Wednesday, April 29, 2015

New Girl 4x21 "Panty Gate" (The Love Doctor Is In)


"Panty Gate"
Original Airdate: April 28, 2015

There are two kinds of people in the world: the ones who are good at giving advice and the ones who think they're good at giving advice. Jessica Day usually falls into the latter category but surprisingly in "Panty Gate" -- the penultimate episode of New Girl's stellar fourth season -- Jess is actually right about a lot of people and a lot of their feelings except, maybe, it's revealed at the end, her own. Jess has always been a planner and a fixer. We see that clearly in "Parents," where she desperately tries to get her mother and father to reconcile. She believes the best in people, sometimes to a fault, and as a result she wants everyone around her to be happy and thriving. She believes that she can read people and relationships -- that she knows when someone is lying and knows exactly what they need in order to feel a sense of fulfillment.

In "Panty Gate," Jess tries to take her personal knowledge of relationships and apply her advice to Coach/May, as well as Cece. In the end, it's the combination of Jess's powers with Nick's powers (they're always better together, aren't they?) that really aid Coach and May as they navigate a new adventure in their lives. So let's talk about these stories for a bit, shall we?

Coach/May (+ Nick/Winston, Jess)

The most you can hope for in any character's arc is growth. New Girl understands this, and it also understands that each of its unique characters must grow in different degrees and in different ways. Coach was in the pilot episode of this series and there, he was this tough, take-no-nonsense guys' guy. When he returned in season three in the titular "Coach," he returned the same way. He brought along the party. He had recently broken up with his girlfriend and he pretended that nothing bothered him. But his heart had been broken by her and he buried that pain inside. Coach is an emotional person but he masks his pain in order to be the strong one for everyone else. In fact, Coach masked a lot about his personality in the first few episodes we know him (up until "Basketsball," really): he pretends nothing bothers him, that he doesn't want to have relationships with others, that Jess and the other roommates are weird nuisances, that he has no quirks.

What's amazing is that slowly and steadily, we've seen tremendous growth and development in Coach's character. He embraced his weirdness. He embraced his quirks. And as a result, he grew closer to his friends in the loft and closer to Jess. And then Coach met May and things began to change. He worked hard to pursue her in their relationship. He cared about a woman -- one woman -- for the first time in a long time. He wanted to be the guy she wanted. And that scared him because it was the start of something. In "Panty Gate," Coach and May break up because she's headed to New York to pursue her music. And Coach does exactly what he did in "Coach" -- break down (hilariously in a sex education class he's teaching at school) and then pretend he's okay and that nothing bothers him.

Coach is the kind of guy that you always want on your team because he'll be the stoic one and he'll fight for and defend you. But Coach is also someone who has an emotional side he keeps heavily guarded. Emotions make you vulnerable and Coach wants to be the strong one all the time. It's only when he lets those guards down that he's able to be totally happy. And Jess recognizes this about him. Jess is surprisingly good in this episode at reading people and their emotions (unlike she was with her ex-boyfriend in "Exes") in "Panty Gate," as she notes to Nick and Winston that Coach isn't okay. He's pretending he is. He's putting on a brave face because if he does, it means he doesn't have to actually face how much he's hurting.

Jess is right, too, about May. When she comes to the apartment to pick up something she left behind, she turns around and exits... and then turns RIGHT back around sobbing into Jess's arms. Jess knows people. She may not always be right but she's right when it counts. And she tells May that if she wants to be with Coach, she should fight for him and ask him to move to New York with her. So she goes to the bar to do just that... and finds Coach being kissed and fondled by a lot of other women. Oops.

Later, Jess approaches Coach and apologizes for trying to be the "love doctor." Clearly she was wrong and all she ended up doing was hurting him and May. But Coach... admits that he loves May. He really and truly does. And this is where everything changes because this is where Nick Miller reveals how much he's grown as a person. When Coach makes his confession, Nick appears startled. He had no idea that May meant that much to him. He presumed Coach was just deflecting as he normally did. And so, Nick wants Coach to do something: he wants him to think about what his life will be like in forty or fifty years. He wants him to imagine having children and grandchildren and being old and wrinkly. And then he wants him to think about turning in that chair and seeing the person beside him. Who is she? Can Coach see May with him?

This is an especially touching and tender moment and it takes both us and Jess by surprise. Nick is telling Coach to think, for one moment, about his future. If that is what he can see, he'd be a fool to not fight for her now and go after her. She could be the old woman beside him in that chair but she never will be if he lets her go. This visibly resonates with and touches Coach, and together he, Nick, and Jess head to see May. There, Coach professes his love for her and tells her that he wants to move with her to New York. So yay! Coach is headed to follow his love. Isn't that amazing? Isn't that such character growth and development? Coach moved into the loft because he was brokenhearted and jaded and he's moving out because he's following after love. FULL CIRCLE, BABY.

In fact, a lot of our characters seem to be coming full circle these days as Nick and Jess have a conversation as they're watching Coach and May reconcile. Jess has been thinking about what Nick said earlier at the bar -- about thinking about who you want to see yourself with in forty years -- and she asks him if he's ever thought about that before and who he sees himself with. There's a moment's pause there and you know that both are thinking about each other before they both say that they see themselves with Winston.

They're probably not wrong.

Cece/Jess

What I thought was so interesting about "Panty Gate" was the reason why Jess kept referring to herself as the "love doctor." She realizes that her romantic life is pretty much a mess and has been a mess for a long time. But her reasoning is that if she can help one person -- one struggling romantic soul -- because of what her experiences have taught her, then they're not all for naught. That's the worst feeling in the world, really: to believe that all you endured was just pointless. If Jess can use her relationship experience to help someone else with theirs, though, then it'll make every heartbreak and every setback and every bad date worth it in her eyes. I've never really thought about that before in terms of Jessica Day. I've never really contemplated that she views her romantic life as one giant mess that only serves as a warning or a guide to others. But that's how she feels. She feels like she needs to take her mistakes and make other people better or prevent them from doing the same.

Jess deserves happiness and I hope she can find it. You know who else deserves happiness? Cece. Our favorite student/bartender barges into Jess's apartment and insists that she's going on an adventure for herself. She's going to climb a mountain because she can't just sit still and do nothing and watch Schmidt and Fawn's relationship continue to unfold. I love Cece. I love her so much in this moment because of her honesty and her lack of fear. She has that desire that each of us do to just DO something and GO somewhere and to feel alive again. She wants to embark on this journey for herself, not for Schmidt, and that's really brave. At first, Jess discourages her by saying that Schmidt and Fawn won't last anyway (she's right). But that's not the real point of Cece's journey. The point is that she needs to do something -- just once -- for herself and not for a guy. So Jess, after realizing maybe she doesn't know as much about love as she thought, tells Cece to not listen to her advice. She tells her to go, climb mountains and find adventures. And do it for herself.

Schmidt/Fawn

In what is perhaps the saddest breakup of a recurring character and a New Girl lead, Schmidt and Fawn decide to call it quits once they both realize that the relationship they have is not the relationship Schmidt really wants. After "panty gate" (Fawn not wearing underwear in "Par 5") happens, Fawn prepares a statement to the press for Schmidt to read, which places all the blame on himself. In order to recover from the scandal, Schmidt must act like the perfect boyfriend -- a reformed gross man -- and partner to Fawn. The woman then proposes that they get married (after Schmidt fakes a stint in rehab) so it'll be good for the press. They'll look like they're in love and content.

But that's when Schmidt wakes up and realizes that everything he has wanted all year (recall that his entire goal this season was to become successful so he could leave the loft, become wealthy, etc.) isn't really what he wants at all. He doesn't want a marriage as a publicity stunt. He wants to know the real Fawn, not the politician. He wants to know who she truly is, at her most vulnerable and emotional and when the woman claims that a politician really IS all that she is... Schmidt realizes, sadly, that he can't do this any more with her. He doesn't want power. He doesn't want money. He wants love. He wants a relationship with meaning and substance and if this moment didn't fill you to the brim with joy over how far Schmidt has come since the pilot and how much he has grown since the beginning of the season, then I can't help you.

The two then decide to break up and there's this utterly heartbreaking moment where Schmidt throws a fake fit in order to garner media attention and then backs out of the room through the crowd. At the door, he turns around and smiles at Fawn and she forces a smile back with tears brimming in her eyes. And she takes a deep breath right before the commercial break and it's just such a sad, beautiful, moving moment thanks to the flawless acting by Zoe Lister Jones. I loved Zoe in this series and in this role. I thought she brought this hilariously rigid personality to the series and it was a great contrast to the zany behavior of the rest of the group. But moments like these are so subtle and so beautiful that I'd be remiss not to praise her for them. Zoe managed to bring depth to this really complex character and for that, I'm thankful.

At the loft later that night, the group is sitting around eating pizza and arguing, talking over themselves as they often do. Coach smiles and Jess notices and, bemused, asked why he's smiling. He shrugs her off by telling her that it's nothing and the group continues to argue while dividing the pizza. It's an absolutely stunning moment (on par with the group holding hands and humming in "Big News") that made me cry. Like, actual tears streaming down my face. Why?

Because New Girl is a show about embracing how weird you are and surrounding yourself with friends who will argue with you, share pizza with you, and -- most importantly -- love you with their whole hearts.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • Guys, I am so sad that this season is coming to an end. It's been a fantastic return to form after a bit of an uneven third season. If this is any indication of what season five will bring, I'm excited!
  • This episode was written by David Feeney (who penned -- appropriately enough -- "Coach," among others) and Veronica McCarthy -- a first-time credited writer. YAY! I really loved this episode and thought it was one of the best of the season.
  • "Is he thinking about her or is a baby playing with his phone?"
  • The bit with Winston and the waffles was HILARIOUS. I actually cackled when he hit the waffle against the counter because IT IS SO TRUE. Frozen waffles only stay good for a short amount of time and then they turn into rocks. That, plus is response ("Winnie's gonna need a minute") was absolute perfection.
  • "FAWN-MIT." "You're saying the word 'vomit.'" "No, I don't hear that."
  • "This sperm got swag." Coach's entire breakdown during that scene was perfect and wonderful.
  • "And I'm sorry to the man upstairs... my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ?"
  • "Dress shirts on a Monday?"
  • "Like a... love doctor, if you will." "I will not." Have I mentioned that the Nick/Jess banter in this episode was on point? It was.
  • "You treat an outside wound with rubbing alcohol. You treat an inside wound with drinking alcohol. It's science."
  • "No one has the answers. It makes no sense. It's love. It's messy."
  • The way Max Greenfield says "underpants" makes me laugh a lot and I don't know why.
  • "... Okay, don't quote Beyonce and pretend that you just thought of it."
  • "You could troll for basic bitches at the juice bar and I would say nothing."
  • "I like my sun on the right and my ocean on the left."
  • "Who do you see yourself next to?" "... Winston, mostly." I loved that the Nick/Jess scene wasn't heavy-handed. You could tell that they both had thought about being next to each other in forty years but they also didn't know quite how to approach that subject. Apparently next week's episode will take us back down a brief Nick/Jess route. I loved that this episode set it up but did so subtly, like last year's "Cruise" did with Schmidt/Cece.
Well, that's it, my friends! We're approaching the end of season four of New Girl. Have you loved it as much as I have? Hit up the comments below and let me know your thoughts. Until then. :)

3 comments:

  1. Wasn't that just so lovely? It managed to be deeply touching and very hilarious all at the same time which is my New Girl sweet spot.

    What I like the most is that I was so proud of everyone. They each made some really wonderful decisions, decisions that were important for each of them. That whole break up scene with Fawn and Schmidt was amazing and when she asked "Are you breaking up with me?" she played it so beautifully! Jess and Nick were wonderful together and I will always ship them, even just as best friends. There was less of Winston and Cece but what there was was great.

    I am going to miss Coach so much. I felt a little distant from him at first but it made total sense when we found out that he was from a military family and moved all the time and generally kept people at a distance. He has quietly opened up so much (I love the relationship that he has with Jess because it seemed so unlikely) and had so many amazing scenes and I am going to miss him.

    I felt like this episode showed us great character moments and it also flowed really beautifully. I never felt jarred or rushed and everyone's timing was spot on. What an amazing season. This is why I like to keep hope for shows when they hit rocky patches. Sometimes it is just downhill but sometimes they find their feet again and do even better work.

    You mentioned a lot of my favourite moments but here are some more:

    -“Would you clowns focus? My waffle is in the toaster and if I leave it too long after it pops it'll get hard.” We all understand the tragedy of a hard cold waffle.
    “Oh, is Alan taking a liking to her? Oh, bravo.” That whole spiel from Schmidt was amazing.
    “'Roughly the same length as The Pearl.' How is that a book quote?”
    “You just gonna leave your sperm and go play music with other sperms... I have eggs on deck!” That was one of Coach's best ever moments for me. The whole speech was perfection.
    “Exhibit A, you dated me. I rest my case.”
    “Cello stabiliser.” “Oh yeah, cello stabiliser.”
    I nearly cried with laughter when Coach called “Black Velvet” his jam.
    “Now the kids did learn that sex is emotionally complicated so it was a good class”
    “Yeah, but not before we clean your face because it's caked in snot.” Been there!
    “Ooh ooh, Dora the Explorer just entered the scene.”
    “We'll take that beer.” “Give us that beer, honey.”
    “We just look great together buying underpants.”
    “Really? I thought it was just a regular breakup but in all fairness I hadn't really thought about it that hard.”
    “Plus, I'd have to leave you guys. I can't leave you guys. I finally have a home.” When Coach said that I really teared up.
    “I'm long dead.” “Naturally.” “Of course”
    “Guys? Hey, you seen my white friends?”
    “If Coach were hanging out with me we'd be beating up a priest right now.”
    “I'm sleeping on the couch; Ferguson and I are fighting.” There wasn't a whole lot from Winston but he always kills it and has the best lines.

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    Replies
    1. BECCA. I always love your insights, obviously.

      I am going to miss Coach so much. I felt a little distant from him at first but it made total sense when we found out that he was from a military family and moved all the time and generally kept people at a distance. He has quietly opened up so much (I love the relationship that he has with Jess because it seemed so unlikely) and had so many amazing scenes and I am going to miss him.

      YES. I FORGOT TO MENTION IN THE REVIEW HOW THE PART ABOUT HIM FINALLY FINDING A HOME MADE ME WEEP. Like, this is a prime example of how your character growth and development doesn't have to be extremely overt but can be poignant all the same. It wasn't in-your-face and yet Coach still became a better person over his arc. Same with Schmidt this year and Nick and Jess and Winston and Cece.

      his is why I like to keep hope for shows when they hit rocky patches. Sometimes it is just downhill but sometimes they find their feet again and do even better work.

      That's the thing -- they knew they needed to get back to a character-centered season four like season two was. Not that relationships aren't important but I think they were right in that it dominated a lot of season three and fractured the group's stories (just in episodes, having Nick/Jess always be the A-story, etc.) in general. This year was such a return to form and to the heart and soul that made the series exceptional in season two.

      We all understand the tragedy of a hard cold waffle.

      I laughed SO hard at that because it happens to me ALL THE TIME. And then I'm eating a rock. Also Winston and Ferguson fighting is the actual best thing ever. Winston is just so underrated and Lamorne can play that really casual comedy with effortlessness. I love it.

      “You just gonna leave your sperm and go play music with other sperms... I have eggs on deck!” That was one of Coach's best ever moments for me. The whole speech was perfection.

      I was laughing so hard at his breakdown. SO HARD. And then it was great to pan back and see Jess sitting there delivering the evaluation. EXCELLENT.

      This series has done so well in the fourth year and not many shows can keep momentum as long as they have. I'm so proud of it and how it's excelled. :) Thank you as always for your comments, Becca!

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