New Girl is back, y’all. No disrespect to last week’s premiere, but tonight felt like the level of hilarity, heartstring-pulling, and sharp storytelling that spoiled us last season. To wit, Jess and Nick once more earned their couplehood, from the minute he spit-smoothed her bangs to his final words to her (“I would have noticed you”); the mean girls — and boy — on the sidelines reaffirmed why we loved the loftmates so much; Schmidt was up to his usual douchebag jar-worthy antics… but almost redemptively guilty about his behavior, and Winston got the chance to play with an adorable kitteh. Daisy was even featured — and, for whatever reason (probably her association with “Cooler”), I loves me some Daisy. Straight talk: I don’t want to get too excited because there are still 20-odd episodes remaining this season, but it was good, you guys. My optimism last week was not in vain.
For starters, Jess was anxious about a clique of teachers at her new school. They were brilliantly introduced in About a Boy-style with Mystikal’s “Bouncin’ Back (Bumpin’ Me Against the Wall).” (They were also, in Hollywood-geek parlance, a bunch of castaways from the class of 2013′s cancellation island, including Don’t Trust the B—-‘s Dreama Walker and The Office‘s Angela Kinsey and Mark Proksch.) These teachers were the teacher equivalent of high school Queen Bees, lording their superiority over owl-eyed outsider Jess, who tried to impress them by inappropriately bragging about how she’d gotten laid… that morning. Of course, this misplaced anecdote wasn’t the only way Nick factored in to the equation. You see, he was getting protective of his Jess. He assured her, “You’re Nick Miller’s girl now. You’re my old lady. Whatever you need, you got it!” Flash forward a few hours: All the school supplies he could buy with $15 and “a halfie” (a.k.a. a torn-in-two dollar bill) weren’t sufficient to ingratiate Jess with the in-crowd.
Still, Nick had himself been a hackysackin’-cool kid in high school (or at least stoned enough not to know that forming a ‘Sack Pack wasn’t as cool as he thought it was), so he deconstructed the dynamics at work — Jess was the token (and episode-titling) “Nerd.” Jess insisted she was never a nerd, but a madrigal flashback begged to differ. Nick offered this advice: “Roll with the punches, go with the flow, make fun of your boss a little bit, don’t follow your instincts. I wouldn’t sing.” Back-up: Nick buttered up the cool kids with free booze from his bar. Long story short, Jess earned her stripes by dancing in a toilet while singing 4 Non Blondes’ “What’s Up?” Long-game pro: The cool kids approved (enough to grant her access to the fun mug cabinet in the teachers lounge). Short-game con: They started calling her “Toilet Pants” (or, per Nick, “the girl who bet herself $6 she could dance in a toilet bowl”).
The next morning, Jess was mega-hungover — so hungover that the fellows woke her up with a clap-clappin’ a cappella version of R. Kelly’s “I Believe I Can Fly.” Once at school, she thought she’d cleared the fence to coolness. But it wasn’t over. Jess found herself in yet another rite of initiation when the other teachers suggested breaking into Principal Foster’s backyard to “put [their] butts” in his “jacuzz’.” (Yes, he called it a “jacuzz’,” and no, I will not dignify that with any more words.) Nick recognized immediately that this “prank,” which would be considered a harmless in high school, would be deemed a felony when perpetrated by a full-grown adult. Furthermore, he warned her, “You’re not the kind of person who can break into the principal’s house and get away with it. You’re the kind of person who gets caught, and it ends up on the Internet in a funny way.” But this issue had deeper roots: Jess told Nick, “You’re right — I’m a nerd. I’ve never fit in. If I met you in high school, you never would have even noticed me.” Nick countered, “That’s because I didn’t go to class. I wouldn’t have seen you.” Still, Jess wouldn’t be dissuaded from her mission. Her final words: “If for some reason I don’t come home tonight, I’ll be at the Appleton Suites under the name Suzuki St. Claire. Ask for Charles.” (Side note: Why wasn’t Suzuki St. Claire written into Gossip Girl as a cousin of Nelly Yuki? Discuss.)
That night, just after Jess had been hoisted over Foster’s fence, Nick showed up — you know, because Nick is so good at breaking and entering. He made his way to the other side and valiantly told her, “I’m your old man now, and if you’re gonna do something that’s obviously very stupid… then I’m gonna do it with you.” They were sealing their foolish pact with a kiss when Foster caught them. Jess ducked into the bushes, leaving Nick to fall on the sword. And he was willing. But Jess emerged, acknowledging that she should be fired. Instead, Foster very liberally assumed that she must have just come to check out his “jacuzz’.” And so Nick and Jess began to disrobe… to Paula Cole’s “I Don’t Want to Wait”… the ultimate act of sacrifice. (In my heart of hearts, I couldn’t help imagining Remy popping out of the shrubbery to round out the hot tub party. Only me? Okay….)
The next day, the cool kids validated Jess by thanking her for taking one for the team. To her credit, she was emboldened. When they invited her to join them in knocking back some liquid ecstasy and grading papers, she politely told them she had plans to hang out with her “old man.” Indeed, Nick was waiting outside like Jake Ryan at the end of Sixteen Candles (so sexy) — plus a hackysack. Jess headed out, and he assured her, “I just wanted to say that… I would have noticed you [in high school],” before sweeping her up in a kiss. In some ways, it was a mundane, everyday-couple moment (well… except for the subsequent teachers-lounge sex), but didn’t it make your heart soar a little? Didn’t it give you hope that, no matter how hard Schmidt tries to break Nick and Jess up (and we know that’s coming), these two crazy kids might just make it work? And isn’t that exactly what we love about New Girl?
MORE: The Schmidt hits the fan