Thursday, January 21, 2016

New Girl 5x03 "Jury Duty" (Who's That Girl? It's...!)

"Jury Duty"
Original Airdate: January 19, 2016

There was a time where the thought of New Girl without Jessica Day seemed unfathomable. In the show's first season, a majority of the stories were about Jess relating to her three new male roommates, often rather awkwardly. She was the one who would sing and use weird voices, and all of her quirks were on display. But then something pretty genius happened — the show became less and less about Jess trying to fit in with her new roommates and more and more about how everyone in the loft is weird. Nick is weird because he's cheap and a hoarder and pretty bad at being an adult. Winston is weird because he has a cat and thinks he can do pranks. And Schmidt is weird because he cares a lot about himself and his appearances, and has a tendency to go overboard when it comes to a lot of things (like parking spots or loose spiders in the apartment). 

New Girl is no longer a show about Jess trying to get through a break-up and living with three strangers from the Internet. Five years in, this is now a show about growing up and figuring out what you're doing with your life and being okay in admitting that you have no freakin' clue what you're actually doing. It's a show about life and love and how mistakes are okay and maturity is okay and so is everything in between. Over the years, this became a show about a group of people, rather than just one person.

So when it was announced that Zooey Deschanel would be leaving the show briefly for a pregnancy hiatus, I wasn't especially worried that the show would crumble without her presence. But I was a tad bit concerned as to how the writers would gather the rest of the ensemble together in her absence. "Jury Duty" was a fitting send-off that answered that very question — how WOULD the roommates deal if Jess was ever to go away for a short, yet extended period of time? The answer? They would pretty much fall apart, but inevitably be okay.


Most of "Jury Duty" is focused on what happens whenever Jess leaves the loft for an extended period of time. Nick doesn't know how to function without Jess' advice, and even when he does receive it, he usually does the exact opposite. Winston makes bad decisions and Jess, in addition to running a school, comes home from work presumably every day in order to give advice and prevent her roommates from burning down the apartment. I love that Jess has become the glue that holds the apartment together when she wasn't even wanted in the first place by the guys. It makes you wonder exactly how they lived life before Jess moved in.

The central conflict in the loft these days is, apparently, Cece's presence. Nick is fed up with her messiness (Jess refers to her best friend as a "a hot slob"), which is saying something coming from the guy who keeps literal garbage in his car and bedroom. And with his frustration mounting and Schmidt's willful ignorance of the situation, Nick wants to take matters into his own hands and tell Cece off. Jess knows that this is a terrible idea and tells him not to do it. Which, of course, Nick does not listen to.

And as a result, Nick and Cece get into a huge argument which I found really great (and also hilarious). We don't get a chance to see these two interact that much, and I thought that "Jury Duty" was a great conflict for them to work through. Both are such central figures in Jess' life, but are more central in Schmidt's. With Cece's engagement to Schmidt, Nick is beginning to feel like he's losing his best friend. And his jealousy of Cece is understandable, as is her jealousy of him.

The problem isn't that they are jealous of one another — the problem is that they use the tiny problems as masks to hide the bigger ones. Nick doesn't really loathe Cece's presence in the loft because she's messy; Cece doesn't really resent Nick because he tells the same story over and over again in an attempt to be funny. They are, as Jess tells Schmidt, essentially the same person. I had never thought about Nick and Cece's similarities so blatantly before. I've known them to be similar ("Table 34," anyone?) but I haven't really dwelt on the idea of them being so alike.

Nick and Cece are both stubborn and strong-willed individuals who fight about stupid stuff occasionally and yet who also love a lot more than they are willing to admit to themselves or to others. So while watching them bicker throughout most of the episode (and watching Schmidt growing more and more uncomfortable), it was really satisfying to see them come to the realization that the reason they butt heads so much is because they're essentially the same person. I am really hopeful that we will get more of Nick and Cece interacting in Jess' absence, because those two have this kind of antagonistic and yet delightful charm that is both hilarious and also heartwarming.

Elsewhere in this episode, Winston tries to hang a painting of dogs playing poker, even though Jess tells him not to, and in the process ends up cracking the drywall. He spends most of the episode trying to fix the problem while also skillfully avoiding telling anyone that there IS a problem. It's hilarious and Lamorne Morris plays it with the subtle humor that has come to define Winston in the past few years.


One of my favorite things about Jess' storyline this week, apart from the fact that it featured John Cho (*rants about the unjust cancellation of NBC's Go On and ABC's Selfie), is that it featured Jess trying to manage her life and the people in it in the same way she tried to during "Winston's Birthday." Jess can't do everything that she wants to do. She has to make sacrifices. And when she steps back long enough to make them, she will realize what she truly values.

And Jessica Day values her morals more than she values getting ahead at her job. When the opportunity to become acting principal arises, Jess is eager to take it... until she realizes that she will have to lie and try to get out of jury duty to be principal. She tries that. She follows Nick and Cece's advice and starts to lie about how she feels about America and the justice system, but she can't do it. Who is Jessica Day without her principles, after all? Unfortunately for Jess, her principles mean that she definitely will not get to take up the role as acting principal because the case she's assigned to is one that requires her to be sequestered for a month.

"Jury Duty" begins with us believing that the group will fall apart without Jess — after all, relationships nearly fall apart and walls LITERALLY fall apart without her. And while the group definitely won't be as organized or efficient without one Jessica Day to guide them, it's clear that they will actually all really be okay. Jess knows how much her friends need her, so she leaves a bowl of advice for them. And the group knows that they rely on Jess so often that she feels the need to LEAVE a bowl in her absence filled with advice and tips.

But the fact that Nick and Cece repaired their relationship without Jess intervening (entirely) is proof that they can survive without her. It will not be the same without Jess guiding them, of course, but I think that Winston, Schmidt, Cece, and Nick all know that they will be okay without her for a month. And New Girl will be okay without Zooey Deschanel for a little while. "Jury Duty" proved that while she is still such a central part of the show, the ensemble is more than capable of carrying comedy and heart in her absence.

But we will still will miss you, Jessica Day. So enjoy your mediocre hotel and pool and come back soon.

Additional de-lovely aspects about the episode include:
  • "Ignore every natural instinct you have."
  • Zooey was so pregnant in this episode that it was hilarious to try and watch how they hid her baby bump.
  • "Nick Miller... NOT. ALWAYS. FUNNY."
  • This show excels at callbacks. And one of my favorite things that truly makes New Girl shine is the pseudonyms that it utilizes. This week, Winston said: "Jessica damn Day" again, which is a great callback to "Keaton."
  • "Oh dear Lord. I'm marrying Nick." This in and of itself was hilarious, but even funnier was the fact that Schmidt didn't mind at all that he was marrying someone identical in personality to Nick.
  • "The two things ruining this country are marriage and democracy."
  • "You're taking away my constitutional right to be hilarious."
  • "It's like giving a squirrel a key to the park." This whole analogy was SO PERFECT.
  • "You're dropping all your articles! You're losing verbs!"
  • The fact that no one in the group understood that Jess wasn't going to prison? So perfect.
What did you all think of "Jury Duty"? Hit up the comments below and let me know! :)

1 comment:

  1. I feel like writing an open letter to TV people saying basically one thing: MORE John Cho!

    I am not anxious about Deschanel's short absence either. I feel like they can do interesting things with all the other character dynamics. I also hadn't really thought about Nick and Cece's similarities. It's interesting to think about these two people who have been so important in Jess and Schmidt's life and then Cece and Schmidt find each other and Nick and Jess become so close. Lovely!

    (Please say we'll see more of John Cho and Zooey Deschanel's interaction. Please, please, please, Elizabeth...)