New Girl Recap: The Ones Who Knock

Photo: Fox
New Girl
New Girl
Episode Title
Background Check
Editor’s Rating

Who’s that girl? Who’s that girl? No, seriously, who’s that girl, because the theme song doesn’t tell us anymore.

That’s right: Gone are the days of the twee, modular opening that I’d gone from hating to loving to resenting for its now-conspicuous lack of Cece and Coach. In its place is a shiny new photo collage that is altogether sleeker, cooler, and more representative of the show at its best: namely, an ensemble piece that once needed Jess Day to get it on the air.

I wonder if it’s a coincidence that the new opening was debuted with the best episode of the past two seasons, or if it was a conscious choice on the part of the creative team to usher in a new New Girl. Either way, “Background Check” course-corrected just about all of my complaints about the show as of late, and addressed others I didn’t even know I had.

Here, by way of summary, is a list of complaints I’ve had about New Girl, and the way “Background Check” did an absolutely bang-up job of leaving the grouchy TV critic in me impressed and satisfied.

The Complaint: Jess can be irritating in large doses.
The Fix: Less Jess! Simple as that. “Background Check” is a perfect ensemble episode. Everyone gets a compelling story line, everyone gets moments of comedic gold, and everyone gets to be quirky in his or her own ever-increasingly specific way. Jess works really well when in direct conflict with her friends and their equal-and-opposite flaws, but when the episode is all about how that kooky Jess is gonna pull herself out of this one (“Julie Berkman’s Older Sister”; “Middle School Dance”), she can easily become cloying. Often times, this is because of my next complaint.

The Complaint: Ugh, are we seriously supposed to believe that Jess is able to function in the world as a human adult?
The Fix: Have the other characters call her out on how ridiculous she’s being! No, Jess, you can’t get high if you’ve had meth near your boobs. Oh, this would probably be a good time to mention the episode’s simple, genius premise: Winston has to receive an in-person background check as part of his Police Academy graduation, which means Jess has to hide the meth she accidentally bought when it was hidden in an ottoman bought at a flea market. Winston’s goals are diametrically opposed to Jess’s; both of their respective goals stem from an established part of their personalities. My TV-writing professors would be proud.

The Complaint: Winston should definitely not be allowed to be a cop.
The Fix: Much like above, the answer is, once again, to call it out! Jess says that she doesn’t think Winston would make a good cop, and she’s right — from what we’ve seen, Winston would make a terrible cop. He is cartoonish bordering on batshit insane, and I would feel less safe in a world where Winston was even a cop on TV. But Jess pointing out that no, Winston “I Once Hit a Woman in the Throat With a Ski” Bishop should not be wielding a gun and the power of the badge served to bring this particular story arc back down to reality. The reality being, of course, that this is a sitcom and I seriously need to relax.

The Complaint: Okay, but seriously, Winston is color-blind, shouldn’t he not be allowed to be a cop, legally?
The Fix: Shhhh, shhhh, it’s just a sitcom, remember?

The Complaint: Stop tiptoeing around it and just get Schmidt and Cece back together already!
The Fix: Schmidt and Cece kissed! Schmidt and Cece kissed! Casually, too, like the way adults who are comfortable kissing each other sometimes do in real life. Cece came over to help Jess hide the meth (and, you know, hang out at the apartment everyone knows she should just move into at this point), and Schmidt appeases the concerns of the woman doing Winston’s background check (and, you know, gets to kiss the woman he’s still in love with) by pretending Cece is his girlfriend. First steps are taken toward the reconciliation I am hoping will be the show’s penance for an inevitable wedding between Rob Reiner and Kaitlin Olson, God help us all.

The Complaint: I wish New Girl were more like Three’s Company!
The Fix: What’s that, you say? I accidentally have all this meth, but a cop is coming to inspect the apartment right now? And we all have to run around hiding our obvious lies from her? “Come and knock on our doooor …”

The Complaint: New Girl’s not exactly sure what to do with Coach.
The Fix: The key to Coach, I think, is writing him as everything Nick is not. Where Nick is an unrepentant sad sack with a heart of gold, Coach is macho and overly confident with the heart of a sad sack. It’s tremendous fun to watch him confidently storm out of the apartment to find a little boy to play “Dukwan Feldman,” Nick’s mentee, only to have him realize too late that mayyyybe luring little boys back to his apartment looks super bad for him. Once again, Damon Wayans Jr. turns in one of the funniest performances not only on New Girl, but on modern TV at large.

The Fix: One line. Just mention him once so I don’t start to wonder if maybe I made Winston’s cat up. Now it turns out that Jess remembers him, and I can breathe once again.

The Complaint: I wish the characters on New Girl never left the apartment.
The Fix: What’s more appropriate for a show about a group of friends hanging out than a bottle episode that takes place entirely in their apartment? Having the roommates all together in a confined space, working side-by-side towards the same goal encapsulates all the fun of New Girl in a really lovely, succinct way. It felt nice to occupy such a comfortable space with them for a while.

The Complaint: I don’t want to know real things about Nick Miller; can someone just list weird facts about him, please?
The Fix: About half of “Background Check” was just Nick admitting to various facts about himself, and while some of them might have been vaguely criminal (“making love” to himself outside of a post office), most of them were just slipshod snapshots of Nick Miller’s bizarre life (Nick didn’t get a single erection during his “sixteenth year” and thought his penis was just “done”). The writers clearly love coming up with these, so I hope they continue to include a Nick Facts-Listing Game™ in all future episodes.

The Complaint: It was funny when Cece lost her virginity to Mick Jagger; can Cece sleep with more celebrities, please?
The Fix: Mark Paul “Zack Morris” Gosselaar. If he guest-stars on New Girl, five stars, all around, forever.

To top that all off, Lamorne Morris’s delivery of “You ain’t got a cycle, you’ve got a roller coaster” is already destined to become my favorite GIF of 2014.

“Background Check” rocked, plain and simple. I know we are destined for more drama, more conflict, more Abby Day somewhere down the line, but for now, we can live in a world where even Winston’s cop dreams can come true — a world where meth is nothing more than aquarium rocks.