Love Actually is a really fun movie that’s just absolutely full of lies. The most obvious lie, of course, is that it’s cute and romantic to try to steal your best friend’s wife away from him, but by far the most blatant lie is that there is anything even a little bit pleasant about the airport around the holidays. Airports are always miserable places, but around the holidays, they reach DMV levels of soul-suckery. It would take some kind of whip-smart, prickly, freshly crowned Prince of TV Comedy to fully embody all of tha— OH HEY, it’s Billy Eichner!
In true holiday spirit, this stretch of New Girl episodes has proven to be the gift that keeps on giving. Last week, we got Nadia’s present-stomping; this week, we have Billy Eichner as a snide airport employee whose fuse is getting shorter by the minute. His welcome presence and a pervy Santa Claus help prevent this episode from sinking into Christmas treacle, but “LAXmas” actually does a pretty good job of that all on its own. The downside is that it has trouble finding new territory to mine in the Christmas-episode department: Its turns are predictable, and it ends in a schmoopy Zooey Deschanel cover of the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” that my boyfriend laughed at, but if I’m being honest, I kind of found endearing.
Cherub-on-Earth Ryan Geauxinue is making out in the school prop closet with Jess when he asks her to come with him to London for Christmas. Her willingness to drop her own plans in favor of meeting the parents of a guy she’s been dating for all of two weeks could be chalked up to the fact that this is Sitcom Land, or we could all just be honest and acknowledge that if Ryan asked us to go to London with him, any time, we’d all say yes. That accent! That hair!
Unfortunately for Jess, perennial holiday delays leave her and her ragtag crew of misfits — they really should have a gang name at this point, maybe “the True Americans”? — stranded in the airport. When Ryan texts Jess a picture of his parents’ massive estate, Jess finds herself intimidated at the prospect of meeting his parents, which does seem strange to me. After all, isn’t this kind of what she went through with Richard long, long ago (in season one)? And isn’t Jess a Friend to All, even the obscenely wealthy? But more than that, shouldn’t Jess’s fear stem less from the prospect of meeting Ryan’s rich parents and more from the prospect of meeting Ryan’s parents at all? The fact that it’s far too soon for Jess to meet Ryan’s parents comes up all of once, and it’s quickly dismissed.
Truth be told, Jess’s emotional arc in this episode was a little flat overall. Jess is initially disappointed, and maybe a little sad, but never frustrated. Perhaps I’m conflating Jessica Day with Jovie from Elf, but it is possible that Zooey Deschanel is the Ghost of Christmas Present. She is as soft and twee and comfortable as a Christmas sweater. Good will flows through her even when she’s being shamelessly hit on by an airport Santa Claus. Was it ever a question, then, that given the opportunity, she’d choose her friends’ happiness over her own? I would have been more surprised to see Jess make the selfish choice.
Question: Is it possible that “LAXmas” did double duty as a backdoor pilot for a Zooey Deschanel–Billy Eichner vehicle about a mismatched pair of friends who love talking about Downtown Abbey at far-too-nice airport bars? Because if so, someone please send that to series immediately.
Meanwhile, Nick and Winston try their luck at getting to Chicago on standby (are even Nick and Winston dumb enough to try standby travel days before Christmas?), but the aforementioned Mr. Eichner pushes them to the bottom of the list when Jess’s cheeriness sends him over the edge, so they try to convince their fellow passengers to abandon their travel plans. That they aren’t apprehended by the TSA speaks to the level of sitcom rules we are playing by here. Speaking of which, when Jess eventually gets them into first-class seats, the flight attendant is just doing her job by trying to get Nick off his phone. Someone should really cut together a montage of holiday movies where airline personnel come off as huge jerks just for doing their jobs.
Cece and Schmidt are trying to get to New York (Manhattan and Long Island, respectively), but when their flight is delayed, Schmidt tries to weasel their way into the first-class lounge. He is, after all, an “aspiring millionaire.” The show has always been unclear as to whether Schmidt is actually wealthy or if he’s just good at playing at wealth. Did he get his money from his poor investment back yet? Doesn’t he have a really cushy job? How is he always so nicely dressed? I have a lot of questions, but right now, the most pressing one that comes to mind is: So, does New Girl actually want Schmidt and Cece back together or not? An actual millionaire in the first-class lounge offers an indecent proposal for a chance at a night with Cece, and Schmidt refuses in a gesture that’s supposed to be romantic but is really just, you know, decent. As romantic as it’s meant to be, Cece is still insistent that she only wants to be friends. As cute a couple as Schmidt and Cece once were, I think it would be cool if New Girl stuck by that. Maybe New Girl actually does work best as a show about capital-F Friends. It’s working for Nick and Jess. It forced Ryan to be introduced as a character. It would be a bold move— but an unpopular one.
Coach is also experiencing flight delays, though he wasn’t headed home. He was going on vacation to Hawaii because, as he points out, he’s a grown man who lives in an apartment that affords him zero alone time. This is much to the disappointment of his adorable and beloved niece, so it should come as no surprise that he eventually chooses Detroit over the beach. It’s another flat emotional arc, but I guess Coach had to be in there somewhere.
“LAXmas” is serviceable Christmas fun, and a great use of Billy Eichner, but it could have used just a little bit more bite.
I can’t end this recap without awarding the obvious MVP line of the night: Winston’s unsettling and telling, “You’re like my mom, but in ways I can appreciate."