Monday, May 13, 2013

New Girl

New Girl
Episode 24: Winston's Birthday
By: Carlos Uribe

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

Spoilers Ahoy!

The episode begins with Nick and Jess waking up after their night of sex. The two are trying to figure out how to act or what to say. Nick decides he's going to make Jess breakfast in bed but then gets interrupted by an unexpected guest, Bob Day. He's planning on attending Cece's marriage so he decided to visit his daughter a day before. Nick and Jess have slept together but they're meeting obstacles before they can even talk about it. They haven't known what they are too each other for a while now and having sex adds to their confusion. The day gets worse for the two because Jess gets an exciting opportunity to teach at a school. She can't turn down this job offer because she desperately wants to teach kids again. While she's trying to get the job, she also has to deal with Cece's wedding problems. Her day gets hectic which makes it difficult for her to dedicate her time to try and figure out what's going on with her relationship to Nick. The plot ends with Nick trying to offer Jess a romantic breakfast dinner at the rooftop. He doesn't care if they haven't figured their life out together. He has realized that he has feelings for Jess and he wants to have a relationship with her. The best relationships are the ones that you strongly want them to be together. You want to root for Jess and Nick to kiss and get married partially due to the chemistry they share but also because of the strong writing. You want them as a couple because they belong together. Of course, the show can't just bring them together. There has to be drama and obstacles. This is an episode where they slept together but they didn't have the time to properly define themselves until the end. Jess had her life (her dad coming to visit, her friend getting married, an opportunity to teach kids) explode just as she tried to deal with her relationship. Notice how it's from all three angles: family, friends, and career that demanded her instant attention. She had multiple obstacles but she managed to withstand them so that Nick could provide a romantic gesture for her at the end.

Jess might have had multiple romantic obstacles but it wouldn't be a great love story if only she had problems. There has been a theme running throughout the season that has had Nick dealing with his daddy issues. He's been seeking a father figure to guide him while having to bury his real dad. When Jess' dad comes to visit, he's warned not reveal that he slept with Jess. Bob would not react very well to the news. The two actually try their best to ensure that Bob isn't anywhere near Nick so he wouldn't accidentally spill the beans. This fails as Nick caves in and agrees to spend the day with Bob. A lot of comedies would have taken the “for-laughs” route and had the whole conflict over whether Nick would tell or not. To be fair, there was a lot of that in this plot but it was more than that. Nick didn't just have to hide the truth from Bob but he started to see him as his own dad. There's strong moments such as when Bob tells Nick the perfect way to make a sandwich. He's basically a Nick that has gotten it all figured out. Nick doesn't blurt out the truth to Bob but he chooses to tell him because he feels like they have a father-son bond going on. Of course, Bob overreacts to this information before he settles down. He doesn't approve of the two of them sitting down precisely because Nick is a younger version of him. He pleads that the two don't get together because he had gotten with Jess' mom too early. Bob believes that if he had gotten his life together before he married her then they might still be together. Nick chose to ignores this advice. Who knows? Things might turn out different between Nick and Jess. It was so strong to make this plot more than just Nick trying to hide the truth from Bob but tying it into his arc of seeking a strong father figure. Great relationship stories depend on the chemistry and obstacles it can come up with but great comedies are all about the characters.

One of the issues that Jess was trying to deal with was Cece's impending wedding to Shivrang. Cece panics because there's so much she has to take care off in such a short period of time. Jess tries her best to help her but is overwhelmed by her own life. There's a great moment where Jess tries to talk to Cece about how she slept with Nick but Cece only cares about trying to ensure her wedding goes perfectly. This isn't Cece being a bad friend. It's understandable that her mind would be on her wedding plus she probably saw the two of them sleeping together as inevitable. Cece's major crisis this episode is when she falls asleep on her hand while it was still wet with tattoo ink. Her face is ruined. Jess tries her best to fix it only to make it worse. Cece feels like her wedding is ruined but she does feel better when Shivrang visits and he accepts her for how she looks. It's a pretty good pre-wedding plot but it basically only works because of how it ties into the Jess plot. The plot is basically acting as a whole obstacle to Jess dealing with her personal life. If it was trying to stand on it's own two feet then I don't feel like I would care much. I'm not really invested into whether Cece marries Shivrang or not. Why? There's still a part of me that hopes she and Schmidt get back together but that's not the real reason for my ambivalence. Shivrang is basically a two-dimensional character who exists for the purpose of having an arranged marriage with Cece. It's hard to care about a relationship when I care about only one of the characters. I want Cece to be happy and all but it doesn't matter whether it comes from this wedding or not.

As for Schmidt? He's a great character whose constantly worrying about what other people think about him. He tries too hard and that can make him a douche but it also makes him vulnerable. His relationship with Elizabeth is a great one because she's his opposite. She doesn't care what anybody thinks. She wants to do her thing. This difference in their characters creates conflict in their relationship. There's a moment where Elizabeth visits Schmidt at the office. She's wearing a shirt that has lost it's cultural relevance and there's a co-worker who clearly looks down on her. Schmidt is caught between two worlds. Does he accept that he's dating this girl or does he bow down to peer pressure and pretend he doesn't know her? He chooses the latter which makes Elizabeth so mad at him she decides to go on a date with someone else. He interrupts the date wearing an outdated sweater she had given him. He's able to win her back when he claims that he doesn't care if anybody knows they're together. The two dance and it's sweet. Elizabeth is a great character for two reasons. The first is that she acts as a great foil to Schmidt. The second is because she's forcing Schmidt to grow. She's not accepting the Schmidt of the present but forcing him to be the man she knew. At the same time, fat Schmidt did care what people thought of him. There's a flashback where he doesn't want to dance at a party because he's afraid people will laugh at him. Elizabeth isn't just trying to get the attributes of Schmidt that had been lost when he lost weight but to shed the ones he's always had: his vulnerability to peer pressure.

The episode title doesn't refer to Cece, Jess, Nick, or Schmidt. It refers to Winston. It's his birthday this week and he's always hopeful people will give him a party or gifts. When it becomes obvious that all of his friends forgot it was his birthday, he buys himself a cake to give himself happiness. Only this is taken away by Bob when he makes a comment about Winston's weight. At the end, Winston manages to turn a scene where all of the couples had tried to use the roof for romantic purposes as a surprise party for himself. He's earned it by that point. Winston is a character who is easily the least developed of the group. The series hasn't had a lot of time to concentrate fleshing him out so he's always remained the weak link in New Girl. I'm not saying this as to suggest he's a poorly written character as Winston remains a great member of the ensemble. It's just that the writers have never really found a way to properly utilize his character and this birthday plot is sort-of how he can be an afterthought. Not on purpose but because of how he came into this show: brought in to substitute Coach once Happy Endings got renewed.

Winston's Birthday is a pretty amazing episode of New Girl. The relationship between Jess and Nick gets complicated as they've had sex and multiple obstacles come up that stop them from processing this. Jess has her whole life (personal, family, friends) explode while Nick tries to adopt Bob as a father figure. The Cece plot was funny but primarily used as a way to distract Jess from her relationship problems even if Cece cared more about her wedding crisis. Schmidt and Elizabeth have a great plot where he had to deal with his obsession with what people think about him. Finally, Winston tries to have a birthday. Overall: a great episode that played to the strengths of each character and their role in the season.

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