Well, there’s good news and there’s bad news.
The good news is that we’ve successfully made it through Jess’s dad’s wedding without the dreaded reappearance of Abby Day! As a matter of fact, we’ve successfully made it through Jess’s dad’s wedding without even the mention of Abby Day, and while it does seem strange that even the most dysfunctional of families would allow a wedding to proceed without one of its children present (I’m looking at you, Kardashians), I hope this means she’s officially New Girl persona non grata. I hope you can hear me breathing a sigh of relief through your screen.
The bad news: “Oregon” was a weak episode anyway. Not just that: It was kind of boring. And that’s the greatest TV sin of all.
What I don’t get is how that’s possible. Here we’ve got an episode that includes a wedding, a breakup, an admission of love, an acid-fueled rebirthing ceremony, and an a cappella rendition of “Sabotage,” not to mention the fact that it all takes place in the great state of Oregon! So why did it all fall so flat?
For one thing, none of it is given any particular import. As the great philosopher Syndrome once said, “When everyone is super, no one is,” and it turns out this applies to eventfulness too. The way I see it, “Oregon” could have been a perfect three-part episode. Part one could have been the gang exploring Oregon and trying to keep Jess from checking her phone while Cece pursues her childhood crush; part two would have dealt with Jess’s mom and her first acid trip, as Jess comes to accept that she has to stop waiting for her Jordan Catalano; part three, the wedding itself, the breakup, and Cece’s admission of her feelings at Crush Pond. Instead, “Oregon” is a bunch of interesting starting points Frankenstein’d together into something not entirely cohesive. Is it too late for the show to do a mid-season rewrite?
It starts, as most things do, at the loft, where Jessica Christopher Day tries on her best-man tuxedo (which, frankly, Zooey Deschanel kind of rocks) for her father’s wedding in Portland, where Ryan is planning to meet her. Meanwhile, Winston suspects that Cece has a crush on Schmidt. In their confrontation, it’s finally confirmed that Winston still has a cat, even though they wisely stay away from mentioning said cat’s name. Cece’s jealousy over Schmidt’s relationship with Fawn Moscato is assuaged by the thought that she might bump into Jake Apex, whose name is so excellent he almost gives even Ms. Moscato a run for her money.
It’s never stated how much time has passed since “The Crawl,” but surely it’s not long enough for Ryan to have moved back to England, started his new job, and allowed his relationship with Jess to deteriorate already. All the same, the distance has begun to wear on Ryan and Jess’s still-new relationship, and it’s clear from the start that this couple isn’t long for this world, especially once Ryan tells Jess he’s not coming to the wedding.
To cheer Jess up, her friends offer to participate in her romantic “memories tour” of Portland. It’s a fun setup that doesn’t actually lead to much, besides the revelation that Jess used to be that kid they fed greased-up napkins to and the introduction of the impossibly gorgeous Jake Apex, with whom Schmidt promises to help Cece score.
The timeline of the trip is also fuzzy. No sooner are they on tour in downtown Portland than they’re popping in to visit Jess’s mom, who has an enthusiastic welcome prepared for Ryan, whose absence is felt by both characters and the show as a whole, which has trouble keeping the conflict between Jess and Ryan active without him there. They would have done well to have him at least Skype in; without seeing him at all, there’s never a question as to whether or not their breakup is inevitable, and it really hurts any tension there might have been.
Nick attempting to comfort Jess in her childhood bedroom is the episode’s best scene, especially as it’s revealed that Nick has no concept of who Jordan Catalano is (of course he was Jess’s childhood crush, of course) and we learn that the plural of “Lilith Fair” is “Liliths Fair.” It’s no mistake that it’s also the hangiest-outiest moment of the episode. I guess whether it’s in Oregon or L.A., New Girl is still New Girl.
Later, or the next day — honestly, I’m not sure because the timeline has apparently been totally ignored here — Jess’s dad is getting married to Julie Beekman’s Older Sister, and Jess forgot the rings! If you haven’t watched the episode yet, you might suspect that the idea of Jess making sure to bring the rings to the wedding would be a running theme throughout the episode. Nope. Just another piece of al dente spaghetti being chucked in vain against this episode’s wall.
Speaking of disjointed plot points, when Nick and Coach run back to Jess’s mom’s house to get the rings (why did Jess keep them there?), they end up caught in the middle of an acid trip either gone very, very wrong (or very, very right). It’s unclear what impact this actually has on any of the events as the episode, and since it feels inconsequential, it’s frankly not as funny as it could have been.
The episode’s climax is a stumble-through of its major plot points. As Jess stalls the wedding (at one point, brilliantly, by singing “Ave Maria” like Cookie Monster), she comes to realize that love is about being there for each other, and Ryan hasn’t been there for her through this ordeal; therefore, he’s not giving her the kind of love she deserves. Again, it’s a decision that doesn’t feel active, especially since the breakup itself happens off-screen. Schmidt notices that Jess is struggling to keep the wedding party entertained and pulls the fire alarm, calling Jake Apex to the scene. Cece rejects him, though, stating that she is “in love with someone else.” Then the whole gang meets down at Crush Pond to make love-related wishes and ruminate on the simultaneously climactic and anti-climactic events of the past 24 or 48 or whatever hours.
If this recap isn’t making much sense, it’s because the episode doesn’t quite hang together. This is what happens when New Girl gets plotty: Things start to fall apart. “Oregon” is saved in the moments when its characters get the chance to act like their weird selves (“In Oregon, ‘weird’ is a compliment,” or so says guide book Coach), but, much like Ryan, it fails to show up for us when we need it to.