New Girl Recap: Empire State of Mind

Chelsea Peretti as Gina, Zooey Deschanel as Jess.
New Girl
New Girl
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Editor’s Rating

I'll admit, I was hoping for more from this side of tonight's New Girl/Brooklyn Nine-Nine crossover event. Mostly I just wanted more crossover. The B99 episode only had one brief bit with Jake and Jess together in a car. On the New Girl side, we got Jess and Jake again, as well as Jess and Gina, and a bit of Boyle hanging out with Nick and Winston in the subway. And the highlight was obviously Jess talking things out with Holt. But for the most part, it was a straight-up episode of New Girl, and that's … you know. Sometimes that's good; sometimes that's a little underwhelming.

This was somewhere in the middle. The gang takes a trip to New York to help Schmidt celebrate being an honoree at his high-school reunion because … sure! That's a thing a group of adults would totally travel across country to see their friend do. Anyhow, they arrive, Schmidt's mom picks them up at the airport, and we learn that Cece doesn't get along with Schmidt's mom.

Winston and Nick peel off from the group to pursue one of their apparently infamous but never-before-seen extravagant lunches, leaving Cece and Jess to deal with the fallout when Schmidt realizes that he's not really an honoree at this reunion. Instead, he's been invited (and "honored") along with everyone else in an attempt to fund a new scoreboard for the basketball team. Given that all school alumni events are actually fundraisers, I'm not sure how this was surprising to anyone, but my bigger question is this: How much does a scoreboard cost, really? I had no idea they were expensive enough to justify organizing a major alumni event.

It surprises Schmidt, at least, who melts down and throws a tantrum, locking himself in his room. (This bit was worth a good snicker, I have to say. Schmidt's mother's dedication to crowning the dog as Schmidt's brother, and then making over his bedroom so that it belongs to the dog, is solid justification for the brief shot of Schmidt curled up and pouting on a dog bed.) The argument outside is a standard fare daughter-in-law versus mother-in-law argument. Schmidt's mom feels like Cece isn't good enough for him and doesn't know how to take care of him. They argue over things like who's going to do his ironing, and whether or not he's hungry.

Finally, in an attempt to lure Schmidt out of his dog-brother's room, Jess gets sent out to Schmegelman's Deli to bring him some soup. And as a person who has been to the delis of New York and New Jersey, this part was pretty entertaining, largely because it was not a joke. There are lots of men in yarmulkes and women carting several children around, and there's lots of yelling. Jess gets kicked out of one line because it's the cream cheese line, and then fails to secure a place in another line because she's too slow. It's not often I get to say this about New Girl, but I'll be damned if this whole bit wasn't eminently plausible.

At last, Jess realizes that the only way through a New York deli is to put Bruce Banner aside and pull out Hulk Jess, which she does mostly by yelling, insisting that she keep her place in line, and barking out her order for one large special soup. And buoyed by her success, Jess calls Schmidt to tell him that he should march into that high-school reunion, stand up in front of his former classmates, and roast them. It should be a merciless, no-holds-barred drubbing. Schmidt thinks that sounds like a great idea.

It's at this point where we enter some crossover territory. As you may have seen in the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode, Jake ends up commandeering Schmidt's mother's car (with Jess and the soup inside) so that he can track down a criminal, and Jess gets carted over to the precinct so she can fill out some forms and get the car repaired. I suppose it's notable that Jess and Jake's conversation is completely different from one episode to the other. In B99, Jess opens with "It's a crossover! A crossover SUV, that is" (it is not, it is a station wagon), whereas here Jake demands permission to commandeer her vehicle, to which Jess replies that he's going to need to commandeer "this ass." So sure, we could have a whole discussion about whether New Girl and Brooklyn Nine-Nine actually do exist in the same universe or whether, as the diverging accounts might suggest, they're actually two separate, parallel timelines or something. But that's not what's important here.

What's important is that Jess shows up at the precinct, where Gina gives her an unreasonably excessive pile of paperwork and Holt unintentionally reminds her that everything happens for a reason. Our past makes us who we are. She doesn't need to be angry at New York (because it was nudging her to break up with Spencer), and she shouldn't have goaded Schmidt into trying to humiliate his high-school bullies.

While all of this is happening, Winston and Nick are trapped in a subway. They spent all of their money on their excessive "men of means" lunch, and now have no way to get to Long Island for Schmidt's speech. Obviously, this means they decide to do some subway busking for cash, which is how they end up performing their actually nothing act for Detective Boyle and his son Nikolaj. The big moment comes, Nick takes a flying leap into a pile of garbage, Nikolaj gives them all of the money out of Boyle's wallet, and they show up to the reunion right on time.

If Jess's moment at the deli is the most plausible moment of this episode, the Nick-Winston plot is the least plausible. Which, you have to admit, is well in character for those guys. Setting aside the likelihood that anyone would've given them any money for their all-wind-up, no-performance act, I just cannot believe that given an audience and an opportunity, neither Nick nor Winston could come up with some talent to perform. Bad magic! A mind-reading act! Winston could pretend Nick was a puppet! A Prince sing-along! I just have to think they could've come up with something.

Everyone makes it to Schmidt's inglorious high-school reunion, complete with now-grown-up bullies and a hot-boxing Dragon mascot. Jess tries to tell Schmidt what she inadvertently learned from Holt: He doesn't need to punish these people for what they did to him. Instead, he should thank them for making him who he is today. Schmidt, of course, can't bring himself to take the high road. He gets up onstage, shouts about how he makes money and they're all ugly, and when they start taunting him, Cece tries to bail him out by getting up and presumably supporting him by proving he has a hot wife. The whole thing goes badly. End scene.

This isn't a stellar New Girl episode, but it's not a terrible one, either. I wish that the crossover had more bite to it, but what we did get was pretty fun. And they saved the most fun moment for the very end, when the gang just happens to run into Coach, who's incredibly ticked off that they came to New York and didn't call him. The Brooklyn Nine-Nine stunt was all right, but these last 30 seconds prove that the crossover I really wanted all along was one between this season of New Girl and seasons of New Girl past. Maybe even not a crossover, but just a return to what once was. Sadly, Jess explained why that can never be — time moves in one direction. We all have to accept the past and move on.