Wednesday, March 4, 2015

New Girl 4x18 "Walk of Shame" (Welcome to Our Freaking Journey)

"Walk of Shame"
Original Airdate: March 3, 2015

Technically I'm an adult, but I don't quite feel like one yet and I wonder if I ever will. I still have to call my dad to ask him about how to check the oil in my car, what my insurance means, and the steps to buying a house. Some days, I really do wonder if I'll wake up one morning and suddenly feel like I'm twenty-six. It'll be a day that calling my bank on the phone won't seem intimidating and I'll be able to hold a conversation with people about mortgages and insurance and 401k plans. Then I watch television shows like New Girl and episodes like "Walk of Shame" and I feel a little bit better about my life and my choices. Because this is a show about people who are in their 30s and don't have their crap together. Isn't that refreshing? Look, I love television a lot. And I love seeing happy, successful, really well-rounded characters on television series who have good jobs and are married and settled with kids. But what I also really love is seeing a character like Jessica Day: a woman who doesn't have her life together but who feels like she needs to because society tells her she has to. I love seeing a woman like Cece who admits that she's really confused as to who she is anymore -- that she doesn't know herself.

Jess has an amazing little rant in this episode which I'll talk about more but from the A-story to the B-story, "Walk of Shame" is all about learning to embrace who you really are: especially the messy parts of yourself that you would rather fix. Because failing and being stupid and messing up is part of your journey. And the sooner that we can accept those pieces of us that we really don't like and the sooner we can admit that we're a work-in-progress, the better off we will all be. Truly, there's nothing shameful about that.

"Walk of Shame" is a pretty cut-and-dry A/B episode of New Girl and what I really appreciated (thanks to writer Danielle Sanchez-Witzel, who I'll talk more about in the notes portion of this review) about it was that it split the group into Jess/Cece and then Nick/Coach/Winston/Schmidt. Really, the group-centric atmosphere only bookends the episode. We open with the group and we close with the group all together, which is pretty nice. Speaking of opening, the episode opens with Jess and Cece playing with their hair at the bar. They're feeling really pretty and really confident because they just got blow-outs. Schmidt is the only person who warns them of the power of the blow-out: it'll give them unrealistically high self-confidence and they need to regulate themselves accordingly.

The girls don't listen, as they often do when it comes to Schmidt, and decide to attend a party hosted by Bearclaw (the hilariously fabulous Josh Gad) and his roommate. The girls agree because they realize that they're both single and need to be bold and have adventures and have fun... and then they wake up the following morning at Bearclaw's apartment, terribly hungover and feeling really awkward. Jess slept in Bearclaw's bed and Cece with his roommate and both women sneak out so that they won't have to face the dreaded "walk of shame." Unfortunately for our lovely ladies, their car was towed, their cell phones are dead, and they have no cash on them. Great.

Meanwhile, Coach and May's relationship is blossoming and the woman (who we discover plays the cello) invites Coach and the rest of the men in the apartment to a gala hosted at an art gallery. Nick and Winston seem less than thrilled by this outing, more content to watch stupid Internet videos with each other instead of attend a refined social event. I love that "Walk of Shame" split the group of men into two camps: those who wanted to try to be refined (Schmidt technically already has refined taste, really, and is just coaching Coach) and those who would rather go to a water park. There's always been this divide in New Girl between Nick and Schmidt about being an adult and acting like an adult. We see clearly that Schmidt holds himself to higher standards than Nick does; that Schmidt often believes himself to be more elevated than the group and more of an adult than they are. It's fun then, in this episode, to have the opportunity to see all of the men acting like idiots. But it's even more than that, in the B-story: it's the same idea that Jess and Cece grapple with on their walk of shame. It's the notion of what even being an adult MEANS.

Society expects us to be a certain way when we get older. By the time we're 30, it tells us, we should be settled down and have children, a house in the suburbs, and a family pet. We should want to go to things like art galleries. We should probably try our hand at gardening or starting book clubs. We shouldn't be out drinking in bars. We shouldn't prefer the Monday Night Football theme to classical music. We should have our lives together. It's sad, but it's true and television often reflects the beliefs of society. How many characters on television have their lives all settled once they reach adulthood? How many have successful jobs and really nice wardrobes and live in houses that they own? Again, what I love about New Girl is that it's a show about a bunch of adults who don't have their lives together. They rent an apartment because they can't afford to buy houses themselves. They have failed relationships. Sometimes they get into stupid fights over purses or bets. But they grow, continually, and that's what makes them admirable. They don't let society tell them how they should be: they're each on their own unique journeys and it's the getting-there that makes it all worth it.

Speaking of, Jess and Cece attempt to call Nick (to no avail) and start to walk home. On the way, they get really thirsty and end up having a heart-to-heart where they both admit that they didn't sleep with their respective bed-buddies from the night before. Jess actually spent the night making up a musical with Bearclaw and Cece started to hook up with a guy... until she called him "Schmidt." Four times. There's this little moment where Jess and Cece examine their lives and their decisions and feel ashamed for who they are and what they've become. They're not in their twenties anymore. They shouldn't be doing a walk of shame. They should be... different. Better, perhaps. Cece admits that she doesn't even know herself anymore and it's this really cool, tiny moment of vulnerability that we see in her that we haven't seen before. It's a moment of vulnerability for Jess, too, as she admits that she can't even do a walk of shame the right way. You can tell that for as confident and cool as Jess and Cece appear to be most of the time, they're still scared. They're scared that life is passing them by and they can't do anything to stop it.

At the loft, Schmidt tells Coach that they have to figure out a way to get Nick and Winston to not want to attend the gala. They'll ruin it, Schmidt insists, because they're not refined. And if they ruin that, they'll ruin Coach's chances with May. So the men devise a plan, but Nick and Winston pick up on their subtle manipulation and decide to attend the gala just to spite Schmidt and Coach. That... doesn't go well, mainly because Coach is already so nervous about messing things up with May. Here's the thing: Coach doesn't think he's good enough for May, as he is. He thinks he needs to be someone better. And Schmidt thinks this, too, I think because Schmidt always has such low self-esteem. He's concerned with appearances an on looking and acting the part, like in a play. So Coach is worried about losing May because he's worried he's going to say or do something wrong and she'll realize she made a mistake. But what's so great about May is that before Coach even does or says anything, she learns how to make him feel valued. She realizes that she has different tastes than he does: that she likes classical music and he likes sports. But what's so refreshing about her as a character is that she doesn't change who she fundamentally is to be in a relationship and Coach doesn't change who HE fundamentally is, either. What happens -- which is beautiful -- is Coach learns to be honest. He learns to accept himself and when he does (when he humbly admits to May that he can't be the kind of guy who pretends anymore to like what she does in order to win her over or be accepted by her friends), he finds that May accepts him just as he is, flaws and all.

Accepting yourself, flaws and all, is what this episode is about: Jess and Cece run into Paul on their walk of shame and when it appears like Paul has his life together, Jess delivers a fantastic monologue about how she does not even remotely have her life together, but that she's okay with that. She's okay with the fact that she's on a walk of shame because she's taking back that name: there's nothing shameful about getting drunk and making up a musical about woodland creatures. To her, that was more fun than hosting a boring "adult" party. And it was so refreshing to see Jess accept herself: to realize that she's only part-way through her journey, not at the end of it. To hear her admit that she's still learning and still growing and that the world tells her she should have her crap together by now but she won't allow herself to feel guilty for NOT... well, that was refreshing. It was admirable, even. Because Jess and Cece (and Nick and Coach and Schmidt and Winston) have a long road of adulthood ahead of them, full of decisions and struggles. But they can't pretend like their lives are okay all the time. They need to embrace the suck in order to get better.

Paul is still trying to pretend that his life is okay and it's not until Jess expresses how happy she is with her life being messy that he admits his wife left him and he doesn't have kids and he's working as a clown for children's birthday parties. It's a great moment and everything that follows is great too: Jess encourages Paul to quit if he's unhappy and to embrace his own "walk of shame" by taking back the term and being proud of the fact that his journey is not over and he's somewhere in the middle of it, still. So he does. And together, Jess, Paul, and Cece walk proudly back to the loft, embracing their messiness and brokenness.

Meanwhile, Nick, Schmidt, Winston, and Coach embrace their own flaws, too. After Nick and Winston show up to the gala uninvited, Coach and Schmidt worry that they'll ruin the atmosphere and May will get freaked out and dump Coach. But after a few mishaps, the men have a heart-to-heart (to-heart-to-heart) in the bathroom about how they're all pretty flawed but that in order to be in a successful relationship, Coach can't pretend to be someone he's not. (There's this awesome moment where Coach laments the fact that May is too good for him and that perhaps he should just give up and go back to having meaningless hook-ups. But Schmidt discourages him from that, mainly because he realizes the reason Coach HAD those hook-ups was because he wasn't confident in himself. This is amazing advice coming from Schmidt who has had like, a self-confidence renaissance this year and has realized he deserves more in life than just being someone's boy toy.)

So Coach confronts May and as I stated above, it's beautiful. He embraces who he is. And Jess, Paul, and Cece embrace who they are: adults who don't have their lives together but who are trying and failing and then getting back up and trying again. That's what the moral of "Walk of Shame" really is though and it's the moral of New Girl in a nutshell: being an adult doesn't mean having all your crap together. It means taking your journey one step at a time and realizing that you don't have to compare your journey to anyone else's.

And that's a moral I think we all need to hear.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • Danielle Sanchez-Witzel wrote this episode and she also wrote "Girl Fight." I absolutely love her style of writing because she's able to write impeccable Jess/Cece stories (Nina Pedrad is also very good at this). This time around, rather than focusing on Jess and Cece's differences, she wrote a stellar episode that highlighted exactly what makes them similar and what makes them friends. The B-story was also fantastic because it paralleled the A-story and also because stories with just the men in the loft? I am always a fan.
  • "You know whose hair I admire? Jesus. Man, dude's hair gets overlooked because of all the miracles and stuff." Winston Bishop gets all the great lines, you guys.
  • "Our hair looks sooooooooo good right now."
  • "He said he was worried about Taylor Swift living in New York all alone." "Well yeah. We all are!"
  • "Also. 'Legit.' Not a fan of that word either."
  • NICK IN A VEST WITHOUT A SHIRT. That was hilarious.
  • Also, the fact that Nick's is one of the phone numbers Jess knows by heart is delightful.
  • "Damn lousy serpentssssssssssss."
  • "I did something even worse: we made up a musical about woodland creatures."
  • "I felt so bad afterwards, I straightened up his room."
  • I love that this episode saw the return of Josh Gad, who's hilarious and Justin Long who is also fantastic as Paul Genzlinger.
  • "Just because I don't have a husband or a baby or a house doesn't mean I'm not living well." #gpoy
  • "Welcome to MY freaking journey."
  • "Look at this hair! This isn't single girl hair, this is adventure hair. This isn't boring, married, settled hair!"
  • "FYI, you guys live with the cat too."
  • "You're Coach. You're sex in a sweatsuit."
  • "If Taylor Swift can live alone in New York, just think what you can do!" This is my new life motto and I'm not even ashamed.
  • "My circle's not really even a circle. It's more like... a swirling mess of idiots."
  • Coach/May is the actual cutest thing ever. She learned the Monday Night Football theme and played it on the cello. TRUE LOVE, YOU GUYS. TRUE LOVE.
  • "Shame, shame. I know your name!" FAVORITE CALLBACK THIS EPISODE.
  • Jess, Bearclaw, Paul, and May performing the woodland creatures musical for the rest of the group was hysterical.
New Girl fans, how did you like this episode? Are you loving this season as much as I am? Sadly we are on hiatus next week but that just means there's plenty of time to hit up the comments section with your thoughts on "Walk of Shame"! Until then, folks. :)


  1. As far as I can tell a most people don't feel like an "adult" when they think they should. I'm married with a kid and I don't feel like an adult sometimes. I mostly feel like I did when I was 19 (although I wouldn't go back even if you paid me loads of money.) Thankfully, I am less insecure and I care less about what others think of me and I was glad to see Jess say something similar in the episode. What I found most interesting was that Jess and Cece were assuming people would judge them harshly and Jess assumed that Paul would be critical when he was probably thinking no such thing. He was entirely caught up in his own worries and Jess was projecting the judgements that she had running through her own head into something he was thinking. And I think it's a shame that we assume that people's marital status or career choices or home-ownership says something about their happiness or wisdom.

    I think it is because we do not, as a culture, have a clear cut definition of what it means to be an adult or any kind of universal rite of passage. Most people are pretty much making it up as they go along. Take my best friend from high school and I. She has always known what she wanted to do. By the time she finished her PhD I wasn't even finished with my undergraduate work. I changed my mind so often that I didn't finish my bachelor's until I was 27 (and I still have no idea what kind of "career" I would like to have). I have never purchased property or a car. I've lived in 3 different countries and had lots of adventures. This may make my life sound kinda flighty but the truth is I have always been more likely to stay home and read a book than go to any parties. I am supremely boring and my being single or being married with a kid hasn't really changed any of that. So who is more of an adult, my high school friend or me? We are both married with children now but that isn't what really defines our characters. My path has always been more winding than hers and she has always been more ambitious than I am. It's just who we are, at age 16 and at age 37. What Jess and Cece need to figure out is if they are stalled and unhappy with where they are because of desires in their own hearts or if any pressure they have felt is coming from what they perceive they are "supposed" to be. Whose expectations do they feel they need to live up to?

    Like you I thought the discussion the guys had in the bathroom was delightful. And I love that they all agree that Winston is the most embarrassing. The list of his embarrassing qualities was hilarious and Winston didn't really seemed phased by any of it. Of all of them, he has seemed the most happy in himself and I love that. (And he so has the the best lines.) My other favourite thing was the interplay between Nick and Winston (their discussion of whether or not to go to the art gallery nearly made me wet myself). They are such old friends with such great chemistry and I miss that dynamic when we don't get them just one on one from time to time.

    Ah, the power of the blowout. I still remember the best haircut and blow-dry I ever got. It has become epic in my memory. Just thinking of it makes me want to toss my hair and strut. Boys just don't understand.

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