It’s really quite fitting that Fox has been airing back-to-back episodes of New Girl on Tuesday nights, showing a new episode at 9 PM followed by one from much earlier this season. When you tune into the rerun after watching a great new episode, like last night’s hysterical and heartbreaking “Backslide”, you can’t help but immediately realize how far this show has come. The overkill of Zooey Deschanel‘s Jess’ girlie quirkiness has made way for an aware, confident, relatable woman and the rest of the characters have evolved right along with her. Well, except for Winston, who is essentially a prop.
Of course some things, like how one handles a breakup, never change. Even the most together person can crumble when a good relationship comes to an end. Prior breakups have prompted Jess to move into a loft with a trio of kooky strangers, watch Dirty Dancing close to a thousand times, and attempt to court Ryan Kwanten. A post-Russell Jess couldn’t peel herself off her bedroom floor, wondered if she was perhaps a self-sabotaging Cylon and, much to the dismay of her roommates, didn’t stop listening to Joni Mitchell’s “River” for 18 hours. (“I get it! It’s a river!” Nick sarcastically cried from the next room at one point.)
But the worst side effect of a broken heart, and the one that hits nearly everyone, is the backslide. That time when you fall back into the arms of an ex, any ex, for the comfort and familiarity you just lost. Sometimes the backslide is immediate, sometimes it sets you back to the start after you’ve come so far (ahem, Nicholas) but if you’re not careful you’ll backslide hard and fast. Despite her friends’ best efforts to stop her from backsliding (well, Schmidt and Cece anyway, as Nick was in the midst of his own terrible backslide and Winston was busy being a prop wearing other props) Jess wound up right back in the arms of….Paul Genzlinger!?
Yep, old Genzel Washington/Mercedes Genz/It’s The Genz of the World As We Know It was back, but not without some serious backslide baggage of his own. After taking up Jess’ drunken late night proposition, Paul (the delightfully goofy Justin Long) was back in the picture. For once it seemed like maybe this seemingly perfect couple had gotten their timing right. Well, except for the whole Paul having a serious girlfriend who he wants to propose to. If that wasn’t horrifying enough for Jess to find out, she came face-to-face with Paul’s lady who looked exactly like an Asian version of herself. Asian Jess, if you will.
After briefly toying with the idea of telling Asian Jess about Paul’s tryst with Caucasian Jess because she knows how awful it is to be cheated on, she wisely opted against it. (After all, no one wants to see Paul’s ugly cry, which could only be described as a “slow-motion sneeze.”) Instead, it was Paul who came clean to Asian Jess, while Caucasian Jess was there, no less. Now, a backslider can notoriously make some bad decisions. You figure, I’ve fallen this far, I might as well keep falling. And maybe Jess would have done that a while ago. Maybe she would have broken into a song or depended on the guys to bail her out of another wacky misadventure, but she took care of the situation with grace and ease in the most awkward ex situation known to mankind, helping them get engaged to their current love. But even a Jess capable of backsliding knows herself well enough now that when it’s right with someone it’s right, and when it isn’t it isn’t.
When it’s right, it looks like Schmidt and Cece. Two people so right for each other because of their hyper-attractive exteriors and surprisingly vulnerable interiors. Two people who can endure broken penises (“It looks like a knotted wizard staff”), visiting one anthers “Bubbys” at an old folks home despite an unreasonable fear of the elderly (“They look like giant walking raisins”) and intentionally dressing like “women’s studies major” to help the other in a time of need. It’s right when their families see there’s something special brewing (“She needs you, you are exactly what she needs” Cece’s grandmother sweetly told Schmidt) and they can put their egos aside (and boy, when you’ve got a model and Schmidty, have you got some egos) and admit they just want happiness with each other.
When it’s wrong, it looks like Nick and Caroline. Two people so wrong for each other because of their uncanny ability to forget how painful their past was, their willingness to lie to each other (Caroline mentioned off-hand that she’s actually 33, not 30) and themselves about what they really want in their life. When it’s wrong your friends force you to watch a sad sack self-made video confessional about how much torment your ex made you endure and you still ignore them, and your bearded, tear-collecting former self and backslide all the way back to the start. When it’s wrong you decide to move back in with your abusive ex with no care about the person you’ve become, and more importantly, the person you have the potential to be. Even if that person dresses like an unsponsored professional skateboarder. (Kudos to this show for somehow making the very handsome Jake Johnson look so utterly undesirable.)
Jess knew that she wanted what Schmidt and Cece were heading towards (who would have guessed that after the whole “Secrets” debacle) and didn’t want what Nick and Caroline were falling back into. She didn’t want it for herself, and she certainly didn’t want it for Nick. After returning home from her Paul-induced life revelation, Jess told Nick just that. In fact, she told him “You deserve to be happy…If you really love someone, its simple….You deserve something amazing and you deserve love” and silenced the Tom Waits in his head and told him in a new, reassuring Tom Waits voice, “We don’t have to settle Nick, you’re the best.”
You hear that, Nick? “We.” Sadly, the Tom Waits in Nick’s head that tells him he’s a failure that looks bad in hats is louder than the Tom Waits standing right in front of him and it was all white noise. And if Jess’ amazing confession wasn’t enough to break your heart into a hundred pieces, it probably happened right… about…. here when Nick told her that he’d just signed a lease to move in with Caroline. Excuse me while I Paul-Cry this one out, not just because I, like so many other New Girl fans want to see Nick and Jess eventually get together. But because as happy as we can feel that Jess is evolving and changing and feeling optimistic despite how hard life can be, Nick simply isn’t there yet. Once again, timing is everything. Of course, maybe his timing will come next week, during the first season finale.
Here are the best moments and lines from last night’s New Girl episode “Backslide”:
– “The economy is dying, movies are pretty much all sequels…. and I have a broken penis” – Schmidt’s argument to a sad Jess that things could be worse.
– “These people are disgusting, I’ve never been more flaccid in my whole life”- Schmidt, at the retirement home.
– “I thought you were Asian Jess, I was just Caucasian You”- Jess, to Paul’s fiance.
– Nick and Caroline’s booty shaking routine to Joni Mitchell’s “River.” (Enjoy this while it lasts Caroline, I will never put you on a Best Moments list again, unless it’s Nick kicking your ass to the curb.)
– Schmidt’s declaration that “humans are going to be immortal by 2026.”
– Schmidt getting turned on by birds (“Do I have to say it? Eggs”) and emotional intimacy (so much so he passed out.)
– Schmidt lighting up at the thought of his own “Bubby.”
– Paul’s ugly cry was officially a contender for Best Cry Ever.
– Everyone’s digs at Winston’s earrings could rival the beard slams from the guys in Knocked Up. Among the gems: “When’s it coming out by the way?…The smooth jazz album you’re dropping,” “Captain Black Sparrow,” “Black George Michael,” “Mr. T called, he wants to punch you in the face because that earring looks stupid,” “You look like you’re standing in line to get into Shaquille O’Neal’s birthday party.”
– Nick’s poem to Caroline: “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? No, a summer’s day is not a bitch.”
– The utterly brilliant nod at Damon Wayans Jr.’s departed Coach when Past Nick tells future Nick, “Be nicer to coach or he’s going to take off and live with other white people.” You hear that Happy Endings? You take care of Coach or else you’ll get stuck with a Winston!
What did you think of last night’s penultimate season one episode of New Girl? Are you officially warmed up to sweet Schmidt? Will Nick actually go through with this terrible idea? Will all this cause Jess to backslide and become more of a pessimist? Can we get Coach back? Please, Happy Endings!
[Photo credit: Fox]
Follow Aly on Twitter @AlySemigran