That was rough, guys.
I love New Girl, guys, I promise I do; I wouldn’t write about a show that I didn’t. And I want so badly to continue to love New Girl, but I’m going to talk about “Dance,” last night’s episode, and it won’t be pretty.
The plot isn’t terribly sure-footed, but I’ll try to be your guide through its (predictable) twists and turns just the same. Basically, Jess is trying to organize a “Love Is Forever”–themed middle-school dance — you know! Like those super-popular “Love Is Forever”–themed dances you always went to in middle school! Schmidt, Cece, Coach, and Winston are all quick to point out that that’s a terrible theme, considering Jess’s recent breakup, but for some reason, they don’t bother pointing out that that’s a terrible theme, period. Also, if Jess is organizing the dance, why couldn’t she have picked literally any other theme?
Jess is either depressed because she recently broke up with Nick, or because she, like me, wishes that arc could just end for good. Her way of coping is by taking charge of the middle-school dance, since she knows her “life is a bit of a mess right now, but the one thing [she] can do is throw an amazing dance.” The only problem is, the rest of Coolidge’s faculty aren’t that jazzed about getting roped into chaperoning — and the kids aren’t even that jazzed about going, including the excellently cast, shark-shirted Wendy.
When a mystery saboteur locks the gym door, the beleaguered faculty walks out on Jess. (Angela Kinsey! Nooo! This episode needed you to call it out on its bullshit!) Only Coach stays by her side, and honestly, my delight at the burgeoning friend-love between them may be what saved this episode from receiving my first one-star review. That, and the line, “They’re going to have to bang through me!” Desperate for more chaperones, Jess calls her friends to come “‘rone” instead. I’m sure upon hearing about this later, all of the students’ parents were totally thrilled and not straight-up horrified.
It’s a simple enough setup, right? Wrong. Because for some reason, Schmidt, Cece, Winston, and Nick are also having a “girls versus boys” fight, set off by an argument about Cece’s 20-year-old boy-toy, whose description makes him sound like the guy you hook up with for a week while you’re studying abroad. Incidentally, if they want to keep bringing Cece’s new boyfriend up as a real part of Cece’s life (or as a real threat to Schmidt), they’d better start putting him on camera again. It’s a little weird that so much is being made out of someone we’ve only seen a few times, even if those times did leave striking impressions (read: He was hot and Australian). The alternative, of course, is that we could drop the Aussie altogether and just get Schmidt and Cece back together… pleeease, showrunners? Somewhere in all of this, Nick calls Cece a “stupid girl,” which makes me angry partially because I’m offended and partially because this whole scene was entirely unfunny.
Back at the school, the lights mysteriously go out, and Jess goes crazy trying to figure out who is trying to ruin the dance, never once thinking, Hey, I wonder if it’s that girl I talked to unnecessarily earlier who established that she was being forced to go to the dance but did not actually want to?
Instead, she interrogates always welcome guest-star Brian “Banana in the Dark” Posehn.
Nick tries to get some cool kids to like him; Schmidt gets into a homophobic fight with a kid (a story that should have been former fat-kid Schmidt defending all of the fat kids at the dance against bullies); “Call Me Maybe” is played for the first time since August of 2012; and Cece hints repeatedly at her “bad girl” past. Also, I guess Winston (whose cop story line is once again disregarded at the show’s convenience) wants to prove he has heat? He gets some good lines out of it (“I’ve got the heat of a mother hen”), but watching Winston being followed by a pack of pubescent girls dangerously skirts the line between funny and creepy, and although I think it lands a bit more toward funny, it was still more than a little uncomfortable as a concept.
Actually, there are a lot of lines being skirted in “Dance,” the most egregious one, of course, being the lack of confrontation between Nick and Jess. If their separate story lines both hinge on their lingering hurt over their recently ended relationship, then the only excuse for the two of them to not interact in this episode is that the writers were as exhausted by their endless, circular conversations as I was.
It’s not just Nick and Jess — it’s weird how little of the episode is comprised of our main characters interacting. I wasn’t sure who was in conflict with whom, or how any of what transpired would come to affect the characters’ futures. Were there stakes at all, or was this shameless filler? About halfway through I actually started wondering if an episode about a middle school dance had been written for a previous season and discarded until a producer realized that season three was one episode short, so they tacked on a few lines of dialogue about recent events and said, “yeah, good enough.”
The final scene with Cece, Jess, and Wendy is meant to serve as a summation not only of the episode, but of what Jess has learned from her breakup. Instead, it is exactly as convoluted, reaching, and rambling as the latter half of season three has been. Knowing how good this show can be, it’s all just terribly frustrating.
My favorite moment comes from early on in the episode, when Nick, Schmidt, and Schmidt’s tiny, tiny nipples are using the bathroom as their personal sauna. Nick admits that the breakup has been hard on him, but tells Schmidt he’s been trying to eat better.
“I’m eating salads,” he says confidently. “No dressing. Mostly just the protein.”
“What kind of salads have you been eating?”
“The little chopped-up pieces of ham.”
Oh, there you are, everything that’s good about New Girl! I knew you were under there somewhere!