Wednesday, January 14, 2015

New Girl 4x13 "Coming Out" (And Daring To Be Unlikable)

"Coming Out"
Original Airdate: January 13, 2015

I heard it said this weekend that approximately every day of your life you will get asked the following two questions or some variation of them: "What are you doing?" and "Where are you going?" Those are two really interesting and common questions. But they're also really weighted questions because in order to answer them, we need to know what our purpose in life is and how, exactly, we are striving toward accomplishing that purpose. In New Girl, occasionally our lovable band of loft misfits seems aimless -- they flit from week-to-week without much direction or consequences for their actions.

But "Coming Out" did what the series does when it is really, really good: it reminded us that these people have lives (every single one of them) and with their lives come both good and bad consequences. I really enjoyed the fact that this episode provided us with some real truths about the characters of Jess, Nick, and Schmidt as well as their journeys toward maturity and purpose. Jess is the kind of person who cares what other people think about her. She can't help it, really, and it's why she's often so frazzled and so paralyzed: she wants everyone to like her. Jess is a lot like my mom. My mom -- whom I love dearly -- gets worried about what others think of her. She'll have conversations with me regarding others' perceptions and she'll ask: "But what if they --?" and I'll tell her to stop caring about how others might see her. My mom and Jessica Day are both good people with good intentions and the problems that they face -- the stress that they impose on themselves -- is just that: self-imposed. But Jess learns a valuable lesson about conquering her fears (and herself) in "Coming Out." Meanwhile, there is a Nick/Schmidt story this week that was one of my favorites because it finally addressed something that you all had mentioned in the comments section a few weeks ago -- the fact that Nick Miller seems to be kind of aimlessly wandering around in the background of episodes without a real, season-arcing trajectory. "Coming Out" provided some great depth to Nick's character (and actually, I'll talk more about him and some Britta Perry comparisons later on) as well as to Schmidt's character in terms of their purposes in the show and in life, in general.

But before we discuss all of that, let's briefly cover the plot for this week's episode!

Coach is intent on getting Jess and Ryan to reveal their relationship to the other teachers at school. And if you think it odd that the man is so supportive of the couple, you wouldn't be in the minority. Ryan and Jess wonder aloud why Coach is so insistent on helping them reveal their romance to the staff of the school and the man admits that once Ryan is officially off the market, he will once again become the "hot teacher" at school. There's not a lot to say about the Coach part of the A-story this week except for the fact that it exemplified how insecure Coach really can be occasionally and also how self-sacrificial he can be when he wants (he goes in to try and rescue Jess from the bees at the end of the episode). I've loved seeing a more dimensional Coach this year -- one who is believably flawed and yet still endearing. I mean, just watch his introduction last year (even up until episodes like "Basketsball") and you'll realize how much he's already grown.

And Jess decides that she's going to tell Principal Foster that she's dating Ryan. Because she can do that. She's a strong, capable woman after all. What I've always admired about New Girl as a series is its construction of Jessica Day. Jess is a very feminine, delicate, unassuming young woman. She's dismissed as childish, though, for the way she dresses and the fact that she has bangs and glasses and is in her thirties. She's consistently under-appreciated as a character and a woman on the show (notably most in "Jess and Julia") because she's perceived as weak. And what I love about Jess Day is that she's a perfect example of a strong, female character that is relatable. I mean, don't get me wrong: I love characters like Sara Lance/Canary on Arrow and women like Black Widow in The Avengers. But... I can't relate to them. I'm not a kick-butt heroine who wields weapons. And there's nothing wrong with those women, but I just don't fully connect with them.

I connect with Jess. I'm weird. I like to sing. I don't know exactly what I'm doing with my life and dangit -- I love jewelry and purses and adorable printed dresses! But, as Jess said in the first season, loving those things and being "girly" doesn't mean that she isn't smart and tough and strong. Jess is flawed in a way that is so relatable and believable for a lot of women. She cares about what people think about her. She gets insecure. She spends an inordinate amount of time in the morning trying to fix her bangs so that they're just so. And when people are mad at her or even remotely displeased, she panics. That's what happens in "Coming Out" the moment that Jess decides to tell her principal and the staff that she and Ryan are dating. That's what has been holding her back from doing it earlier: fear. And really, season four is very centered on Jess's professional and personal fears and insecurities that it made this episode really refreshing because no, Jess doesn't change who she is. She doesn't become Cece. She still cares how people see her. And she still is insecure. But there's a moment of confidence at the end of the episode that I'll talk about (and a very important bombshell that is dropped) which endeared me even more toward Jessica Day and reminded me that progress doesn't look like an instant change in personality and belief. Progress means taking baby steps in a new direction.

Elsewhere in this episode, Schmidt begins to literally get physically ill from all of his work stress and Nick stresses over his friend's ailment (namely, an ulcer). I love that consistency has been such a focus in this season of New Girl -- more so than any other year -- in that the series constantly mentions Schmidt's quest to become a millionaire. Since Schmidt is intent on being rich, he needs to be landing more accounts at work. The sponge account was fine, but he's focused on another and his boss Gina (the always delightful guest star Michaela Watkins) is really putting pressure on him to do his job better. But Nick is worried because he sees what work is doing to Schmidt. Nick and Schmidt's relationship is one of the best parts about this show because like Cece and Jess, occasionally we -- as an audience -- forget how long these two have known each other and how much they have been through in their friendship.

Make no mistake about it: Nick and Schmidt really and genuinely care about each other. But sometimes... sometimes I think they get caught up in their own trajectories that they forget how to keep the person that they used to be in tact while moving forward. For Schmidt, it's remembering that once upon a time, wealth and prowess used to not concern him. He used to be content to be hanging out with Nick. He used to be HAPPY like that. "Coming Out" was a great reminder for both of these characters that those facets of their personalities haven't changed. They've just buried them throughout the years in order to cope with life. Schmidt has convinced himself that work is all that there is in life and once he achieves wealth, he will achieve happiness. But... he's already BEEN happy, without wealth. And I think that Schmidt is the kind of person who continues to work because it prevents him from thinking about everything else that is happening in his life. If he can control his wealth, he feels secure. If he can just control that ONE thing, he is okay.

But what was so brilliant about "Coming Out" was that it also provided us with a really great Nick Miller moment, too. Over the years, Nick has become Britta-fied. For those of you who don't watch Community, let me explain: in the first season of the series, Britta knew what she wanted out of life. She was sassy and confident and challenged Jeff and the people around her. She was vulnerable in some ways, but strong in a lot more. But as the season progressed, Britta became dumber. She became the butt of jokes. She began to act more aloof, more ditzy, more oblivious. And that's what I feel is happening with Nick. Nick has always been quirky, but the one criticism I have over the past few years (and was evident in the conversation he has with Schmidt about robots) is that Nick has sort of become a dumber version of himself. This is the guy who went to law school, who actually PASSED the bar. And much like Britta -- who used to have witty retorts and snarky responses for Jeff -- Nick has suddenly become the weird, oblivious guy in the loft. And I don't exactly know WHY, just like I don't know why Britta suddenly had to become "dumbed down" in Community either. But it's frustrating because I know how much potential both characters have and how SMART both of them actually are and watching them flit about in stories to provide silly commentary for the sake of a joke disappoints me.

In spite of that criticism of his characterization, Nick Miller had a great wake-up call in this episode. A lot of you have commented about how Nick has no solid trajectory this year -- how everyone else has a story and Nick just kind of exists in the background or is alone ("Landline"). There's a great meta moment when Nick is trying to get Schmidt to stop working where the latter wonders aloud what happened to his best friend. That gives Nick pause, because Schmidt points out that Nick has no trajectory in his life -- he sleeps until late into the afternoon, spends his time on the couch with Kai, and goes to work occasionally. Apart from that, Nick is rather aimless. This visibly strikes Nick (kudos to Jake Johnson for always delivering the best facial nuances) and you can tell that it's a slap in the face to him. His best friend sees him as lazy. It's one thing, of course, to see yourself as something -- to occasionally feel insecure -- but it's another to have someone else call you out on your insecurities.

And I do feel like insecurity is such a huge theme this season because everyone is in transition -- Winston is adjusting to a new job with new people; Jess is adjusting to a new position and a new relationship; Cece is adjusting to a new job as well as a new path in life; Coach is embarking on a new year with a new job, too; and Schmidt is headed in a new direction with new goals, even though he's back in an old-new living situation. Everyone seems to be moving forward EXCEPT Nick, who is just staying stagnant. And that's something he's terribly afraid of (see: "Landline"), too: that everyone else is just moving around and forward without him. So when Schmidt judges Nick for his choices (or lack thereof), you can see it visibly affects Nick.

Of course, Schmidt isn't totally in the right, either: Nick accuses him of being so consumed with work and money and climbing his way to the top that he's missing actually ENJOYING life as a result. He'll never find total fulfillment, Nick insinuates, until he learns to stop focusing so much on things that will disappear in the end. And at the end of "Coming Out," both men apologize to one another for their argument and realize that the other was right. Nick realizes that he HAS been lazy and has basically been coasting but that he misses the days where he would invent things, where he would feel a sense of accomplishment and pride. And Schmidt apologizes for letting work consume him. He sees Gina's life and realizes that it's not one he wants to emulate at all. He wants to have more to show for his life at the end of it than just accounts he's landed. And in order to find balance in their lives, Schmidt and Nick decide to start working together on projects in order to remind each other of what's important in life and find purpose with each other. Awww.

"Coming Out" sees Jess begin to falter in her confidence -- once she tells her staff that she and Ryan are dating, Principal Foster warns that people will begin to turn on her and cry "favoritism" at the drop of a hat. And when Ryan proposes field trip options for the students and his is the clear best, Jess decides that they will go with his option. Of course, everyone does begin to cry favoritism and Jess slowly becomes overwhelmed with discord and people crowding her office during office hours. That breaks her and she agrees to a field trip of Lorenzo's suggestion (which ends up breaking every child labor law as he has the kids work in his back yard raking leaves and doing landscaping), against her better judgement. This results in Lorenzo knocking a wasp's nest loose and Coach and Jess ending up with a lot of stings.

When Jess admits that she's afraid at the bar, Cece advises her to walk into the school and essentially tell everyone that she doesn't care what they think. Cece is a commanding presence; she walks into a room with confidence and doesn't dwell too much on whether or not people like her -- she just exists. Jess... isn't like that. Jess is like me: we are seemingly confident and laugh things off when they bother us. But we secretly worry that people don't like us and we fret over that thing we said a week ago, because we wonder if other people remember it or are offended by it. And we don't like offending people. We don't like people NOT liking us. We're afraid to be disagreeable. We're terrified to be unlikable.

So what Jess realizes during her conversation with Cece and Coach is that she can't please everyone. She'll never be able to. And she can't expect herself to ever be completely okay with the fact that people dislike her. She just has to be confident in who she is -- confident in the fact that she's occasionally insecure. It seems like an oxymoron, but it's not because THIS is what we've waited thirteen episodes for: a moment of complete and utter fearlessness from Jess. And when Jess decides that she's going to be okay with who she is -- when she completely embraces it -- she drops an "I love you" to Ryan.

I'm sure a lot of people will have a lot of opinions about this moment, so here are mine: I actually liked it. I liked that it was a moment in which Jess was completely unguarded. I like that she FINALLY got over her fears of relationships and difficulties thereof and was able to actually be honest and okay with who she was. Like I said earlier: this season has been centered around Jess's fears, post-relationship with Nick. Everyone (even Nick) has encouraged her to lay down her guards and to let other people in. And even in her relationship with Ryan, Jess has struggled to do so. This moment was great because it finally allowed us to see Jess embrace and be okay with who she is as a person. It was a moment of total security and it wasn't drawn out and it wasn't built-up and that's what made it so real. Love declarations don't have soaring music and dramatic camera pans in real life. I loved "Prince" and I loved Nick and Jess's declarations because they were true to their characters and their story as a couple at the time.

But I actually really liked this moment between Ryan and Jess because it reminded us that while in some ways, everyone on New Girl is struggling to close a chapter in their lives, new chapters are unfolding before them and they have to either embrace those moments or regret the moments they never seized. This was Jessica Day being confident. And this was her finally seizing a new, uncomfortable, exciting moment.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
  • Sophia Lear wrote this episode and I didn't get the chance to say it above, but I really loved what she did with these stories and how she managed to weave similar themes into both of them. Plus, she always writes some of the best, most outlandish, and fun stuff for Winston.
  • "Did that sound just come from your body?"
  • "I trust you, Ms. Day. Mostly because I don't want to read this."
  • I liked Kai in this episode, but maybe that's because there was a very small dose of her and she appeared rather organically.
  • "Yeah, that's your ulcer telling you to stop being a dick."
  • "What does space have? You can't even walk on the ground."
  • I absolutely died at the fact that Kai and Nick swaddled Schmidt. Not just because my job creates online safety training videos and one of the ones that we offer is for new mothers and instructs them on how to swaddle babies (which, when swaddled, are basically baby burritos).
  • Damon Wayans, Jr. doing English accents was only the second-best thing he did in this episode.
  • The entire sub-plot of Winston and his magic hazing crystal was so absurd but so well-integrated that I honestly cannot say anything negative about it.
  • "That boy looks like he was raised in a muffin!"
  • "Stop rhyming!" "All the timing?"
  • Also: Michaela Watkins returned in this episode! I met her in Los Angeles last month and she's just as sweet and hilarious as you might presume.
  • "Respond to my sharing, please." "You're putting out a real creepy, murdery vibe."
  • The entire gang (minus Cece) country line-dancing at the end of the episode was so perfect and hilarious that I may or may not have laughed the entire way through it.
Thank you all, my darling readers, for reading this New Girl review. Until next week! :)


  1. Hey Jenn!
    like always an great review with great examples and explainings :) don't saw the episode yet, but i will do at the weekend.
    I love the way you are write your reviews, because you don't write only about the positiv facts and situations about your favourites, but also about little things, like you separate A, B and C Story :)

    But I dont like the fact, that Jess said "I love you" to Ryan.... :( it seems as Nick and Jess never have been an special relationsship before. It's so annoying -.-
    I like season 4 a lot, because of the group-focus but the Nick and Jess Thing is excites me in a bad way :D I want more Scenes with Nick and Jess... :(

    What do YOU think about it? :)

    Aylin <3

    1. AYLIN! Always so delightful to hear from you. How are you doing, friend?

      Thank you for the compliment! I enjoy writing about the little things that happen and breaking my reviews up into discussions of A/B/C stories. You're so sweet.

      See, I don't mind the fact that she said "I love you" to Ryan mostly because Nick wasn't even the first person Jess said "I love you" to. So while that relationship was special, definitely, it wasn't her FIRST relationship. Nick and Jess have a special connection and relationship that Ryan/Jess just can never have, even though I like them well enough and think this is what Jess needs right now.

      I agree in that the group-centered episodes are what are making this season so great but also yes, I do miss some Nick/Jess stories. Hopefully we will get some in the near future!

      Thanks again for reading and commenting, darling! :)

  2. :))
    i am fine and you?

    yeey :) i like reading reviews, but others are all focused on the main-story, but yours are so detailed and lovely, even when you have not seen the episode, you understand it, because you don't miss anything :)

    YES! you're right! That makes sense :)
    I hope it too... It was always so funny, when Nick and Jess have scenes together!

    Next week there will be 4x14, it is frightening how fast the time is running :-o

    I have to thank YOU Jenn :) <3
    Till next week then :)