New Girl is my flaky TV girlfriend: When she doesn’t show up, I cry into my margarita, wondering why I ever gave her the “friends” half of our friendship bracelets; when she does show up, we squeal about how much we love each other until the bartender kicks us out … but secretly, I’m still a little bit hurt over all the times she’s stood me up. New Girl was once my bestie; then she was relegated to being my weekend-brunches-only friend to protect my feelings when she doesn't show up.
In “Teachers," New Girl showed up.
Because Coach has recently been asked to teach a health class (begging the question: Why do we continue to rely on gym teachers to teach health class?), Jess and Coach are both required to attend a teacher’s conference for the weekend. The only problem is Jess’s sexy, British forbidden fruit, the vaguely provocatively named Ryan Geauxinue, will also be in attendance, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned from TV shows and the movie Cedar Rapids, it’s that going to a conference in a hotel is like going to a house party as a freshman in college: Someone’s gonna get too drunk and throw up, someone’s gonna attempt an embarrassing stunt, and someone’s gonna boldly confess his or her feelings for someone else. Are real conferences like this? If you have a conference-going job, please weigh in.
Coach is bummed that he’s going to miss boys’ weekend, which promises to be a bro-fest of such magnitude that Ari Gold himself might weep with jealousy, but as the weekend progresses, he realizes that becoming a real teacher means he has real responsibilities toward kids he cares about. It’s hardly the hard-drinking, YOLO-justified weekend he’d had in mind, but then, it’s not that way back at the apartment, either, where the revelation that Schmidt can’t do laundry and Winston can’t read a ruler spiral into honest reveals about Winston’s career anxiety, Schmidt’s feelings for Cece, and Nick’s self-proclaimed inability to love. Sangria is drunk, blanket tents are built, and Lionel Richie’s “Hello” is played.
“Teachers” made me realize that what I’m most drawn to about New Girl on the whole is the fact that it’s this sweet, twee little show that routinely delivers a genius, fully drawn portrait of modern masculinity. The men on New Girl are all full of bravado until they’re felled by a simple fact of adulthood, like laundry or a new job or… reading a ruler, I guess. They’re rarely competent but always (usually) well-intentioned. They’re overly confident and deeply, deeply scared. They hate each other, but only because they don’t know how to express how much they love each other. There’s a reason that Nick Miller is to youngish men what Liz Lemon is to youngish women (sign up for OKCupid and click through some profiles if you don’t believe that those are, in fact, the two characters who draw the most self-comparison).
Looking back, one of the major reasons that last week's episode didn’t work is because it accepted at face value that Schmidt, Coach, and Winston are man-children without providing even a peek at the vulnerability under the surface. Characters played along with their posturing; characters this week pointedly call out when they recognize that posturing for what it is. Better still, they push each other. Watching Nick, Schmidt, and Winston drink sangria and challenge each others’ fears felt like a homecoming. The fact that they never once questioned if what they were doing was homoerotic or feminine tells me everything about how much better they knew than they displayed last week. It’s a relief.
Jess, unfortunately, did not learn her personal lesson, as she once again decides that not talking about something like adults is just as effective as talking about something like adults! Instead of explaining to Ryan that she senses attraction between them but, because she’s a school administrator, it would be unethical for said attraction to be acted upon, Jess decides to avoid Ryan, point blank. This is easier said than done: If you’ll recall, New Girl puts a fair amount of stock in how well group-organized trust exercises go (remember “Table 34”? ), and when Jess and Ryan are paired together by guest-star Lisa Bonet (underused), the tension becomes too much to bear.
One of my favorite moments in the entire episode was Jess calling Cece and asking her to read the letter to herself that Jess had secretly stashed in Cece’s purse. Cece didn’t have much to do in this episode, but I loved this little exchange. Moments like this make me believe that Cece and Jess truly are best friends, in a deep and honest and sometimes brutal way.
Cece’s assistance doesn’t work. Ryan is devastatingly cute. He is decidedly calculated to make Jess swoon, and it works on her just as well as it worked on me. Like all of Jess’s conquests, I assume we will discover his major flaw fairly soon, although for now, it appears that the biggest red flag about him is that he’s too perfect? After he talks Coach down from his panic attack, he helps bring him back to Jess’s room, where Jess can’t help but lay out her feelings for him on the table. His speech to her in the parking lot and the kiss that followed were knee-weakeningly precious.
Dark-horse MVP joke of the night had to be Coach’s conference friend Ned calling Coach his best friend. Anyone misidentifying someone he barely knows as his best friend is simply never not funny (as long as you’re not the misidentifier). On another note, Ned gives Coach his email address as email@example.com (pronounced GUH-mail): Has anyone tried reaching out to it? Did you get a mistaken message of best friendship in return?
The fact that I enjoyed this episode and that I’ve typed the words best friends probably around a dozen times is indicative of the fact that everything good on New Girl stems from its understanding of how weird it is who we get close to and how we get that close. For some, it’s unbridled attraction; for others, unwavering honesty; and for Nick, Schmidt, and Winston, it’s sangria.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to look for a GIF of Schmidt dropping quarters into the laundry-detergent compartment.