Welcome back to my (almost) weekly New Girl recap/review! You can check out my coverage of episode seven here. As usual, there are some spoilers in this week’s review, so read at your own risk.
Since the TYF site was migrating to new cloud servers last week, I decided to combine episode eight and episode nine into a sort of super review. Which, thankfully, turned out to be such a great idea, as these episodes were wonderful. Like, surprisingly and refreshingly wonderful.
As you may or may not know from previous reviews, I had been riding a rollercoaster of thoughts and emotions regarding New Girl‘s fifth season. The highs were monumental — especially in the Jess-less episodes, as the rest of the ensemble really began rounding out and growing up — but the lows were tangible. And I’ll admit it: I thought this season was going south after being on top for so many consecutive episodes. I wasn’t sure if the show could pull on the gearshifts and drive itself back up before it crashed. I was wholly prepared to be disappointed. I was bracing myself for a repeat of season three. These episodes proved me wrong, and I’m glad for it. Here are my three reasons why episodes eight and nine have redeemed this season of New Girl thus far.
In episode seven, “Wig,” and even before then, I was worried for Reagan’s longevity and likability. She seemed too jagged, too hardened to melt into the coziness (and often craziness) of the loft. I even estimated that she wouldn’t last (in terms of development) an episode or two beyond “Wig.” That being said, it’s easy to see why I was hesitant going into these episodes. I figured it would be a rehashing of jabbing snark and general aloofness on her part, all while the group falls to their hands and knees to all but kiss the ground she walks on. Not exactly an enjoyable or particularly realistic experience given the circumstances of the show and its cast of characters. But in episode eight, “The Decision,” Reagan becomes invested. She dives in — albeit in her own Reagany way, as she stirs the pot with a cunning and admittedly manipulative ultimatum — and commits to the oddities of the loft. While it’s easy to get distracted by Nick and Winston waiting with bated breath over who will get to join Reagan in the sheets at the end of the day — a strange (and relatively stupid) “sex bet” Reagan started after the boys couldn’t decide on a brunch spot — there’s an element that should be focused on: Reagan is trying! She’s actually trying! This continues on to a larger degree in episode nine, “Heat Wave,” as she reveals her vulnerability and in turn, her humanity as she shows the early signs of a crush on our very own Nick Miller. I’ll say what I had hoped I would but feared I wouldn’t get the chance to: I like Reagan, and I want her around for as long as she can be.
New Girl is a comedy; we all know this. So it isn’t revolutionary that the episodes would be funny and that the jokes and jeers would be well-written. In this week’s and last week’s episodes, the lull we felt before picked back up again. The show has a certain strength in group dynamics and bottle episodes — which lend themselves naturally to hilarity — and we got both in “The Decision” and “Heat Wave.” There’s the Schmidt and Cece versus Benjamin and Mimi battle in episode eight, as the couples go head-to-head in a fight to the near-death over a wedding venue reservation; there’s the Jessica Rabbit-eqsue sales pitch that Reagan gives to Nick; and there’s the “neck compliments” Aly gives Winston, the makeshift “ranch system” Nick implements to beat the heat in episode 9 and Cece’s drunk audition. These episodes had a lot of well-intentioned humor.
Some highlights: “This is not an ’80s summer camp movie!” Winston’s cop voice. The rat named Jeremiah. “No, Reagan, I’m ha-truth-inating.” “You look like a dying man on a hospital show.” Winston pressing all the buttons in the elevator in the hopes that Reagan and Nick will end their bickering. “It’s like I’m inside Cate Blanchett.” “I look like a ’70s divorce attorney.”
There’s a moment in episode nine that floored me: the conversation between Cece and Schmidt regarding her audition. “I know the audition is scary for you. I would not be doing my job as the man who loves you if I let you walk away from this,” Schmidt says, his voice stern but earnest. “You are not walking away from this opportunity.” Although there’s an obvious fault in the way this is framed — Winston’s coaxing characters out of Schmidt, and then Schmidt raising his voice at Cece — there’s still heart in it. Cece and Schmidt’s relationship, until this point, had just touched upon the kinds of emotional push-pull that exist in real relationships. There was Cece’s mother’s disapproval of Schmidt in episode one, and the adjustment needed when Cece and Schmidt became worker and employer in episode two. Sure, there were difficulties, but it never went past that initial discomfort or struggle. I recognize this as a fictional relationship, but when they’re depicted with real-life elements or from a perspective that is grounded in reality, it makes for a more fulfilling experience. And it makes the characters involved in the relationship much more accessible and easier to like and root for.
I’m proud of that moment. It rips off the bandage, strips back the layers and feels like something Schmidt has wanted to say to Cece for a long while. Granted, he likely didn’t imagine saying it in the context that he did, but he said it nonetheless. It’s evident that they love one another deeply and refuse to let one another give up on their dreams and goals out of fear. The core of this conversation was simple: Schmidt loves and cares for Cece and can’t bear to see her let apprehensions get in the way of what she truly wants. It’s important to see, even in a quirky sitcom. By shifting away from the usual “She’s beautiful and he’s eccentric” bit that is usually enacted to gloss over relationship troubles, the Cece-Schmidt ‘ship begins looking stronger and brighter, and hints that their life as a married couple will be solid and sweet.