Wednesday, March 12, 2014

New Girl 3x19 "Fired Up" (If You Want It, Just Ask For It)

"Fired Up"
Original Airdate: March 11, 2014

When you want something, you try your hardest to get it. If you want a new job, you apply for positions that interest you. If you want to run a half-marathon, you train for it. If you want to be the best at whatever you do – whether it’s sewing or building a rocket’s engine for NASA – you try your best and devote your time and energy to achieving your goal. And sometimes, just sometimes, you have to ASK for what you want.

Kids have no problem with this concept. If they want a pony, they ask their parents. If they want to spend the night at a friend’s house, they ask their parents. If they want clarification on why their parents have said “no” to either of those requests… they just ask. Kids are good at that, but adults often aren’t, especially if they’re anything like Jessica Day. In “Fired Up,” Jess wants a promotion but she’s a lot like me in that confrontation isn’t necessarily her area of expertise. So instead of asking Principal Foster for the opportunity to apply to be Vice Principal of the school, she spends her time doing meager jobs around the campus in hopes that her boss will see her good work and reward her for it with a promotion in a few years. Coach is baffled by this approach and I’m sure some of the audience is as well. But we have to remember that Jess isn’t the type of person who likes to demand things; she’s rather meek and sort of a pushover and very trusting, which makes her near-opposite boyfriend crazy sometimes.

But interestingly enough, Jess and Nick have parallel issues in this episode. Nick wants to be respected by Schmidt, but he’s fearful that he’s going to let his friend down. And Schmidt is very trusting of Nick for the majority of the episode. All Nick wants – all he really wants in every situation in life – is a chance to prove people wrong. He tells this to Jess mid-way through the episode in a one-sided heart-to-heart. He explains this to her in “Winston’s Birthday,” too, when he notes that he wants “all fathers to like [him].” Nick has been told all of his adult life that he’s essentially amounted to nothing. All of those jerks at law school didn’t think he had what it took to become a lawyer and his friends – his BEST friends – thought the same of him. So Nick wants to prove everyone wrong and Jess wants to prove to herself and to her boss that she has what it takes to help run her school and… well, “Fired Up” sees both of these characters trying and failing and then trying some more in these areas.

But before we delve too deep into the characters and their development this week, let’s recap the plot of the episode, shall we?

“Fired Up” opens with a bunch of Schmidt’s stuff. As we learned in “Sister III,” the marketing executive had to move back into the loft once he lost nearly all of his money in a three year lease of a storefront for Abby. Schmidt’s stuff is everywhere, which is frustrating for Winston as he trips and falls over all of the man’s belongings. Nick’s suggestion is that Schmidt take all his belongings and store them in the storefront so that they’re out of the loft. Meanwhile, Jess heads to Coach’s room and informs him that they’re leaving. As it turns out, Jess got Coach a job at the school and though the man is doubtful he’ll even enjoy the job, he goes anyway. (He loves the job. He really does.)

The A-story of this episode was one of my favorites for a few reasons: 1) I love the progression of Jess and Coach’s relationship since “Basketsball.” He’s truly become her friend and he genuinely cares about her now. He didn’t know how to open himself up or be, you know, a PERSON around her prior to that episode. But “Fired Up” is all about the Coach/Jess friendship and it’s not just one-sided – Jess truly thinks of Coach as a friend and someone she cares about too. 2) I love shows where people love their jobs. That’s what’s so endearing about comedies like Parks and Recreation and The Crazy Ones. While there are a lot of shows on television that focus on menial jobs and suffering through 9-to-5 offices (The Office) in areas you’re not remotely passionate about, New Girl really falls on par with Parks and Rec and The Crazy Ones in that every single person on the show loves their job and is good at their job. Though Nick is often demeaned as a bartender, we saw in “Clavado En Un Bar” that he loves what he does. Jess loves being a teacher. Coach loves being a coach. And that’s kind of delightful.

At Schmidt’s recently purchased storefront, he, Nick, and Winston have moved all of his belongings into the space. Winston is at the piano, making up songs a la “Injured” (honestly this is one of the best and most underrated parts of the episode), while Schmidt laments his new, broke position in life. He claims to be in “the caboose” alongside Nick and the latter wonders what exactly Schmidt means by that. Here’s what Schmidt means and why this episode baffled me: Schmidt has always thought low of Nick. He’s made it clear in episodes like “Tinfinity” that he generally believes that Nick’s position in life is screwing up. Even Winston has expressed his doubt in Nick over the years (“Eggs”) and the man’s ability to accomplish anything. It’s kind of heartbreaking because we, the audience, know that Nick did pass the California State Bar. He could have easily been a lawyer. He was smart enough and worked hard enough, but the reason he didn’t become one wasn’t because he didn’t have what it took. It was simply because he didn’t like who he WAS as a lawyer. Nick’s courageous in that regard, not a coward or a screw up. Is the bartender a bit dense sometimes and goofy? Yes, of course. But Schmidt’s implication here is that Nick is merely coasting along through life, content to be mediocre forever. What’s even MORE telling (and makes me curious) is that when Nick reminds Schmidt and Winston that he passed the bar… he’s reminding them. The way that the conversation plays out later on leads me to believe that Schmidt and Winston knew Nick willingly gave up his shot at being a lawyer. And it makes episodes like “Fired Up” which focus on Schmidt’s perception of Nick all the more painful.

Schmidt commits another error momentarily when a customer walks into the storefront, presuming it to be a shop. Because he’s desperate for money, Schmidt puts up the fa├žade of it being a real store and allows the man in, much to the displeasure of Nick who warns Schmidt that what he’s doing is illegal. Schmidt – because he’s irritatingly prideful sometimes and thinks he knows best – decides not to take advice from his best friend and immediately regrets in when the customer falls and claims that he is going to sue Schmidt’s store.

At Jess’ school, Coach and Jess have lunch together when another teacher (whose name I can’t remember but was in “Nerd”) interrupts to get Jess to help him out with his computer. I guess the young woman has learned some things since “First Date,” because she helps the man out. Coach is baffled and so are we until Jess explains that she’s been doing a lot of odd jobs around the school in hopes that Principal Foster will take notice and give her a promotion in a few years when she has the necessary experience and qualifications.

Jess and Coach have completely opposite beliefs when it comes to recognition – Jess, sweetly, believes that hard work will eventually pay off without any necessary confrontation. I’m with Jess when it comes to situations like these, as I hate confrontation more than I hate lemon-flavored things (and I hate lemon-flavored things a lot). Coach, on the other hand, does give Jess some helpful advice. He’s unafraid to be brash and bold and it’s part of what makes him a great coach. Could you imagine Coach trying to actually teach a class of children or Jess trying to coach a team? Both individuals have their skill sets for a reason. Coach tells Jess that if she wants a promotion, she should just ASK for it. So the two head to the gym where Coach tries to encourage and motivate Jess. He explains to her that she can’t just get things she wants by hoping they come to fruition eventually – she needs to earn them by being bold and asking for them. By the end of the conversation, Jess is fired up and ready to ask Principal Foster for a chance to apply to become Vice Principal of the school.

Back at the loft, Schmidt enters in a conundrum: he can’t find anyone to represent him as he’s being sued and is also pretty much broke. When Winston suggests that Nick represent Schmidt, the man scoffs at the notion, insisting that he would be the actual worst lawyer. But Nick’s motives (as he later explains to Jess) always stem from the desire to prove others wrong, so he insists on taking the case and Schmidt begrudgingly accepts both Nick’s and Winston’s assistance, as the latter has been watching a lot of Judging Amy and crime dramas apparently.

Jess, meanwhile, is talking to Principal Foster and finally works up the confidence to explain why she’s qualified to become Vice Principal… and Foster agrees, handing her the job on the spot and explaining that he thought he would have to force someone into the position. Jess is elated, Coach is elated, and everything is perfect. For now. In contrast to how wonderfully things are going at Jess’ school, things aren’t going super well at the loft as Nick tries to read through the documents and come up with a plan before Schmidt’s deposition. It’s been years since Nick has been in school and everything has seemingly faded from his memory. He’s clearly panicking and Schmidt is panicking so he fires Nick. Honestly, I didn’t entirely disagree with Schmidt at this point. For as much as the marketing executive tries to believe in his friend and has tried to trust in him over the years, Nick has made it a habit of messing up. This is the part that Schmidt fixates on. However, the part that Schmidt seems to forget is this: Nick ALWAYS comes through; he always has Schmidt’s back, no matter how insane or difficult the circumstances may be.

Our C-story is hilarious and takes place at the bar where Mike, the hilariously creepy worker, and Cece are on a shift together. The storyline centers around an attractive, Australian young man named Buster at the bar who begins to flirt with Cece and then reveals, under Mike’s prompting and confiscation of his ID, that he is under 21 years old. Ruh-roh.

At the school, Jess confronts Principal Foster about the budget (he asks if they have too much money and I got some serious Dean Pelton vibes when he did) and notes that they don’t have enough money. Principal Foster has a solution that Jess should have seen coming: they’ll need to fire two staff members and the last two hired are the first two to go. Unfortunately for Jess, that means that she needs to fire Coach. Now, Jess is kind and thoughtful and meek and sometimes a pushover. And those attributes, coupled with her desire to keep a job that Coach encouraged her to pursue anyway lead her to do something completely out-of-character: she fires Coach. Now, this act isn’t entirely out-of-character as Jess does feel remorse for the way that she behaved (she justifies her actions later on to Winston), placing her needs above the needs of her friends. Essentially, she’s trying to be like Coach – trying to be, as Erik Adams noted in his review, more of the “bulldozer” personality that she feels she needs to be in order to be a successful Vice Principal. But that’s not who Jess is and it’s not who she’s ever been. She’s a strong woman, no doubt about it, but she’s not callous and she’s not unfeeling and she’s always sweet. So when she has to fire Coach, the decision weighs on her because she has a conscience about the act.

The next day, Jess tries to justify her firing of Coach and approaches Nick for advice. Her boyfriend interrupts her, though, and explains HIS issues – Schmidt fired him and he never got a chance to prove his best friend wrong, just like he never got the chance to prove the guys at law school wrong. Jess’ solution is simple and is – of course – advice she needs to give herself: she encourages Nick to go after what he wants but to ensure that by doing so, he’s not becoming a cog on a larger, flawed system. The Nick/Jess interaction in this scene was more reminiscent of season one than anything else, with Nick acting a tad selfish and Jess being completely baffled by her boyfriend’s behavior. Nevertheless, Jess’ words affect Nick and he shows up to Schmidt’s deposition with Winston, both of them ready to lawyer it up. Winston, for what it’s worth, is doing a lot better job at being a lawyer which is pretty hilarious. Heck, I feel like even I would be a better lawyer than Nick was in this episode and all I have to go on are three seasons’ worth of Suits episodes.

At the bar, Jess and Coach are hanging out and both feel pretty awful at the moment – Jess for getting Coach fired and Coach for being fired and missing out on a volleyball game with his kids, though he insists that he is proud of Jess and it’s a lovely little moment that made me so happy inside. Coach is good at being sort of “bulldozer”-y in personality: he’s good at being loud and bold and we often don’t associate his character with one of empathy. Jess is empathetic, but sometimes I forget that Coach cares about people; he truly and honestly does care about those kids even though they annoy him and are not as skilled as he would hope.

Coach loves his kids and he loves his job and I think Jess suddenly realizes that, at the bar. I think that she always believed that Coach was the kind of guy who didn’t emotionally connect to much (and there’s pretty strong evidence to suggest that he is that way a lot of the time) until she hears him talk about the kids on his team and she realizes that he has just as much passion and dedication as she does. The only difference, of course, is that HE didn’t use that passion and dedication to fire a friend. So Jess makes a decision and it’s this: they’re going to the volleyball game Coach is going to be a coach to those kids. Because Coach feeling awful and JESS feeling awful is not what she wanted at all. And they both deserve to be happy without compromising the happiness of each other.

Schmidt’s deposition isn’t going so well though, as Schmidt and Nick are stuck in an endless spiral of fighting and Nick clearly has no idea what he’s doing in regards to dealing with a client. Schmidt, understandably, contemplates taking the settlement deal that is offered to him but Nick requests a sidebar and explains to his friend that he simply cannot make that move. Here’s what happens in this moment: Schmidt continues to believe in Nick, in spite of the fact that Nick continues to let him down. It’s actually kind of wonderful, really, that Schmidt will always take chances on Nick and Nick will always prove Schmidt wrong in the end because THAT is what motivates him more than anything else: this desire to be a better version of himself. So when Nick explains that he has a plan, Schmidt agrees to give his best friend another shot because he believes in him.

Back at the school, Coach shows up to the game and the kids are ecstatic. The man is back in his element and he encourages his team to do well and try hard as Jess looks on proudly. The one person who is not proud? Principal Foster. He’s miffed that Jess went over his head to essentially re-hire Coach, but Jess stands up for herself: she explains that she will not be a bulldozer but she will not be a pushover. She will find a way to make up for the deficit and will do it without having to let the best people in the school go. One of the teachers suggests that they rent out the library after school to earn more money. Jess’ resourcefulness and her decision to stand up to Foster are what will make her a wonderful Vice Principal. She may have gotten the job by emulating qualities found in Coach, but the reason she will keep it and be successful is entirely because of her OWN merits.

The deposition winds down with Nick’s plan being put in motion: he removes the screws to his chair, secretly, which causes him to fall back. The other lawyers scoff, wondering aloud whether t his is Nick’s first case. When he notes that he is, he also becomes an unexpected genius as he insists that he will file petition upon petition and slam the lawyers with paperwork… unless they pay the $20,000 settlement to their client themselves, and then Nick will leave the lawyers alone. And then Nick delivers this amazing line that reminded me why I believe in him after all: “What do you call a lunatic who’s only got one case and no hobbies? Your worst nightmare.” And that, dear friends, is the moment Nick Miller finally felt the joy of saying “I told you so” to all of those law school jerks.

Back at the bar, the men celebrate with Cece and Buster returns, hoping to ask the woman out on a date, even though he is much younger than she is. But after hearing him out, Cece decides to give the man a shot anyway (much to the delight of Nick, Schmidt, and Winston, all of whom cheer for and compliment Buster’s attractiveness until Cece hurriedly rushes the man out of the bar with her).

Later that night, Nick comes home to find Jess passed out on their bed, piles of books around her. He tries to wake her up, but when it’s clear that she’s down for the count, he climbs right into bed with her, still in his suit, and remarks that they’re a “power couple.” And you know what? After all of the hard work that Jess put in during “Fired Up” to accomplish a goal without compromising her beliefs and after all of the effort Nick put in, trying to get just one person to believe in him… I have to believe that Nick is right. They ARE a power couple.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • Sophia Lear wrote this episode (she also co-wrote “Bachelorette Party”) and I think she did a fabulous job with it. I completely and utterly fell in love with the Coach/Jess story and couldn’t stop laughing at all of Mike’s lines in the C-story. Kudos to you, Sophia!
  • “There is no justice for the Hebrew man. Not in these United States.”
  • The flashback of Nick forgetting how to ride a bike is priceless.
  • Coach tries to dump “Coachade” instead of “Gatorade” on Jess.
  • “And I’m very quick on my…” “… Did you just forget the word feet?”
  • MATT FUSFELD CAMEO. I love when writers of series make cameos in their own show.
  • “That’s right, I said it. It’s not a typo.”
  • “Are you Australian or from heaven?”
  • The court stenographer reading back the Schmidt/Nick exchange was hilarious.
  • Buster’s reasons that Cece should give him a shot are fabulous.
Thank you all for reading! The show is off next week (a re-run of “Prince” will be airing), so take the time to catch up on all of my past New Girl reviews from this season. I’ll be back in two weeks with a review of what I hear will be the third True American installment. I, for one, am stoked. Until then, folks! :)

1 comment:

  1. Really wonderful review. I always love how faithful the writers keep to their characters traits. Like Jess. She will always try to strive to achieve success but never at the expense of others esp. people she cares about.

    Also I have really liked Jess and Coach's interactions and the continued building of their friendship. And I have really started to love Winston these last half-dozen or so episodes.

    I'd go on about Nick and Schmidt's friendship and how it reminds me of this quote " We consider our friends as our equals. But you consider your best friend as someone as your better." But I'll save that for another day.

    Once again wonderful review Jennifer!