Wednesday, February 18, 2015

New Girl 4x16 "Oregon" (Sunshine and Smiles)

Original Airdate: February 17, 2015

I broke up with my college boyfriend when I moved back home from West Palm Beach to Orlando. It's a separation of about three hours, but the gap was significant enough to me that I couldn't fathom sustaining our relationship for that long. Not while he was away, living his own life and I was trying to navigate a new college and new friendships and a new-old normal. So I decided that long-distance just wasn't for me. I need to be around people in order to feel connected to them. I need them to spend time with me, even if it's just an hour for coffee or a quick bite to eat. And when you're dating someone who lives hours away or states away or an entire continent away, you don't have that luxury. You try to make what little time you have together stretch across the lengths of time that you don't. And for some people, Skype dates and once-a-month meet-ups are fine. They're not preferable, but they're fine. For the majority of others, that's not the case.

Jess Day falls into the latter category in "Oregon," an episode that uproots the gang from California and throws them into the rainy hometown of their quirky friend. Jess and Ryan are still together at the beginning of the episode, trying to figure out a way to make their relationship work in spite of the extremely long distance between them. Because that's who Jessica Day is -- she's someone who works for relationships and fights for them, too. She always has. But what happens when the other person isn't willing to fight as hard or at all? "Oregon" is a group-centric episode, as many this season have been, but it's actually another perfect example of how New Girl can structure a story about one character and manage to create growth for others, too. And actually, a lot of this episode doesn't even hinge on Jess: it hinges on Nick Miller and what he's willing to do for a woman that he (I will argue this) still loves.

So let's talk about all of the shenanigans and emotions that made up "Oregon," shall we?

First of all, this episode was written by Nina Pedrad who also wrote "Exes" (arguably one of the best episodes of last season). Here's what I really appreciate about the way that Nina writes Nick Miller: she understands him, completely, and writes him as compassionate and loving and caring in spite of all of his quirks. He's so well-meaning in "Exes" and so caring and tender toward Jess and her feelings throughout that episode. Similarly, in "Oregon," Nick is so caring and thoughtful toward Jess. HE is the one who tells the rest of the group that they're going to support her no matter what. He tells them to put aside any plans they had for the weekend and spend it focusing on cheering Jess up -- on reflecting nothing but sunshine and smiles. And that's so admirable because Nick isn't dating Jess anymore. He has no real reason or necessity to cheer Jess up. In fact, for most of the episode, a relationship with Jess is completely off the table. And yet he still does everything in his power to make her happy. Exactly like Schmidt says he will do for Cece. Nina has a knack for balancing crazy shenanigans with genuine emotion and that was definitely present in "Oregon." I absolutely loved it.

So Jess and the gang are getting ready to head out to Portland for Bob Day's wedding (either ironically or purposefully, Nina Pedrad ALSO wrote the episode this season where Bob and Ashley get engaged), and is leaving a voicemail to Ryan before they go. He's supposed to meet her in Oregon and she's supposed to show him all of her favorite places. He's going to meet her family, too, and she's excited about that. But Nick knows better (and so do Coach, Winston, and Schmidt). Everyone knows that long-distance has been difficult for Jess but no one knows this better than Nick Miller does. Because Nick KNOWS Jess. And I don't just mean that he knows her because he's dated her. I mean that he knows her because she's his best friend. She's the love of his life. She's the one person he will never shake from his system (to borrow a Community reference there).

I can't recall which review I said this in -- so cookies to whomever finds the actual quote -- but I once talked about how I would be interested to see Nick and Jess's relationship after they broke up. Would he continue to be the guy who is always there for her even if she was dating someone else or would he have to learn to back off? Because Nick is always that person for Jess. He's always the one who shows up. He was the first to run to the restaurant in the pilot. She is the girl he came back for in "See Ya." He's the one who went after her in "Re-launch" and "Elaine's Big Day." Nick will always be there for Jess -- to hold an ice pack to her face or to build a dresser for her or to sit with her in the men's bathroom and encourage her. The fact that they're broken up doesn't change that one bit. This is the fundamental truth of New Girl in terms of the Nick/Jess relationship: Nick will always -- always -- be there for her. Because he will always love her. And he would do anything for her.

That's what happens in Oregon: Jess keeps thinking that she's hearing her phone and that Ryan has called (the entire group's frustration over her doing that is hilarious), but when Ryan finally does contact Jess, it's to tell her that he's not coming. His reasoning? He has to work on Monday and it doesn't really make sense to fly out and then fly back again. Jess is heartbroken and Nick sweeps in like the constant white knight he is and tells her that the entire group is so excited to see the Portland tour Jess had planned and they're going to go to all eighteen (or twenty) stops with her. It's this beautiful group gesture, too, because all of them pretend that it was totally the plan all along to do this. I love when the group comes together to help encourage one of their own even when they would rather be doing anything else. And that's such a New Girl staple too, really: the entire group doing something absurd to help one of their friends out. Nick knows that what Ryan is doing isn't okay or cool but he refrains from insulting Ryan until later on in the episode.

Instead, before the tour begins the next day, Nick calls a group meeting and reminds them that they need to spend the entire weekend encouraging Jess and getting her thoughts away from how Ryan has let her down. So they agree, wonderfully, and embark on the tour. There's a B-ish story in this episode that has to do with Schmidt and Cece (and Winston) which is amazing and beautiful. As we know from last week's "The Crawl," Cece has started to develop feelings for Schmidt again. I think this is perfect, honestly, and that the New Girl writers and producers have handled the evolution of Schmidt SO well this season. He's become lovable and endearing again. He's become worthy of Cece again. And the most ironic part is that he may love Cece, but he's actually happy in his relationship with Fawn Moscato because he's grown so much and learned to fight for what he wants in life. He wants to be happy and he wants to be successful and he wants to be functional. But he also has realized the value of having friendships like Cece's (I'm thinking of their scenes in "LAXmas," specifically). He's learned to be content. And Cece has learned to trust him again, now that he's proven he's trustworthy.

So it was inevitable, really, that Cece would develop feelings for this new Schmidt -- this one who has proven his worth to her. And Winston, currently, is the only one who knows how Cece truly feels. In "Oregon," Cece gets the chance to meet up with her childhood crush named Jake Apex and... well, she becomes more awkward than first season Jessica Day when she's around him. It's hilariously horrifying to the rest of the men in the group and Schmidt takes it upon himself to fix Cece's awkwardness. Why? Because she deserves to be with someone who makes her happy and he'll stop at nothing in this episode for her do be that way. It's so beautiful and so wonderful and so heartbreaking that Cece is falling for Schmidt again while he's falling for someone else. At the end of the episode, Jake tells Cece that he always had a crush on her and the young woman finally is able to overcome her awkwardness by admitting that she's in love with someone else. Basically I'm really impressed by how New Girl has handled the transition back to Schmidt/Cece as more than friends. I think we needed almost entirely two years for them to get back on the right path.

Speaking of getting back on the right path, as it turns out, the Day women are really alike. Both Joan and Jess in this episode mask how they are truly feeling (Joan with her feelings over Bob marrying someone else; Jess with her disappointment in Ryan), but that comes to a head in Joan's kitchen, where the entire gang enters to find that the mother has prepared an English-themed welcome party for Ryan. And that's where Nick finally breaks down and admits -- when the woman try to pretend that Ryan not showing up isn't a big deal -- that it IS a big deal; he's a jerk for not showing up to an important event in Jess's life. Jess then promptly retreats to her bedroom in tears and blasts Joni Mitchell (unintentional nod or not, I loved that Emma Thompson's character in Love Actually did the same).

Nick is always to the rescue, so while the rest of the gang eats breakfast with a pretending-to-be-fine Joan Day, the man talks to Jess about the way Ryan has been acting ever since they've started a long-distance relationship. This is where our Nick/Jess portion of the evening really kicks in -- Nick is constantly the pessimist/realist, while Jess is the optimist. She likens her relationship with Ryan to one of star-crossed lovers: they're just suffering for a short amount of time so they can have an epic love story. But Nick knows better. Moreover, Nick knows what Jess deserves and he knows that it isn't late night phone calls where she falls asleep on the floor outside and he knows she doesn't deserve to be given excuses as to why spending time with her "doesn't make sense." Nick is jaded in a lot of ways. He's cynical toward love and feelings because he's been hurt by them before. But Jess isn't. Jess always sees the good in people and she always sees the "what could be" rather than the "what is." That's what happens throughout most of "Oregon": Jess believes that if she just keeps fighting harder for her relationship, they'll work. And I think so much of that stems from Jess's past -- from her inability to save her other relationships -- so she tries extra hard to make her one with Ryan work. She wants to believe in sunshine and smiles; she wants to believe that enough work will fix a relationship.

But no matter how much work or effort Jess puts into her relationship with Ryan, it's moot if he doesn't do the same for her.

It's the day of the wedding and Jess has one job as her father's best man: have the rings ready. Unfortunately for her, the rings are back at the house so Nick and Coach valiantly ride a bicycle back to get them from Joan who was going on a "trip" ("Is it acid?"). Turns out, Joan is a lot less okay with Bob's wedding than she let on. (Like mother, like daughter) Back at the wedding, Jess is hilariously trying to stall and it works for a little while. And then it just becomes so embarrassing that Schmidt pulls the fire alarm to cause a distraction instead (also providing Cece the opportunity to talk to hot fireman, former-crush Jake). Jess had one job to do and everything is going wrong, but Nick and Coach finally return with the rings and Jess prepares to tell her dad and Ashley that they can start the wedding... until she finds them.

In what is perhaps the sweetest moment in recent memory, Bob Day and Ashley are slow-dancing in a corner of the room with no music, just Bob humming along. It causes Jess to stop in her tracks and stare with such fondness and awe and emotion. Because Jessica Day wants that kind of relationship. She wants the guy who always comes through. She wants the person who will hum and dance with her when there's no music playing. She wants what her dad has -- a love that, when everything else goes wrong, is the only thing going right. And Nick comes in as Jess is staring. He pauses too, and it's this beautiful moment between them as they watch Bob and Ashley. You can tell that Nick is touched and Jess is moved and the two are standing so close that I half-expected him to reach for her hand.

Jess confesses that love is strange and it's never what you would expect. She never anticipated her father to end up happy with Ashley, but he was. And they fit. They were just right together. It's evident from this conversation (and from the beautiful line that Jess delivers about deserving a guy that shows up) that the show is steering us ever-so-slightly back toward Nick and Jess. And while I do believe that these two kids still have a while to go before they're ready to take another shot at a relationship, "Oregon" was such a necessary step in that direction because it reminded us of the fact that Nick will never stop trying to make Jess happy; he will always be the guy who shows up for her, no matter how silly or inconvenient or meaningful the moment is. He'll get the rings. He'll build the furniture. He'll rescue her from any situation, even if it means rescuing her from herself. Even if it means there's nothing in it for him.

But Jess's growth in "Oregon" (and her entire arc with Ryan) is just as important: she realizes that she has made a lot of progress in opening herself up to love again but that love doesn't just mean that one person is willing to work; love means compromise and it means showing up. At the end of the episode, the entire group heads down to Crush Pond, a place where Jess and Cece used to frequent in their younger years. Back then, they would pick up a rock and think about the person they wanted to be with. And then, as they tossed the rock into the pond, that person would love them forever. Both women admit that the tradition was silly and that it never worked. But as the group stands around the pond, they agree to the tradition anyway.

And so, each person picks up a rock and thinks of the one they most want to be with. Together, the group tosses their rocks into the pond. It's a moment of catharsis for some people (like Cece clearly thinking of Schmidt) and it's a moment of hopefulness for others (was Nick thinking about Jess as he threw his rock in?). Whatever the case, "Oregon" proved that love is worth fighting for, but that ultimately you need to be with someone who shows up to the fight. That's the only kind of love worth having.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • "And with that, Ryan walked into the River Thames and accepted death."
  • "Is he one of them Portland hippies? Because I hate them Portland hippies."
  • Winston and Cece need to have a lot more scenes together. I'm so thankful this year has been focused on them, somewhat, especially now that Winston is the person who knows how she feels about Schmidt. Also the: "Good luck finding my cat. You know I haven't seen him in weeks" was HILARIOUS and also very meta.
  • Things we learned this week: Bob Day wanted a boy, so Jess's full name is Jessica Christopher Day.
  • "I had a dream about a crouton last night and... that was the whole dream." Kaitlin Olson was so hilarious in this episode, even though she wasn't extremely prominent in it. I really just want to keep her forever. Can we, please?
  • Can we also mention how thankful I am that Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner have returned as Jess's parents? They are hilarious and I wish we could keep them forever, too.
  • "I will say one thing about that man that I've only said about Ryan Gosling: HOT DAMN."
  • "I'm so Portland right now."
  • "Cece, not everything's about you, you  narcissist."
  • "Ryan bailed and that's a dick move. That's just the truth." "... Was that sunshine or smiles?"
  • "We're like Kate and Leo or Claire and Leo or... Leo and whatever blonde he's taking on a boat."
  • "I'm never going to stop trying to make you happy, Cece."
  • Jess singing Ave Maria really slowly is probably some of the most hilarious acting Zooey Deschanel has ever done on this show.
  • "Love is never what you think it is, is it?"
  • "I need a guy who shows up. 'Cause anything else isn't real." AND THEN ALL OF MY NICK/JESS FEELINGS PROMPTLY RETURNED. Jake Johnson was such a stand-out in this episode, really, too.
  • Scenes with the entire group where they do something stupid but meaningful together (like holding hands and humming in "Big News" or visiting Candy Cane Lane in "The 23rd") always fill me with the warmest of fuzzy feelings, so the end with the entire group throwing rocks into Crush Pond was so beautiful.
  • Also, the element of foreshadowing with Nick/Jess was strong in this episode especially at the end where Jess vocalizes that her wish is that the next person she loves is closer to her, proximity-wise.
  • Winston's: "I know who your rock is for," sing-song voice to Cece was almost as perfect as his: "Shame, shame, I know your name."
  • "Gladys." "... A lady you KNOW."
Thanks for reading, as always, New Girl friends and fans. I've been so impressed with this season and I have the distinct feeling that something Nick/Jess and Schmidt/Cece is brewing on the horizon. So until next week. :)


  1. Was it just me or was Nick Miller looking incredibly hot this episode? I think that was the most confident and self-assured I've ever seen him. He had a mission and he was going to make it happen.

    And you are not wrong about the Schmidt/Cece development. There was a clear message when Schmidt promised to make Cece happy for the rest of his life while standing next to a wedding arch. The way the shot was framed clearly made it look like they were making vows.

    And there were so many little moments that killed me.

    Loved the trio of pharmacists singing a barbershop version of Sabotage. I nearly fell off my couch I was laughing so hard.

    "I want you to meet a bunch of relatives that are all going to be dead in a couple of years."

    "Ooh, ooh, let me get sunshine." Winston Bishop, you are my sunshine all the time.

    All the boys running alongside the bike during the tour. It was like a quirky secret service detail.

    "I don't see a cute or not cute one." I loved that moment where Nick and Coach were getting all flustered about the firemen.

    "How many Lilith Fairs did you go to?"

    "I touched both your mother's breasts in a communal womb earlier today. I didn't do it on purpose but there it is."

    1. GIRL, the scruff on Jake Johnson this week was absolute perfection. That man can rock a suit and Nick has never been more attractive (except maybe in Cooler but that's a given). I'm absolutely loving the Schmidt/Cece development, too. They're progressing the story in a very natural, cautious way and I think that's admirable.

      THE BOYS RUNNING ALONGSIDE THE BIKE. I just love all of them so much, I cannot even. And I love how supportive the boys always are of the girls. It reminds me of the moment in "Nerd" where they jumped on her bed and began to sing "I Believe I Can Fly."

      NICK AND COACH AND THE FIREMEN. I was dying laughing. DYING.

  2. Wonderful review and I like the mention of Schmidt's story arc this year. The writers have done a really fantastic job of making Schmidt a better person this season while keeping the basic things that make Schmidt Schmidt.

    The best part of Schmidt's arc is when he helps Cece he doesn't do it for selfish reasons , he does them cause he wants to be a good friend to her. He knows he almost lost Cece completely and he's happy to be her friend first now as opposed to previous years. (I give a lot of the credit to the writers and Max. Some of Max's best work in a while )

    Also has there ever been better casting than Rob and Jamie Lee as Jess's Parents?
    They are perfect as they highlight the different things that make Jessica Day her wonderful self.

    So Great review and thank you for letting me chip in my two cents here.

    PS : My favorite line was this : "So he's a firefighter? Seems pretty easy in Portland. The rain does the work for you."

    1. Thanks Charles! I really have to hand it to the writers for being able to grow and develop Schmidt in a very natural, organic way. He's seriously so good this season and you're right -- he's still very much the same person, but just a better version of himself. And the whole arc with Cece this year has been fantastic. I love that he's been friends with her when there's absolutely nothing in it for him. He has a girlfriend so a relationship isn't even on his mind right now. He's helping Cece because he genuinely loves her as a friend.

      There's nothing better than Rob Reiner and Jamie Lee Curtis, really.

      I totally and completely missed that line but I love it! Thanks for the comment!