Sunday, December 14, 2014

New Girl 4x11 "LAXmas" (There's No Place Like An Airport for the Holidays)

Original Airdate: December 9, 2014

I love the holidays. I really and truly do. There's something especially magical about driving down streets that are alighted with Christmas decorations -- with little snowmen and waving Santas and pristine icicles. Christmas is the time of the year where it feels like anything can happen. And maybe that's just me (but I don't think it is). In December, everyone seems a bit brighter. Everything seems a bit more hopeful. And that's what Jessica Day has always believed. New Girl's holiday episodes always deliver, and "LAXmas" is an episode that truly reminds us about what this show is really about. I've loved the fourth season of this gem of a comedy. I've loved the show since the moment the group did a slow dance chicken dance in "Wedding." And when I think about WHY that was the moment that solidified my love for this show, I think I've come to the conclusion that it's because New Girl will always be hopeful just like Christmas. It will always aim high and it will always believe in the magical things, but it will also always be grounded in something fundamental and important. And its roots are the relationships between these six individuals. Because no matter what happens -- break-ups or shenanigans or fights -- these people love and understand each other. Perhaps they're the only people who love and understand each other the way they do. In a way, I think what I'm finding is that New Girl's fourth season is delivering everything that Community did when it was at its best. Its focus is on the relationships and growth and the struggles between these people (and with people outside of their loft group). But the one thing that New Girl keeps coming back to -- the one thing that is always at its heart -- is the story of Nick and Jess and the beauty of their relationship.

Though "LAXmas" was a far cry in terms of Nick/Jess from episodes like "Cooler" or "Exes," there's an extremely pivotal moment to be found at the end of the episode and it's this thing (for lack of a better word) that the writers keep returning to. It's the idea that Nick will do anything for Jess because he knows her. And because he knows her -- because he knows what makes her scared or what cheers her up or what makes her cry -- he is always willing to do whatever it takes in order for her to be her best self. One of my favorite episodes to date is still "The 23rd," which is the show's first Christmas episode. In it, Jess and Paul struggle with their relationship and eventually break up after realizing that they are simply in different places (Paul loves Jess but Jess cannot say it back to Paul). And on the drive to the airport with a car crammed full of Nick, Jess, Winston, Schmidt, and Cece, Nick takes one look at Jess and stops the car on Candy Cane Lane -- a street that Jess had mentioned earlier in the episode was her favorite place to go on Christmas. The group had mocked her then, but the most significant thing about that moment is that Nick realized WHY Jess needed to see the houses lit up on that street and was willing to do whatever it took (he missed his flight AGAIN for Christmas for her) in order to be exactly what she needed in that moment. That's the thing about Nick and Jess's relationship that is such a thing of beauty to me: he will always be there for her. No matter what.

Furthermore (don't worry, I'll talk more about the actual episode in a bit), Nick -- at this episode's end -- comes back for Jess. He's literally in first class with Winston on a plane headed home to Chicago and what does he do? He gets off the plane, rallies the rest of the group together, tracks down Jess (after he called her and realized she was too scared to visit Ryan in London) and convinces her to fly to see her boyfriend because that's what she deserves. That's what she NEEDS ("you gotta just try"). New Girl's Christmas episodes -- if you look back on all of them -- always have moments like these: moments where the group just KNOWS what to do for each other during the holidays; moments where the entire loft rallies around one or more people. And that's what's beautiful about this show to me: it may be quirky and we may have sub-plots like Nick and Winston trying to convince passengers to give up their seats or Schmidt trying to get into the first class lounge, but the heart of this show will always be with Nick and Jess's quiet moments of understanding and the soul of this show -- the living and breathing soul of it -- will always be with the loft. Nick comes back for Jess in "LAXmas," because (as he said in season two's Christmas episode "Santa") "she's the kind of girl a guy would come back for."

(I'll pause to let you marinate on that truth, okay?)

So now that we've established that I loved this episode and have been loving everything about New Girl's fourth season (including the not-overt-but-still-there-Nick/Jess and a holiday episode written by my favorite former Community partners Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson), let's talk more about "LAXmas," shall we?

It's funny (or maybe just ironic) that all of my shows this year seem to be revolving around the central idea of fear. Comedies and dramas are exploring deep ideas and concepts of identity and morality and what makes us afraid. New Girl is doing that this year with Jess, as she attempts to recover from her relationship with Nick. What I love about "LAXmas" is this: it's an episode that reminds us that Jess is not afraid to fail -- she doesn't even GET that far -- but afraid to try. Presumably, before Spencer, Jess didn't have many serious relationships. And then she moved in with a guy who was cheating on her and her entire world -- literally everything she believed to be true about love and herself as a person as a result -- fell apart. She moved in with strangers and tried to learn how to be whole again. There was Paul and Russell and Sam and then Nick.

Nick, who Jess loved deeply and desperately. Nick, who was her best friend and roommate. Nick, who kissed her and loved her and wanted to be with her. But just as quickly as their relationship began, it ended, and Jess hasn't been the same since. She's spent the better part of the fourth season loving with only parts of her heart, not the whole thing. She's been afraid to try to be happy because she remembers all too well what happiness with Nick felt like. And Jess cannot bear to have that kind of happiness torn away from her again. So she hides and makes excuses and the one person who knows her better than anyone else calls her out on it. Nick knows that Jess is afraid and he coaxes her into a relationship with Ryan because he wants her to be at her happiest and the only way that she can do that is if she learns to ALLOW herself the opportunity.

In "LAXmas," Jess agrees to fly to London to spend the holiday with Ryan and his family. It's a huge step in their relationship, but it is something that also exhilarates Jess, too. She WANTS to have adventures and fall in love and go to another country. Make no mistake about it, Jess doesn't want to stay home for Christmas alone. Not really. But it's all Jess believes she can handle. It's all she believes that she deserves. She's self-conscious and scared and it's heartbreaking to listen to her talk about how she isn't good enough for Ryan or his family. But I'm getting ahead of myself: the gang decides to carpool to LAX so they can all catch their flights for Christmas. Schmidt and Cece are headed to New York (the former to Long Island, the latter to the city). Nick and Winston are headed home to Chicago. And Coach? Well, Coach is going to Hawaii instead of spending time with his family in Detroit because he needs a break.

(I won't talk about it later on, so here is what I will say about Coach's story in "LAXmas": it was perfect. I loved that we got the chance to see Coach throughout the episode be so typically COACH. He is defensive and a loner and yet... that's just a front. He really cares about his niece and clearly will do anything to see her smile because at the episode's end, he flies home instead of to Hawaii. I really enjoyed getting the chance to see Coach so selfless. I really did.)

Unfortunately, when the gang arrives at the airport, they're thrown into chaos as flights are delayed due to inclement weather. Jess, who always comes to the rescue, manages to secure flights for Schmidt and for Cece and for Coach, but Winston and Nick are placed on a waiting list. And when she tries to negotiate with Barry (fabulous guest star Billy Eichner), things go awry and she makes the boys' situation even worse. Nick and Winston then take it into their own hands in order to secure seats for the flight home and it's hilarious.

Elsewhere, Schmidt and Cece get into the first class lounge and the man pretends to be wealthy in order to earn the favor of an older, successful businessman in the lounge. This season, New Girl has committed to having Schmidt on a journey to wealth and popularity. He wants to be a millionaire. He wants to find financial and professional success because he thinks it will fulfill him. And really, this is in-character for Schmidt, is it not? He hasn't had a lot of stability in his life and I'd like to think that this lack of familial and relational solid ground is what motivates him to be "better" -- to he thinks that finding happiness is as easy as finding the first-class lounge and he is willing to do anything to secure that happiness.

... Well, everything except for ONE thing. You see, Schmidt talks a big game. All the time. He thinks it'll come easy to him to be rich and successful. He thinks he will change, but that it'll be for the better: that people will respect him more and maybe, just maybe, he will finally look in the mirror and love himself. Because right now -- after all that has happened with Schmidt losing Elizabeth and Cece and losing his own living space -- I don't think Schmidt likes, much less loves, himself. And what he finds in "LAXmas" is that what he thought he could become is not what he wants. At all. He doesn't want to be like the man in the lounge who treats women like they're commodities. He doesn't want to be the person who can wave a gold card at a problem to make it go away.

He thought he wanted that life, but he's actually quite disgusted by it. Schmidt's trajectory this season is shaping up to be really beautiful. He chooses friendship -- just friendship -- with Cece over the chance to become wealthy: the ONE thing he's repeatedly mentioned will fulfill him. Instead of money, Schmidt finds that he's fulfilled by Cece's presence. And the moment she refers to him as her friend and notes how thankful she is that they're friends, you can see the momentary pain across Schmidt's face. And I almost expected him to tell her that he wants more out of their relationship. The old Schmidt would have done that. (The second season Schmidt DID that.) But this time... this time, Schmidt exudes patience and beautifully smiles and tells her that he is thankful for their friendship.

That, friends, is how you write the Schmidt/Cece relationship.

Jess, meanwhile, becomes more and more anxious as Ryan sends her photos from his totally casual Christmas (... in a mansion). Suddenly, the woman is spiraling into a panic, letting Barry talk her out of flying to London. And Jess listens to his advice because she is really looking for any excuse to pull the metaphorical rip cord on their relationship. Again: Jess isn't scared to fail; she's scared to even start. And Barry makes the argument that she should leave all of her problems for the new year. That's what he does. He spends Christmas alone and buries his issues whenever they become too difficult to cope with. That's horrible advice, as Barry's life is comedic but rather lonely, and it's a glimpse into Jess's future if she doesn't open herself up to love again, even if it means potential hurt down the line.

So when Nick calls Jess from his plane and hears that she is still in the airport, he immediately calls her back to get her to open up to him. Everything about this final Nick/Jess moment is so beautiful and important. He knows what scares her and he knows that -- even if they're not together -- in that moment, she really needs him to be there. And so, as he has done in years prior, Nick halts his own plans to help save her.

Saving Jess comes as naturally to Nick as breathing and whether or not they're romantically together, it's a truth that is always expressed in New Girl. He cares about her, genuinely, and he fights for her happiness. They all do, really. All of these weird and wonderful people fight WITH each other occasionally, but they always fight FOR each other harder.

And I can't think of anything better to exemplify the Christmas season than fighting for the people you love to be happy. Can you?

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
  • Matt Fusfeld and Alex Cuthbertson are quickly becoming two of my favorite writers on this show. I seriously love their episodes. Thank you both for creating such a stellar episode!
  • "Here, I'm a six. Six-ish. I'm a Chicago ten."
  • "You're like my mom. But in ways I can appreciate." Winston got all the best lines in this episode and anyone who disagrees will have to fight me on it.
  • "I live with a MILLION people --" "-- four --"
  • I love that this show has done product placements in a few ways. Up until "LAXmas," I thought the boys' drive to Prince's  house in "Prince" was the funniest. I was wrong. The product placement for the Ford Fusion in this episode was absolutely hilarious. It was meta without extending the gag for too long, which I appreciate.
  • This episode had some fabulous guest stars and I loved Billy Eichner's debut and the return of Steve Agee as Outside Dave!
  • "Red eye? What do I look like, a twenty-four year old who's too afraid to break up with his college girlfriend?"
  • "The sky's too fickle. It's the play place for butterflies."
  • "Sir, I'd like the strongest drink you have... and a wine spritzer on the side in case I don't like it."
  • "Well, well, well, if it isn't old Bangs Larue."
  • "It was worse than the last season of Scrubs."
  • "NEW YORK. LONG ISLAND. BILLY JOEL." This whole scene was amazing.
  • "You sneaky Indian mouse" is the new "You crafty jackrabbit." :)
  • "... To be fair, we were in the food court, but it's beautiful. Keep going."
Well, that is it until the new year, New Girl fans and friends! I'll see you back here in 2015 for more reviews. Until then, have a very merry Christmas. :)

1 comment:

  1. can't clarify how great it feels to hear other individuals take after an indistinguishable television way from me on Tuesday nights. At long last some sound judgment! Ryan is such a nothing character. I couldn't care less how English or how apparently consummate he will be; he isn't amusing so he doesn't fit in with this show.