Welcome back to my (almost) weekly New Girl recap/review! You can check out my previous coverage of episodes 14, 15 and 16 here. As usual, there are some spoilers in this week’s review, so read at your own risk.
Let’s dive into this week’s couple of episodes that are equal parts crazy and cozy, shall we?
After a run in with Toby, a man who could be a Riff-Raff body double who makes damn sure you know his name is Toby, Schmidt’s confidence and masculinity is shaken. Out with the “froofy” Tokyo-themed spa bachelor party, and in with a “real men” rager of a time in none other than the city of sin. The boys are headed to Vegas, baby! In tow are Schmidt’s groomsmen — older cousin Big Schmidt (Rob Riggle), J. Cronkite Valley-Forge (Fred Melamed) and Cece’s one-time beau Robby (Nelson Franklin) — on a mission to get loose and tap into their dude roots. There’s Nick and Schmidt riding odd tricycle-motorcycles and smoking cigars en route, nasty encounters with “desert people” whom the gang are wary of — Schmidt refers to one as a “sandy lizard man” — and a bar brawl set to the fear-inducing “Roar” by Katy Perry.
Throughout these wild antics, Winston is having troubles of his own, as Jess is texting him updates about his not-so-secret love Aly and her boyfriend, Trip. Big Schmidt bars him from such communication, confiscating his phone and telling him that he’s not upset with him, but “just disappointed.” And for good reason: all the boys want to see Winnie the Bish in a happy and healthy relationship with a woman that both reciprocates his feelings and isn’t only with him for a prank.
Overall, the episode was good, but not anything super spectacular, and that’s starting to worry me a bit. The season opened with a big bang and continued to deliver punchlines and plots with deftness and heart. But now, we’ve hit a snag that I’d only expect mid-season, not closing in on the final handful of episodes. The wins for “Road Trip” exist, like in many other so-so New Girl episodes, in its ability to take a simple idea (a boys’ road trip) and turn it into something fresh and true to the show’s own brand of comedy. There wasn’t much I was absolutely begging for, though; like I said, it was a fairly good episode on the whole — but I wish it would have been dialed up just a tad in terms of resolutions. The humor was there — particular shout-out to Winston’s Raisin Bran speech — and the heart was there — especially regarding the overarching message that masculinity comes in all different forms and can be expressed and embraced in a million different kinds of ways. I was just underwhelmed elsewhere. I know why Schmidt set out for this machismo-embracing guys’ weekend; I wanted to see more of how he will continue to grow more comfortable in his more feminine form of masculinity, especially so close to the wedding, which causes a great deal of stress for Schmidt. Call me selfish or sappy, but it would have been so wonderful to have that sentimental moment between Nick and Schmidt last a bit longer and dive a bit deeper. After all, growth and development were my biggest wishes for season 5.
The second episode in this week’s two-fer focuses on the gals! Jess and Cece plan a total green day: get as high as humanly possible and proceed to watch Anne of Green Gables. Depending on who you are and what your tastes are, that might not sound like an awful idea. But things go south, and fast, when something – or rather someone’s essence attached to a certain something – arrives at the loft. Schmidt’s mother, who is notoriously overbearing and controlling AND whom disapproves of Cece outright, has sent the couple a wedding gift. A bread-maker complete with a less-than-pleasant note hinting that Cece is not fit to be an “adequate” wife to Schmidt. In a (totally justified) fit of rage, only heightened by the marijuana, the girls smash the sad excuse for a present to bits. The girls realize what they’d done and scramble to replace it, trying to convince a retail worker that the gift was damaged in shipping. A few things lead to a few more things and suddenly Aly is tangled in Jess and Cece’s plans to more or less steal a new bread-maker, landing the three of them in jail. (Mall jail, but still jail.) During their stint in the slammer, Aly reveals that she and Tripp ended their relationship and Cece reveals she’s afraid she isn’t cut out to care for Schmidt the way his mother did his entire life.
“A Chill Day In” was markedly better than “Road Trip,” but only in certain areas. The group dynamic — which had been SERIOUSLY lacking in the past few episodes — built back up again and rounded out so perfectly in the final scene where Nadia throws Cece a (admittedly super scary) bachelorette party. I loved seeing Cece and Jess have another episode that felt mostly to themselves. I bursted into audible laughter when high Jess asked high Cece, “Remember Coach? Where is he?” But there were a few things that, like in “Road Trip,” felt a little… off. Askew and against the grain for typical New Girl, or for really any show in 2016. The notion that undercut the bread-maker gift sat wrong with me. It was evident that Schmidt’s mother believed women should be caretakers, and that if a wife cannot “provide for her husband” in that manner, then she is not suitable to be a wife. That’s a character’s opinion and while I’m not in agreement with it, things happen and it doesn’t reflect the ideals of the rest of the New Girl cast as a whole. Or so I thought. When Cece confides in Jess (and in Aly) her worries that she’ll pale in comparison as caretaker to Schmidt — not wife to Schmidt first, not life partner to Schmidt first — it isn’t met with a positive affirmation. Jess doesn’t dispel Cece’s concerns in the way that I had expected. Perhaps it’s something too nitty-gritty to be bothered by, but the implication that women’s most important role in a marriage is caretaker to their husbands is disappointing and not something I’d ever thought I would witness in New Girl.
Though they weren’t stellar, these episodes were still enjoyable and, if nothing else, are making me anticipate the “Schmece” wedding finale episode even more now than ever.