By Lanford Beard
October 31, 2012 at 04:30 AM EDT
Greg Gayne/Fox

There were a lot of tricks (welcome back, Sam!) but not very many treats on this Very Special Episode of New Girl. It seems like almost all the obstacles are being cleared to pave the way for fan fulfillment (whether Jess-Nick or Schmidt-Cece). Or maybe these people are just terrible at forming deep, lasting relationships in general. Either way, it made for some laugh-out-loud moments. My personal favorite involved Nick and a protective ghost. But more on that later…

The episode overall hinged on Jess’s seasonal gig at a haunted house. Schmidt pegged her costume as Zombie Woody Allen, and Nick likened it to a “sexy undead Driver’s Ed teacher,” but I like to think she was some mutant hybrid of Ron Weasley and Raggedy Andy. But the ghouls and goblins weren’t the only things going bump in the night. Jess was still involved in her no-strings-attached relationship with Sam. She locker-room bragged to the roommates, “I’m going to kick him to the curb once I’ve used his body like a moisturizer sample.” Then she found out Sam was a pediatrician, and the allure of a caring guy with a soft spot for kids proved irresistible for the former elementary school teacher. Sam tried to keep things strictly sexy, reminding her that he was the “same guy that did [her] in that falafel restaurant — and a dirty one at that.” Then a kid came in and did fishtail high fives with him, and Jess was a goner.

Cece, too, was surprised Sam had such a noble profession. “I had him pegged for a part-time tennis pro or an unemployed handsome guy,” she said. In classic dumb-sitcom-girl fashion, Jess decided the best course of action to keep this hot, smart, sexually willing and able man around would be to test him. She invited him to the last night of her haunted house. If he showed up in costume, that would mean they had potential as a couple. And if he didn’t… well I think we all knew where this was going several episodes back. Or did we? Sam did show, and, yeah, his costume (a clown nose) was a little half-assed, but it still gave Jess enough hope to believe she had a shot. To be continued…

Meanwhile, Nick was freaking out because Amelia (Maria Thayer, a.k.a. Tammi Littlenut from Strangers With Candy), a girl he was in love with freshman year of college, was coming town for a visit. Regretting that he’d never told her how he felt (despite evidence to the contrary in Dotables), he put a lot of pressure on himself to make it happen this time around. But, frankly, the fact that Amelia still wanted to see Nick in spite of his Chris Cornell rip-off style from their collegiate days could only have been a good sign.

In fact, all he had to do was make her up a bed and show her around “the city where many scenes from Beverly Hills Chihuahua were filmed,” and she was ready to make up for lost time. Nick was overcoming his disbelief that she didn’t remember his “whole bag of bad game” in college when Amelia lunged at his face. The kissing was… well… aggressive. Like the female equivalent of “He raped my face” aggressive. Only making things worse, she later carved a pumpkin in the shape of their future family. Too soon, honey, too soon!

NEXT: Honest Abe versus Raphael

Elsewhere, Halloween costumes signaled turning points for the other two roommates. Winston and Shelby’s attempt to spice up their relationship via role play only emphasized the dissipating chemistry in their already sexless relationship. (Schmidt: “You know, at night I can actually feel gusts of frigid air coming from under your door.”) Winston dressed up as a mustachio’d cop, which was sexy enough in theory. Shelby showed up covered from head to toe in a queen costume covered in stuffed puppies and kittens. Though she got points for punnery (“Reigning Cats & Dogs”), it was not the flesh-centric outfit Winston was hoping she’d wear. He tried to recover, saying, “Those stuffed animals are going to look good on the floor of my bedroom!” But… nope.

The situation went from bad to worse when they entered the haunted house. Instead of screaming from fear, they were yelling at each other — in front of an innocent zombie nurse bystander. Their argument about what makes a sexy costume made Winston so enraged his mustache fell off! And thus endeth Winston and Shelby. To which Schmidt, dressed as a young Abraham Lincoln (presumably of the vampire-slaying ilk) insensitively responded, “I’ve witnessed the emancipation of one black tonight.” Also too soon.

Speaking of Schmidt, he hoped his Abe Lincoln duds would remind Cece of his virility and plant a subconscious seed for her to dump her drip of a boyfriend Robbie, whose most redeeming quality was that he “always has gum.” But it would be difficult for those the subconscious seeds to flower when Schmidt was consciously taking potshots at Robbie, calling his relationship with Cece “charity… like she lost a bet or something,” likening his nether regions to “low-hanging fruit,” and dismissing his costume as “the guy who shot John Lennon dressed as a Ninja Turtle.” Ouch!

Despite this ragging, Schmidt convinced Robbie and Cece to meet him at Jess’s haunted house. Robbie’s only warning was that he needed to be kept away from pumpkins because he somehow managed to cut himself last year. On a pumpkin. Once they arrived, Schmidt jumped on the back of Cece’s carousel horse (not a euphemism), and Robbie good-naturedly noted that they looked like a bride and groom. Schmidt was all smiles, but Cece was about to go Bridezilla on Schmidt for these shenanigans.

Ironically, it was Robbie who settled things. He took Schmidt aside and told him he wasn’t as dumb as Schmidt thought — he knew exactly what Schmidt was trying to do and wasn’t going anywhere. Not only did he verbally shut that Schmidt down, he also (literally) slapped down Schmidt’s four(!) clumsy attempts to headbutt him. Robbie’s skill at cutting short Schmidt’s one-man pissing contest had a bonus side effect, smoothing over Schmidt and Cece’s strained interactions. Now they’ll get to hang out more, albeit with Robbie there. Though Schmidt did leave Cece with something to think about as he stripped down and gyrated in his second-choice costume (see: Dotables). I’m not going to say I’m Team Robbie or anything — my heart will always belong to Schmidt — but his stock just shot up. Not least of which because he’s a fan of that good ol’ fashioned fun fair staple, the fried turkey dinner in a cone.

Back to the Jess-Sam entanglement. Things came to a head when Sam told Nick he was texting his weekend hook-up. He was confident Jess wouldn’t mind because she claimed to want a relationship even less than he did. Nick knew this wasn’t true and vowed to overcome his phobia of haunted houses to warn Jess. Alas, he got so worked up that he accidentally punched Jess when she jumped out to scare him. Like the final moments of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video, all Jess’s costumed coworkers crawled out of the woodwork at once to attack Nick at once — most notably a ghost who jump-kicked Nick’s crotch kung-fu style. Those screams you heard? They weren’t from a five-year-old girl. That was all Nick.

Ultimately, the dust-up forced both Jess and Nick to have “the talk” with their sex buddies. Though Sam displayed excellent bedside manner (pun intended), he maintained that he wasn’t looking for a relationship. And Nick had to admit that fantasy of Amelia had destroyed his ability to accept the real her. He should have stopped there, but he went one further and criticized her “reverse CPR” kissing. That earned him a slap in the face. Double whammy: Nick let Jess even it up by punching him in the face. Not exactly the flesh-pressing Liz Meriwether has promised us shippers, but I’ll take it.

NEXT PAGE: A Nick Miller original composition

Notable dotables:

Schmidt: Nick, where do you even buy sheets like this? They have the thread count of a paper towel.

Nick’s college serenade to Amelia (they just met)…

You stopped into my room for no reason.

I was pretty cool to say, “Come in.”

You’re sittin’ on my bed.

I feel like we’re vibin’.

What do I do?

The sexual tension is crazy!

Schmidt: I got it! You look like a Zombie Woody Allen. [adopts Woody Allen voice] “These brains are terrible. And such small portions!”

Nick [in Woody Allen voice]: “On Christmas, I like to eat Chinese people’s brains. They’re the only ones that are open!”

Jess [in Woody Allen voice]: “Zombie… Cristina… Barcelona!”

Winston: Yeah, I have nothing to add to this. [several moments later…] “I couldn’t afford my therapist so I ate his brains.” Marx Brothers!

Schmidt [clapping]: That’s the one.

Schmidt [about Rob’s green spandex]: What am I looking at here? Robbie, man to man, you didn’t want to wear something a little more form-flattering, maybe like a pile of towels? Or the number 8?

Jess [whispering]: Sam’s in there.

Nick [whispering]: Yeah, and Amelia’s in there. High five for sluts!

Nick: I didn’t punch a girl. I punched a horrifying monster. You of all people should know this, Frankenstein!

Frankenstein: You’re the real monster!

Cece [after Schmidt offered his costume Robbie]: What are you going to wear?

Schmidt: Plan B was always Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike.

[Schmidt walks off]

Robbie: Wow. I mean, look at his thighs. They’re like fleshy tree trunks. Whoa, he really knows how to work a crowd. His thighs are like the size of my head.

Read more:

‘New Girl’: Misfortune Cookie (a.k.a. Gigglebangs Riceball)

Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.
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