New Girl Recap: Restraining Order

New Girl

300 Feet
Season 5 Episode 14
Editor’s Rating *****
NEW GIRL: Zooey Deschanel in the
Zooey Deschanel as Jess. Photo: Adam Taylor/FOX

New Girl has a problem on its hands. By doing so well in Jess’s absence — and by so effectively reinvigorating its characters moods — the show demonstrated just how little it really needs her. Now that she’s back, I certainly don’t wish her harm or anything. Jess should be happy. She should feel secure and warm and wrapped up somewhere in a cocoon of organic wool and humanely collected goose feathers.

But I don’t particularly care whether or not she’s in a happy romantic relationship, even if it’s supposed to be more meaningful because she’s reuniting with an ex. I especially don’t care if it’s done with the oddly cavalier and unmotivated underpinnings of this reunion with Sam. The whole thing seems to take for granted that if someone takes out a restraining order against you, their feelings would be pretty strong. Certainly strong enough that, when you actually come into physical contact with one another, it wouldn’t be like Elizabeth and Darcy at the end of the 2005 Pride and Prejudice. (British ending, not the American version, which was terrible.)

Suffice it to say, although it’s nice that Jess and Sam had a great time making out in Sam’s pickup, I don’t understand how they got there.

Let’s see if we can figure it out. Last week’s episode ended with Sam, standing at his door, furiously crumbling up a pan of apology brownies Jess had brought for breaking him up with his girlfriend. “300 Feet” opens with Jess and the gang sitting at the bar, bemoaning the existence of the neighborhood’s new hip bar and trying to dissuade Jess from further alienating Sam. As it turns out, the gang gets plenty of support for this stance when Jess is served with Sam’s restraining order. As Winston notes, the only way to get it lifted would be to talk to Sam, but “the magic of the restraining order is that you can’t talk to him. And that … that is human drama.”

I really wish it were. Instead of stewing in her own discomfort and considering the Catch-22 in which she’s found herself (or, God forbid, just letting it go and going back to Peter Gallagher’s eyebrows), Jess tries to track down Sam’s car at the hospital to give him a letter. As spring follows winter, or as day follows night, this naturally leads to Jess accidentally marooning herself in the bed of Sam’s pickup truck, patently violating her restraining order and listening in as he jams out to Selina Gomez.

When Sam decides to go through the car wash, Jess gets buffeted around like a lone sock in a washing machine and lands on his windshield screaming, “I’M NOT CRAZY!” And somehow, some way, this situation results in Sam and Jess deciding that they can’t stop thinking about each other, and they end up making out in the middle of the road, holding up traffic.

Yeah, I still don’t get it.

Let’s turn to more important things: Nick and Schmidt’s bar finally has a name! On the one hand, this development feels like a chance to rub our noses in the fact that Schmidt’s first name continues to dangle over this show like the Sword of Damocles. On the other hand, the bar is called the Griffin, which is a pretty good name.

The Griffin is not doing so hot these days, thanks to Presh, the new competition which moved in down the street. Presh features such amenities as valet parking, bartenders who “look like Civil War surgeons,” and “carefully curated artisanal flatware.” Connie, the owner (played by Busy Phillips), couldn’t care less that she’s luring away Nick’s customers or that her valets are taking all the parking spots in front of his building. She mistakes Nick for her nutmeg wholesaler — which seems silly until Nick ends up staring into the eerie mirror of his nutmeg-wholesaler doppelgänger — but that’s as much time as Connie is willing to devote to the gang.

Nick and Schmidt (let’s be honest, mostly Nick) believe that Connie’s trying to sabotage the Griffin, citing the bar’s cut soda line as evidence. Although Schmidt just wants to do more to improve the joint — like fixing the “up toilet” — Nick persuades him to help strike back by chucking a whole branzino over Presh’s wall. Of course, Schmidt is thrilled by the hipster-y rep of the branzino. I don’t really know what to say about that, except that I’m happy for you, buddy.

Unsurprisingly, Cece the Not Particularly Talented Bartender is the one who mistakenly cut the soda line. Her attempt to help the Griffin by creating some fancy new cocktails does not go over well, either. (The “Whisky Business” apparently tastes like “a loose chili.”)

Nick, hoping to establish better terms, ends up inviting Connie to a mobster-style meeting of the families. The families, in this case, include Connie, Nick, and a guy named Peter, who owns Produce/Cold Beer/Ice. (Annalisa from Annalisa’s Nails couldn’t find someone to cover her register.) The meeting doesn’t accomplish much of anything, except to reaffirm Schmidt and Nick’s undying love for one another, which is demonstrated by Schmidt saying that he invested in Nick, not just in the bar, and by Nick offering to get valet service for the Griffin.

And really, that’s quite nice — even if the bar plot is not a knockout. It resembles the Banyon Canyon bit: an opportunity to make fun of silly trends and cultures without actually engaging beyond a surface level. And as much as I love Busy Phillips, this role just does not give her enough room to play. When she began listing all the terrible things that happened to her in the past year, I hoped Connie might become a more elaborate character, but it never really builds to anything. She’s certainly had a lot of run-ins with dead animals, though.

For all its flaws, the bar plot is far more emotionally effective than the Adventures of Feckless Jess. Her character works best when stories assume the Amelia Bedelia model: Everything falls apart and is a disaster until the last possible minute, when she pulls a rabbit out of the hat through sheer pluckiness and unrelenting cheer. This Sam plot also follows that formula, chasing Jess down the sadness hole until she blindly walks full-force into a metal pole, but the rabbit pulled out of the hat bit doesn’t do much to redeem her ineptitude. Saving weddings, helping Cece move apartments, managing her friends’ emotional breakdowns — these are things Jess is built for. Seeing Jess kiss Sam was not on my list of goals for her.

Oh also, one more thing. Is there a character named Winston on this show?

New Girl Recap: Restraining Order