So far this season, Nick and Jess are officially in a relationship, Schmidt has broken the hearts of CeCe and Elizabeth (not to mention his own) and Winston has become lonelier than ever. So as we start Episode Four, 'The Captain,' it stands to reason that the natural course of action is for Schmidt to go after Nick and Jess’s relationship and for Winston to get even more deeply involved with his cat, Ferguson.
Winston is, once again, on his own in this one — a dynamic that is getting old. The Winston Problem is the most notable and talked about issue that New Girl faces and, third season in, it's still not solved. It's clear the writers decided to embrace Winston's "Cheese Stands Alone" status in the loft (and thus, the show), but I'm not sure that was the best route to take. Episode after episode, we find the same dynamic — everyone is involved in the larger plot but Winston. That being said, Lamorne Morris has done a good job so far, and his storyline this week (trying to get his cat laid) made for a number of easy but satisfying laughs. ("Guys, come on, our cats were just about to have sex," being one of his best of the night.)
But even with The Winston Problem, "The Captain" is a stellar episode. It has all the things you need to swoon and laugh. And since swooning and laughing is all I want to do for the rest of my life, I’d call this a job well done.
Schmidt tries to break Nick and Jess up by playing on Nick’s discomfort with feelings and Jess’s naivete about sex. It works at first — Nick can’t get it up and Jess thinks the only way to turn him on is by performing a so-horrifying-we-don’t-know-what-it-is sex move called The Captain. But his dabbling only proves to bring them closer together as they realize what he is trying to do. It all ends in Nick beginning to indulge his feelings — and Jess learning to shut up for once.
Last season, Schmidt seemed to be growing into a mature and complicated person but this season, at least temporarily, he's back to being a douchebag. While this does make him a bit harder to root for, it’s also a situation rife with Schmidt-isms:
"You know, my diploma says that I majored in Communications, but my heart says I majored in Nicholas Studies."
"For a man whose midsection is basically mush, Nick has had a lot of sex. He's pushed that mush all over town."
"If someone were to blow on my nipples, I would positively scream."
If Schmidt continues being Schmidt, there’s not much behavior we won’t accept from him.
As for Nick and Jess: Were they hotter last season when we all were rooting for them to just do it already? Absolutely. But are they still pretty great now? Yeah. Things have cooled down but, c'mon, they were never going to be able to maintain the sheer, unadulterated, so-hot-I-watched-it-on-repeat-at-least-17-times chemistry of their first stolen kiss in the hallway.
Instead, what we have is a storyline where Nick and Jess are in a healthy, sweet, adorable relationship that appears to make each of them a better person. And the writers do a good job of making it bizarre as hell, which is crucial to "New Girl" in general, and Nick and Jess in particular. Whereas most couples might go out to dinner and a movie, Jess tries to spice things up by reading an Indian Restaurant Menu in whispered tones, painting her face blue like Papa Smurf, and punching Nick in the face.
This is a quirky, crazy weird, super lovable couple and... I'm into it.
Bigs ups go to Jake Johnson for managing to make Nick's emotional maturing not only un-cheesy but laugh-out-loud funny. ("I really like the instrument of the cello.") Also, when he says things like, "I really like you, Jess," I basically melt into a puddle on the goddamn floor. So bravo, "New Girl." My husband will never live up to Nick Miller. Are you happy now?
What do you guys think? Am I the only one still bothered by The Winston Problem?
Grade: A- (under the condition that in future episodes they stop treating Winston like he's a ghost that only animals can see)
Taylor Jenkins Reid is an author and essayist living in Los Angeles. Her first book, Forever, Interrupted, came out this summer. Follow her on Twitter @tjenkinsreid