I swear I’ve seen this plotline on Friends. That is not necessarily a bad thing! Friends had a lot of solid moving in/moving out stories, despite its dominating whiteness and casual gay panic. And, luckily for New Girl, the “moving day” premise is still ripe for revisiting.
In “The Apartment,” Cece is moving out of her apartment so she can move in with Schmidt at the loft. Which makes a ton of sense, given that it’s been weeks since we’ve had any indication that Cece doesn’t already live at the loft. Wait, hey, remember that episode a while ago when Cece and Schmidt just wanted to have sex all the time and Nick kept interrupting them, so they had to try to convince him that Reagan’s hair was a wig? Why didn’t they just go to Cece’s apartment?
Let’s set aside that mystery for the ages, because in a stunning turn of events, Jess arrives at Cece’s apartment to find that she hasn’t packed any of her things. I would really like to complain about the “moving day is tomorrow but nothing is packed” TV trope, but a brief shuffle through my own memories is reminder enough that people moving out of unpacked houses shouldn’t throw stones.
As is so frequently the case, Cece’s problem is more emotional than physical. Moving out of her apartment brings up all kinds of mixed feelings about her impending marriage to Schmidt and the trauma of saying good-bye to her single life. Her apartment full of junk is also an apartment full of memories. Like a hat, which belonged to the sexually inept guy whom Jess and Cece dub “Sir Miss-a-Lot.” (Heh. Hehe.) Cece dithers over what to part with and what to keep, and basically there should be a scrolling feed under this whole plotline that says, “Sponsored by the KonMari method.”
Jess tries her best to help Cece work through her feelings, but her attention is divided. The new principal at Jess’s school, Principal Cavatappi (Elizabeth Berkley), is taking terrible advantage of Jess’s work ethic. Jess comes home with a massive budget binder that she believes is due in a week, but in the midst of Cece’s crisis, Cavatappi calls to tell Jess that it’s actually due tomorrow.
In order to get everything packed and also finish her work, Jess locks Cece out and packs as fast as she can, but Cece tricks her way back inside. Jess feels bad about not being more supportive, and the long and short of it is that they decide to put off all of their impending life responsibilities and get drunk. I don’t often consider New Girl to be aspirational television, but it certainly does have its moments. Jess and Cece reminisce about the apartment’s earliest days and discuss how terrible Jess’s job is. And so it should surprise no one, least of all Jess and Cece, that Cavatappi then calls asking for a reference to a specific page from the budget binder, which Jess realizes she must have accidentally packed into Cece’s belongings.
They pull the whole place apart, but when Cavatappi calls once again, Cece drunkenly picks up the call and puts an end to Jess’s work stress. “You are done using my friend, so SHE QUITS,” Cece yells, before crowing, “NAILED IT!”
This Cece and Jess A-story feels like typical New Girl, in both the positive and not-necessarily-positive sense. There are gentle shenanigans, there are emotions undercut by quirky digressive tangents, there’s a lot of friendship. But it isn’t especially novel.
The B-story, though. The B-story is something else. It’s a Winston-led story, which is already good news. Even better: It’s about Winston’s police job, and it features Sam Richardson as a cop who feels very close to Richardson’s assistant role on Veep. The premise is that Winston can no longer stand to hear Ali talk about how hot her boyfriend’s ass is, so he requests a new partner. Enter Dunston, whose qualifications for police officer include “night blindness,” the inability to find the restroom in a bar, and “loses all hand strength with absolutely no warning.” He is a Winston-ier Winston, with all of the strange tics and none of the redeeming flashes of unexpected competence.
Dunston and Winston are called into Nick’s bar to help deal with a flasher, and they meet up with Ali and her new partner. This leads to a very tense exchange about whose new partner is better. (Schmidt’s aside: “Somebody call the G8 summit because I just felt the climate change.” Nick: “I don’t get that.”) Eventually Winston and Dunston successfully tackle the flasher, only to let him go in a comically mishandled attempt to get him into cuffs. Outside, Ali manages to successfully collar the guy and Winston comes very close to admitting that he requested the change because he likes her … but he can’t. Instead, he blames it on Ali’s hatred for his Pure Moods CD, and they agree to become partners again.
Unlike “Jess and Cece Sort Through an Apartment, and Also Their Lives,” which is solid and functional and imitative, “Winston Realizes That Both Members of a Police Partnership Can’t Be ‘The Quirky One’” is funny and strange and doesn’t always work. Winston and Ali’s relationship has been given a lot more weight here than its past really supports, so the premise comes a little out of the blue. And I still have very little idea who Ali is as a character. Nonetheless, the story feels lively and interesting. Part of this is due to Richardson, who is really great at this particular form of cheerful foolishness. Winston and Dunston singing “Elation” is worth a pause and rewind all on its own.
It’s not an especially big week for Nick or Schmidt, but they each get one really great sequence. For Nick, it’s his dumbfounded bafflement that most people have not been flashed over 300 times. Not even on holidays. Not even after the Olympics.
For Schmidt, the big moment comes at the end, as a pleasantly successful resolution to Cece’s apartment-packing woes. Jess correctly points out that Cece’s getting married, and if she has fears about that, or about leaving her apartment, she should be telling her fiancé. When Cece wakes up the next morning, hung-over and grim, Schmidt is there. He brought her something to drink, he’s packed up the whole apartment, and he’s deeply, intelligently comforting. “We’ll be scared together,” he tells her, “and we’ll be really happy together, and we’ll be really annoyed together living with three people and a cat.”
“The Apartment” is not especially earth-shattering. Its funniest moments are in a B-story that features a guest star we may never see again, and its bigger plotlines feel overly familiar. Still, it’s a good reminder that sometimes New Girl makes those moments work, and that at its best, it really is friendship porn. With occasional flashers.