In the latest episode of New Girl, Nick Miller gets a big bag of money. You’d think that would result in authentic hilarity — whenever the character runs rampant with a new treasure (like his London Fog trenchcoat or his “dead dad pass”), we all reap the benefits. But when Nick comes into the possession of a monetary parcel from his father’s estate in this week’s episode, we break into a story about Jess discretely paying off her boyfriend’s mountain of debts while he gets his portrait done (like fancy rich people are wont to do) and wastes away at his bar.
A week after Nick gleefully opens up about his feelings (which should be seen as a far greater victory than “being responsible with money,” in honesty), he proclaims to Jess that he refuses to change for her or for anyone else. He won’t open a bank account, won’t pay his bills, won’t abandon his irrational hatred of all socioeconomic constructs, won’t even entertain the notion of growing up. When Nick finds out that Jess has been using his cash to satisfy his unpaid bills without his knowledge, the two hit a fissure. And sure, as different as they are, Nick and Jess should come to blows over the discrepancies in their ideologies. But there are many errors in the way that “The Box” handles this kind of endeavor.
For one, Jess is barely recognizable this week (save for her affection for a giant spool of yarn). She isn’t operating with a pulse of her own, playing with her hypersensitivity and enthusiastic idealism in contrast to Nick’s curmudgeonly and depressive mentality, but instead just as a generic voice of reason. “Pay your bills!” is not an exclamation that needs to come from Jess; fiscal responsibility is not specific to her character. And to put such a grave face on a situation that ultimately results in Nick deciding he wants to change and mature for Jess, the issue should really involve a characteristic that is unique to her very unique personality.
Last week’s episode would have offered a better venue for the sort of fight-epiphany-reunion that we see in the second half of “The Box.” Jess is, and has been from the moment she entered our lives, someone so all-encompassingly embedded in the idea of feelings. She is not someone who is particularly embedded (at least beyond the degree of any other normal human being) in money or responsibility. And although this episode is primarily Nick’s, and the conflict his to overcome, it would really be more appropriate (for a story that intends such weight) if he were to face off with Jess in her purest form, not some generic antagonist.
On the other side of the episode is New Girl‘s even bigger misstep: Schmidt. He’s a bad person. We have come to feel that he is a bad person. So no, we’re not pained when we watch him struggle with the idea of being a bad person. We’re not happy when we see him overcome these fears and realize that he might actually be a good person. We are… admittedly, slightly amused when he visits a rabbi (in the wonderful form of Jon Lovitz) to pontificate on how to be a better person. But Schmidt is doing nothing to win back our favor. So no, we aren’t going to “care” about him or his shortcomings. Not until he proves he’s worthy of that again.
And I think Winston lost his cat.