Original Airdate: March 28, 2017
The joke’s on us, because when we finally do grow up, oftentimes all we want to do is return to those simplistic childhood days where we had no real responsibilities, where life was and easy, where our relationships were simple. Where our hearts didn’t get broken quite as badly, and everything could be solved with a pep talk from our loved ones.
“San Diego” is the penultimate episode of New Girl, and one of the strongest episodes of this season. It brings together a few different stories that have been percolating for a while, and makes me excited to see what the finale holds. In the episode, we get a deep dive into the Nick/Jess relationship (mostly on Jess’ side but we get a really nice moment between Bob Day and Nick that helps cement something Nick might not even realize), and the reveal of Schmidt’s true first name.
A CHILDISH BREAK-UP
Aly says something really poignant to Nick near the end of this episode — she tells him that he tried to break up with Reagan like it meant nothing, when their relationship meant something to him. It seems to hit Nick, whose default response is to panic-moonwalk away from confrontation and all of his issues. (That’s also Jess’ response when it comes to things, but we’ll talk about that later on.) In “San Diego,” Nick knows he needs to break up with Reagan. He wants something more out of their relationship and she isn’t able to give that to him. But he doesn’t want to do the breaking up. That requires confrontation and it might go wrong. So his genius solution? To get Reagan to break up with him first.
That solution actually works, and the reason it does is because Nick is SO bad at breaking up with people that instead of proposing a break-up, he accidentally invites Reagan on a trip to San Diego with him. While on the train to the city, Nick gets off at Anaheim and leaves Reagan on the train without any sort of explanation. It’s a cowardly move and it’s totally childish, but it takes making this decision for Nick to realize why he did it. He actually cared about Reagan. Years ago, Nick would have no problem breaking up with girls.
But he holds onto relationships that mean something to him, and even though theirs wasn’t going anywhere, Reagan is still important to Nick. He still cares deeply about her — loves her, even — and doesn’t want to hurt her (or get hurt). Sometimes we think that avoidance is the best solution to a conflict. And sometimes if we ignore a problem long enough, it really will go away on its own or sort itself out. But most of the time, we need to gather up enough courage to face our issues in order for us to actually become better people.
I think Nick became a better person over the last few years (his decision to jump off a train as a way to get Reagan to break up with him aside). He’s more mature than he once was and financially, as well as emotionally, responsible. Nick eventually does the right thing and tells Reagan that he didn’t know how to break up with her. Both aren’t good at goodbyes, but Reagan is on the same page as Nick and wanted to break up with him for some time.
Nick is now at the point in which he’s ready for something serious. And who is the person he’s ready to be serious with? Well, whether he realizes it or not, it’s Jess. It’s pretty much always been her.
When Nick is going through his struggle on how to break up with Reagan, he calls Jess for advice. He doesn’t know who to turn to, so he turns to one of the closest and most important people in his life. But Jess doesn’t answer her phone; Bob Day does. And when Bob talks to Nick, the latter sings the praises of Jess. In particular, he says this about the woman: “She’s got that giant heart that’s part-compass, part-flashlight. She’s just the greatest person I’ve ever met.”
I’ll leave you momentarily to swoon.
It’s funny to me that New Girl has done the role reversal of Nick and Jess so seamlessly and naturally that it was easy to miss. The show began with these two having a bond and connection. They fell for one another, but for the majority of the series, we’ve seen Nick’s side of the relationship — we’ve watched him cook breakfast for Jess, chase after her, and seek to give her everything. It’s only recently that we’ve watched Jess pining after Nick. The show has given us the chance to empathize with her and her journey. Now, Jess is not only fully aware of her feelings for Nick, but also prepared to do something about them. At the same time, I think Nick is subtly beginning to realize how he’s still in love with Jess.
The way the writers of the show have depicted this journey is rather beautiful. Not every episode had an overt Nick/Jess moment, but there were important, small little things peppered throughout the past season and a half. I think that’s realistic. We don’t always realize how we feel until we pause long enough to evaluate it. To see Nick and Jess date other people post-“Mars Landing” was necessary. There was no way these two would remain single throughout the remainder of the series, and it seems absurd that time would be spent on them pining after one another.
So slowly, and naturally, these two have found their way back toward one another. It’s really lovely to see the show treat their love story as honestly and realistic as possible. And speaking of their love story, Nick isn’t the only person in this week’s episode who is forced to grow up...
HIDING OUT IN PORTLAND
Jess ran away from her feelings for Nick, and this week we see her trying to take her mind off how much she loves him. So she decides to help her dad out with his love life. As it turns out, Bob and Ashley broke up ages ago, and Jess never knew. Jess then does what Jess does best/worst — she meddles. The meddling ends up going well for Bob, who finds a connection. Unfortunately, the meddling just reminds Jess of the fact that she’s alone and ran away from her feelings. She attempts to distract herself, and that’s when Bob gets the phone call from Nick.
What struck me so much about “San Diego” in terms of the Jess storyline is that I really connected with her and believed the depth of her feelings for Nick more than I ever have. She earnestly tells her dad that she’s in love with him. And as much as she wishes she wasn’t, she is. And it hurts to watch him with someone else. After Bob and Nick’s phone call, Bob tracks Jess down to tell her that Nick and Reagan broke up and that Nick might still be in love with Jess — even if he doesn’t realize that’s what it is.
Kudos to Zooey Deschanel for such subtle acting throughout this entire arc, and for the way she played that scene of Jess learning Nick and Reagan broke up. New Girl is doing things right by depicting Jess’ feelings for Nick in the way they have. It was hard for a while, because the show frequently portrayed how much Nick loved her, but not necessarily the reverse. As we approach the season finale next week, I’m really excited to see how this Nick/Jess arc ends up playing out. My hope, of course, is that Jess will confess her feelings and we’ll have a reuniting of the couple. Something tells me that it may not be as easy and quick as that, but we’ll see.
Regardless of what next week holds, I couldn’t be more proud of New Girl for their incredible season and the way they continue to delicately, intentionally, and perfectly handle their romantic pairings.
Additional bits & pieces:
- The other story in this episode involved us learning Schmidt’s real first name — Winston! Schmidt confronts Winston and asks for his name back in order to advance his career. After a lot of back-and-forth, Winston finally agrees. ... And Schmidt then decides to give the man his name back after a moment of intimacy with Schmidt is ruined when Cece refers to him by his real first name. I’m so glad we FINALLY got this mystery solved, and think it’s hilariously perfect that Schmidt’s first name is “Winston.”
- Aly was the real MVP of the episode, and Nasim Pedrad did a hilarious job deadpanning the entire time.
- “DAD, DON’T TALK TO MY FRIENDS.”
- “I said what I needed to say.” “Nothing came out of your mouth.”
- “I feel like I should call San Diego to warn them.”
- “I love him. I wish I didn’t, but I do.”
- “I feel like a single mom in a mop commercial.”
- WINNY THE BISH.
- “I don’t even think he realizes it, but he’s still in love with you.”