I guess it’s one step forward, two steps and 30 years back. Last week was my first five-star recap; this week, it’s my first one-star recap. Perhaps sandwiched somewhere in the third season (which, I think, we should all collectively decide never happened), “Goldmine” could have been a more-or-less unnoticed clunker. But “Goldmine” isn’t just a clunker, it’s a disaster. This was bad on a level that New Girl ordinarily doesn’t stoop to.
This was downright offensive.
This episode was so bad, I have changed my stance on the new opening that I found so charming paired with last week’s stellar episode. I officially think it looks like it was made in PowerPoint. Or maybe I’m just bitter because New Girl just jumped back over the shark.
So no one accuses me of dismissing “Goldmine” out of hand because of its iffy (I say "iffy" because I’m worried I’ll use problematic too many times before this recap is through) logline (which I’ll get to in a minute), here are a few things I liked about it:
- “Gay Nick’s” elaborate backstory about his past in a coal-mining town: “I’m terrible at lying, but I’m terrific at make-believe.”
- The fact that Jess once performed a one-woman production of A Christmas Carol, and the fact that Nick thought it was perfect.
- Nick’s made-up gay terminology — someone’s got to be into “Drowsers,” right? Though, to be fair, a Nick-specific game would be funny in the middle of a World War II documentary.
- “You look like my dead friend Karen, does anyone ever tell you that?”
- Nick’s total willingness to “play gay.” The one thing I think this episode did right is have Nick’s objections to the whole situation be purely about Jess’s lying.
- The commercial breaks where I got to focus on eating takeout pho. One commercial used Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” which is one of my all-time-favorite songs! I’m scraping the bottom of the barrel of things I liked, guys.
- Jess’s adorable sailor shirt.
Now down to brass tacks: The A story of “Goldmine” is about Nick pretending to be gay to appease the guy Jess has been seeing, and actually? This was the part of the episode I had the least problem with, so let’s table it for the time being. I had a much bigger problem with Schmidt and Winston’s story lines.
Before I tell you what they are, let me remind you that these were real things that happened on a major network television show in 2014.
Schmidt is sad because Cece might get a breast reduction. Winston is sad because he keeps doing nice things for girls and they still won’t sleep with him.
Gonna take this one by one so you can fully absorb the atrocity that is “Goldmine.”
Schmidt is mad because his ex-girlfriend, an adult woman, might alter her appearance in some way to make herself happier and more comfortable in her own body. Admittedly, part of my frustration here is with the fact that the brilliantly funny Hannah Simone was essentially relegated to playing a pair of boobs, but it was hard to focus on being angry about that when Schmidt was acting like such a dick. This was well beyond fun Schmidt douchiness. I still want Schmidt and Cece to get together, but in order for me to fully enjoy watching that, I’m now going to have to pretend that “Goldmine” never happened, and that if Cece chose to get a breast reduction, Schmidt would have at least eventually supported her. I was waiting for the moment Schmidt realized Cece’s happiness was more important than her looking exactly the way he wanted her to look. But, alas, it never came. Where was feminist ally Jess in all this? Oh, that’s right, she was busy making her ex-boyfriend pretend to be a gay stereotype.
Meanwhile, Winston is putting so many Nice Guy Coins into the Pretty Girls Machine, but no sex is coming out. That’s right, Winston has been volunteering his time to maintain his cute female neighbors’ apartment. (Another one of my New Girl pet peeves: They completely forgot Winston was a cop again! Shouldn’t he be doing, you know, cop things?) Coach helps Winston stand up for himself — no, Pretty Girls, Winston won’t keep doing nice things for you if you don’t have sex with him! And because Coach calls the Personality-Free Pretty Girls out on “dangling sex like a carrot," they relent and finally have sex with Coach. It’s the LEAST they could do.
What men’s rights activist wrote this shit? I wish I could tell you that it’s at least funny.
But no, the funniest moments in “Goldmine” are saved for Nick’s portrayal of “Gay Nick.” Nick and Jess have been having a lot of trouble bringing dates back to the apartment since, you know, they’re exes who live together. Instead of wondering why they only date people who can’t seem to trust them or handle how complex and messy relationships can be, Jess decides to tell her new fling that Nick is gay, and Nick (gamely) plays along. It’s actually not as bad as it sounds, due for the most part to Jake Johnson’s deadpan “Gay Nick” deliveries. Jess even calls out how dumb the decision to pretend that Nick is gay was, in a moment that genuinely called into question who in the show’s production offices actually gave this the go-ahead. But the show muscles through until [record scratch] Nick brings a girl home? It’s not a bad escalation of conflict until Nick asks Jess to get rid of her by pretending to be a jealous ex-girlfriend, and it becomes a series of escalating stereotypes about “crazy girls.” It’s a Bechdel nightmare. Jess Day wouldn’t stand for this; why should we?
I will say this: When New Girl fails, it fails spectacularly. Everyone was their worst self in “Goldmine.” It was like some sort of New Girl dark mirror warning me to be careful what I wish for. I may desperately want New Girl to take its rightful place as the heir to Three’s Company (as it did in the gently madcap “Background Check”), but might that mean dragging the show back to the 1970s? Men like boobs, women use sex, bitches be crazy. These aren’t ideas we need reiterated on a maybe not progressive but certainly not regressive show.
I’m sorry, New Girl. I thought things were looking up.