This is the way the world ends, not with a bang but a bar crawl.
That’s not to say that I didn’t like “The Crawl” — quite the opposite, in fact.
It’s just that “The Crawl” feels a bit like the end of an era. Between Nick’s breakup, Ryan’s apparent impending (and hopefully temporary) departure, the specter of Papa Day’s wedding still looming over us all, and most important of all, the news that Damon Wayans Jr. will be leaving the show, it seems like a carefully built Jenga puzzle that’s having pieces ripped out from all sides.
Maybe it’s just that I am preemptively sitting shiva for Coach’s absence (even though I’m excited about the validity it lends to those Happy Ending reunion rumors), but I’m so pessimistic about New Girl’s future while writing this. Or maybe it’s that Jon Stewart’s big announcement, right on the heels of Colbert’s last show, in the midst of Parks and Rec’s victory lap, has me desperately grasping at the steady comfort-TV I have left. More likely, it’s that season four has been this unexpected, wonderful upswing, and I’d be happy to live in a sort of plot stasis for the two or three more seasons New Girl has left in it. Besides, given New Girl’s history of plot-advancing train wrecks (read: all of season three), I am understandably wary of all the major shake-ups “The Crawl” heralds. To put it thematically: I just don’t want the show to crawl forward. I want it to hang out at Nick and Cece’s bar forever.
With that sentimentality out of the way, let’s talk about Valentine’s Day. Now, if you’ve ever watched a sitcom, or been an alive human in the real world, you know that Valentine’s Day is perennially disappointing. Whether or not you have a significant other, you’re going to find yourself waking up on February 15 and breathing a sigh of relief. It’s a day meant to be a transformative, blissfully romantic experience: a lot of pressure to put on any day, much less one smack in the middle of the doldrums of winter.
Now that it already has a couple of saccharine V-Day specials in its back catalogue, New Girl can be honest about the fact that what most people want to do on February 14 is skip the restaurant or theater tickets and head straight to the bar.
Jess has just come off one of those weekend-long, nonstop sexcations that pretty much end after the first three months of a new relationship. She’s so in love with Ryan that even his uncanny resemblance to a Keebler elf is turning her on. In short, she’s the worst person to hang out with on Valentine’s Day if you’re single — and especially if you’re her ex-boyfriend and you just got dumped by the girl of your dreams. And it’s not like his best friend is offering any recourse, since Schmidt’s still dating Councilwoman Fawn Moscato. Maybe attempting to prevent his roommates’ happiness is why a delirious Nick emerges from a post-dumping haze to demand that this Valentine’s Day be spent on a bar crawl to the few other bars that apparently exist in Los Angeles.
The plot, from this point, is secondary to the characters’ relationships (as well it should be; I’ll say it again: New Girl shouldn’t dabble in plots). There’s a lot going on here, so here’s a bullet-point recap:
- Jess and Ryan are so blissfully in love that the only thing that could ruin it is a reminder that their futures still exist on the other side of their honeymoon period. For Jess, this comes in the form of Ryan asking her to move in with him, and for Ryan, this comes in the form of a job offer from his old prep school back in England.
- Coach keeps running into the same girl, Fay, who initially rejects him with the coldness of a romantic-comedy heroine whose friends think she needs to “stop working and live a little,” but initially warms to him after it turns out they’re both army brats who consider Kansas their home. It’s a story line that initially chafed me, and then won me over, and then made me honestly, Liz Lemon–ly roll my eyes when Fay insisted that if he wanted to win her over, Coach would have to write her a really good email. Who does that? No one does that.
- Schmidt is starting to question if he’s really cut out for life as a political boyfriend. Councilwoman Moscato is nothing if not domineering (even though it’s pretty clear that’s what Schmidt likes), and it’s beginning to take its toll. She’s not someone you can bring to hang out easily with the Loft Crew™, so he makes the decision to join the crawl without her, which, naturally, leads to him revisiting feelings for …
- Cece decides to try and outdrink Nick. Why would she do that? I don’t know. It’s not the best justification to get her drunk. She knows Nick much better than that. And it is an obscenely bad idea. Eleven (?) drinks in, Cece rushes to worship the porcelain god, and Schmidt stays by her side. Cece’s feelings for Schmidt reemerge, and his have never gone away. Their reconciliation is so imminent that the fact it hasn’t happened yet is maddening, even as it’s a mature choice for the show to let their trust rebuild for this long.
- Winston, Winston. I don’t know how else to put it. Honestly, it’s pretty great, his insistence that “Don’t write a check your body can’t find” is regionally specific to northern Illinois was my biggest laugh of the episode. Well, that, and when he unhelpfully offered Ryan a bag of nuts.
But the episode, like so many before it, runs away with Nick Miller. Jake Johnson is easily the best sitcom actor in the game right now. Get him drunk in a scene and there is nothing better. Get him absolutely shitfaced and singing “Bar Crawl” to the tune of “My Girl” and this, my friends, is good television. Nick finds his people among the unwashed riffraff who, like him, have taken to ungodly levels of alcohol consumption to deal with Valentine’s Day and how it “really kicks you in the penis.” Nick is always full of untapped possibility, and this week, it seems like he’d have real potential as a cult leader.
“The Crawl” is, on the whole, a good episode. It just saddens me that it feels less like a rowdy night of bar-hopping and more like a going-away party.