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New Girl 3×13 “Birthday” Recap


The two people closest to Jess are kind of screw-ups: one didn’t finish high school, and the other dropped out of law school. But the one thing they both do have going for them is Jess’s eternal belief in them.

Nick and Cece aren’t individuals with big dreams. As Jess says herself, Nick isn’t a planner. And Cece’s a bartender who can’t make drinks. “We’re both bad at life,” Nick told Cece in season 2’s “Table 34.” And whether or not that’s true, the one thing that they both have behind them no matter what, is Jess’s love and belief in them.

So in “Birthday,” it’s up to the both of them to live up to that. Cece has to take a shift without Nick there to help her (and cover up for her mistakes) while he keeps Jess occupied until her surprise birthday party later that evening. The party’s at seven, and so Nick has twelve hours to kill. Should be easy, right?

Not so much.

And while Nick’s distracting Jess by taking her to get a diabetes check, and sending her off to find rocks at the park – all the while insistent that he has planned something for her – Coach and Winston have been charged with sorting out Jess’s cake. Something that they make a ridiculous (and hilarious) competition out of.

Since coming back from its Christmas break, New Girl has felt more like an ensemble cast than ever. The gang all work seamlessly towards Jess’s birthday event at the end of the episode, three separate stories being told, all culminating into one.

“Birthday” is an episode where, for once, Jess fails to keep her optimism about her. Birthdays are usually a let-down, I think it’s fair to say, and for someone like Jess, who rebels against the notion of life being a little bit disappointing – it’s not hard to see why she usually slinks off to the movies every year. (Which, FYI, sounds like an amazing birthday to me.)

While Nick and Cece’s greatest enemy is their own failure to believe that they’re capable – at holding down a full-time job, and pulling off a meticulously planned surprise – Jess’s is the opposite: her dreams have a tendency to run away from her, and ruin the reality.

And for a while, it seems as though the reality has been ruined. Nick’s surprise party surely can’t live up to what Jess had been expecting… Except, of course, that it can. He holds a private party in the cinema, surprising her (and us) greatly with a recording that he made of all of her friends and family talking about her, and wishing her a happy day. Jess runs out crying, just when Winston and Coach present her cake to her (two cakes became one in the oven), and she tells Nick that this is the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for her.

“Birthday” is an episode all about believing in people, even when they don’t believe in themselves. Schmidt, in an act of friendship (and perhaps guilt), helps Cece out at the bar, and reminds her just exactly who she is, “You are strong and you are confident. Those are skills. Use them,” when she’s feeling lost, and is close to being ratted out for the terrible bartender that she is. And as for Jess, well: this time, her friends prove just why she believes in them in the first place.

Jess has a crisis of faith in “Birthday,” but in an incredibly sweet moment, Nick proves worthy of the responsibilities that she places upon him.

New Girl may be facing a lawsuit that could halt production and cost them millions, but for right now, season three is better than ever.

Grade: A+

Memorable Moments

  • “Are you challenging me to a bake-off, Bish?”
  • Schmidt helps Cece make an Old Fashioned and (vaguely) placates her co-worker: “Oh my stars and garters, you made a drink. Holy crud.”
  • The titles that Nick gave the people on Jess’s birthday video may have been the funniest thing about this episode: (DR. ALAN FOSTER: Boss/Doctor of Something; OUTSIDE DAVE: Neighborhood Color; ROSE: Colleague/Loose Cannon; BEARCLAW: Sent This To Me Unsolicited; YOUR CLASS: Weirdly OK With a Strange Man Videotaping Them.) (Also, a rouge clip of Tran popped up in the birthday message, much to my delight!)
  • Nick Miller, Nick Miller, he’s a stone-cold romantic: “This is the coin I had in my pocket the first night we kissed. And I always have it.”