Friday, May 17, 2013

Jenn's Pick: Top 5 Episodes of Season Two's "New Girl"

A lot of television series struggle to find their footing during their second seasons. The term “sophomore slump” is tossed around quite frequently, and I think that the reason is due to this: it is very easy to launch yourself – your characters, your stories, your sets – head-first into an adventure. That’s what first seasons truly are, if we’re being honest. They’re adventures, they’re explorations, and they’re meant to be that way. We, as audience members, need to be invested within a few episodes of a series, or else we will move on and find something else that will capture our interest. (Chalk it up to our short attention spans.)

So what tends to happen, in my experience as a television viewer, is that series try so hard to pull out all their stops during their first season: they want to make us invested in these characters and their lives so they throw hijinks and shenanigans and drama at the viewers. But many shows nosedive during their second seasons because they simply try too hard and have no idea how to progress, naturally, from the place where they ended their first season. The series becomes more and more about pleasing the audience rather than investing in characters (i.e. why Glee became so erratic as a show, and why the first few episodes of the second season of Community were shaky, in my opinion). The very viewers that the show tried so hard to please during the first season bolt at the uneven writing and/or acting in the second season.

“See Ya” is one of my favorite episodes of New Girl’s freshman year, and it is also the series’ first finale episode. The reason that I loved this episode so much was partially due to the amazing writing and acting, but truly rooted in the not-so-finale vibe that it provided. It ended happily – Nick returned to the loft and the characters had dance parties alone in their respective rooms. It didn’t feel like an ending, really, but a beginning.

I don’t mean to presume that series shouldn’t end on cliffhangers – the first season of Community did, and it was one of those moments where you suck in a breath and don’t exhale until the credits begin to roll. It was THAT good. But what I admired about the first season of New Girl and what I also admire about its second season is that the show doesn’t slam on the brakes at the end of a season and then rev the engine during the premiere of the following season. The transitions are smooth – “See Ya” and “Elaine’s Big Day” both had endings that felt rather organic. But perhaps that’s because they weren’t actually endings at all, but beginnings. These characters have new chances, new choices, and new adventures each day. I think that sometimes television series forget that.

Nevertheless, New Girl technically has ended until September (unless you join in on our #SummerRewatch this summer!), which means that it is time for me to reflect on five of my absolute favorite episodes this season (okay, six, because I am a cop-out). Its sophomore year has been so consistent, hilarious, and heartfelt that it doesn’t resemble anything close to that “sophomore slump” other shows encounter. I feel that this series has managed to avoid that pitfall by focusing more on developing their characters than catering to the audience whims. And that? Well, that combined with the talented writing, brilliant producing, and exceptional acting made this season of New Girl one of the best.

Ready to see which episodes ranked as my favorites? Grab some popcorn and put on your yellow tracksuit, because here are my top five episodes of this season!

5) “Eggs”

In a twist that surprised even me, I placed “Eggs” in my top five after re-watching it last week. I think that with all of the Nick/Jess that the back half of the season provided, I had forgotten about the earlier episodes and their significance in the overall story. This episode, for example, is where I really felt pained for Cece. 

I also think that it’s one of the first episodes where the A, B, and C storylines are all majorly significant to serious character development, moving forward. The A-story is devoted to Jess and Cece struggling with the fact that they are getting older and their biological clocks are ticking. Jess spends nearly the entire episode worried about her chances of having a baby, while Cece spends the majority of the episode celebrating her youth – she desires to have a family, but that’s years and years away. 

… Until she realizes that it’s not. Sadie runs a test on both women, and – as it turns out – Jess’ eggs are fine, but Cece is advised to begin trying for a family as soon as possible if she wants children. Cece has a breakdown in front of Jess, similar to ones that we all have: she thought she had more TIME. The women go to the zoo, intent on pretending to be guys for the day – to shake off their worries and concerns about the future and just live in the moment. While there, Jess ends up talking to a rhinoceros, while Cece and Robbie discuss children. Her boyfriend says that he loves and definitely wants kids. You know, just… years from now. Hannah Simone conveyed such depth and emotion in Cece’s response that unless you are a robot, it’s difficult not to feel a painful tug on your heart for this character. And this may, in fact, be the first time I really ever felt anything emotionally toward Cece. She’s a wonderful addition to the show, but I never could quite connect with her. “Eggs” was a turning point for me, because I saw the parallels between her desires at the beginning of the episode and Robbie’s response. Cece always assumed she’d have more time. And she is honestly and truly afraid that she’s running out of it.

Meanwhile, Schmidt attempts to physically fulfill his boss, but realizes – thanks to a really endearing heart-to-heart – that he was and is in love with Cece. (He delivers this news to a very unsurprised Nick and Jess at the end of the episode.) This, I believe, was a real turning point for Schmidt as a character. I believe that he likely loved before, but it had been so long that he had forgotten what that feeling was like. And when he has this moment of realization, it changes him.

Elsewhere in the episode, Winston is trying to adjust to his new sleeping schedule (working at night and sleeping during the day), but is interrupted by Nick, who was told by Winston that he essentially has no motivation to ever finish what he’s started. Nick objects and decides to prove Winston wrong by finishing his zombie novel called “Z is for Zombies.” By the end of the episode, a draft of the novel is in Winston’s hands. And I think that this is really the first insight we got into Nick’s motivations: he is motivated to do things and finish things when the people around him challenge him. In “Injured” (my favorite episode of the entire series), Nick admits to Jess that he is the type of guy who stands on the beach and guards wallets because he cannot dive into something headfirst.

But this is the same guy who, when challenged to become a better version of himself, CAN dive headfirst into something. It doesn’t mean that “Z for Zombies” is good, by any means. It’s actually pretty terrible and kind of a mess. But it’s FINISHED. Nick finally started and finished something, and this is an actual defining moment in his life. The fact of the matter is this: Nick is broken. Nick is a mess. And this gets mentioned quite frequently, sometimes played for laughs and sometimes – like in “Elaine’s Big Day” – a heartbreaking realization between characters. But in this episode, he was proud of himself for finishing something, proving (albeit slightly) to himself and the rest of the loft crew that he is capable of committing to something, and that – rather than the result – is what truly matters.

Favorite line(s): “You misspelled the word ‘rhythm’ 38 times.” “I’m becoming Ernest Hemingway, ya idiots!”

Favorite scene: The ending to this episode is my favorite: Nick, Jess, and Schmidt are curled up together, laughing as they listen to Winston read Nick’s zombie novel aloud. It’s a rare moment, as the audience gets to see a glimpse of these four just enjoying the company of one another without any weird shenanigans or hijinks. They’re together and happy. And that’s a particularly subtle, heartwarming way to end the episode.

4) “Elaine’s Big Day”

Though it aired very recently, “Elaine’s Big Day” – the sophomore season’s finale – cracked my top five for a variety of reasons. As I noted above, I was ecstatic that the season did not end on a cliffhanger (for most characters). There would be no aguish in waiting until September, only anticipation.

The writers tackled Nick/Jess this season, but managed to do so with confidence and clarity, and did so in a way that deepened our understanding of both the characters and the relationship as a whole. These are broken, messy people. The loft crew (and Cece) do not have their lives put together. They are imperfect people trying to live and love the best that they can. And a lot of time, audience members are frustrated when characters on television series that they love do not get together and/or stay together. We see so many heartbreaks in our own daily lives and relationships that we want to escape when we watch television – we want Nick and Jess to live happily ever after, because WE don’t.

But the beautiful kernel of truth that New Girl’s writers and producers tapped into this season was the idea that relationships are messy, that WE don’t have our lives together and that what we really want, as viewers, is to see how imperfect characters like us can make it work. Because that is how you create dimension in a television series.

“Elaine’s Big Day” is chock full of these kernels: Schmidt has to choose between Elizabeth and Cece; Shivrang and Cece realize what they truly want in life; Winston realizes that a part of him doesn’t really want to grow up even though he’s 31; and Nick and Jess assert that their relationship is messy and undefined, but that they want to try their best at it, even though they don’t know what the end result may be.

I think that the theme (if I had to label this season) of New Girl this year would be just that – taking chances. Schmidt put his heart on the line for Cece and got his heart broken. Jess took a chance and tried a relationship with Sam. She took a chance on getting back out in the job market. Nick took a chance on himself this year (2012-2013 was The Year of Nick Miller) and Winston took a chance on his relationships and his job.

Everyone in the loft grew up this year, and “Elaine’s Big Day” really reflected that growth. Nothing was more heart-wrenching than seeing Jess – the person who has concealed her feelings more so than Nick – tearfully pleading with Nick not to give up on them. And nothing made my heart soar more than Nick agreeing to this by rushing forward and kissing her. The man then decides that they need to drive somewhere… anywhere. And Jess, through her laughter, chastises him in the car. (She says to go left, and he notes that three rights will work just the same.) I imagine that, someday, this is how they will act as an old married couple, too.

The season ends much like it begins – with each character on a journey, somewhere. And the beauty of “Elaine’s Big Day” is that ANYTHING can happen next.

Favorite line(s): “Hey, Jess. Welcome, welcome. Trying to stay positive but I’m pretty sure this is where we die.” “Jess, he’s in the ducts. THE DUCTS!” “Look, I know you think we should call it but I don’t want to give up on this. Even if we don’t know what this is. I wanna un-call it. Please, can we un-call it? And before you say no… don’t say no.”

Bonus favorite moment: “And you are not too short for me! I don’t care what your mother says!”

3)  “Quick Hardening Caulk”

It’s really difficult for me to make lists of any kind, and I struggled over the past few days to figure out exactly which New Girl episode would land the bronze medal in my heart. After some serious inner debate, I landed on “Quick Hardening Caulk,” arguably one of the finer Nick/Jess episodes of the season (and definitely the most tension-filled). But what really solidified my decision to give this episode a place in my top five was the Winston/Schmidt storyline, which I’ll discuss momentarily.

“Quick Hardening Caulk” is the first episode we really get a chance to see how physically attracted Jess is to Nick. When the usually unmotivated man begins to clean up his act (washing his clothes, ironing them, eating salads, etc.) and plans a themed night at the bar to generate revenue, Jess suddenly finds herself even more – notice that she essentially admits to already being attracted to Nick prior to this – attracted to her roommate. Nick’s motivation for his… uh, motivation, however is work-related: he wants to make sure his new boss, Shane, is pleased.

(As it turns out, Shane is sleeping with Nick so there’s that, too.)

When Jess gets injured at the hardware store and is hopped up on painkillers (how cute is it that Nick brings her soup?), she admits to wanting to sleep with Nick and then inadvertently injures him, too, when she tries to pull him onto her bed. After this, Nick begins to really examine his relationship with Jess and talks about it, cryptically (or so he tries) with Winston and Schmidt. If he would have known how Jess felt, he explains, he would have never hooked up with Shane. He thought their door was closed, but that door – the one with Jess – is what he’s wanted all along. The roommates convince Nick not to let Jess attend the special event he’s planned for the bar – Guys’ Night – lest she run into Shane and make things awkward before Nick can end it with his boss.

Elsewhere in the episode, Winston and Schmidt go on the hunt for a lionfish after Schmidt projects his still-buried feelings for Cece onto it. He buys a tank for the apartment and is adamant on finding and catching the elusive beauty. Everyone else – including Winston – knows Schmidt’s unconscious motivation: he is still mourning Cece’s engagement and doesn’t know how to handle her impending marriage, as he still harbors feelings for her.

Winston is the MVP of this episode, hands down. And I really loved the Winston/Schmidt storyline because Winston knows what Schmidt is doing is completely crazy. Yet, he goes along with the plan not – as he does in “First Date” – because he loves plans and pranks, but because he feels genuine empathy for his friend during this time. He recognizes that being a good friend sometimes means doing stupid things for the people you love, and nothing could be stupider than scouring the ocean for a lionfish to catch. Winston is just SUCH an amazing friend during this episode, and it culminates in the hospital where Schmidt is sleeping after having been stung in the face by a jellyfish. Cece unexpectedly arrives with a lionfish in tow, and Winston – blessed Winston – sadly tells her that she needs to leave before Schmidt wakes because the fact that she is getting married so soon is killing Schmidt. A bit stung, Cece agrees and departs before Schmidt wakes.

THAT was my favorite Winston moment this season, because it’s one thing to have this character be the comic relief. It’s one thing to include him in wacky storylines with Jess or pranks with Schmidt or plots with Nick. But it’s another to be able to see how good of a friend Winston is to the people he cares about and how much he wants to prevent them from getting hurt at all costs.

At the bar, Jess (though Nick attempts to avoid this from occurring) meets Shane and learns that the reason why Nick was being so productive was because he was sleeping with his boss. And when Nick fails to define his relationship with Jess to Shane, the former leaves, visibly stung. But Nick – our precious Nick – runs after her (it’s a running theme this season, I have found) and confronts her in the apartment about what she said on painkillers. Jess genuinely doesn’t remember anything that happened while she was drugged up, but she DOES admit to wanting Nick after she saw how motivated he had become.

Nick accuses Jess of being a gold digger, and then – in order to prove that she is not – Jess kisses him. And then the two just can’t stop (really not surprised there). They’re arguing while they’re kissing, which is very THEM and then – right as Jess is beginning to unbutton her blouse – the moment is ruined when Nick accidentally takes a wrench to Schmidt’s aquarium, breaking the tank and dumping the water everywhere.

The moment is ruined, and Nick and Jess return to their respective rooms, arguing over who will clean up the mess. They slam their doors shut, and open seconds after, meeting in the middle of the hallway to continue kissing. Essentially, this is their relationship in a nutshell.

What I loved so much about “Quick Hardening Caulk” was that it contrasted the Nick/Jess passion-driven storyline with the Winston/Schmidt friendship and Schmidt/Cece genuine love B-story. The two complimented one another nicely, and I think that’s why I felt so connected to this episode: every piece clicked as it was meant to.

(Plus… Nick and Jess. I mean, really.)

Favorite line(s): “When did you become a Bond villain who can't afford to not live with roommates?” “There are plenty of things to be down about: the deficit, air pollution in China, The Hobbit wasn't very good...” “Then kiss me like a man!”

Least favorite character this season: Shane

2) “Cooler”

Second place is a tie (I had to cop-out, y’all!) between “Cooler” and “Chicago.” Both were spectacular episodes, but I’ll discuss the latter momentarily.  But I, of course, need to discuss True American and the end-heard-round-the-world that changed the show forever.

I really love to read about the process behind creating television shows. I get this intense sense of intrigue – I want to know how a script moves from conception to execution. And that is why I loved the recent series that The AV Club did with New Girl’s writers and producers Liz Meriwether, Dave Finkel, and Brett Baer. When discussing “Cooler,” Meriwether said this:

Coming out of this crazy zone of “A Father’s Love” and “Pepperwood,” we were all a little lost and were like, “What is this show we’re making?” Those episodes turned out pretty good, but I think we were all feeling a little lost at sea—and I remember everything just clicking in “Cooler.” We’re like, “Okay, we’re back to our people. They’re playing True American.” This felt like our show again.

What I love so much about “Cooler” is that this is an episode that focuses entirely on the loft – this is all about Nick, Jess, Schmidt, and Winston. Yes, there are supporting characters thrown about (“Cooler” marked the first appearance of Brenda Song’s character Daisy), and a small side-story that introduced us to Shivrang. But at its core, this is a fun, crazy episode all about what happens when these characters get thrown together to play True American.

And I think what really carried “Cooler,” for me, was something that I talked to my friend Kim of Head Over Feels about recently and that’s the idea of needing to have some sort of emotional stakes in an episode. For “Cooler,” there was this ebb and flow – amid the chaos – of stakes for Schmidt and Cece and for Nick and Jess. When the latter pairing was locked behind “the iron curtain,” there was something that was at stake for Nick, and that was something he has always kept rather guarded – romantic feelings toward Jess.

When Nick and Jess were thrown behind the giant blue door and told that they could not emerge until they kissed, there was a definitive choice that needed to be made: Nick could kiss Jess in the game and return to playing True American, or he could choose not to. And what True American taught Jess – and us, as audience members – was this: Nick was NOT going to kiss Jess because he didn’t want to kiss her as a part of some game.

And suddenly, all of the silly tension and shenanigans that took place up until that point in the episode dissolved with the realization that Nick has thought about kissing Jess before – that he WANTED to, and wanted it to mean something when he did. In that moment, the stakes couldn’t have been higher for Nick: he just admitted aloud to Jess that he had thought about kissing her before.

So Nick decided to do the most logical thing to do – the thing that he is so good at doing – was run away from Jess and from his feelings. And he did run away… literally out a window. Later on that night, Sam – we remember him, right? – and Jess go to bed, but the woman wakes up to scratching at the front door and calls for Nick to come and help her. He obliges, and ends up meeting their female neighbor… whose trench coat he had been wearing the entire episode, as it was accidentally mailed to apartment 4D. After returning the coat and walking back to his bedroom, Jess following toward hers, Nick says this:

“I’m gonna miss trench coat Nick. He was pretty great. I liked him. He had guts.”

The pair say goodnight and then – just as you think the show will leave us with a tension-filled moment and nothing more – Nick reaches out and grabs Jess’ arm, spinning her into what is probably the best television kiss of 2012. 

What I seriously loved about “Cooler” was how FOX promoted the episode: we all saw the previews, showing Nick and Jess during True American, almost about to kiss, and sighed. “They’re not going to actually kiss,” I remember telling Kim via Gchat that morning. “They’re totally going to tease us.” And truly, this was THE most amazing episode of New Girl to live-tweet with my group of friends because NONE OF US saw the ending coming.

And to be blindsided in a television show – especially in this day and age, where social media spoils nearly everything – is something amazing. 

(As an aside, only New Girl could create such a crazy, fun, chaotic episode where Nick wears a woman’s trench coat the entire time because it gives him confidence, and then – brilliantly – turn it into a metaphor. For his one true moment of absolute confidence and guts occurred only after he took the coat off. Four for you, New Girl writers.)

Favorite line(s): “AY GIRL, WHAT YO NAME IS? WHAT THAT THANG DO?” “No, not like this.” “I meant something like that.”

2) “Chicago”

“Chicago” is one of those beautiful but rare episodes of television that really makes me feel a tug on my heart and a pull toward a character, which allows me to understand and love them on a level that I did not previously. That character was, of course, Nick Miller.

When comedies have to deal with a subject like death, it’s easy to fall into either one of two camps. Either: a) shows cheapen the impact that the death of a loved one has by making it the butt of the episode’s jokes or b) a show dives into oversentimentality and/or darkens its characters and episode in order to deal with the subject matter. Not so with “Chicago,” which found an impeccable balance between humor and heart, making this one of the best episodes of New Girl’s sophomore season.

The episode opens with Jess delivering balloons that she bought back to the loft (where she, Winston, and Schmidt then proceed to inhale the helium from the balloons and laugh) and Nick taking a phone call from his mother. Upon re-entering the living room, the trio of roommates stops their antics and Nick delivers the difficult news: his dad passed away.

Wordlessly, Jess, Schmidt, and Winston rise to their feet. When Nick is, understandably, confused at their silence, the group begins to offer their condolences to him… voices still high-pitched from the helium. However, the cold open ends with everyone surrounding Nick, hugging him and assuring him that they will be there for him.

The gang heads to Chicago, where we meet Nick’s cousin, brother, and mother and realize that Nick Miller, human disaster, is actually the one member of his family who takes care of everyone else. As Winston explains to Jess, Walt wasn’t around much, which left Nick to be the man of the house. And when Jess attempts to make nice with Bonnie Miller… well, things go awry. Turns out Mama Miller doesn’t quite like or trust Nick’s new roommate.

Elsewhere in the episode, Schmidt and Winston team up again (I really do love when they have stories together, and they’ve been fortunate to have a lot of them this season) once the former admits his apprehensions about attending the funeral and seeing Walt’s body in the open casket. Winston, wonderful friend that he is, coaches Schmidt through the process. Ironically, by the end of the episode, Schmidt is comfortable being around Walt’s body – death doesn’t scare him anymore, once he’s forced to see it face-to-face. But Winston, the usually calm and collected one, has a difficult time dealing with Walt’s passing and kind of (sort of… okay REALLY) breaks down as he attempts to give a speech.

Nick is tasked with planning everything for his father’s funeral. Walt wanted a funeral like Elvis had, and his son is intent on giving him just that. But Bonnie also gives Nick another important task: writing the eulogy. And that’s when it hits us and Nick – Walt is really gone, and Nick cannot emotionally deal with what that actually means. So he hands the task over to Jess, who hesitantly accepts, but only because she wants to support Nick in any way that she can. She wants to, genuinely, be there for him throughout the episode but is also concerned that he isn’t giving himself time to process Walt’s passing.

This suspicion is confirmed when Nick abruptly leaves the house and gets drunk on the day of the funeral. He cannot write the eulogy, and Jess – taking charge – gives Winston and Schmidt orders to keep all of the attendants occupied while she sobers Nick up and figures out a way to get the Elvis impersonator sober as well. When Bonnie confronts Jess (and sees the mess that the impersonator is), she becomes upset and notes that they should just call the entire funeral off if it is going to be disastrous anyway.

But Jess is determined to be there for Nick, no matter what that means. And in the case of “Chicago,” it means donning an Elvis costume and performing at Walt’s funeral. There’s a moment that really stood out for me (a few, actually, but I’ll talk about the other in a minute), and that’s when Schmidt, Winston, and Nick re-enter the church and see Jess performing at the funeral. I will let Jake Johnson’s face do the talking:

The moment that Nick sees Jess was something that really knocked the wind out of me because I think that he saw, for the first time, how much she cared about him. Jess has ALWAYS taken care of Nick and he’s sort of resented her for that. He’s claimed that he could take care of himself, and a lot of times he cannot. I think that “Chicago” was so integral to this season because it showed us all why Nick Miller is the way that he is. His life is a mess, and it’s because he spent all of his childhood acting like an adult and now spends his adulthood acting (sometimes) like a child. He had to be there for his mother and brother because Walt was not, and that meant that he had to grow up too fast and take care of the people around him. Bonnie laments this at the end and tries to apologize for his childhood, but Nick stops her. It was all right, he insisted. She didn’t need to apologize.

When Nick begins to deliver the eulogy, he’s finally confronted with a reality that he tried to avoid throughout the episode. There were no more distractions – it was Nick Miller confronting the death of a person who might have been a good guy or might have been a bad guy. Nick admittedly doesn’t know which one of these categories Walt fell into. But he knew one thing: Walt was his father. And he was going to miss him.

Nick pauses to try and collect himself, and that’s when Jess does what she had wanted to do the entire episode: she steps forward and takes his jittering and nervous hand in hers. And immediately, Nick’s anxiety stills. Bonnie, Winston, and Schmidt all look at the pair and you can hear their hearts soften.

Later, Jess awkwardly says goodbye to Bonnie (who she presumes still hates her), but Nick’s mother hands her a bagged snack and embraces her in a hug while Nick looks on fondly. A few moments later, Bonnie tells Nick that she is “glad he has someone who takes care of him,” and the two glance at Jess (who is adorably trying to open her bag of Cheetos with her gloves on).

The beauty of “Chicago” was that it showed us how much these four characters care about one another and how much they will always be there for each other. Jess would do anything for Nick, and he, I would argue, didn’t realize how much she cared about him until this episode. Winston and Schmidt, likewise, do everything they can to be there for their best friend and his family in the episode. “Chicago” is season two’s prime example of how to tackle a serious subject in a comedy without over-sentimentalizing it or demeaning the subject matter’s importance.

Favorite line(s): “Don't laugh when they call him responsible. They don't know why it's hilarious.” “Schmidt, I have to breathe because I am coaching you and also for regular life reasons.” “I’m gonna be there, and I’m gonna hold your hand.”

The “they-all-know” look: 

1) “Parking Spot”

I laugh. A lot.

Actually, I’m the kind of person that you always want to have in your audience during a comedy show because I’ll laugh at pretty much anything. I love watching Friends because I can flip on my television to watch Nick at Nite and see an episode like “The One With Ross’s Tan,” which I have seen dozens of times before and STILL laugh. I know all of the punchlines. I know the physical comedy. And yet, when Ross enters Monica and Chandler’s apartment, I cannot help but chuckle.

There are very few episodes of television that have ever made me laugh so hard that I’ve felt breathless. The end of Community’s “Remedial Chaos Theory” is one of these few episodes. The other is “Parking Spot.”

At its core, this episode of is pretty simple: Schmidt discovers that there is a vacant parking spot for apartment 4D. The loft then decides who should get the spot. Simple, right? But when you throw in a montage of Nick, Jess, and Schmidt’s respective races to the spot (this is the bit of the episode where I laughed so hard that I actually think I stopped breathing), Nick’s apprehension to being in charge of anything, and Jess’ attempt at seduction (coupled with Winston’s isolated storyline), you have my favorite episode of New Girl this season.

When I said earlier that I’ll laugh at pretty much anything, I genuinely meant it. But that doesn’t mean that I’m willing to sacrifice plot or good writing in order to enjoy a punchline. Episodes of shows are at their funniest when there is both an appropriate number of jokes and/or gags AND when there is something at stake for each of the characters in the episode. That has been and always will be the key to making a television show successful, in my opinion. If we, as an audience, do not feel invested enough in the characters to believe that there are real and important stakes in place for whatever decisions they make (or do not make), then we are unable to completely connect with them and the show as a whole.

In “Parking Spot,” there are some literal stakes – a parking spot – for each of the characters. And because everyone feels they deserve an equal shot at the prime parking spot due to their current less-than-desirable conditions, they vie to win it. Jess attempts to seduce Nick (remember that they shared a pretty life-changing kiss a few episodes prior) once he forfeits the game for the spot, and he willingly grants her the spot. Schmidt finds out this information and – having until this point been completely unaware of the kiss that Nick and Jess shared – puts the pieces together and confronts the pair about their kiss.

Later on, as the trio camps out in the spot, Schmidt utters what is perhaps one of the most profound and also painful statements on this series to date. Jess berates Nick for not defending her, and Schmidt counters with: "Because what, you kissed? And now he owes you some sort of emotional support and loyalty?"

That visibly stings Jess, and it stung me, too. The truth of the matter is that Schmidt was right. Just because Nick and Jess kissed didn’t mean that he owed her anything, emotionally or otherwise. And though Nick attempted to blow off the kiss in “Table 34,” by insisting that it didn’t mean anything, the truth was – to both of them – it meant something. And that something could not be ignored. For Jess, the kiss changed the way that she thought about Nick, both consciously and unconsciously. And in “Parking Spot,” she believed that because of that kiss, she deserved his support.

But a few moments later, something even MORE stinging occurs – Nick, upset, insists that kissing Jess was the biggest mistake he has ever made (bigger than law school, bigger than his mispronunciation of the President’s name, and bigger than being with Caroline). Looking like Nick had just slapped her in the face, Jess left the parking garage and conceded the win to Nick and Schmidt.

Nick, full of remorse, watches her leave. And Schmidt – wisely – says: “You realize every moment you don’t run after her you become more and more of a buttwad, don’t you?” Nick does heed Schmidt’s advice and finds Jess back at the apartment where the woman is venting her frustration about the “No-Nail Oath” that Schmidt informed her about. When Jess moved into the loft, Schmidt, Nick, and Coach took an oath that they would not nail their new female roommate. Schmidt accuses Nick throughout the episode of breaking the oath by kissing Jess.

But Nick retracts his earlier statement: he doesn’t regret kissing Jess, but he regrets what it DID. “It made things weird,” he explains. And, since they are roommates, they need to decide how to make their living situation as… well, livable as possible. Jess seems relieved at this information. Though, frustrated, she asks if the men in the apartment thought that she would be so weak as to not be able to help herself and sleep with one of them. Nick corrects her by saying: “It was me, Jess. I couldn’t help it.”

(Our reaction is much like Jess’, who drops the box of fish sticks that she’s holding onto the floor.)

Because “Parking Spot” is the first indicator of what Jake Johnson explained in a recent interview – he had been playing Nick from the pilot episode of the series as someone who had feelings for Jess. And, in this episode, he admits to being the reason that they had to enact the oath in the first place. He had been attracted to her for a lot longer than she – or we – had known (well, actually not me – I began rooting for these two in the pilot episode!). That changes things for Jess, and it changes them for Nick, too, when he admits that. And just as Nick begins to lean toward Jess, Schmidt opens the front door, effectively interrupting whatever moment they were about to have.

“Parking Spot” is genuinely one of the funniest episodes of New Girl and definitely one of the best episodes, all-around, of television that I have watched in a long time. The stories were cohesive, hilarious, emotional, and meaningful. 

And that’s – quite frankly – the best way to describe this entire season of New Girl.

Favorite line(s): “I am the decider of us three! I decide! Let the decider decide! I am not the suggester! I am not having a good time with this game!” “I’m going to go scare the feral cats that live in my current parking spot away. I’m going to throw fish sticks at them and sing ‘Memory’ and don’t you dare judge me.”

Episode MVP: Schmidt

Runner-Up for Top 5: “Virgins”


So there you have it, folks! My top 5 (er, technically 6) episodes of New Girl this season. What do you think? What would make your list? If I’m being honest, there were actually very few episodes that I didn’t like this season, so cutting it back to 5 (er, 6) was really difficult.

Hit the comments and let me know some of your favorite moments! And don’t forget: you are all cordially invited to our New Girl season one #SummerRewatch, which kicks off June 11th at 9PM EST. I’ll be live-tweeting episodes and then blogging about them the following morning (as I do). 

Have a great weekend, folks! And I hope to see you all around this summer. :)


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