Paleyfest New Girl
Credit: Kevin Parry/Invision/AP

Nick and Jess kissed over a month ago, or, in television time, four episodes ago. But don’t worry… we found out Monday night at the New Girl PaleyFest panel that it’s still the thing that everyone wants to talk about. Both the discussion and the sneak peek of next week’s new episode, “Quick Hardening Caulk,” proved that the kiss was anything but old news.

Even though conversation kept coming back to The Kiss — and what it meant, and what it will mean, and how long they were planning it — the cast and producers did touch on a few other subjects, including Cece’s sudden engagement, the group’s upcoming trip to Chicago, and the mystery behind Schmidt’s first name. The energy between the cast and producers was infectious, and you almost wished that the series creator Elizabeth Meriwether could give herself a role on the show too. Jake Johnson even sang the theme song for the audience, after Zooey Deschanel declined.

Click past the jump for the top five takeaways from the New Girl panel.

1. The mysterious upcoming trip to Chicago

Executive producer and director Jake Kasdan teased the March 26 episode, when the group takes a trip to Chicago. “They go back and visit Nick’s family,” Kasdan said. “We have this amazing guest cast with Margo Martindale playing Nick’s mother, and Nick Kroll.” He added: “It felt like a slightly different show for a minute.” Jake Johnson said that in Nick’s family, “he’s the smartest of the bunch.” As for why they go back? They announced it during the panel, but it felt like a pretty significant spoiler. We’ll link to the panel when it goes live in case you’re curious. (UPDATE: Clips from the panel are up — watch Kasdan, Meriwether, Deschanel, and Johnson discuss Nick and Jess below, then click here for more.)

2. The future of Cece and Schmidt is still pretty unclear, but maybe not hopeless

The cast of New Girl guards upcoming plotlines as if they were Homeland — mostly because things seem to be constantly changing. When the moderator asked Hannah Simone about Schmidt and Cece’s rut, Simone quipped back: “She’s engaged to another man and you call it ‘a bit of a rut’? You are a hopeful man!” But Max Greenfield took a step back and put their situation into perspective. When asked whether or not they were meant to be together, he said, “It felt that way for a while. It’s interesting. I really think what we start to do with them is you realize that both these characters kind of needed to grow up themselves before they could be together. And I think that, you know, especially on Schmidt’s end, there was a lot of room for him to grow between what he is now and what he needs to be in a real relationship. I think he needs to do some work there before he’s able to fully commit the way he’d like to with Cece.”

3. The origin of Tugg Romney

“The nerdy answer is we kind of wanted to deal with the election in some way and there was actually a lot of conversation about how we were going to do that, but, you know, what was sort of the funny way to do that,” said Meriwether. “And I think we were sitting around and J.J. [Philbin] mentioned that he looked like Romney.” She added: “I feel like Nick is a Libertarian.” Greenfield mentioned that they made a fuss about it on Piers Morgan. “They were awfully excited about it. Probably more excited than I would have liked them to be,” Greenfield said.

4. The mystery of Schmidt’s parents and first name

The producers teased that we will learn more about his background and his relationship with his parents… but not this season. As for his first name? Well, that’s a mystery that we might never know. Apparently they’d written The Name into an episode that had already aired, but took it out at the last-minute. Deschanel joked that “he’s also named Jess.” Greenfield said “I like just Schmidt. I don’t ever want to know what it is.”

5. Nick and Jess maybe aren’t ready for a relationship

EW already talked to Meriwether about The Kiss and how it almost didn’t happen, and even though it was fun to linger on that point for a little while, the real question (especially after the March 19 episode) is about the future of Nick and Jess. Meriwether stressed that nothing is planned, and that they just want to do what feels right and honest for the characters in a single moment and a single episode. Deschanel said “you question whether they’re ready for each other.” Johnson added: “I think they’re very good together, but I personally don’t know if they’re ready to be in a long-term relationship.” So, maybe not quite as hopeful as we would have wanted, but probably a little more realistic.

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New Girl

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

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