s hands “feel like hooves” (any description of the specific ways in which Nick’s body is deteriorating will always make me laugh), but the fact that Nick was willing to try was such a good example of why the friendships on this show are so endearing. Their expressions of love are rarely conventional, but always genuine, sometimes disturbingly so.
Unrelated, but the fact that Nick is wearing tap shoes that he thought were just really shiny dress shoes was such a perfect character choice.
Coach gets little to do in this episode besides realize he’s already slept with every available girl at the wedding, and that they’re all mad at him. But it’s still more than Winston, whose only purpose in the episode is to dispense bad advice to both Jess (“The Joe Biden”) and Nick (the salt-and-pepper demonstration). The specifics of how sore he is from police-academy training are all great, especially “I can’t close my ass,” but I really hope the show figures out a better use for Winston this year, even if that means using him more sporadically. Winston is to New Girl as Zoidberg was to Futurama, or Brittany was to Glee: fan favorites whose overuse is the fastest way to kill their fun.
By the end of this episode, it really felt like a new leaf was being turned over. There was some Jess and Nick catharsis, but it didn’t feel forced. No major snafus were made in Schmidt’s pursuit of Cece. It was funny, light, and ended with a cheerful hang-out scene. Oh, and Jess finally got a new phone case. Happy days are here again.