Sunday, December 9, 2012

New Girl

New Girl
Episode 10: Bathtub
By: Carlos Uribe

New Girl is a show about Jess and her three best friends (Winston, Nick, and Schmidt)

Spoilers Ahoy!

Bathtub is a funny episode of New Girl with a silly plot involving Jess and Winston. Jess wants a bathtub because she wants to relax after a hard day's work. Nick and Schmidt are opposed to the idea but Winston is secretly in favor of it. He worries about going against his roommates so he comes up with a scheme to install a bathtub on the roof. It goes along perfectly until it falls down, creating a hole in the ceiling and ruining Schmidt's suits. Jess and Winston are worried about the consequences so they fake a burglary in order to make it look like the meth heads broke into the apartment and took his suits. They steal multiple items from the apartment to make it look complete but they leave Nick's room alone. This might be funny but it's also a plot that an old seventies sit-com would have made. The situation is simply ridiculous and requires the characters to have serious lapses in logic to properly suspend disbelief. This is a tall order for a situation that could have easily been resolved if Jess and Winston had managed to pay to dry-clean Schmidt's suits. That they ended up doing this by the end of the episode, by using the douchebag jar money, made the entire plot feel even more ridiculous. Making matters worse is that they felt the need to stage yet another burglary and they tied themselves up. Their excuse was that the meth head burglars had paid a fortune to pay to have suits dry-cleaned and return them. It makes no sense and it's only because Schmidt has just been emotionally devastated that he buys it.

The premise of the situation might have not been very good but it does lead to some great character moments for Winston. Winston's increasing anxiety over the bathtub gradually increases until he has a panic attack. This involves him taking off his clothes and hugging the ground. He's not proud of these attacks but he's had them his whole life. He recounts a funny story of when he was taking his driver's test and he suffered a panic attack where he ran away while quickly stripping. We obviously see this in flashback form. Jess is able to connect with Winston because her father suffered panic attacks. She also locks herself into a closet because she claims to be claustrophobic and wants to prove it to Winston. It's not entirely clear whether she pretending to be afraid or whether she was faking in order to make Winston feel better. These character beats were sufficiently strong to overcome the ridiculous nature that brought them out. It also helps to flesh out Winston in a funny and strong way. Since he remains the least developed of the core group, this development is great. This doesn't mean I don't wish the show had been able to get to the panic attacks in a way that made logical sense and didn't require the characters to make stupid decisions. The show even acknowledges that there's a lot more rational explanations when it tries to make it a punchline.

Why exactly is Schmidt so devastated that he bought the lie? It's because of Cece. She breaks up with Robby because he doesn't want to be the father of her children. He's not ready to be a dad just yet. This leaves Cece on the market. She doesn't want to ask her parents to arrange a marriage but she might just be forced to. Schmidt decides that he'll try his best to win her over. He admits that he loves her and she agrees to go out with him. Schmidt is happy but then his professional life gets in the way. His boss forces him to drink alcohol in order to sell a pitch and Schmidt obliges her. This ensures that not only does he get to his date with Cece late but he also shows up drunk. Cece must have been convinced that while Schmidt might love her, he's not the right person with her. It doesn't help that he is Jewish and her mom is anti-Semite and that she simply doesn't see them working on paper. She calls her parents and tells them that she'll allow them to set her up with someone. It's sad that Robby doesn't appear in this episode but it's a good move by the series that she doesn't go back to Schmidt immediately afterwards. That it allows Schmidt to act depressed helps to remind viewers that despite his usual attitude, he is just a human being after all. Their relationship is being handled well and Cece's desire to be a mother is giving her character a sense of urgency that helps to explain why she's open on being set up.

The final plot has to do with Nick. He sees a girl at his bar that he connects with but he's afraid of getting attached to her. That's who his character is: he's afraid to care. This is because caring is not only scary but it has backfired on him multiple times. When he sees the girl being emotionally hurt by her boyfriend, Nick decides to break his rule of never crossing the bar for a customer. He gives her some whiskey and she shows interest in him. He does suggest that she should break up with her boyfriend and this advice almost gets him hurt. Luckily for him, she's able to knock out her ex-boyfriend. It's okay because she knows someone who can stitch him up at her work-place. She doesn't work in the medical field but as a stripper. For a moment there it looks like Nick has been burned again but she shows up at the end to show that she wants him. This is a nice way to drag Nick out of the shell that he so desperately wants to remain in. The previous episode had been about him finishing his novel and now this episode is about him putting himself out there. It's clear the series is on an arc to push him to face his flaws. The question becomes of whether he'll actually grow or whether the comedy requires him to stay the same.

Bathtub is a funny episode of New Girl but it's sit-com plot with Jess and Winston drags it down from truly being great. It simply requires breaking too many rules of logic for it to work in a modern single-camera comedy. On the other hand, the character work it led to was genius. The show is wonderfully dealing with the Cece and Schmidt relationship while pushing Nick out of his comfort zone is really paying dividends. Bathtub might not be the perfect New Girl episode but it was still a solid outing by the show.

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