Wednesday, February 4, 2015

New Girl 4x14 "The Swuit" (Hanging in the Balance)

"The Swuit"
Original Airdate: February 3, 2015

I've likely said this before -- since I've been around for three years, actually, it's more probable that I've definitely said this before -- but I really like being in charge of group projects. In fact, I will almost always volunteer to take the lead on them. I'm a type-A perfectionist who's a tad controlling when she gets a bit of power. (At least I can admit that, right?) The reason that I like being in charge is because I like when things are done my way, on my timeline, with my approval. The weird thing is that I'm actually pretty good at group projects and working with other people... until they don't pull their weight. You see, partnerships and group projects only work if there's a balance: you cannot have an entire group of perfectionists working on a project because nothing will ever get done (because it'll never be done "right"). Conversely, you can't have an entire group of slackers working on a project either (because it'll never be done, period). Life requires balance; partnerships require balance. It's this idea that Nick and Schmidt learn firsthand in this week's New Girl episode titled "Swuit."

The idea of balance is an idea that is inherently wrapped up in two truths: trust and compromise. Nick and Schmidt aren't the only two characters this week who learn about those truths, though. Our B-story focuses on Cece trying to make enough money at the bar to pay for college, but coming up short. Winston and Coach end up footing her bill and in the process, they learn more about what it means to make an investment in a person. (I'll talk about that idea later because it's a pretty good one.) Meanwhile, Jess tries to get Nick and Schmidt to compromise in their business partnership, but is finding that both men are so stubborn because neither wants to be bossed around.

(I feel ya. boys. I feel ya.)

Nick and Schmidt are pitching an idea of theirs to Lori Greiner -- the "swuit" which is a combination of sweatpants and a suit, you know, for when you're working out and have to go somewhere fancy later but don't have time to change outfits -- and realize that the prototype they ordered is... well, horrible. Like, beyond horrible. It's then that Nick and Schmidt begin to argue and they spend the rest of the episode arguing because they want to work together but they both want to be in charge. More specifically, they never want to meet each other halfway. And when you really think about it, this is so true of Nick and Schmidt's relationship in general. These are two men who couldn't work well in college together as business partners because they grew frustrated with each other. It's not that both of them have terrible ideas, really. It's simply that Nick and Schmidt are both extremely prideful and stubborn individuals who don't like budging from where they are. We see this constantly in their relationship -- Schmidt thinks he's better than Nick; Nick resents him for that. Nick does something Schmidt doesn't approve of (like in "Bells" or "Tinfinity"); Schmidt tries to take charge of everything for the both of them.

What's so interesting about the Nick/Schmidt dynamic is that both of them need each other -- Nick can occasionally be immature and needs Schmidt to keep him in line. But Schmidt needs Nick, too ("Keaton" proved that), which I think is something we -- the audience -- so easily forget. They work best when they're together and they only work together when they put aside their pride and egos. Jess is determined, as she always is, in "Swuit" to be the person who fixes other people's broken relationships. She's a fixer. It's just what she does. And so when she confesses to Winston that she wants to see Schmidt and Nick get along and work together rather than fight with each other and throw a wrench in the entire loft dynamic, Winston tells her that the male ego -- and Nick and Schmidt's egos -- are going to prevent that from happening. But Jess has a solution: remove the ego. Her whole goal in this episode is to capitalize on one truth that she knows with absolute certainty -- Nick and Schmidt care about each other.

These aren't two men who just met. They're not even two men who are just friends. These are two men who have known each other for a large portion of their lives and have lived with each other; they're closer than friends, really. They're partners. And Jess knows that the one way to get Nick and Schmidt to work together and get something accomplished is to utilize their bond as a way to break down egos. So she tells Nick that Schmidt is having "male problems," and tells Schmidt the same thing. And when the two men express concern and compassion for the other to Jess, she realizes she's solved a complex problem pretty easily. Or so she thinks. Spoiler alert: duping other people? Never the best or most permanent solution to a problem.

Meanwhile, Cece is having problems of her own that involve ego -- she doesn't want anyone's help or money in order to pay for college because that requires an obligation. I absolutely love that we're getting more of Cece's story in season four because she's such a great character on this show. She's smarter than she gives herself credit for and more resilient than most people assume. She's a lot more than just a pretty face and I love that she's working really hard to get what she wants this year. Winston feels compassion for Cece because he cares about her as his friend and wants to help. He turns on the puppy eyes at Coach and tries to persuade him to lend money to Cece. But Coach doesn't have a lot of money to spare and he's not about to throw what little he does at Cece. And that's when Winston and Coach decide that giving Cece money wouldn't be an obligation or a gift -- it would be an investment.

I love the notion that people are investments because... they are. Think about it: we spend a lot of our time getting to know people and learn more about them. We invest in them, constantly: our time, our money, our resources, our emotions. People really ARE investments. And when we spend those things (time, money, emotions, etc.) on them, we tell them that they're of value to us. We tell them that they're worth investing in. And I think it's rather sweet that at the end of this episode, Coach and Winston prove to Cece that she's worth the money they spent on her. Of course, their story isn't without a few missteps -- Coach agrees to give Cece the money as an investment and then he and Winston show up at Cece's college in her class and judge her choice in classes, telling her that if they're spending their money on her, they want their investment to go to something better than what she's doing. She understandably is frustrated with them, but at the end of the episode (as I said earlier) Winston and Coach show their support in spite of their lack of understanding about her choice in college classes.

That's really what the B-story was about at its core: Cece learning to let other people help her (she was hesitant to because Jess always freaks out about Cece not having any money and goes overboard in an attempt to help her -- a character trait that is so distinctly Jessica Day) and Winston and Coach learning to care about Cece and support her, even if they don't understand her decisions.

Back in the A-story, Nick and Schmidt show compassion for each other and are able to work together and put aside their desire for control... until they both realize that Jess duped them. Then they're furious and insist on working separately and pitching separately. The problem then is that Nick forgets the prototype for their new design at the loft and Jess -- upon realizing this -- rushes to give it to them... and spills coffee on herself, in the process, requiring her to don the only clean clothes in her car: the "swuit." Nick and Schmidt are failing hard at their pitch when Jess comes to rescue them with an equally horrible pitch for the "swuit." Can I just say that I love how Nick and Schmidt end up getting money but not because their pitch is good? I love when television series provide realistic expectations for their characters -- characters don't always have to succeed in order to develop. Sometimes the best way for characters to grow is to throw them flat on their faces.

And flat on their faces, Nick and Schmidt are. They get paid $10,000 to never let the "swuit" see the light of day (since it was an idea already in existence with a different name that was being developed). But that doesn't solve their problems. Nick and Schmidt still have issues meeting halfway in the episode: they need Jess to be their referee and I think there's something inherently refreshing about the fact that even though Nick and Schmidt come to an understanding at the end of "Swuit," they also don't automatically change and become better people because of it. They still struggle to compromise, but I think the purpose of this episode wasn't to "fix" Nick and Schmidt as characters -- it was to get them to understand and appreciate each other a bit more; to understand that they both need each other to create balance in their partnership and yes, occasionally, that does mean one person taking charge and the other being more passive.

Nick's motivated now and more passionate than he's ever been about something -- he's excited to do and create, even if the product fails. And that's so great because as I said in "Landline," Nick Miller has been in a bit of a rut this year after breaking up with Jess and watching everyone else find their passions and move on without him. I love that Nick is learning more about himself and becoming better. Unfortunately for him, that also means that sometimes in your journey to self-discovery, you lose people. Kai breaks up with Nick in "Swuit" because he's becoming too goal-oriented and driven. How's that for irony, right? Someone broke up with Nick because HE was the one who was too driven. I think this development for Nick is going to be really great and interesting. I can't wait to see him continue to not just believe he has potential, but actually act on it. And I could write a novel about Nick Miller as a character, but I'll spare you.

For now, though, New Girl's focus seems to be on establishing a group dynamic in which everyone supports everyone else -- in which Cece has stories with Winston and Coach where they learn to care about and invest in each other; where Nick and Schmidt learn to find new balance in their old relationship, and where Jess learns that sometimes she needs to intervene in order to solve problems, but other times... well, other times you can just let your friends make their own decisions, solve their own problems, and dance around to songs on the jukebox.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode:
  • This episode was REALLY funny and written by someone on staff who I've never heard of before penning an episode -- Noah Garfinkel. I laughed a lot throughout the entirety of the episode and thought that the running gags ("Classic Winston and Coach mess-around") and the meaningful scenes were executed so well. Additionally, this wasn't just an episode that was funny for the sake of being funny. The Nick/Schmidt story was really solid and I was so happy that there was a Coach/Cece/Winston B-plot. Have we ever had one of those before, besides "Micro"? (Wait... I guess "Sister" was technically one, right?) So thank you, Noah, for a really great episode and for also being able to construct a story that included Jess but that didn't make her the main focus. I thought that was well-executed, too.
  • "I am just a man. I am not a god!"
  • "That sounds like the video in middle school that taught me about periods."
  • Nick and Schmidt yelling compliments at Jess was one of the best parts of this whole episode.
  • "Don't get me started on the male power dynamic. I will talk your ear off." WINSTON BISHOP FOR THE WIN, EVERYONE.
  • "Classic Winston and Coach mess-around."
  • "What?" "What?" "Huh?" "What?" That gag was one of the most perfectly timed and executed ones since the beginning of this season with the buzzer in "Dice" and Nick's tap shoes.
  • "We wrote the check out to Cece." "We do not know your full name." A meta commentary on how we have two different last names for Cece? I appreciate this.
  • Nick called Schmidt "sweetheart" and it just about made my night.
  • "YOU ARE NOTHING BUT AN ANGEL." There was a smidgen of Nick/Jess throughout the episode if you squinted and it was delightful.
  • "... Oh crap."
  • "I now pronounce me comfortable."
  • Nick and Kai broke up which is sad for him but okay for me because we didn't really see much of her anyway. She was just kind of this elusive almost-presence throughout the season.
  • "You need money? Oh my god, I'm selling my car."
  • The final scene with Coach, Winston, Nick, and Schmidt singing to the jukebox made me so ridiculously happy you don't even know.
Welcome back, New Girl friends and fans! Did you miss me? I missed me. (... kidding.) What did you think of "Swuit"? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. Until then! :)


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