The gang are back for the second time this week – the best week for fans in New Girl history? And this time they’re not talking about the future but the past, and the people that used to matter to Nick and Jess in it.
Also, Schmidt goes crazy with loneliness in his loft… Ok, crazier with loneliness in his loft.
After an episode like “Prince,” where Nick and Jess tackle an internal struggle- Jess trying to fight her fear of telling Nick that she loves him- it makes sense, then, to test them with a more external threat to their relationship: their exes. “Prince” was all about the future: Nick and Jess cementing the fact that they want more of each other, and taking another milestone in their relationship, while Schmidt was busy leaving behind dreams of a different life to stay grounded with his friends. And “Exes” continues that theme, with fear yet again stalling Nick and Jess’s relationship, and Schmidt making a sacrifice for Winston and Coach.
The trouble begins when Nick and Jess, out at the farmer’s market, run into Caroline. It’s pretty terrible and awkward for Nick, and he knocks over a lot of fruit. Like, a lot. And while usually Nick would avoid the issue, Jess doesn’t want to have to give up her farmers market, so Nick has to give up the avoidance with Caroline. She’s owed an explanation, not because Nick is uncomfortable around her now, but because at the end of season one, when they were supposed to be moving in together, he ran out on her.
So while Nick is meeting up with Caroline for coffee (and a scone that he wishes were whiskey he could chase down with beer), decidedly not telling her about Jess, Schmidt is trying- and failing- to talk to women. Because, Cece tells him, watching his weird, flem-including game from across the bar, he needs to up his human contact. So he does, giving Winston and Coach keys to his nice, but also weirdly planned out man/sex cave. It’s disappointing, to be honest, that Merritt Wever is busy with Nurse Jackie (and that Schmidt screwed her over) because instead of Coach and Winston coming into his loft with their own partners to use the place (in Coach’s case actually pretending to be Schmidt), what Schmidt really needs, is someone to tell him that his sex chairs are weird (or, perhaps, to love them, I don’t judge), and to watch that giant tv with him. What Schmidt really needs, is someone to make him feel less lonely. Because as great as his friends are, they’re not enough. Not when Schmidt’s crying on the floor eating grapes, and the gang have to be coerced into his loft. And before we suggest Cece for the position, I just- no. I’m not saying that couples can’t move on from affairs, but Schmidt could grow more, and feel better about himself, with someone else. And Cece – These two just need a new start, romantically. And I hope that they get that.
But in the mean time, Winston and Coach have got Schmidt’s back, scaring off girls with their presence and the idea that they lured their dates for the night here to participate in a weird group-sex thing. Their words, not mine, and by the way, it’s been a few years, but Bertie’s up for it, slapping Winston’s ass on the way back into the bedroom. (I was hoping she’d come back, and I hope we see more of her, too, as Winston progresses with his new dream of being a cop.)
As for Nick, his plan of avoiding the subject of Jess with Caroline is ruined when, after their lunch-date, she sees the two of them kissing. Jess can’t believe he didn’t tell her, and while I didn’t realize the real reason for his reluctance that early in the episode, by the end of it, I did. He tells Jess that he got scared (the roles reversed from “Prince,”) to which she then sets out to prove him that he shouldn’t be, because exes can be friends, and don’t have to, as Nick thinks, only be in contact because they want sex. Or because they’re Winston, sending Christmas cards to Shelby’s dad. She calls Berkley, her married ex who she’s just such good friends with, and that’s where the real trouble begins. (And yes, Adam Brody plays the pretentious douchebag married character very, very well.)
The question that Nick and Jess pose each other in “Exes” isn’t really the important one here. Yes, exes can be friends, but Jess can’t be with Berkley (because he’s always looking for more and is, essentially, a “nice-guy” that thinks she led him on), and Nick really can’t be with friends with Caroline, because it didn’t end amicably, or with either one of them wanting to be friends. Not the first time, nor the second. The real question is, can Nick and Jess get past their own- and each other’s- histories? Nick wasn’t good to Caroline when they got back together- or the first time, either- Caroline describing how their relationship slowly fell apart and how the same thing will happen to Jess. Nick has, so often in New Girl, been the apathetic grumpy one, and it was so clearly terrifying for Jess to hear that he stopped holding Caroline’s hand, and stopped listening to her. Something that she could probably so clearly imagine happening to her, too.
Nick and Jess love each other, but “Exes” asks a bigger question: can Jess trust Nick to keep up that love?
And that’s when Nick tells them- and Berkeley, still hanging around with his baby, hoping for a reconciliation with Jess- that he broke up with Caroline for Jess. He wasn’t cheating on her, but he says that he might as well have been, because he fell in love with Jess the moment that she walked through the door.
I’m sure that not everyone will like this declaration, but the thing is… Love at first sight does happen. It just isn’t the kind of love that Nick and Jess declared they had for each other in “Prince.” Nick fell in love with the things he knew about Jess from their first meeting, piece by piece, and so no, it’s not hard for me to believe that he left Caroline because of Jess. And he did leave her for Jess at the end of season one: as a friend. He loved her, and loved living with her, and loved being her friend. And he maybe, probably wanted more at that point, and that’s one of the reasons that he left Caroline. He left Caroline because Jess thought their relationship was a bad idea. Because he would miss Jess. Because he loved and was in love with the bits of Jess that he’d seen and gotten to know.
I don’t think he loved all of her then, but he loved the pieces that he knew, and there were enough of those pieces for him to tell Caroline that he left her because of his feelings for Jess. He never cheated on her, or left because Jess wanted him… He left because he wanted to, and yes, Jess featured into that want.
Caroline’s just happy to have the truth, and Berkley, well, a little less so. Nick gave up on Caroline before he even met Jess, from what she reveals about their relationship, and Berkley was just someone who Jess wanted to be able to call her friend. And so, the episode ends with that door to the past officially closed.
- “BACK ME UP, WINNIE THE BISH!” I love Winston’s varying nicknames.
- Winston: “Damn, you’re like James Bond! But I’ll be Moneypenny, for sure. Wait, which one is Moneypenny?”
- Jess tries to spray Berkley with their broken sink-hose when he gets a little too fresh with the love confessions: “Pretend this is attached and there’s water coming out! No! Not like that!” I’ve missed Adam Brody being weird yet sexy on my tv, I won’t lie to you.
- Caroline wants a timeline of Nick and Jess’s relationship: “Ok, you and Nick break up! London has a great Olympics! Uh-oh, trouble in Syria! Board up your windows, Superstorm Sandy! Hey, over here, Nick and me get together.”
- “I really don’t wanna go back to my wife, do you guys wanna play cards or something?” Seriously I’ve just really missed Adam Brody on my tv. Even if he did say Seth Cohen is dead to him.
- “I AM FRANK SCABOPOLIS.” Will this be Winston’s LAPD undercover name? I don’t know, I just love those dramatic entrances he keeps making from bedrooms.