Isn’t it nice when you send your sitcom hopes and dreams out into the great internet void and then a voice comes back as if to answer, “Sure, we can do some plots about Nick and Winston’s jobs and how those occupations affect them as characters!” That’s how “D-Day” feels to me, so I want to start by saying: Winston and Nick’s weird job plot, I appreciate you.
And as if that weren’t enough, someone saw deep into my heart and realized that casting Peter Gallagher as Schmidt’s father would not only make a great deal of sense from an eyebrows standpoint, but would also tap into some very deep The O.C. feelings.
Did I give this episode a fifth star just for the way Peter Gallagher says “yes” when Jess asks him if he’s ever had his eyebrows combed by a woman he just met? Maybe. Do I have any doubts or regrets about that? I do not.
As usual on New Girl, there has to be some fairly implausible premise that sets up the episode’s raison d’être. In this case, it’s the idea that Schmidt would be so overwhelmed by a day of wedding decisions that he doesn’t sleep and needs Jess to step in and help when Cece gets a new job. On my patent-pending Scale of New Girl Implausibility (ranging from “Badger in an Air Vent” to “Winston Is a Cop”), this story line only registers a mild “Nick and Schmidt Own a Bar Together,” so I’ll let it slide.
Because Cece has been called away to take up the helm as an anchor for Gas Station TV when the woman they first hired “[goes] missing,” and because Schmidt is utterly exhausted, Jess takes custody of the vitally important wedding flash drive and lends a hand. Schmidt supervises her as she goes on wedding errands by watching her every move through a helmet cam, and what does it say about Jess’s typical wardrobe that the helmet cam looks essentially normal?
Frustrated by his inability to make a decision and his shrill commands (“Folding chairs?! If I wanted this wedding to be an AA meeting, I would’ve called my Aunt Terry!”), Jess points the camera at a soothing water feature and sings Schmidt a lullaby to knock him out. And while the idea that Hyperorganized Schmidt would be incapable of making wedding decisions is improbable, the knowledge that he is lulled into cheerful unconsciousness by Xtina’s “Genie in a Bottle” feels weirdly correct.
And then, frustrated by Schmidt’s indecipherable color-coding — with tuxes under magenta because “ma-genta-men will be wearing the dope tuxes” — Jess heads out to a winery in Calabasas because she thinks the address is there for ordering beverages. Suddenly, in walks Peter Gallagher and both of his eyebrows. There’s manchego. There’s wine. There’s deep chuckling. And the rest is inevitable.
When Jess gets back to the loft and tells Schmidt about all of her wedding-planning success, the other shoe drops: Gavin is Schmidt’s father. Jess made out with Schmidt’s dad. And in one of my favorite things about this episode, the default response here and later is just stony, awkward silence. Jess made out with Schmidt’s dad … and they all just sit there, contemplating that fact.
While Jess is out pressing Peter Gallagher against a cask of Merlot, Nick is upset because Winston is once again running late for their standing “meat lunch” date. As happens to me all the time when someone runs late for lunch, this leads to a job-shadowing swap to determine whose work is harder, Nick’s bartending or Winston’s policing.
The task of sorting out the weekend bar schedule proves tricky for Winston, who has a hard time working around Gina’s husband’s fantasy-baseball-league meeting. And Nick is pretty smug when the worst thing life throws in Officer Winston’s day is a downed palm frond blocking a road. That is until, of course, Winston and Aly get a call for a burglary and Nick cowers in the car while the burglar sprints out of the house and pauses to lick the car’s window.
There are a couple of things I like about this B plot. It’s nice to see both of these characters growing in ways that feel connected to previously established story lines — for both of them, the idea they have these jobs that affect their lives has always been tenuous. It’s rare for New Girl to play Winston’s job seriously, and it’s rarer still to see Nick actually behaving like a functional adult. This plot manages to do both of those things but still be pretty funny.
And even better, it does so by letting Aly goof off and tell truth to both of them. “I’m not going to be the yardstick in your penis-measuring contest,” she says, to which they reply, “Did you say yard?!” When Aly tells Winston that he’s being an idiot and that Nick never seriously believed that his job was harder but just wants Winston to recognize that Nick’s “grown and changed,” it’s actually reasonable! He has grown, and I’m happy for him.
Back at the loft, the silent, sad meditation on Jess kissing Schmidt’s dad is interrupted by a knock on the door, which is of course Gavin coming to pick up Jess for a date. Unable to face the father who essentially abandoned him, Schmidt and Cece go hide in the bedroom while Jess once again dons the helmet cam and tries to fend off the Eyebrows. As Schmidt and Cece watch onscreen from another room, Jess tries to distract Gavin from the realization that Schmidt is her roommate, but it’s no use.
In classic New Girl style, the closing moments of the episode are quite heartfelt, and Gavin makes a nice speech about how sad he is to have hurt Schmidt and how much he hopes that Schmidt will be happy in his own marriage. “I wasn’t very good at being married,” Gavin tells him, “but thankfully you seem like you’re nothing like me.” Except, of course, for the truly uncanny eyebrow resemblance. Gavin gets a wedding invitation, Schmidt tells him he’d better actually show up, and once again the gang goes to sit in stony silence and reflect on the image of Jess and Schmidt’s dad feeling each other up in a wine-tasting room.
New Girl is a comedy that works hard to build a cloud of mostly meaningless goofs around a core of characters we actually care about, and when it fails, it usually does so because that center has been emptied out. “D-Day” works well because it invests those goofs back into our appreciation of Nick and Winston and Schmidt as people, rather than just letting the jokes spin out into a disconnected, digressive scattershot of stuff. Plus, it gives us a little thread to hold on to for the future: Jess and Schmidt’s dad running into each other when Cece and Schmidt get married.
This wedding is going to be good.