New Girl Recap: Poppycock Palace

Zooey Deschanel as Jess, Jake Johnson as Nick. Photo: Patrick McElhenney/FOX
New Girl
New Girl
Episode Title
Sam, Again
Editor’s Rating

Hey, what if Jess got a job at Los Feliz Daycare? And her ex-boyfriend Sam was there? And, uh, the lofties get a cold, I guess?

Look, Peter Gallagher's eyebrows don't return this week, so the episode was bound to be a bit of a letdown. But other than a few bright spots, the whole thing was pretty underwhelming. Not terrible, not fabulous, just sort of … there.

Our primary story: After the drunken events of "The Apartment," in which Cece quits Jess's job for her, Jess spends her whole unemployment making out with Schmidt's dad and then quickly gets a job at the Academy of Banyon Canyon. Or at least, she gets a trial period, because obviously Banyon Canyon wouldn't just hire her on the spot. What if her vibes were bad?

So Jess tries her best to impress the principal, Genevieve (Lucy Punch). As she soon discovers, Banyon Canyon is a "nondenominational Eden," full of chicken coops that do not actually contain the chickens and a pedagogical methodology that shudders at the idea of telling children "what to learn, and when."

Frankly, this whole premise is both a highlight and a lowlight of the episode. Who among us is not ready to laugh at the sentence, "Williamsburg, do I have your permission to move this conversation to the Feelings Farm?" Who among us does not want to snicker at the greywater reclamation bucket, or at the children playing flutes and wearing leather vests and apologizing for insulting each other by saying "you have a mommy and daddy." C'mon, those are all silly. But none of it feels particularly fresh; Los Feliz Daycare has been doing this for years, and Banyon Canyon mostly looks like the school the Braverman kids attended.

In any event, Banyon Canyon is an opportunity to reintroduce Jess's ex-boyfriend Sam (David Walton), who directly preceded the Nick-and-Jess season of New Girl, and who is now "sharing [his] journey" with Principal Genevieve. Sam's gone full Matthew-Rhys-on-a-break-from-filming-The-Americans with his facial hair, and his reunion with Jess is exactly the kind of awkward situation that everyone should just back away from slowly. Except for Jess, who obviously cannot do that.

Instead, she shows up at Sam's doorstep, where it's clear that he and Genevieve have been very recently sharing more than just their journeys, if you know what I'm saying. Jess attempts to hash out exactly how to deal with the potent discomfort, and it becomes obvious that Jess is not going to get her dream job unless she can diffuse Genevieve and Sam's unease.

Meanwhile back at the loft, everyone gets a cold. Yes. That is the whole plot. First Nick gets it, and then Cece gets it, and then Winston pretends to get it to avoid moving on from Aly, but then he actually does get it. Schmidt tries to quarantine everyone in the apartment to protect himself — he has a big Chair Presentation at work — but Winston breaks out and sneezes all over his tablet ... and yes, everyone gets a cold.

There's nothing inherently wrong with this as a story line. Many of the best moments in TV — comedy and drama alike — happen when a bottle episode  traps everyone together and Wacky Emotional Mischief ensues. New Girl doesn't make much of this opportunity, and so, everyone just gets a cold and then Schmidt sneezes during his presentation.

It's not that nothing happens. We do get the delightful introduction to something called Poppycock Palace, a children's puppet show (or "North Korean propaganda," one or the other) Nick starts watching. Inevitably, Nick and Cece (and eventually Winston) fall victim to the streaming service's auto-play feature. It's hard to say what Poppycock Palace is about, precisely — there's Crispy Castle and Mount Tubby Tub, and there are puppets, and animated letters occasionally fly around the screen. If you have a high fever, Poppycock Palace is apparently great.

But really, everyone in the loft is just waiting for Sam and Genevieve to show up and stage a Feelings Farm with Jess. Turns out the only way to make Genevieve feel better about Jess's employment is if Sam feels better, too. For that to happen, Sam demands an apology from Nick for kissing Jess while they were still dating.

A still-bearded Sam apologizes to Nick for punching him in the throat. A quilt-wrapped, sniffling Nick issues an unsatisfying non-apology for kissing Jess. Nick keeps taunting Sam and his beard; Sam keeps calling Nick "bro" (which a horrified Genevieve notes with horror is a "beach" word). Fully riled up, and with tensions now running higher than the parapets on Crispy Castle, Sam once again punches Nick in throat. So, yeah. Welcome to the mother-loving Feelings Farm, everybody.

The Honesty Chair quickly does its job. Nick admits that he's not really sorry for kissing Jess. "We fell in love with each other. Like, crazy love. Lotta good memories, lotta passion." Inspired by this bout of sincerity, Sam admits that he had a hard time letting anyone in until he dated Jess, and after she left, he fell apart. (More specifically, he "poured all his money into silkworms that froze to death.") Sam really just wants to get back to his old self, which is going to require he wear shoes that weren't recycled from other shoes. This stunning revelation is greeted with rapturous enthusiasm from Genevieve, who embraces him. "Sam, it's great to meet you. I'm Genevieve. I'm also dumping you."

After all that, Schmidt catches the cold and his boss sneers at his physical weakness. Winston goes on a very nice date. Jess, congenitally incapable of leaving well enough alone, shows back up at Sam's house with an apologetic plate of brownies, which Sam crumbles in his fingers (and wow, that joke goes on too long).

And in the end, Jess gets to keep her job at Banyon Canyon — that's what happens when you host the most successful Feelings Farm of all time. It's nice that Jess has a job, but this is also the first moment when I've really, really wished that Reagan was still on the show. Watching Jess walk around the Academy of Banyon Canyon is like watching any teenage protagonist walk into the magical school they're about to master — this is Jess finding her people. If we're going to be stuck with Banyon Canyon for a while, I would much rather watch Reagan sneer at it.

Please watch out, New Girl. A little Feelings Farm goes a long way.