Tuesday, February 2, 2016

New Girl 5x05 "Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt" (Boundaries)

"Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt"
Original Airdate: February 2, 2016

Some people are really good at establishing boundaries. Others... not so much. In my nature as a people-pleaser, I've discovered that setting boundaries and maintaining them is often difficult. I want people to like me. Moreover, I want people to know that I'll always be able to be there for them — whatever the need and however silly or important. Unfortunately, sometimes this means that I get taken advantage of. I bend over backwards for people who would never reciprocate. Sometimes boundaries are as simple as knowing when is appropriate to give advice and when isn't. Sometimes it means not giving your parents a key to your house or only talking to them once a week. Sometimes it means cutting out that toxic relationship, and sometimes it means deactivating your Facebook so you're not tempted to search for his name.

Boundaries exist to protect ourselves and other people. Relationships — no matter how amazing — can prohibit us from being the people we are supposed to be. They can even prevent us from being healthy. In this week's New Girl, both stories focused in some way, shape, or form on setting boundaries. Nick tries to set them with his cousins, Bob and Carol, who constantly ask him for money whenever they visit. And he also tries to establish boundaries in his relationship with Schmidt. Meanwhile, Cece is trying to set boundaries with an overeager Winston, to no avail. By the episode's end, both Nick and Cece realize that while certain boundaries are important to establish, sometimes boundaries between friends keep us from realizing something important about ourselves.


This week's episode focuses once again on the pairings of Nick/Schmidt and Winston/Cece. Oddly, even though this was the second week with the same groupings, both stories worked exceptionally well. Jake Johnson and Max Greenfield clearly love working together and can play off one another's comedic nuances pretty flawlessly. They get the chance to do this during "Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt," when Bob and Carol — Nick's cousin and his wife — come to visit. Every time they visit, they hit Nick up for money. And this time, Schmidt suggests that Nick establish some boundaries so that his cousins will realize he won't be giving them any money. But it's not money that Nick's cousins are after this time — they want his sperm so they can start a family (Bob is unable to do that for Carol).

What's actually really genius of this episode is that it flips the Nick/Schmidt story we're so used to seeing on its head. Instead of fixating how poor and irresponsible Nick is, the episode chose to focus on all of the ways Nick has succeeded recently. He's part-owner of a bar. He's got some money now. He's trying to make his life work, and he's not looked at (as much) as the laughing stock of the loft. Nick Miller has grown up, and his first instinct is to help Bob and Carol by giving them his sperm. Schmidt is the one who is aghast though, as this goes against everything he created in Nick's life plan.

Schmidt, in this episode, is his typical self with a bit of a twist — he doesn't see Nick as incapable of doing anything in life. Rather, he envisions Nick doing great things someday and living happily with a family of his own down the line. This revelation messes with Nick because SCHMIDT has put the thought into things he hasn't really contemplated. Nevertheless, against Schmidt's wishes, Nick decides to volunteer his sperm, only to find out that Bob and Carol can't afford the procedure. Instead, they want to do things the old-fashioned way — have Nick sleep with Carol.

Obviously, this horrifies both men. But the central conceit of this is actually really important. Nick, Jess, Winston, Cece, and Schmidt are all in their thirties. We've had an episode ("Eggs") about the women contemplating their future children, but this episode is the first time in the series, really, that we've seen the men do the same. Schmidt has thought about the future. In fact, he's always thinking about the future and creating vision boards and life plans. He, sometimes, imposes his own plans on an unwilling Nick. And that's where Nick begins to set some boundaries in this episode. He claims he doesn't want Schmidt's influence — doesn't want to know about the future his best friend dreamed up for him. But at the end of the episode, it's revealed that Nick kind of does. He wants all of the same things Schmidt wants for him — happiness, fun, a family, and love.

Sometimes, boundaries are set because people try to manipulate us into doing things we know aren't right or well-executed. Nick sets boundaries, in the end, with Bob and Carol and tells them that he can't give them a baby. It's not because he fears they are taking advantage of him. No, Nick Miller sets these boundaries because he finally has begun to think about what HE wants and what HE sees for his future. It's something pretty shocking for our resident slacker, but in the best way possible. Nick's slow growth throughout New Girl has been especially rewarding because it's realistic. Overnight, Nick hasn't gone from a man with nothing to a man with everything.

Rather, Nick has gone from a man with barely anything to a man with a vague idea of what he wants his life to be. When Nick approaches Schmidt at the episode's end, the latter thinks his best friend is there to set boundaries — for Nick to tell Schmidt to stop interfering in his future. But Nick... Nick realizes that sometimes boundaries are ways to protect yourself, and sometimes they're the things preventing you from a better relationship with other people. By Nick opening up to Schmidt and allowing him into his future, it allows these two to have a better relationship in the present. It allows them to be equals — something this show often reminds us of, but never depicted as well as in "Bob & Carol & Nick & Schmidt."

They may not have the perfect friendship (because yes, in spite of the nice gesture, Schmidt was being pretty controlling of Nick and dictating what he should and should not do, but at least Nick realized it), but Nick and Schmidt definitely have a better respect and healthier appreciation for one another now.


As Cece attempts to find the perfect wedding dress, she also attempts to avoid spending too much time with Winston. Even though they had nice moments last week, the two aren't exactly friends and the most important thing to remember about Cece is that she's used to setting boundaries to keep other people away from her. She's the character who insists that she can do it all by herself and that she doesn't need anyone else. Dry and sarcastic, Cece would rather fight her own battles than have anyone else do them for her.

... Which is precisely what makes this episode so important.

Winston is eager — eager to be a part of everyone's life, eager to share in their joy, and eager to be included. I love that about him, honestly. I love that he's gung-ho, charismatic, and deeply cares about the people he loves. He's so soft and sweet and genuine. Unfortunately for Winston, this often translates as "overwhelming" to people like Cece. She's hesitant to let him come wedding dress shopping with her, so she instructs him to just drop her off and allow her to try on dresses on her own. But Winston doesn't accept those boundaries, and proves useful when the saleswoman at the bridal salon tries to sell Cece a dress that's just okay. Because of his helpfulness, Cece invites him to stay as she shops. And the two drink champagne. ... And more champagne. And... okay, they drink a LOT of champagne and Cece winds up finding her dream dress!

Except that the pair had alcohol goggles on and when Cece tries the dress on at the loft, it's horrid (complete with light up mirrors all over the bust). And Cece is frustrated that she let Winston be a part of her experience, frustrated that her best friend is on sequestered jury duty, and frustrated over letting Winston help, only for him to ruin everything. Winston is understandably crushed. But when Cece tries to return her dress, he shows up unexpectedly to try and help. Again. Because that is exactly who Winston is. His friendship has no boundaries. And while that's annoying to someone like Cece who tends to keep people at a distance (and okay, Winston's insistence in some areas is unnecessary and invasive), it's also something that deeply touches Cece after she realizes what Winston's insistence actually means.

It means that he cares.

Though Cece and Winston haven't ever been super close, he's always cared about her. And I think that finally clicked for Cece this week — I think that she finally realized that it doesn't matter how much she pushes away, how sarcastic or mean she is, or how much she blames Winston for things: he will always care about her and want to make sure she is happy. It's something, really, as the pair walks out of the dress shop, that touches Cece (to the point where she asks him to be a bridesmaid). 

Because the truth is that sometimes boundaries exist (and are necessary) because we have to push people away in order to best protect ourselves. But sometimes, our boundaries are the very things preventing us from drawing the people who love us most in this world close. And when we tear those fences down, we're able to love them — and ourselves — better. 

Additional de-lovely aspects about this episode include:
  • Jake Jonson directed this episode! I love that the cast has become involved in behind-the-scenes elements of the show they act on. It's really cool. And Jake did a great job directing this episode. I love the little comedic framing (Bob, Carol, and Schmidt sitting in the waiting room at the sperm bank while Nick went inside, the shot of the milk, etc.) of the episode's directing and everything felt super easy and natural.
  • I love that Lennon Parham was in this episode! She was great as Carol.
  • Schmidt trying to imitate a Chicago accent was hilarious.
  • Winston and Cece's montage of wedding dresses? Perfect.
  • "Yeah, you look like a prostitute for wizards."
  • "It was beautiful and it was KIND."
  • "I lost a glass of milk." "... YOU LOST A GLASS OF MILK?!" I think that Max Greenfield's comedic sweet spot is playing insanely bewildered and exasperated.
  • "My school is the streets. But my other school is SCHOOL."
  • "Girl, you are under arrest for taking my breath away." Winnie the Bish, never change.
  • Nick and Schmidt had such a lovely moment with the Chicago Bears onesie. <3
  • I don't know that we necessarily needed a "cameo" of Jess (it obviously wasn't Zooey) at the end of the episode. I think it worked to not have her mentioned in this episode except by Schmidt once. It felt like a way to shoehorn in the fact that she's gone but coming back soon, and it didn't really add anything to the plot. I think that might be my only critique of this episode.
  • (Though that moment DID lend itself to Schmidt fainting when he sees Cece in the horrible wedding dress, so that was great.)
What did you all think of the episode? And how much do you want to go wedding dress shopping with Winston? Hit up the comments below and chat with me on Twitter about it!


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