'New Girl' season 3 premiere: Paradise by the Dashboard Light

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Back at the loft, Schmidt had taken the coward’s route, refusing to break up with either Cece or Elizabeth, and was growing increasingly harried without a best friend to advise him. Winston was supposed to step into the best-friend role, but he was sweatpants-deep in a 750-piece puzzle (and by “sweatpants,” I mean a backwards hoodie worn as sweatpants). As Schmidt noted, Winston tended to get weird when he engaged with his jigsaw mistress. To wit, Winston suspiciously lowered his pants before and wantonly serenaded, “I’m gonna dooooo youuuuuu, puzzle! Right on the table. As nasty as you want to be….” That was day one.

Four days later, Winston emerged from his puzzle stupor only when Cece showed up at the loft. Thinking Schmidt had dumped her, Winston pulled Cece in tight to console her with semi-creepy humming and definitely-too-close hugs. He told her, “I am so, so sorry… about Elizabeth.” At this, Schmidt panicked and lied that Winston had slept with Elizabeth after Schmidt broke up with her. To honor his bros-before-hos agreement with Schmidt (or whatever), Winston found himself improv-ing. And, let’s just say Winston is about as good at improv as he is at pranks and puzzles. Within two minutes he’d told Cece he’d seduced Elizabeth “two and a half times” and that he’d asked Schmidt for Cece’s panties to sew into his own underwear (as you do). Owing to a sense of ridiculousness most certainly warped by dealing with all of Jess and Schmidt’s foolery, Cece believed the obvious lie. She was horrified — so horrified, in fact, that she slammed her purse into the table and destroyed Winston’s puzzle masterpiece.

That night, the rift between Winston and Schmidt had reached a zenith resulting in physical injury… by which I mean Winston stubbed his toe on a chair as he and Schmidt circled each other aggressively. (Schmidt taunted, “Yeah, don’t mess with me man. I’m legit! [A beat later] I’m getting very dizzy.”) Jess broke up the fight by charging in and demanding Nick’s passport. After Schmidt and Winston recovered from their dizziness-induced fainting spell, they accompanied Jess to spring Nick from Mexican hotel jail.

Once there, Schmidt assured the others he knew how to handle the locals. Cue a prototypical clueless-American-douchebag “bribery” “strategy,” which the staffers immediately sniffed out. Long story short, Schmidt handed his last $20 bill to a pubescent gringo bellhop named Brad, and they still hadn’t tracked down Nick. At the end of the wild goose chase, Jess spotted the original guard, who — after witnessing a ridiculous argument over Winston’s shoes that revealed Winston is color blind (hence the puzzle ineptitude) — was willing to accept Jess’s banged-up old Volvo in exchange for Nick’s freedom.

Despite watching roughly 12 hours of Yo soy Betty, la fea, reruns, Nick remained reluctant to return to the loft. In one last blaze of glory, he threatened to shred his passport so he and Jess would have to live in Mexico forever. At this, Schmidt raised the stakes by volunteering himself as tribute — indeed, placing his very ear against the shredder to force his best friend to come home. Of course that was unnecessary, of course Jess talked Nick down from the ledge (by sweetly declaring the four of them were a family worth fighting for), and of course Nick inadvertently shredded his passport anyway. Winston was emboldened that his puzzling acumen might finally come in handy…

Or not. Still, despite countless red flags (including Nick’s mangled passport issued by the “Unadered Stites of Amurica” as well as a red junker adorned with flames and pompons dangling from the windows), the border guard was willing to abandon all principles and let the whole gang back into the U.S. The roommates arrived back at the loft, where Schmidt and Winston watched as Nick offered Jess a sentimental token: the resort bracelet he’d snagged earlier, which would serve as a reminder of those few magical days they had together. As the new couple braced themselves for their shifting reality (not to mention cohabitation), they were both romantic and resigned — with a dash of old-school romantic comedy fighting-as-foreplay — as they vowed they could get through anything together. Schmidt and Winston, on the other hand, were disgusted. Well, boys, that makes two of you. As for me, bring on the showmance! And a shower for both of them (ideally together)!

All that said, I still feel like I barely scratched the surface, Newbies. Nick was adorably romantic, from the moment he and Jess christened the Volvo to the time he told her, “Of course [the guard] spotted you — you’re the prettiest girl on the beach!” Winston’s facial expressions were across-the-board priceless (and the singing!!!). And Schmidt’s smugness at telling his phone to dial “Best Friend 1″ was classic. Again, it wasn’t the most polished — or even the most nuanced — New Girl episode ever. But a second viewing that made for even more laughs than the first gives me hope that this season has somewhere to go. Agree or disagree? Was the premiere what you hoped it would be? Speak up in the comments. But, before that, Dotables is back!

NEXT: “Nick is my bitch.”

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