After last week’s underwhelming double-header, it’s a relief to see New Girl do something fun. Let’s just say it again, all together now: We don’t care about Jess’s love life! We want more Winston! More friendship! Less milquetoast social satire!
This week’s pair of episodes benefit from actually feeling like a pair. Though they didn’t air back-to-back, “Road Trip” and “A Chill Day In” were clearly designed as such. In the first half hour, the guys head out for Schmidt’s bachelor party, and in the second half hour, we get Jess and Cece’s side of the day. The episodes mirror each other, as both story lines follow the same structure: The day is supposed to be X, but then Y happens, which cues a shenanigans montage, a discussion on the nature of marriage and friendship, and a silly resolution. The whole hour even gives us a solid Winston and Aly plot that finally gives Winston a win. Plus, there’s a slo-mo bar fight set to the tune of Katy Perry’s “Roar,” so … look, I am not made of stone. This is some fun stuff.
The guy’s episode is up first. Thanks to a startling encounter with a man named Toby — who scares Schmidt by getting out of his car and yelling “TOBY! TOBY! TOBY!” — Schmidt wants to assert his manhood. He insists Nick cancel the Tokyo-themed bachelor weekend, and the guys head out to Vegas instead. They’re joined on the road trip by Cece’s ex Robby, Schmidt’s cousin Big Schmidt, and J. Cronkite Valley-Forge, who mentioned at the engagement party that if they “work together this wedding season” they can get “more boom-boom than a TNT factory.”
As the groomsmen follow in a minivan, Schmidt’s threatened masculinity leads him and Nick to head out on motorcycle-tricycle thing, which Schmidt manages to overturn in spite of their relative stability. (Also, if a car person would tell me what these hilarious tricycle-looking things are, I’d appreciate it, if only to have another entry for my “Never This” Pinterest board.)
While Schmidt and Nick are riding dangerously on their tricked-out Rascals, Winston’s in the back of the minivan getting texts from Jess about Aly and Trip. Big Schmidt confiscates Winston’s cell phone, meaning that he doesn’t see Jess’s text about Aly being single until after Stuff Gets Crazy at the roadhouse.
Ah yes, the roadhouse. New Girl isn’t always at its best when it satirizes weird cultures, but this island of “realllllll desert-y” folks, whom the guys instantly describe as “not my favorite kind of white people,” works pretty well. Things start badly when Schmidt strides over to the jukebox and tries to pull a Fonzie, only to have Katy Perry come belting out. It gets worse when he orders ice for his whisky and the bar denizens blame him (and his disdain of “hot whisky”) for the drought.
So Schmidt and Nick get sucked into a fight with a truly impressive number of desert people, including one little kid whom the roadhousers call “Dirt Boy.” Schmidt tries to pull a “Toby” and end things by aggressively yelling his name, but it does not work out. A very drunk Winston, hyped up on feelings, comes charging in and sets off a full-on brawl.
What follows is a slo-mo fight montage with “Roar” blasting in the background, and as I suggested earlier, it is glorious. Dirt Boy goes after Schmidt with a pole, a woman clocks Winston over the head with a glass bottle, Nick gets punched repeatedly in the face, somebody steals one of the Rascals, and Big Schmidt is in the restroom getting it on with a be-vested roadhouse woman.
When the dirt settles, Nick and Schmidt have a staid heart-to-heart about manliness and what it means to be a husband. Schmidt’s idea of husbandly duty is oddly regressive, but the result is classic New Girl. Nick tries to sway him by pointing out, “Cece’s not looking for a strong husband.” Eh, close? At least the follow-through is strong, as Nick explains to Schmidt that he’s great at being a “husband” to … Nick. Schmidt fights for him, cares about what he eats, and takes care of his hair when he passes out. This is what a husband does. (To Nick, anyhow.) I guess there are worse definitions.
Meanwhile, Winston tells the rest of the guys how often he thinks about Aly, which prompts an a capella performance of Elvis Costello’s “Alison.” Just as Winston is ready to move on from his crush, Big Schmidt gives him his phone back and he learns that Aly is apparently single. As the men head back to the city — down one Rascal and without Big Schmidt, who decide to stay with his “desert queen” — we switch focus to the ladies.
Jess and Cece’s bachelorette adventure is a small-scale echo of the road trip. Jess plans for an indulgent day of getting high and watching Anne of Green Gables, but mid-Gilbert-gawp, the girls are interrupted. The first of Schmidt and Cece’s wedding presents has arrived. When Cece opens it and finds a breadmaker, she’s perplexed. When she reads the accompanying note from Schmidt’s mom, which casts serious shade on Cece’s domestic skills, she and Jess are incensed. “This simple bitch wants you to be some kind of June Cleaver, Betty Draper, Carol Brady WIFEY?” Jess yells. (Remember: They are both incredibly high.)
Smashing back at the patriarchy, Jess and Cece go after the breadmaker with a heavily weighted stick. It should surprise me to see a stick like that just lying around the loft, but … Nick lives there.
Unfortunately, Schmidt is quite excited about the now-defunct breadmaker. Jess and Cece head to the mall to exchange it, claiming it was damaged in shipping, but they’re foiled by a store clerk. They can’t just buy another one, since it costs $1,200, which, as Jess later points out, is “a lot of dough.”
Alas, Jess and Cece do not get a slo-mo fight montage. What they do get, however, is a silly sequence where they try to secretly swap their broken breadmaker for a floor model, triggering a motion-detecting jingle with every move. They’re joined by Aly, who’s having a terrible fight with Trip and looking for someone else to spend time with. Jess — again, high as a kite — updates Winston by text, which leads to his discovery that Aly is evidently single.
Lonely and ticked off, Aly joins Cece and Jess’s less-than-legal adventures and confidently defends them when the store clerk accuses them of stealing the floor-model breadmaker. Surprise, surprise! They all land in mall jail, under the watchful eye of a power-mad Paul Blart wannabe. Aly freaks out: If her co-workers find her, she might lose her job.
Before staging a jailbreak, Cece and Jess have a markedly similar version of Schmidt and Nick’s pre-marital chat. Cece’s worried that she can’t take care of Schmidt the way his mother would, and Jess reminds Cece that she’s been taking care of Jess her entire life. Okay, we get it — Schmidt is Nick’s husband, Cece is Jess’s wife. Although Nick punctured Schmidt’s worries by reminding him, “It’s 2016,” somehow Cece’s concern about transforming into Schmidt’s mother doesn’t trigger a similar Regressive Politics alert. You heard it here first: a woman’s primary role is as a caregiver, and nothing else matters!
This is the low point of the two episodes, which are otherwise quite strong. Newly convinced of her mama-bear status, Cece charges out of mall jail, and the women arrive home just in time for the guys to return from their aborted Vegas trip.
Winston immediately spots Aly in the loft and cues the guys to launch into “Alison” again, waving off Jess and Cece’s desperate attempts to stop him. (Everyone is better at stopping Robby, who’s worked up the courage to tell Cece he still loves her, and who is thoroughly ignored by the whole room.) Aly very gently turns Winston down. She’s still in a relationship with Trip, she tells him. Also, Aly is not short for Alison.
But Winston, in his best moment of the season, manages to pull himself together enough to congratulate Aly on her five-year anniversary of being a cop — the very thing Trip was so dismissive about earlier. Aly’s deeply moved, and pulls Winston in for a kiss …
… at which point a group of terrifying men charge into the loft, throw black hoods over everyone in the room, and drag them away. Worry not! It’s just Nadia’s inappropriately frightening bachelorette party. In the end, the gang gets to celebrate Schmidt and Cece’s impending nuptials the way they should be celebrated: in the back of a large truck, with male strippers and lasers and vodka and Winston having to explain to Aly that he’s prank-married.
It’s an excellent way to end an enjoyable hour, and I’m so happy for everyone, except perhaps Cece and Jess, who should maybe interrogate their ideas of a woman’s role in marriage. Let’s focus on the good stuff, though. Sam is nowhere to be found. We’re given zero signs of a romantic reunion between Jess and Nick. Winston’s happy. Schmidt and Cece are thrilled. Nadia’s giving Nick a tattoo of a shamrock in the back of a moving vehicle. Happy bachelor/ette, New Girl!