At the bar, Cece was covering for Nick, much to the chagrin of Nick’s surly coworker Mike (Falcone) — whose exact words, I believe, were, “I hate all you damn hipsters.” Schmidt stopped in to help Cece, who promptly smashed a pint glass into the ice tub. Mike assured Cece he was ready to rat her out to their boss and that she couldn’t win him over with her charm or model-good looks because he’s “super-gay.” After she served up an Old Fashioned that was actually a coffee mug full of gin with a peanut in it, Mike challenged her to make an actual Old Fashioned with that threat that he’d call the manager. He added, “And I want to call him anyway because he’s gorgeous. I want to be a barnacle on his ship, just hanging on by my mouth getting all the nutrients I need.” Well then… Schmidt walked Cece through the process (overlooking as she mistook Scotch for bourbon, then for vermouth),and his tutelage kept Mike at bay. That is, until Cece accidentally hosed him with the keg spout. Feeling embarrassed and unskilled, she was ready to quit, but Schmidt gave her a near-flawless pep talk (depending on how you fall on his closing tip: “Pull your shirt down, this isn’t a monastery”). Not long after, Cece had rallied and completed a number of tasks around the bar, much to Mike’s surprise. Before tossing her apron in the grump’s face, she signed off curtly: “My friend and I have to go to a party.” Yep. She’d called Schmidt her friend. Progress!
Back to Jess, who’d been so blinded by sobs while returning to the apartment that she’d completely missed the scads of decorations and gifts. (She also let Coach convince her the baking smell was from a bakery explosion: “Don’t look into it, it’s not on the Internet,” he advised.) By the time Nick got back, she’d slipped away to her old refuge, the movie theater. She loaded up two large buckets of heavily buttered popcorn and waited as the lights went down. After the no-cell-phones message, Nick popped up on the screen and said he thought she’d like some company. In real life, he slid into the seat next to her and watched as she read a message he’d taped under her seat (well, technically under all the seats… just in case). It was a Nick Miller original poem: “My name is Jess, I like to wear tights. It’s dark in this room, so turn on the lights.” With that, the theater was illuminated, and everyone shouted, “Surprise!”
Next up, a movie Nick put together that featured all the regulars (Winston narrated, obviously) as well as many of the also-ran oddballs we’ve come to know and love — Jess’s parents, Sadie, Outside Dave (chyroned as “Neighborhood Color”), Jess’s Principal Dr. Alan Foster, Bearclaw, (“Sent this [tape] to [Nick] unsolicited”), Jess’s coworker/loose cannon Rose (played by Angela Kinsey), her students (“Weirdly OK with a strange man videotaping them”), even Tran (who “said a bunch, but it was really weird and racist”)! Finally, on-screen Nick closed with an awwwww-inducing note as he pulled out a nickel and said, “This is the coin I had in my pocket the first night we kissed. And I always have it.”
The surprise was pitch-perfect. As were Coach and Winston’s vocal runs as they walked in singing “Happy Birthday” and carrying a Jess-shaped cake, which they’d brilliantly created using their fused cakes. Only, when the gang turned to Jess, she’d vanished. Nick went out to the lobby and found her crying. Again. He began to apologize for botching her present, but! She planted a huge kiss on him, and he understood she was weeping from joy. “That was the nicest thing anyone’s ever done for me,” she told him. They kissed again. And it suddenly occurs to me, have these two ever said “I love you”? What’s up with that?
Bonus footage: Schmidt’s part of the video, showing him walking away from an exploding car James Bond-style, then running from packs of dinosaurs and diving at the camera 3-D-style. Maybe this party should have been the one with the “Danger” theme.
NEXT PAGE: “This [birthday party] is our Rudy.”