It's a new season for the Lofties, full of brand-new relationships and brand-new challenges and completely unfamiliar territory like Jess wanting to date — oh, wait. As was heavily foreshadowed at the end of season five, Jess still has feelings for Nick. She's been dealing with his stint with Reagan in New Orleans by taking up a series of unlikely hobbies, but woodworking (excuse me, wood-turning) does not make for a good hobby in a shared living environment. Also, she's going a bit nutty.
So this is how New Girl enters its sixth season: Schmidt and Cece are trying to move on with their lives as a married couple, most importantly by buying a house. Jess, trapped with her feelings for Nick and incapable of ever moving on from anything, compensates by constantly sticking herself where she doesn't belong. And Winston, inevitably, has taken up some quixotic task — in this case, trying to help Aly's sister Leslie become a real-estate agent.
The opening gambit, with Schmidt and Cece celebrating a house purchase only to discover that Leslie has somehow sold them a house that's not for sale, is a pretty strong scene-setter. Leslie's "I just google house and sometimes stuff comes up?" is such an excellently horrible thing to hear from your real-estate agent's mouth.
Obviously that first house does not work out, owing to its current occupancy (and the ongoing mystery of how Leslie nevertheless managed to let them a tour of the place three times). The bulk of "House Hunt" is dedicated to Schmidt and Cece's search, as well as the struggle to get a loan that will cover the place they want. This isn't particularly surprising or new emotional territory for New Girl, and the rhythms are eminently familiar. Still, the stakes are laid out well, especially Schmidt's desire to achieve another milestone after getting married, and his frustration about Cece's lack of boundaries with Jess. To no one's surprise, Jess declares herself their new real-estate agent. Schmidt is aggravated. Cece rolls her eyes …
… but hear me out. I know she's dedicated to teaching. I know that other than the bar, the Lofties' careers are threadbare excuses for occasional plotting in a second location. I know this was just a one-episode bit to demonstrate that Jess is a meddler. But shouldn't Jess actually be a real-estate agent? She knows the market. She's diligent. She'd get really into finding the perfect place for each client. She'd enjoy the people-pleasing aspects of the job, but she'd also be a dogged negotiator. It's such a good job for her that I actually had to double-check and make sure it wasn't an earlier New Girl plot.
Barring that alternate reality, we instead get Jess insisting that the place Cece and Schmidt love is too expensive. They look at her with dismay, she goes home, and they go to the bank to try to qualify for a higher loan limit. (Cece and Schmidt! What are you doing! Don't you know that untenable high-interest mortgages helped fuel the 2007 financial crisis? Did you not see The Big Short?)
At home, Jess realizes that Nick has returned a month early. For whatever Nick-related reason you'd like to imagine for yourself, he's now calling himself the "crawdaddy." She had no idea he'd be arriving so soon, and she's flummoxed. He hugs her, notes one of the episode's running jokes — that Jess got "jacked" in his absence — and says he's happy to be in a long-distance relationship with Reagan. But Jess is so flustered by her feelings and the surprise of seeing him that she makes up a fast excuse to escape, saying she's going to the zoo with her friend "Dede." Nick's not buying it.
While Jess is feeling awkward about Nick, and Cece and Schmidt are meeting with a loan officer whose eyes were just dilated (a weird bit that sort of works?), Winston's out dealing with Leslie, the worst real-estate agent of all time. He promised Aly that he'd take care of her sister, and he feels bad about just breaking things off. So rather than just admit she's been fired, Winston tells her she's now his real-estate agent, because he's buying a house. This was so easy to see coming that Cece and Schmidt's loan officer could've pointed it out on the horizon.
Anyhow, Leslie ends up trying to sell Winston a boat. Yes, a boat. The most surprising part of this plot is that under certain variations of Winston, I could see him really digging that idea, so I was honestly taken aback when he didn't find it whimsical and promising.
At the bank, Jess shows up at an inopportune moment to finally admit that she still has feelings for Nick, and to beg Cece for help. Unbeknownst to Jess, though, Schmidt asked Nick to show up at the bank so they could use the bar as collateral for the house loan. (Again, what are you people thinking?!) Mortified and not yet ready to talk with Nick, Jess ducks into a whispered conversation with another bank employee and has to reassure him that she's not trying to rob the place.
From there, the episode falls into double denouements. In the first one, Jess finally works up the courage to knock on Nick's door and talk to him about his time away. (Well, sort of. She got Winston to knock on the door, and that turned into a conversation about how many gator teeth Winston has swallowed.) Nick is happy! He loved New Orleans, he's happy with Reagan, and most important, he actually finished a draft of a book. Jess is astonished, proud, and clearly wistful at her missed opportunity to be with him again.
But Nick dedicated the book to her, so we can all see where this will eventually lead. Until then, I look forward to Jess tackling the challenge of reading a book that's been printed out on a dot-matrix printer from a car dealership.
As for the episode's more satisfying conclusion, we learn that Cece and Schmidt decided to not buy the excessively expensive house, and instead purchased the fixer-upper that Jess found for them five minutes away from the loft. A few thoughts on this: First, this is becoming a seriously well-worn plot for Cece and Schmidt, who went through a very similar arc when they were planning their wedding. Second, thank god. While I'm sure some form of marital strife is in the cards for these two, the financial stress of a terrible mortgage is a little too real for this show. And third, I knew it! Jess does make a great real-estate agent!
The final scene is a little piece of classic New Girl togetherness. Cece and Schmidt are ebullient — the house is theirs, and although it's in heinous shape, they can rip it apart and start over from scratch. Everyone begins tearing down ancient plaster and fixtures; Nick bangs a hole in one wall and discovers a fireplace; they even crack open some Champagne. It's clear, in other words, that while everyone seems to be moving on, the future of New Girl will look a lot like the past.