Wednesday, April 13, 2016

New Girl 5x14 Review: "300 Feet" (Distance Makes the Heart Grow... Fonder?)

"300 Feet"
Original Airdate: April 12, 2016

I want people to like me. But I know that this isn't always a reality. Once upon a time, I would have driven to near-Jess Day levels of obsession in order to get someone to like me or accept me or forgive me. But now? Now I've realized that some people will never like you — some hurts will never fully heal, and some relationships cannot or should not be mended. In "300 Feet," Jessica Day desperately struggles to understand this. And really, at the end of the episode, she doesn't accept the distance between her and Sam as reality. That is and will continue to be problematic for them, but we'll discuss that momentarily. Meanwhile, distance is also the theme of the B-plot this episode, as Schmidt and Nick are finding that their business is being taken by a more successful bar down the street.

Let's dive in! Oh... wait, first let me hand you your restraining order...


I really do love the idea that season five of New Girl is setting itself up to parallel the second (stellar) season, but I will admit that "300 Feet" fell awfully flat to me in that attempt. Here's the thing: Jess and Sam could be compelling to watch unfold again. I love when New Girl brings back old flames, because it reminds us that occasionally in our lives, people reappear even when we think we've closed the book on the relationship. So while the intent is interesting, the execution was just sloppy. Perhaps it was because of the fact that the already-cartoonish Jess was far too zany this episode (that car wash scene had me sighing with slight irritation), or because of the fact that the only kind of Jess we've seen since her return has been a super desperate, super intense, borderline crazy woman. Jess has always been a little overeager for everyone to love her and befriend her immediately like she's a Disney princess. We saw this when she met Schmidt's mother (and the woman called out that character flaw in Jess, too) and I doubt that her relationship with Sam is the last time we will see this either.

Jess has a hard time letting things go until she's absolutely and positively ready. She couldn't let her relationship with Spencer go — she let him keep her dangling on a hook and kept running back. Jess day loves with her whole self, and sometimes that's something that makes her really endearing. But sometimes, it is the thing that makes her really annoying. Unfortunately, "300 Feet" was the latter.

I think the problem is the reestablishment of the Sam/Jess dynamic. It feels too rushed, too sudden, and too unexplained. Why does Jess want to get back together with Sam? We've seen nothing of him, heard zero about him since their break-up. The point that this episode tries to make is that they're dangerous for each other — that Sam created the restraining order so he wouldn't call Jess again and fall back into a relationship with her; and Jess admits that she can't stop thinking about Sam and that's why she keeps going to great lengths to be around him. Both characters are obviously in problematic situations and I can foresee this relationship going south pretty quickly (and not just because I believe it's a stepping stone to a Nick/Jess endgame next season).

I really liked Sam when we met him in season two, but he and Jess were both different people back then — a fact that Jess tries to refute at the end of the episode. But that's a lie. She tells Sam that she hasn't changed, but she HAS whether she admits it or not. Worse yet, both Sam and Jess know they've changed but are dooming themselves by falling back into a relationship trying to be the same people they were three years ago. Yes, in a lot of ways, Jess hasn't quite changed. She still lives with her roommates in the loft. She's still a little zany and a lot quirky. But Jess has transitioned careers, navigated her love life, and grown into a more stable, more healthy individual as a result. She's doing exactly what she accused Nick of doing in season one. She's backsliding into a familiar relationship because she wants to recapture what was great about Sam before it all went to crap.

And that's really interesting to me: that Sam just so happens to show up, when he was such a significant part of Nick/Jess getting together (unfortunately for him, because Nick kissed Jess in "Cooler"), and that Jess is eager to try and recreate what they once had — before she fell in love with Nick. I could be totally wrong, and it wouldn't be the first time if I was, but I suspect the show's bringing back of Sam is an important sort of foreshadowing, especially given the last time he appeared, we ended up getting Nick and Jess' game-changing kiss.

Regardless, Jess and Sam choose one another again, even though they both know they shouldn't. Jess claims to have changed, but we know that's (at least partially) not true. And Sam? Well, all we know really about Sam at this point is that he recently was broken up with, and changed everything about himself for a woman. He was angry — and still is — at Jess for cheating on him with Nick. And that's not something that can be easily fixed. Sam is stuck in the same place he was three years ago, so the question is: will he ever move out of that place? Or will Jess' past actions always be a roadblock in their relationship?

No matter how much distance you put between you and the person who wronged you, sometimes space isn't the cure at all.


I'm pretty sure that I've always forgotten that there's a giant neon griffin at the top of the bar. You only glimpse it briefly whenever there is an exterior shot, but good for Nick for realizing that! (But also, am I making this up or wasn't the bar named after a person?)

Aaaaaaaanyway, I'm not going to discuss the Schmidt/Nick storyline too much, because I generally love their stories but this week's just fell a bit flat. When the owner of a popular, trendy new bar begins to offer valet, Nick and Schmidt realize that their bar is taking a hit in business because of the parking. Presh — because that's a precious name for a bar — is owned by Connie (Busy Philipps), a no-nonsense woman who doesn't care at all about Nick or Schmidt's bar (or their antics). What ensues, of course, once the men realize they're being disrespected by her, is classic Schmidt/Nick shenanigans. 

Their story boils down to this, though: Nick doesn't feel like Schmidt cares as much or is as invested in the bar as he is. And, subsequently, Nick also doesn't believe that Schmidt recognizes how much he has grown as a person over the past year. And Nick is probably right, honestly. Not many people give Nick enough credit for how well he's done. He's taken a bar that was sinking and helped it break even. He's gotten most of his life together, including his romantic life — being able to talk about feelings with Reagan was a huge step for him. Nick Miller has started to prove that he's more of an adult than most people give him credit for. And while I absolutely love Nick, the one thing that didn't work for me this episode was the show's attempt at making him super cartoonish — the "family meeting" scene did not work for me at all, for example. I feel, often, like this show is following the same track with Nick as Community did with Britta Perry — namely, making Nick and Britta progressively a bit dumber and more cartoonish. Perhaps it's the way Jake Johnson is delivering his lines or playing his scenes, or maybe it's the way the writers are writing him. Either way, it's hard to deny how much Nick's tone has changed since season two.

But I love Nick Miller and I'm really proud of him for how much he's grown. And I'm especially proud of Schmidt, too, for realizing the value not just in Nick's business acumen, but in Nick himself. As Cece points out, they really do love each other and I'm glad New Girl reminds us of that every once in a while in different ways.

Even though "300 Feet" wasn't a great episode of New Girl, it did still serve to remind us that distance can separate us for good reasons or for bad ones. We have to decide what to do with that distance, and live with whatever consequences follow.

Additional de-lovely aspects about this episode include:
  • Busy Philipps was so great in this episode. Connie's hilariously long monologue about everything in her life that has gone wrong? It was so perfectly delivered by Busy. So perfect.
  • The fact that Connie thought Nick Miller was a nutmeg wholesalesman and I don't know why, but that's the best thing ever.
  • Wisnton's cop voice versus his friend voice? Amazing in a way that only Lamorne Morris could sell.
  • I don't know why, but Sam singing along to Selena Gomez is my new favorite thing.
  • Drunk!Cece was such a delight at the end of this episode, and Nick calling her a "boozehound" was just the icing on the cake.
  • "Are they in love?" "Yes, very much so."
What did you all think of "300 Feet"? Let me know in the comments!


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