By Lanford Beard
Updated February 20, 2013 at 05:30 AM EST
Credit: Patrick McElhenney/FOX

So… that Jess-Nick weirdness? That residue of kiss-related awkwardness? Not. Going. Anywhere. Though they seemed mostly back to normal at the end of the last ep, it’s clear this problem will not resolve itself so easily. They’re going to have to face it head-on — a reality they continue to admit and then panic moonwalk away from. As such, this week’s installment was bookended by oodles of sexual tension. We’ve got a handful of episodes before the finale, Newbies, so nothing is going to happen quickly, and we’re indefinite stuck in this sexual perdition — the No-Nail Zone, as it were. Just as well, as there were much bigger fish to fry last night — at least in Schmidt’s head…

While Jess and Nick were brushing their teeth, exchanging uncomfortable banter about their toooootally normal friendship, Schmidt came barreling in with a big announcement: He’d found a parking free spot in their building! “I had just finished rinsing out the dumpster, and while I was buffing the backside, I found this,” he beamed. So thrilled was he, in fact, that he slapped a towel rack straight off the wall (a rack holding a damp towel, one can only hope) sharing the news. Thus was set in motion an episode-long battle over that sweet slab o’ concrete.

Each of them had a reason why he or she deserved the spot (Schmidt = financial stability card, Jess = lady card, Winston = race card, Nick = lazy drunk card). Jess particularly wanted to be rid of a denture-throwing bum named Outside Dave who was using her hood as a futon and who didn’t respond to her attempts at baked-goods bribery. When Winston had to abandon the negotiations (more on that later), that left a three-way stand-off between Nick, Jess, and Schmidt. Turns out lazy drunks aren’t much for fighting, so Nick pretty much immediately crumbled. Ironically, this made him more powerful than before — now he was the swing vote, The Decider.

Jess cast the opening gambit and knocked on Nick’s door in nothing but black stockings and… one of Nick’s hoodies? “You want to know what I’m wearing underneath this shirt?” she purred. “An invisible shirt.” With the hoodie draped Flashdance-style over her bare shoulder, she began to chew on the “crunchy” drawstring. SEXY! Okay… not so much. But pretty damn funny. Credit to her for knowing what Nick would respond to. However, I’m not entirely sure the sex shtick was either A.) authentic to Jess or B.) an appropriate move considering the post-kiss tension still alienating them. A little tone deaf, no?

Nonetheless, that’s the way Jess went. And it worked — but mainly because Nick was far too uncomfortable (and, again, lazy) to deny her. She genuinely appreciated his “chivalrous” behavior. He invited her in for a hug, but her defense mechanisms kicked in, and she clamped his nipples, triggering a high-pitched howl from Nick. Sing it with me now, “That’s what friends are for!”

Not knowing he’d lost the parking spot already, Schmidt brought Nick a frosty mug of Heisler. He thanked his old buddy in advance for the spot. After a slow spit take from Nick (credit to Jake Johnson on the physical comedy), he told Schmidt he’d give the spot to Jess. She happened to come up in the room, and their overly cordial relationship signaled to Schmidt that something was up. “You think I can’t smell it?” he asked. “You think I can’t hear it? The stench of filth and lust is all over this room” (pronounced rim) “It smells like frickin’ Tijuana!” Jess tried to play it cool, but Nick collapsed under the accusations. They admitted they’d kissed. Schmidt shot them a death stare and said with extra acid in his voice, “Mazel tov to both of you.” Nick: “I don’t know what ‘mazel tov’ means, but it doesn’t sound good.”

They followed Schmidt to his room, where he shouted, “Nick, you’re my best friend! You should have told me. And, Jess, what do you think? Mono is just some sort of joke?” They assured him nothing had changed, but one extremely awkward hug and Jess’s new parking space implied otherwise. Jess finally admitted she “shook what the good people of Oregon gave [her]” to get the spot. Schmidt pulled out the big guns, saying archly, “Let me tell you something, Nicholas Miller: Had Winston kissed me, you were the first person I would have told!” And so Nick predictably flipped his decision: “I can’t have people thinking my decision wasn’t above-board. This city can’t handle another scandal!” Schmidt grinned evilly, which Jess tried to call out only to have him turn it off every time Nick looked at him. Folding under all this pressure and manipulation, Nick admitted that didn’t feel like The Decider anymore. Now he was merely The Suggester, and he wasn’t having fun anymore. He stormed off, leaving Schmidt to gloat, “Give my regards to Outside Dave.” Jess tried to physically intimidate him with nipple twisters, but apparently Schmidt is impervious to such guerilla warfare tactics — an offshoot of his 50 Shades of Grey-esque office romance, no doubt.

NEXT: Schmidt gets real

Jess followed Nick to the hall, where he was jabbing a finger on the elevator call button frantically. She insisted he was the one making things weird. Instead of response like an adult, he starting shimmying, convulsing, and making weird facial expressions while chanting, “Weird! Weird! Weird!” Jess responded with her own bizarro movements and chants of “Weirder! Weirder! Weirder!” Their weird-off went on for no less than a full minute of owl eyes, turtle faces, and Arrested Development-style chicken dances. Nick and Jess, ladies and gentlemen! This is why they are perfect for each other and exactly why they should never be a real thing. Jess wondered, “Is this how things are going to be?” They would need a long-term solution, she suggested. “I’ll give you a long-term solution,” he said huskily and stepped toward her with the same manliness we saw that night. Only his next words were, “I’M TAKIN’ THE SPOT!”

Cut to the roomies in a Keystone Kops-style race to their cars. Schmidt knocked over a trash can; Nick leapt over it while Jess stood there torn between desire and duty. While she cleaned up the rubbish, Schmidt ran to his parking lot to discover his car was surrounded by others (“Agh, damn it! You middled me again? I’m not to be middled — it’s in my contract! Shoot!”). Back to Jess, who got trapped in a back-and-forth crosswalk negotiation with a driver who finally yelled, “Move it, you wacky bitch!” But, when she got to her car, she found a colony of feral cats had taken residence on her hood. Nick’s lemon was just as he’d left it — safe and sound, concealed by cardboard and kept vigil by homeless folk underneath the nearest overpass — only it wouldn’t start.

Schmidt pulled into the garage just in time to see Nick scamper into the spot with his “vehicle,” a crappy lawn chair. With a steely look on his face, Schmidt nudged Nick with his SUV. Once Jess drove in, it was full-on real-life bumper cars. She pushed Schmidt’s car with her own until no one was in the parking spot. They all ran in on foot as she threatened, “I got a purse full of hard candy and an empty bladder — I’m here all night, folks!” It was on.

Soon enough, Nick became hungry, and Schmidt needed to use the facilities. While Schmidt mastered the art of peeing inside himself, Jess tried to disqualify Nick by throwing a sour ball farther than arm’s reach outside the spot. He wriggled on the floor, one foot still inside the lines, trying desperately to reach the dirty, garage floor-flavored candy. That’s what you call rock bottom, kids.

Oh, but they were about to go lower. After peeing inward, Schmidt was feeling feisty. He revealed that the guys — including Coach, never forget! — had signed a “No-Nail Oath” when Jess moved in. Jess was offended for a number of reasons as Schmidt explained contemptuously, “A woman can’t be in close quarters with three men and kiss one of them. What fuels men? Competition and sex. That’s why the United Nations was formed. That’s why women aren’t allowed on pirate ships, and that is why there’s a No-Nail Oath in apartment 4D.” He insisted Nick should back him up, but Jess though Nick should be on her side. Schmidt took issue, insisting their kiss didn’t entitle her to Nick’s emotional support. Or, as he put it, “Reason number two for the No-Nail Oath: Bitches be crazy.” Then he laughed like a toadie from an ’80s high school movie. Ohhhhh, Schmidt.

Remember what I said about rock bottom earlier? I was wrong. Because this was the moment when Nick started licking chocolate off a wrapper he found on the ground. It brought up his blood sugar enough to have a real talk with Jess. She admitted they wouldn’t be able to go back to the way things were now that he had “nailed [her] mouth… good and hard and strong.” Frustrated (sexually, perhaps?), Nick said the kiss was the dumbest thing he’d ever done — including thinking the current President’s name was pronounced “Brock Uh-brama.” If he could take it back, he would. Then he dealt the death blow, saying forcefully, bitterly, that he regretted the kiss. Jess walked away hurt. Schmidt: “You realize every second that you don’t run after her, you become more and more of a buttwad, don’t you?” And so Nick left, and Schmidt won. But it was a dirty victory. Literally — Schmidt had peed his pants.

NEXT: Just when things couldn’t get more awkward, Schmidt and Jess…

Nick ran upstairs and found Jess carrying a box of fish sticks to throw at the cats in her parking spot. He explained himself: He didn’t regret the kiss itself, just the weirdness it had created in their relationship. She was still insulted by the No-Nail Oath, saying it implied she couldn’t help herself from sleeping with one of the guys. “It was me,” Nick admitted. “I couldn’t help it.” Jess dropped the fish sticks. Nick looked down, then up into her wide eyes. He leaned in… and there was Schmidt. He rolled his eyes and walked his pee-pants-clad self through them saying, “Blah blah blah” to their obvious desire.

They insisted nothing was going on, but Schmidt saw through them. He pulled up the No-Nail Oath: “We, the undersigned, promise never to nail our roommate, Jessica Day, unless the sex can be parlayed into a business that provides for all parties involved. If one of the undersigned nails said female, then all must nail her.” Sounds like water-tight logic to me! But Jess let out an unholy howl and stated for the record that there would be “no nails or screws or hammers.” Ever. For anyone.

But that wasn’t enough for Schmidt. The only solution, as he saw it, was for Jess to kiss him. Okay, Newbies, let’s just ignore the wholly inappropriate women-as-transferable-goods subtext here. That is a can of worms I do not want to open. Plus, it clearly didn’t occur to self-proclaimed “strong, independent, self-sufficient” woman Jess. She balked a little at Schmidt’s challenge but then went along with it when Nick okayed it in resignation. (What her deference to Nick means… I’ll let you discuss in the comments.) Jess and Schmidt psyched themselves up to nail each other’s mouths. Of course it was horrible. They recoiled like they’d both just tasted rancid milk (or garage-floor sour balls, as it were) and admitted they’d only made things weirder. What could possibly making things even weirder? Winston’s arrival! Let’s flash back on his day, shall we?

NEXT: Winny drooper

Winston was the only one who hadn’t really given his all to the parking war. He was still hooking up with Daisy — or at least trying to. Because of their complicated schedules, they had a very small “sex window,” and today was it. While Nick, Schmidt, and Jess squabbled at the loft, Winston headed over to Daisy’s to get lucky. Only luck was not on his side this day. He’d forgotten the condom. He rushed to the pharmacy and cut past about eight people. When he reached into his pants, he realized he’d put on Daisy’s sweatpants with the word “YUM!” written across the tush. He had no money. Suffice it to say, the pharmacist didn’t appreciate Winston’s pleas to patrons, including children, for condom cash. Nor did he accept Winston’s suggestion to go into a box of condoms that was “practically open” and “throw a brother a loosie.”

For no reason other than a comedic use of the word “rhubarb,” Winston then visited Cece’s place. She was trying to patch things up with Shrivang (Satya Bhabha), her Indian movie date who thought she was bailing on him to go play True American a few weeks back. She had just claimed her friends were really normal and “down-to-earth” when Winston pounded on the door screaming for “A condom! For my penis!” She reluctantly let Winston in, and he began to peer pressure Shrivang into admitting he was carrying. Winston left without a prophylactic, and Shrivang deemed this meet-up with Cece worse than the last. Winny returned to the loft to rifle through his roommates’ things, where he finally found a single condom. It was the last one from Jess’s massive supply of Tuffskinz, and Winston marveled, “She’s either having crazy amounts of sex, or she does not know how to use these things.”

Winston returned to Daisy’s, but oh the bitter irony! He couldn’t distinguish her building from the others in her cookie-cutter complex. Worse? He’d also left his phone, wallet, keys, and dignity at her place. He crumbled to his knees and shouted out a Stanley Kowalski-style primal scream (“DAISYYYYYYY!”) as the camera swirled around him.

Cut back to Winston’s ill-timed return to the loft, where he found Schmidt and Jess in mid-embrace. He shouted, “Is everyone having sex but me? Old people, foreigners, nerds… everyone’s bangin’! Schmidt and Jess?!” The roommates saw what a sadsack Winston had become and couldn’t let their petty dramas or cheap victories trump his losses (though they did have a good laugh at the “YUM!” pants). Winston declared, “I need a win, damn it. I need a win!” So they gave him the one victory they had to offer. Moments later, he victoriously steered his car into 4D’s parking spot. Only, now that there were cars on either side, it was apparent this spot would barely fit a Smart Car. Set off the adjacent car alarms as he tried to escape, Winston launched into a panic only to be abandoned by the roomies. Wah waaaaaaahhhhh.

NEXT: The ever-quotable Scott Caan

Notable Dotables…

Schmidt: I’ve lived in this apartment as long as, if not longer than, anybody else. I have the crummiest room. I’m on 24-hour grout watch. I pay the lion’s share of the utilities — do I not?

Nick: I refuse to pay for the wiffy!

Jess: It’s WiFi.

Schmidt: I didn’t even have to tell you guys about the spot. [to himself] Why did I tell you guys about the spot? Ah, damn it! I’m the dumbest boy in school!

Jess: You can’t escape destiny. She comes for us all, that relentless bitch. [To Schmidt] That’s right, destiny’s a lady.

Schmidt: Destiny might be a lady, but victory has a penis — direct quote, Scott Caan.

Daisy: Put on a condom. [Winston looks aggrieved] You forgot a condom?

Winston: You got a grocery bag? Tin foil? Hand sanitizer? You got a shower cap and a twist tie?

Daisy: You forgot the one thing we need to have sex?

Winston: What about a baseball cap that’s really small?

Daisy: Are you serious?

Winston: Ummmm… I have quick reflexes! [Daisy isn’t having it] I’ll take care of this.

Daisy: Don’t waste my time.

Winston: I’ll be back quicker than you can say, “Damn, Winston, I took care of myself already.” Don’t say that, though. Wait for me!

Schmidt: This is your fault, Nick. You compromised the whole loft. We had an agreement. When Jessica Day signed that lease, you, me, and Coach all took a No-Nail Oath.

Jess: No-Nail Oath?

Nick: I didn’t break the No-Nail Oath.

Schmidt: Your nailed her mouth.

Jess: For the record, no one nailed my mouth. That’s important to me. Also? We didn’t do anything wrong.

Schmidt: Do you know nothing about men?

Jess: Yeah, I know nothing about men. That’s why I’m wearing a short skirt and wool tights.

Nick: Why are you holding a box of fish sticks?

Jess: Because I’m going to go scare the feral cats away that live in my parking space, Nick. I’m going to throw fish sticks them while singing “Memory,” and don’t you dare criticize me!

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

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