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New Girl: Balancing Emotional Stories with the Absurd

25 Sep

When high school is over you can still end up in situations that mirror the awful not fitting in feeling and Jess ends up in this position on this week’s New Girl after she finds herself friendless in her new teaching job – where is Mary Lynn Rajskub? The adult version of the mean but cool clique isn’t anything particularly new, but it gives the Nick and Jess relationship a chance to breath and shows how they can make them work as a couple without losing the tension that made season 2 so much fun.

I’ve mentioned before how New Girl works best when it walks the line between the ridiculous and grounded emotional moments; this happens multiple times in this gag-packed Kay Cannon script (you can see the rapid fire approach of jokes per page from Cannon’s 30 Rock background at work). There’s a discussion between Nick and Jess about whether he would have noticed her in high school and this leads to Nick’s “Miller Sack Pack” revelation. This coupled with Winston’s big Daisy decision as he now wants to be exclusive and tell her that his “heart is a two man bike and I want you in the rear” demonstrates the many tawdry jokes that exist within the emotional framework.

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This isn’t the first time Nick has tried to give advice to Jess*, the difference now is that Jess is “his old lady” and so the stakes for him are higher (though I’d argue that even if they were still just friends he’d offer free drinks at the bar to help out). Having Nick and Jess’ first real challenge as a couple not being about them is also a good start and while I suspect there will be other relationship drama around the corner it doesn’t need to happen this early. Nick’s original idea is to give some free school supplies to the cool clique, because who doesn’t want $15 and a halfie worth of stuff? Luckily Nick also works at a bar which doesn’t seem to have a problem with him giving away drinks so this alternate suggestion is a big hit.

*Kay Cannon also wrote the season 2 opener “Re-launch” which saw Nick comforting Jess after she was made redundant. On this occasion he gave her better advice than just drink lots telling her “Life sucks and then it gets better and then it sucks again and then it just sucks.”

Following on from Nick’s observation that this is like high school all over again, with Jess being a nerd in both scenarios she takes this to heart and gets wasted. Drunk Jess dances in toilet bowls, sings 4 Non Blondes and gets accepted by the other teachers. The drunk Jess singing moment is topped by the guys performing a rendition of “I Believe I Can Fly,” this is reminiscent of them singing “Time of my Life” in the pilot but under very different circumstances of course. This is where Zooey Deschanel gets to show off her excellent comedic timing as she pulls a good hangover face of pain and discomfort. The guys really should get the band together.

Winston points out that Nick is basically imprinting himself on Jess with his getting drunk suggestion and instead of sending Nick in a tailspin of doubt it spurs him on to rectify this. When Nick gets caught between Jess and Winston both acting impulsively it hilariously ends with Nick stuck in the middle between two potential crimes. When Nick is the sensible one in the scenario it adds another level of chaos as he yells in an exasperated fashion.

Nick is of course smitten with Jess and while her idea to break into her new bosses garden is not the best; this doesn’t matter as Nick tells her that “If you’re going to do something that’s obviously very stupid then I’m going to do it with you.” He’s also willing to take the fall for her and when she steps out from her hiding place the absurd kicks in as the Dawson’s Creek theme “I Don’t Want to Wait” begins to play – I will never not love a gag that features this song (see also Urban Legend).

The Schmidt love triangle plot is dragging along and because there is a short shelf life on Merritt Wever’s guest starring role it’s now entered slightly tedious territory. I think Wever is great and I liked how she reacted to Schmidt’s terrible role play idea, but I also think this whole narrative is tired. The one surprise is that Schmidt didn’t get caught and Max Greenfield played this moment well as it seems he really wants to get caught as this resolve this mess even if he ends up with no one. The 2/3 replica of Don Draper’s office gag worked like a charm as did the competitive chemistry with Beth, reprising a work rivalry from early season 1.

Winston is also having relationship drama and this is the episode where they have to write Brenda Song out because of her Dads commitments (giving me all of the sads). This was another play on the “Winston is crazy” angle but unlike last week’s puzzle adventure there was a point to the crazy even if it did involve potential cat murder. Now there is pet in the loft and the cats love Schmidt’s nipples visual only got funnier as the episode went on (yes there are already gifs).

Everyone being back in the loft gives a sense of familiarity that was missing last week, even if the dynamic has shifted. The scene in the elevator that turns into a relationship discussion between the guys is hilarious because they all forget to press the button; too preoccupied with their romantic entanglements. By the end of the episode Schmidt is still stuck in two-timing hell, Winston goes from having a girlfriend to having a cat and Nick is the only one who is content – this might be a first for him.

One criticism I would have with the Jess plot is that while the guest stars did the best with the material they didn’t really get all that much to do. This can be a problem with these small roles that are serving the central characters and so I hope both Angela Kinsey and Dreama Walker will return later in the season.

This is a much more cohesive episode even with the amount that is going on and while the season premiere was a bit of a disappointment I would say that this is more like the New Girl that was raved about last year.

And because it’s now stuck in my head it can be stuck in yours too!

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2 Responses to “New Girl: Balancing Emotional Stories with the Absurd”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Out of the Box: Look of the Week | TV Ate My Wardrobe - September 27, 2013

    […] got wasted on New Girl this week after Nick’s solid advice that drinking makes you cooler and her hangover outfit is […]

  2. New Girl Review: Schmidt’s Dating Mess | TV Ate My Wardrobe - October 2, 2013

    […] was all over the place and the breakup scene in the restaurant was pretty laugh free. Last week I discussed how New Girl excels at balancing the absurd moments with real emotions and while both of these […]

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