Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New Girl 3x23 "Cruise" (Aca-Awkward)

Original Airdate: May 6, 2014

Have you ever been forced – actually forced – into a conversation that you had no way of escaping? I can only remember one time that I was in a conversation like this. In high school, a guy I liked had just found out, through a mutual friend, that I had feelings for him. In an event that I try to repress, he confronted me in the courtyard of our school. I was sitting on a little half-circle cement wall that I frequented in the mornings with friends before class. He stood in front of me, the tall and lanky guy that he was, and explained what my friend had told him. And then, of course, he friendzoned me. But I was trapped in that moment, mostly paralyzed by emotional turmoil and trying to not burst out into tears before seven in the morning. I had no way of escaping the conversation – no friend came to drag me away by the crook of my elbow. No one interrupted us. Though the courtyard was chattering away, I was stuck in a conversation I didn’t want to be in, growing more mortified by the moment.

I guess in retrospect, that wasn’t as bad as it could have been. I did, actually, have an escape. I could have skillfully dodged the guy and darted into the performing arts halls. It’s a lot harder to avoid a conversation with someone when you’re sharing a room with them. It’s even harder when you’re sharing a room on a boat floating out in the middle of the ocean. This is what happened in New Girl’s third season finale appropriately titled “Cruise.” The premise is pretty simple: Nick and Jess booked a non-refundable cruise when they were together because it seemed like a good idea. But now they’re broken up and would be out a LOT of money if they didn’t go… so they drag the rest of the loft and Cece onto the boat with them. Everyone thinks this is a bad idea. For once in New Girl history, EVERYONE thinks something is a bad idea. And Schmidt is the one who vocalizes the notion I stated earlier in this paragraph: it’s impossible to escape from a conversation or an awkward moment when you’re on a boat that is floating in the middle of the ocean. There is, quite frankly, no escape except to jump.

Nick and Jess, however, are convinced throughout the majority of the episode that they can maintain some semblance of normalcy (this fails) in spite of their recent break-up. The former romantic pairing won’t make the trip weird. But what I loved most about “Cruise” was the eventual acceptance of this weirdness – of THEIR weirdness – by Nick, Jess, and the rest of the gang. It was really refreshing to see each of these characters not tolerate the weirdness and tension from Nick and Jess but actually decide to actively try and fix their friends. And I don’t believe that this desire to fix the pair was spawned through selfish motives. In fact, it is one of the most genuine and selfless acts that Winston, Coach, Schmidt, and Cece have collectively performed. They want their friends to be better because they know they HAVE to be better; Nick and Jess both have to heal and the only way to do that is by embracing the pain and moving forward, not avoiding it. Nick and Jess, as I have noted before, are very good at running away from their problems (“Table 34,” “Tinfinity,” etc.). What was so refreshing about “Cruise,” then was that it reminded us and them that you can only run away from your problems for so long. Eventually, you get stuck. And the only way to get yourself un-stuck is to confront those problems or… well, jump overboard.

The season three finale of New Girl was written by Luvh Rahke and Rob Rosell, both of whom did an excellent job with this episode. I absolutely loved everything about it, from the A-plot to the minor B and C-plots, to the guest stars aboard the boat. Bravo, guys! And “Cruise” begins with a revelation from Nick and Jess who tell the rest of their friends that they all are going on a cruise and no one has a choice in that matter.

You see, Nick and Jess may have drunkenly booked a cruise when they were together as a romantic getaway and now they’re in a bit of a predicament. Nick and Jess, perhaps foolishly, thought that they would never break up. The problem of course is that Nick and Jess HAVE broken up. But instead of facing their new and weird predicament head-on, they’re cracking awkward jokes and making the rest of the loft uncomfortable. Like, unanimously uncomfortable. It’s Winston who vocalizes the fear of being on a boat stranded in the middle of the ocean with two exes, and it is WINSTON who decides to fix Nick and Jess in this episode. Honestly, I really appreciated the fact that all of these people are weird and wonderful but that they are all growing up as the years progress. Winston, once paralyzed by his break-up with Daisy, is now directly confronting a relationship problem involving his friends and is taking active steps to help them. What beautiful character development that is, don’t you agree?

In the minor B (or was it a C) plot this week, since Cece passed her GED, Schmidt got her a present to celebrate. Except that this present is an engraved class ring. As it turns out, Schmidt is still in love with Cece and is going to try to use the cruise to win her back. Let me pause to explain that I was on pins and needles with “Cruise,” praying to God that they didn’t return to the Schmidt/Cece romance. I should have trusted the writers, I know, to not do something so obviously detrimental given all the pairing has been through, but TV writing has let me down recently so perhaps I was a bit wary due to that. As it stands, I loved the resolution of this storyline and the character growth that it showed in Schmidt from the beginning of the season until the finale. Kudos to you, writers. You guys did not disappoint me at all.

Once the gang manages to get onto the boat, they realize the thing that I realized during my first cruise: cabins are cramped and small. And then Jess said the thing that you always say on cruises (“We’re BARELY gonna be in the room”) in an attempt to reassure everyone. Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston, Coach, and Cece then quickly turn into the stereotypes that you meet on a cruise (the one wary of the boat and water, the overzealous travelers who try to do all the activities, the person whose goal is to drink the entire ship, the person trying to locate the Wi-Fi all week, the annoyed one, etc.), but the captain of the ship notices how energetic the loft group seems to be and is drawn to them because of it.

Meanwhile, in a hilarious C-plot, it turns out that Coach is afraid of boats/cruises/the ocean. That’s it. That is all I have to say about this delightful plotline because Damon Wayans Jr.’s performance during the safety demonstration says it all for me. It is, in fact, one of the funniest things I will ever witness him do on this show.

Things start to take a trip to weird-ville when Jess believes the captain of the ship to be flirting with Nick. Everyone – including Nick himself – calls Jess out on her behavior because it’s exactly the kind of thing that they all desperately wanted to avoid. But Jess is fine. She’s FINE. She’s acting jealous, even pursuing the conversation with Nick further later about the matter, and Nick rebuffs her by insisting that she’s being weird. We’ve seen Jess act jealous before, of course, and this time is no different. Actually, scratch that: this time is VERY different because now Nick and Jess have been in a relationship. They’re exes and they cannot, by their very natures, behave the same around one another as they once did. Ever since “Big News,” the two have been struggling to deal with their grief. Because that is, really, what the end of a relationship is. It’s a period of mourning. And right now, Nick and Jess are still experiencing the same stage of grief: denial. They’re in denial that their break-up will affect their relationship and “Cruise” teaches them that this simply isn’t true.

Jess then momentarily admits to Nick that she IS being weird but the conversation goes no further than that, as Nick suggests that the pair put aside their break-up and do all of the activities that the cruise has to offer. If they’re going to be on the ship, they might as well get their money’s worth, right? There is only one problem with Nick’s plan that the pair soon discovers: all of the activities in their itinerary focus on romance. Surely that can only end well for them, right?

Elsewhere on the ship, while Cece searches for a signal on her phone, Schmidt approaches with the class ring… and then Winston tickles Schmidt (hey, you looked like a Grumpy Gus after all) and the ring flies overboard. It’s a blessing that this happens to Schmidt, and I think he realizes that later on in the episode.

Meanwhile, Nick and Jess are experiencing all of the romantic activities they stubbornly to participate in and the montage of them trying to take a photo together, doing couples’ yoga, etc. is hilarious. It’s also evidence that these two people are still so weird around each other and that they HAVE to be weird around each other. They cannot return to their pre-dating friendship at the moment. And maybe they’ll never get back to that same place. But the montage is clear of one thing: Nick and Jess are insistent that they are totally different people who don’t belong together. (And while I don’t agree that Nick and Jess are polar opposites, nor that they don’t belong together, it is great to see both of them use this excuse. Why? Because it means that they’re trying to mask their pain through indifference. They’re not mourning their relationship right now – they’re using some trite phrases to cover up their feelings. And why is that good? Well, as Hook told Emma Swan recently in Once Upon a Time: “If it [a heart] can be broken, it means it still works.”)

But there is something really interesting that happens at night on the cruise: Nick and Jess sit on the stairs together and split some wine. And they, quite easily, slip back into the same rapport and easy conversation they used to have. They laugh and they smile and they start to FEEL again. The guards that they had put up around their emotions, pretending that they were okay with their new, weird relationship dissolve. Suddenly, they find themselves falling right back into their pre-break-up relationship. And… it’s not weird. They both are HAPPY. Perhaps it is the atmosphere or this semi-revelation or the wine but then Nick does something: he leans in to kiss Jess who quickly turns her head to rebuff him.

… Which quickly leads to more awkwardness than ever before as well as Nick and Jess deciding to stay away from each other for the remainder of the cruise and spend their time on opposite ends of the boat.

Winston discovers Jess the next day, where she explains (partially) what happened the night before. So Winston visits Nick, who agrees with Jess’ decision to remain separate and – to the horror of Winston – refrain from being friends for a while. Winston knew, of course, that Nick and Jess were awkward and weird around each other. But I don’t think that it ever occurred to him that they might never repair their friendship. So when Winston asks if Nick is really okay with staying away from Jess, he admits that he is not. And this is where Winston – my beautiful tropical fish – decides to offer a way to fix the problem. Winston, remember, has seen the lengths that Nick and Jess have gone to in order to think about him and ensure his happiness (“Big News”). So Winston’s first and foremost duty this episode is to ensure that the entire group is together and that the entire group is enjoying the cruise. He places the happiness of the WHOLE group above his own on the cruise. Isn’t that pretty great?

Later that night, Schmidt attempts to create a romantic moment on the deck between him and Cece, while the latter is scouring for Wi-Fi. Before Schmidt can tell Cece how he feels, she manages to get some service to talk to Buster and Schmidt wonders aloud why Buster is so important to Cece. It is then that Cece tries to answer Schmidt’s question (she never does give him a full answer and he stops her before she can), but instead of professing his love for her, Schmidt does something so wonderfully selfless: he tells her that he just wants her to be happy. And he ends the conversation there. Schmidt’s arc this season has been rocky at times and I know that not everyone was his biggest fan, especially during the beginning of season three. But I think that “Cruise” is what I have been waiting for in terms of the Schmidt/Cece arc – it seems like Schmidt is actually growing and learning from his mistakes. Moreover, he is putting the happiness of others above his own and that is wonderful. He backs off pursuing Cece or even insinuating that he is pursuing her for the remainder of the episode. I, quite honestly, admired him for that.

Winston then approaches the pair and explains the problem of Nick and Jess deciding to no longer be friends. The group then admits that the whole Nick-and-Jess debacle is their fault: they pressured the pair to not be weird during the trip and, in turn, it drove them apart. And since Schmidt, Winston, and Cece believe everything to be their fault, they decide to fix the problem… intervention-style! (This is one of the greatest group-centric moments of the series, second only to the hand-holding and humming in “Big News.”) The intervention consists of the entire group locking themselves as well as Nick and Jess in the state room in order to work through their issues. But first, Schmidt and the rest of the peanut gallery apologize for asking Nick and Jess not to be weird.

So in order to neutralize the weirdness, Cece, Coach, and Winston admit to something that makes them weird. It’s an understated but really delightful moment in “Cruise” because it reminds us that weirdness isn’t something that is just confined to Nick and Jess’ break-up. EVERYONE is weird and yet, they’re all friends. And perhaps they are all friends because that weirdness bonds them together and sets them apart from all of the normal and functioning adults in their lives. Nick and Jess then finally confess that their relationship is weird: last year it was weird because they had just started dating in “Elaine’s Big Day” and already lived together. This year it is weird because they broke up and still live together. But I think that what “Cruise” solidified was that it’s OKAY to be weird. In fact, that is who Nick and Jess are. They just cannot use their tendency to be weird as an excuse to forgo discussing their real issues. And in the end, they both agree that though their relationship is still fresh and weird, they’ll be okay.

Everyone is content with the resolution from the intervention and prepare to head out to dinner… until the door handle becomes stuck and the group gets trapped in the room until help arrives. That help, by the way, doesn’t arrive until three days later. But when the group arrives home to the loft, they all stare fondly at a photograph of them in a newspaper. They framed it to remember the trip by. And I can’t exactly articulate why this final scene made me so happy, but I think it’s this: every season finale of New Girl seems to end with the door propped open for the future. Though Nick and Jess’ break-up was devastating, there is so much story to tell because of it. These weird people are all kind of a mess. They’re broken and crazy and random and yet… they’re okay. They’re evolving and growing and learning and loving and losing. They’re making mistakes and picking themselves back up. They’re setting new goals and forming new relationships. They don’t have their lives together, but they’re all bonded by this one thread of truth: they’re learning to be okay, no matter where they are in life, whether in a loft in California or on a cruise ship in the middle of the ocean. Whether break-up or make-up or anything in between, the character of New Girl are on a continuous journey.

And I’m ready to follow them wherever this weird and wacky road takes us next.

Additional de-lovely aspect about the episode include:
  • Kudos to Queen Liz Meriwether on directing this episode! I thought she did a fantastic job because this was the first time she’s ever directed anything.
  • “I have strong qualms as well.”
  • “It’ll be like a floating all-you-can-eat prison.”
  • Schmidt’s horror over the use of nautical puns is fantastic.
  • “Shame, shame, I know your name!”
  • Oscar Nunez was absolute perfection as Doug.
  • “He’s paddling to heaven because he’s already dead.”
  • “600 dollars. That is 600 one-dollar bills. That’s the only way I can imagine it.”
  • The photographer telling Nick and Jess to think about the first time they kissed hit me with a tidal wave of feelings.
  • “Yo, pal. Yo.”
  • “It keeps my face warm and it sounds like the ocean.” “More than the OCEAN sounds like the ocean?”
  • “That’s like the President and the Vice-President not being best friends.”
  • “Open your cellar doors and let us taste your jams.”
  • “What if she’s bigger than you?” “She probably will be.” “Oh, snap.”
  • “Silence! I have the talking soap!”
Wow, I had SO much fun reviewing this entire season of New Girl. It has been quite a season, so thank you all who have read these reviews and have journeyed through the show with me over the past year. Enjoy summer, everyone, and be sure to check back here throughout the hiatus for some fun posts. Until then, folks! :)


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