S1E18: New Girl defies all odds this week. Regarding last week’s episode, “Fancyman Part 1,” I declared the show’s triumph to rest entirely in its chemistry among the main cast. On this token, the show should work best when it keeps its characters together—and it does. But as “Fancyman Part 2” proves, New Girl is no slouch when it comes to individual performances, either. In fact, the episode is a rarity in that it separates each of its four main characters into separate (albeit eventually intersecting) storylines—all of which pay off quite happily.
“At any point in the night did you do your Kermit the Frog impression?” – Cece
“Maybe once or twice.” – Jess (as Kermit the Frog, of course)
Jess has her first date with the Fancyman: the older, wealthy and sophisticated Russell (Dermot Mulroney), who doesn’t exactly give her the “good night” for which she hopes: instead of a kiss, Russell parts with Jess by patting her on the back. The second date doesn’t exactly yield better results. Russell gets a phone call in the middle of dinner that provokes him to leave abruptly. Jess is heartbroken by this, jumping to the conclusion that she and Russell have got some kind of tattered, irreparable problem—she’s an especially emotional person, lest you forget.
Jess heads back to the apartment, where she takes especial comfort in a party filled with 20 year-old college girls, as thrown by Nick and the “smartest person he knows,” Dirk (the great Martin Starr). Dirk is Nick’s old friend from law school, and is an existentialist pseudo-philosopher who is completely full of it. After spreading his B.S. to the local college in a lecture, Dirk throws a party back at Nick’s loft, inviting a slew of undergrads. Nick is surprised that the girls take interest in his job as a bartender—New Girl really nails “20” down pretty well.
“He’s got a PhD in poetry.” – Nick
“That sucks for poems.” – Jess
After observing Nick fawn over young, vapid girls, Jess concludes that all older guys want is attractive younger girls, which worries her further about her situation with Russell. Is he just using her? Does he care for her at all? When Jess presents this problem outright to Russell, he admits that his actions were inspired by nervousness. He wasn’t sure how to react due to how much he did indeed care for Jess. This is nothing too shocking—first of all, Jess is like a talking puppy. But just because it is predictable, that doesn’t make Jess’ story with Russell any less enjoyable. Watching a self-conscious Jess trying to deliberate what is wrong with her relationship, and trying to figure out ways to fix it, is Leslie Knope-level comedy.
“I need to get everybody in the company's name into a version of 'We Didn't Start the Fire.'" – Schmidt
Schmidt’s Cece problem has not yet been put to rest. Although he is crazy about her, he still takes issue with his lack of control in their relationship, and in her apparent lack of appreciation for him. This week, Cece goes too far in declaring herself the “boss” of the relationship, and deeming Schmidt her “sexcretary.” Schmidt punishes her by ignoring her—even managing to press through her terms of seduction. But then, something lovely happens. Cece admits to him that she has never had to try to win a guy over before, but that she is willing to do so for him. Cece is just as damaged as Schmidt—if not more. She is closed off, narcissistic, completely unable to admit her feelings to her loved ones or to herself. But the guys she usually goes for might not take much issue with this, as they’re all generally in it for purely superficial reasons. Schmidt is a different story, which makes Cece a different person, little by little.
Cece makes it up to Schmidt by agreeing to sleep with him in “Fantasy Location Number Three,” a.k.a. the backseat of his car. The only problem: mid-makeup, the car is borrowed by Winston. And just a reminder: nobody knows about Schmidt and Cece. That’s supposed to be under wraps.
“Look at 'em! They don't know what Saved by the Bell is, and they've never felt pain!” – Nick
This is one of the better Winston episodes, as we learn a little more about the generally bland fourth roommate. Winston’s girlfriend has traveled to Mexico for a bachelorette party, but not before bating him to invite her to stay behind and spend time with him. Winston insists that the space will be healthy, but soon recognizes how much he misses her. As such, Winston hops in Schmidt’s car and drives down to Mexico (with Schmidt and Cece in tow).
We see Winston in a new light this week: insecure, and hopped up on the adrenaline of a spontaneous one-man road trip of love. We see him freak out, serenade the open road, and even joke around with a border patrol cop who eventually discovers Schmidt and Cece holed up in the back. Schmidt makes Winston promise not to tell anyone, and he agrees.
Although the group is kept separate this week—for the most part, anyway—“Fancyman Part 2” still pays off quite well. Sure, we love them best when they’re riffing off one another. This is an ensemble with some great power to it. But clearly, each of the main players has something special to offer. Jess, Nick, Schmidt and Winston all have enough comic chops to carry individual stories, and New Girl has enough inside of it to make us care about each of them.
What did you think of “Fancyman”? How was the return of Mulroney, and the appearance of Martin Starr? Do you like the cast better spread out, or all working together? Let us know in the comments section, or on Twitter @MichaelArbeiter.