Monday, February 3, 2014

New Girl 3x14 "Prince" (Those Three Little Words)

Original Airdate: February 2, 2014

The first time that Chandler ever told Monica he loved her in Friends, he didn’t actually tell her directly. He yelled it at Phoebe, who was trying to seduce Chandler in order to make him admit that he and Monica were sneaking around. The first time that Ben and Leslie of Parks and Recreation said “I love you,” it wasn’t spoken at all. The court stenographer read their professions to one another, and then they kissed outside in the snow (and it was perfect). And the first time that Mr. Sheffield told Fran Fine that he loved her, they were in a plane that looked like it was about to crash. He then took the sentiment back after they managed to land safely and that plot point became a revolving joke throughout the remainder of the series of The Nanny. Sitcom professions of love have always been sweet and sentimental, but the focus has not – in my experience – been about a long, drawn-out, romantic admission. A comedy is focused on, obviously, comedy. The “I love you” moments between two characters are often in the midst of hijinks or wacky, weird scenarios. They don’t often mirror The Notebook, and I don’t think they should.

It makes sense, then, that the Nick accidentally blurts out his “I love you” to Jess three minutes into “Prince” and Jess reciprocates at the episode’s end by yelling it at the pop star’s party. While I’ve seen some fans dismayed that their profession wasn’t private or long or riddled with clichés that would otherwise make the episode reminiscent of a cheesy romantic comedy from the 90s, I personally think that the profession was perfect. It was utterly and entirely in-character and the progression from Jess being afraid to utter the words to her yelling them out in front of everyone at  a party is quite telling. I feel like… I feel like fanfic is a double-edged sword in how television viewers perceive romance in a sitcom. Now, I love fanfic. I love people who write it, because I am also one of those people. But when it comes to overly romanticizing characters and pairings, fanfic is king and reigns supreme. So much so that I believe those who have read fic where Nick and Jess profess their love were most disappointed in the episode because it was not as “romantic” as those stories were. It’s a fine line that members of fandom walk, really, when they become invested in a series beyond what a “normal” viewer would.

When you become immersed in fandom, you begin to develop your own canon for certain characters. Take, for instance, Jeff and Annie in Community. Regardless of what the television series’ actual canon will tell us, shippers of Jeff/Annie hold fast to certain elements that they’ve brilliantly and intricately constructed within their web of fandom. They have built certain truths within their mind and framed the characters of the series around these truths. In doing so, they (and I’ll lump myself in here and say “we”) have managed to construct parallel versions of the canon characters – a fic!Jeff and fic!Annie if you will. These fandom-created fictional versions of fictional characters behave and act slightly differently than the canon fictional characters do. And that’s not inherently BAD – sometimes I do believe that fandom understands characters better than creators and writers of the series do – but it CAN be dangerous, only when you become so immersed in your fic!canon that you lose sight of actual canon.

Now, I’m not accusing New Girl fans of disregarding canon altogether. The shippers of Nick and Jess understand those two characters intensely well. I’ve seen beautiful meta critiques and analysis of them on the show. But the disconnect between canon and fandom occurs whenever the immersion in fic!canon becomes so extreme that actual canon leaves a viewer dissatisfied. So when Jess professed her love for Nick by yelling it in a public party and Tumblr users were disappointed that it wasn’t heartfelt and long and private and sentimental (like what they’ve read in fics or seen in romantic comedies), they were disappointed. They were a bit let down. And while I personally was not, I can see WHY these people would be. We all kind of hate cheesy romantic comedies, but we also kind of love them. Would I have enjoyed seeing Jess and Nick in the garden, with the woman – tears forming in her eyes – talking about how long she’s loved Nick for and all the moments she fell in love with him? Oh, absolutely. But the more that I think about it… the more I realize that this is fic!Jess, not canon!Jess. While that would have been tear-inducing and sweet and extremely cliché, it wouldn’t have been entirely true to a character who fumbles with her words and is a dork. The same thing goes for Nick Miller – I would have loved to have seen that profession he planned in his mind, but I think that the ultimate professions of love were so true to the characters (and exhibited AMAZING growth in them). I really love that the writers didn’t go the sappy and sentimental route with these two, because Nick and Jess HAVE had those moments leading up to “Prince” (think of episodes like “All In” and “The Captain” and “Birthday”) so that any added saccharine would have made the moment feel trite.

(But that’s just my humble opinion as a blogger.)

Before I delve too deep into character analysis, let’s recap the plot of “Prince,” shall we?

“Prince” begins with a cold open that’s both awkward and hilarious (spoiler alert: I laughed a LOT during the first airing of this episode) as Winston asks Nick if it’s alright that he moves Jess’ underwear from the dryer. The turtle-faced man agrees and then wonders why Winston even asked about this. As it turns out, there are certain perceived boundaries since Jess and Nick are dating, in Winston’s mind. Pre-relationship, he moved Jess’ underwear out of the dryer hundreds of times. But now it’s weird. (I think it was weird then, Winston. And all of the men agree.) This leads to a discussion about who will remove her undergarments from the dryer without making anything awkward for Nick.

So instead of Nick merely moving the garments himself, he, Winston, Coach, and Schmidt develop an elaborate panty-moving device, just as Jess and Cece return home to the loft with big news: they almost got run over. Well, okay, that’s not the GOOD part of the news: they were almost run over by a woman who works for Prince… and she invited them to a party at the pop star’s house that night! Jess and Cece freak out and dance adorably as the men celebrate.

Later that night, Jess and Cece are preparing for the party and awaiting the limo that is due to pick them up when Schmidt enters, completely dressed in a new (see: expensive) suit, ready to attend the party as well. He encourages the other men to join him but they’re completely uninterested in attending the soiree, mainly because they weren’t invited. But Schmidt is irritated because Prince’s party is his one shot to move up in the social world and obtain an entirely new class of friends. And while it seems rather harsh, even for Schmidt, to essentially tell the men that they are just stepping stones to better things, it’s important to remember Schmidt’s fragility during this season when he utters those words. He’s lost… well, a lot. He voluntarily moved out of the loft, but he lost Cece and Elizabeth and – in the process – himself. And as he tries to regain the little bit of Schmidt that he thought he once knew, perhaps he thinks that starting over with a clean slate means somehow being able to erase everything bad that happened to him and all of the terrible and selfish things he did. So yes, the sentiment IS a bit harsh but Schmidt has always been an inherently selfish character. He’s always contemplating what the people around him can do for HIM. He wants to know what value their relationship can add to his own life. If there is no added value, he isn’t – clearly – above cutting them out. (I know people like this, actually.)

The limo pulls up to pick Cece and Jess up for the party, and the men bid the women goodbye. That is when Nick tells Jess: “Have fun. I love you.” And that’s when our jaws and Jess’ hit the floor because this is the first time Nick ever utters the L-word to his girlfriend. Jess is so shocked that her default response is to point finger guns at him as the limo pulls away. She’s mortified, he’s horrified that the sentiment slipped out, and everyone is feeling a tad bit awkward. But here’s why this moment is such a great one in terms of Nick: it’s totally in-character. I’d argue that even though this New Girl episode was heralded as the “I love you” episode, it wasn’t as bold and sweeping and dramatic as a lot of people may have anticipated. Why? Because, unlike some television series where a profession occurs, we already KNOW that Nick and Jess love each other. Every moment they smile at each other, every little gesture, every kiss and sweet word of affection and cuddle and hand-holding scene screams that to the rafters.

Nick’s slip-up was perfect because it exemplified what I noted above: he loves Jess. There’s no doubt in his mind, as he tells Winston a few minutes later. Everything that has happened between them solidifies this fact for him. And it’s so natural for Nick to have these feelings that they just bubbled up at the most random time because it, to him, must have FELT like they should have been saying those words for nine months to one another. But what I truly love about this season and this episode in particular is that it has been Nick who has been making all of the “grown-up moves.” He’s the one constantly proving his devotion to Jess. And I don’t use “prove” in a way to suggest that Nick doesn’t deserve Jess. They absolutely and totally deserve one another.

What I love is that this proving has allowed the writers to grow and develop Nick in the most amazing way possible. In season one, you had this guy who was so afraid to do anything that his life accomplishment was a half-finished zombie novel. He refused to take leaps if he didn’t know what would happen. He was scared of getting hurt because of what had happened with Caroline and now, with Jess, he admitted he isn’t scared (“The Captain”). He is completely and utterly transforming in this relationship and not because Jess is forcing him to. I think he sees everything he wants to be when he looks at her. I think that both terrifies and exhilarates him. And I think the writers… no, I KNOW the writers totally get that.

Jess is mortified by her response to the confession, but we’ll tackle her issues later on. At the bar, the men discuss Nick’s predicament and the man confesses that even though he loves Jess, he’s afraid that his confession just scared her away and he doesn’t know how to respond. When the men toy with the idea of taking it back (a la what Nick did in “Parking Spot” regarding the kiss), Schmidt says that it’s a possible idea. So they drive to the party in a Ford Fusion, doing HILARIOUS product placement akin to the Burger King one in Arrested Development and pull up to Prince’s house, looking for Jess and Cece.

Inside of the party, the two women are discussing what had transpired and Cece tells Jess that she is probably a little scared to say “I love you” to Nick and that it’s okay if she is. I appreciate the fact that “Prince” left Jess’ fear of saying those words to Nick just vague enough for us to understand without forcing a cliché in having her confess her reasoning. Those who have been with New Girl since the beginning understand exactly why Jess is afraid. She’s afraid because the last person she said “I love you” to was Spencer and he hurt her so badly that it took a very long time to emotionally recover from his betrayal. Paul loved Jess but she didn’t love him back and that was the reason she could never say those words (and Nick understands this about Jess because he was right there with her in “The 23rd” when they broke up). I believe she cared about Russell and Sam, but I don’t think she ever truly loved him.

What I think – which is, as Joey Tribbiani would say, is “moo” because I’m not an actual writer for the series or paid critic – is that Jess loves Nick more than she loved Spencer. I think she cares about Nick so much that the thought of ever losing him utterly paralyzes her. Because she loved Spencer and look at how he damaged her. It took the love and care of Cece and her three new roommates to even remotely recover. I think that, throughout the episode, Jess desperately wants to say “I love you” to Nick but this little switch in her mind flips on that hasn’t flipped on for a very long time – the Spencer switch, the “what if?” switch. And I think she loves Nick so much that this is the only reason she becomes so paralyzed. If she loved him less, she would have been able to tell him so. But the thought of potentially losing HIM? That physically causes her to faint, as we’ll see momentarily.

The men arrive at the party and through some skillful tactics (Coach/Winston friendship in this episode, y’all, is all I’ve wanted. I’m so glad to see the bond from “Birthday” carrying through), everyone but Schmidt manages to get in through the front door. Inside, Nick manages to find Jess and they’re so delighted to see one another that Nick begins to speak, to take the “I love you” back when Jess tells him that there’s something she should have said as the limo pulled away. And then we have Jake Johnson making these faces:

Now, let me just take a moment to express how I’m utterly dismayed that Jake Johnson has no Emmys or nominations. Look at the progression of his face: this is Nick Miller at his most hopeful. Everything about him screams that because, in that moment, he thinks Jess is going to tell him that she loves him and everything – literally everything – in his world will be perfect. Caroline robbed Nick of hope when she left him (which is also why I’m interested to see “Exes” on Tuesday night). He picked himself back up thanks, largely, to Jess’ friendship. This moment right here? It’s Nick at his most hopeful and consequently most vulnerable again. He admitted he loved Jess and you can just see everything he’s ever wanted right within his grasp. And then… she faints because of a panic attack, long before she utters “I love you.”

When Jess comes to, she’s outside and the rest of the gang is around (including Schmidt who is climbing over Prince’s bushes in the background) her. Nick, bless his heart, is utterly crushed because the panic attack Jess suffered was scary on a few levels: both actually and emotionally. And that is why Nick tries to take his “I love you” back. He fears he scared Jess. The finger guns and limo driving away? Well, that was to be expected, in his mind. But when Jess can’t articulate her feelings a second time… Nick grows understandably fearful that, perhaps, she doesn’t actually love him. In a beautiful moment of character grown from “First Date” (in which Nick couldn’t articulate his feelings and Jess told him that she needed to know how he felt about her), it is NICK asking JESS how she feels about him in “Prince.”

Before Jess can articulate anything, she and Nick are interrupted by Prince himself and the two freak out. Afterward, they explain their situation to the pop star, who then decides to take some alone time with Jess in order to sort through her issues. I absolutely LOVED Prince’s guest-starring role as this outlandish version of himself, but also a sage mentor to Jess (who truly needed a mentor in the moment). Nick agrees and returns to the party, while Jess and Prince discuss her fears over pancakes.

In our mild B-plot, meanwhile, Schmidt is trying to hide from a bouncer and does so by cuddling up to Cece, who laughingly pushes him away and then starts to slightly slow dance with her ex. Though I’m not ready for a romance to exist between Schmidt and Cece again (I don’t know if I want them to go back down that road), I was so content to see Schmidt being embraced by Cece and the rest of the group as a friend. It’s nice to acknowledge that even though Schmidt did a horrible thing, it doesn’t taint everything about him for Cece. He’s beginning to allow the “old” Schmidt to resurface and it’s wonderful. You can see Schmidt begin to question, too, whether or not he wants to be with new, cooler friends as Cece – a woman who should really hate his guts – protects him from being thrown out of the party. I think these two miss each other’s friendship, and I think that’s okay.

Elsewhere, Coach and Winston’s “fire and ice” routine is working on two models when drunk!Nick enters and ruins the moment, sending the women away. He’s having an awful night and his fallback – shocker – is to drink. Apparently he also wants to dance and Winston and Coach are very concerned about that. Prince, meanwhile, tells Jess that she’s scared to profess her feelings for Nick aloud, but that “anything beautiful is worth getting hurt for.” In order to elevate Jess’ confidence, Prince trains her through a hilarious montage so that she can finally say “I love you” without fear of getting hurt or losing the man she loves.

Jess doesn’t understand the point of the training and – quite frankly – I don’t think she’s supposed to. I think that perhaps the point of Prince’s elaborate makeover and plan was simply to get Jess uncomfortable. She had begun to adopt some of her boyfriend’s habits, most importantly that she was trapped inside of her own head. Jess once said that she was “always the one who loved more,” and perhaps that is what terrified her and shut her down in “The 23rd” from the possibility of expressing love to another person romantically. Platonic love (like telling Cece that she loves her or telling her family and class at school) is easy for Jess. But romantic love burned her and Prince’s odd maneuvers actually benefit the woman because they teach her to be completely comfortable with being uncomfortable.

Downstairs, Schmidt has been invited by two extremely attractive women into the VIP room. It’s his big chance at the biggest party of his life to finally move up in the world socially. And then, he looks over at his friends who are at a party surrounded by famous people and models and who are playing a raucous, made-up game called “Lemon Mouth” by themselves… and he chooses Coach, Cece, and Winston over models and celebrities and millionaires. Because I think that Schmidt realizes that his friends gave him another chance. And they’ll give him chances when he messes up because they love him THAT much. Would anyone else really do the same?

(And then Schmidt destroys “Lemon Mouth” not by holding the lemon wedge in his mouth but by eating it whole, much to the utter bewilderment and amusement of his friends.)

Jess descends the stairs in search of Nick like a freaking princess and calls out to him. And Nick’s face is completely and utterly priceless in that moment. He looks at her with the most genuine smile and dumbstruck expression because THAT is the woman he loves and he literally has to do a double take because he’s trying to comprehend how beautiful she is. (Much like Joel McHale, I lament every opportunity I get that Jake Johnson doesn’t have an Emmy.) Honestly and completely, this man is in love with her… which is why, as she approaches, Nick tells Jess that he’s not sorry he professed his feelings for her. It’s kind of like “Parking Spot” in this way, really, with Nick initially denying and then confessing feelings. But Jess has something to tell Nick, too, and whispers it into his ear.

Unfortunately, they’re on the floor of a very loud party and Nick doesn’t hear whatever she whispered so she shouts: “I LOVE YOU! I LOVE YOU, NICK MILLER!” and Nick’s face when she yells it is completely and utterly and incandescently happy. (He actually looks around, too, to see if other people heard her. It’s adorable.) This is exactly what Jess needed: she didn’t need a private confession. She didn’t need a lengthy, sentimental, drawn-out monologue. She needed to be dragged headfirst, fearless into the unknown. Prince allowed her to be fearless. Prince showed her that it was okay to be scared but that she shouldn’t let it define her and that she SHOULD shout her love to the rooftop if that’s how she felt.

So yes, I feel like Jess’ profession was absolutely perfect. We’ve had tender moments between Nick and Jess. We’ve had hilarious moments and heartfelt ones. We’ve also had heartbreaking ones. But “Prince” was the first time, I think, since “Cooler” that we’ve ever had a really fearless moment. And since Nick was fearless in that episode, I’m glad it was Jess’ turn in this one.

The two embrace and kiss and it’s all sweet and wonderful, and then Prince takes the stage to perform “Don’t You Wanna Fall In Love Tonight?” and calls Jess up to perform with him. Cece, Coach, Winston, Schmidt, and Nick freak out in the crowd and then Jess beckons all of them up on stage to sing and dance with her and it’s fun and wonderful and beautiful. It would have been amazing, had the episode ended there, but it didn’t.

… And the actual ending was even MORE amazing as Nick, Jess, Winston, Schmidt, and Coach sit in stunned silence on the couches back at the loft, wondering aloud if their night really happened. “Where do we go from here?” Winston wonders aloud. “How do we move on from this?” Schmidt asks. “Do we just… go to work tomorrow?” It’s hilarious in that most series would have ended with the party, but I love that New Girl decided to end with the realism that these people can have magic, amazing moments but at some point those moments end and they have to return to reality. Thankfully, what Prince taught Jess was that she can take what she learned at the party – courage – and apply it to herself and carry that trait into her normal, day-to-day life.

Nick and Jess aren’t afraid anymore. They’re not afraid to say “I love you,” not afraid to face their daily, normal lives, and are not afraid to be bold and brave. And that’s definitely a message I’m glad New Girl delivered during what is sure to be one of its most important episodes ever.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
  • David Feeney and Rob Rosell? KUDOS. You all pulled off an amazing, wonderful, and hilarious episode that absolutely deserved to be in the post-Super Bowl time slot. Thank you for one of my favorite episodes of the season!
  • “Hey guys, how are we going to transport all this cargo? Oh, we have Nick’s pants. We’re saved.”
  • “Well I think you look great in everything. I just want this moment to end.” “What are your open-toe options?”
  • Flashback Nick and Winston is EVERYTHING.
  • Winston’s “I LOVE YOU” confession had me laughing SO hard.
  • “It was a Thursday. That’s all I remember.” “A THURSday?”
  • “Dancing’s not the answer. You can’t dance. It’s only gonna get worse.”
  • “You’re stupid.” “… I forgive you.” “Oh my God, thank God.”
  • The suspension of disbelief of Jess knowing the words to Prince’s new song is hilariously addressed by Coach and the answer is: “I think Prince is magic.”
Thank you ALL for reading the special review of “Prince.” I’ll be back later on this week when I review tomorrow night’s episode titled “Exes.” Until then, folks! :)


  1. It still angers me that Jake never got a nomination for Chicago. I say this once a month but it still should be remembered how good he was in that episode and this one as well.

    Also, was very happy with Prince as a guest star. I was worried I'd find him annoying but I didn't luckily. New Girl helped ease the pain of a very forgettable Super Bowl for me. (I'm a Peyton Manning fan.)

    Once again Great Review!

  2. Bless this post and everything in it. Wonderful. Where are your fanfics?

  3. You've really nailed it here. I've found myself writing less and less fan fic while the show is actually airing new episodes, because I do think it taints the experience when I watch. It's exceptionally hard this season because a lot of what we've seen DOES play out like a fan fic. LOL!! Way to mess with our heads, right? It also gets harder and harder as time goes on to get the same feeling out of reading it too, because the show has filled in a lot of the blanks. Now that they've said ILY, we'll all be moving on to writing about a proposal/wedding. It's actually really interesting to watch the progression of fan fic through a series, because the more you get your "wishes" fulfilled, the more writers expand into AU. Anyway, GREAT review, and I can't wait for Exes tonight. It's nice to see a renewed excitement again in the second half of the season.

  4. Great review. I need to go back and read all of your others now. (Also, Jeff x Annie. Double the otp :)).