By Lanford Beard
Updated December 20, 2019 at 02:40 AM EST
New Girl
Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Fox

This show. Seriously, just when I was starting to worry they were stretching out the Nick-Jess drama too much… DAMN. As in, “Damn, that was hot.” But also as in, “Damn you, fish tank!” Before we get into it, SPOILER ALERT!!! We’re putting up tonight’s recap a little early, so look alive, non-East Coasters and DVR dilly-dalliers. For everyone else, let’s do this.

We knew this moment was inevitable, Newbies. We knew Jess and Nick would eventually have to confront their underlying feelings about each other and the kiss head-on. Did we know that confrontation would involve slapstick, Vicodin, and a shattered fish tank? Nope. But that’s New Girl for ya. Once again, I couldn’t be happier with how the writers are handling the evolution of this relationship, not least of which because they didn’t betray their creations by forcing them to blather completely out-of-character rom-com clichés. (But that is another discussion for another day.) This latest step by Nick and Jess was so messy and imperfect that it somehow spun back around to perfect. It was deliciously them, and it makes you start to think — no matter what Liz Meriwether says — that these two have a shot.

Unsurprisingly, it was another woman that set the wheels in motion to push Jess and Nick closer. Nick was embracing more responsibility at the bar. Gone were the days of peeing in the register and his “Take a Drink, Leave a Drink” policies. Now he was pitching promotional nights and forcing the gang to pay for their bevvies. Nick’s move toward maturity was a major turn-on for Jess, who literally screamed at him from sexual frustration when he started to do his laundry. Little did Jess know, though, Nick was shaping up to impress his new manager Shane (Odette Annable). Jess didn’t meet Shane until well in the episode, but her first introduction to the fellas was pretty ridiculous. “God, I can’t stop thinking about the other night,” she growled at Nick between ravenous making out. “Hope you gave that bar a good wipe-down.” And what did she like about Nick? “You’re just, like, the opposite of everyone I went to business school with. You’re so real. You’re a mess! I had dirt on my face after we made out. God, I loved it!” After she left, Nick told the guys, “I know this isn’t going to end well, but the whole middle part’s gonna be awesome!”

NEXT: Tool time

Nick was, as ever, mostly oblivious to Jess’s jittery discomfort. He knew she was acting weird, but couldn’t suss out why. Mind you, he also didn’t feel it was inappropriate to put his hands all over her face to remove an eyelash, nor to unbuckle his pants and show her the underwear he’d turned blue in the wash. The fact that Jess was also hot and bothered by his sudden inkling for salads and vitamins? That’s on her.

As it happened, Nick was in one of his hobo handyman phases, so he asked Jess to drive him to the hardware store. Stressed about the sexual tension, she hemmed and hawed, but Nick wore her down. Cue Nick reading an absurdly innuendo-laden list of supplies (see Dotables). She stepped away, in front of a line of air conditioner units and reminded herself, “Just remember, you caught him pleasuring himself to a mail-order steak catalog.” But, like any manchild with an appreciation for a sight gag, Nick called Jess to another aisle so she could admire his “big ol’ pipe” — that is, he’d climbed a ladder and placed a huge metal cylinder in front of his crotch. Flustered, Jess launched into a run that knocked a cart into Nick’s ladder and caused him to drop the pipe, which fell onto a board that seesawed up and clocked Jess in the chin. Literal slapstick, you guys.

Because this is a comedy, Jess wasn’t paralyzed — just badly bruised and completely free of inhibitions thanks to pain meds. When Nick brought her some soup, Jess morphed into David After Dentist, slurring, “I liiiike you! And I like your little bubble belly. It blows up like a bubble…. You are a beautiful white man, Nick Miller!” It was all fun and games until things took a turn toward late-life Judy Garland. Jess threw out her jazz hands and declared, “I wanna have sex with youuuuuu!” Then she basically assaulted Nick while purring about his “little piggy” (don’t ask). Instead of debating the merits and validity of rape humor, I’ll skip to the part where Nick slammed his face into her headboard and scalded his hand in hot soup. I think we can all agree Jess and Nick’s first experience of foreplay was not how we imagined it.

The next morning, Nick took his new shiner into the living room to ask the guys what he should do if a girl on pain pills tried to seduce him. Winston’s response was the best: “Please tell me we’re not talking about Jess.” But of course they were. Nick began a clumsy extended metaphor about walking through closed doors, and Schmidt hilariously insisted it would be more accurate if Nick described the scenario as “sliding past a drape.” More importantly, though, Nick admitted he shared Jess’s feelings and wouldn’t have started anything with Shane if he’d known them. Soon thereafter, Nick was no closer to an answer, and the world’s most adorkable would-be rapist had emerged from her bedroom. Needless to say, Jess didn’t remember a thing.

NEXT: Things get wet and wild (not necessarily in that order)

That night, Jess showed up at the bar to support Nick’s new “Guys’ Night” promotion. (Even Jess had to admit giving guys free drinks at a dive bar was the world’s worst idea, though apparently the bar was making mad money on nacho upsells.) Nick tried desperately to separate Jess and Shane and, failing that, tried to play it cool so neither of them would notice his relationship with the other. Of course Shane blew that by slapping his ass and mauling him with her mouth. Nick’s claim that all his coworkers — including a guy named Big Bob — were having sex didn’t fly. Nick apologized to an obviously upset Jess, who sputtered out that she had not reason to be upset. Shane did, though, when Jess described Nick’s relationship with Shane as “gettin’ some stank on it.” Offended, Shane asked Nick what Jess meant to him, and he stumbled around until he settled on “roomfriend.”

Begin nerd transmission. Let’s pause for a minute and consider the term “roomfriend”? To my mind, it shows Nick already half-considers Jess his girlfriend. Even if he had said “roommate,” Shane would still have picked up the tension. And yet, he couldn’t stop himself from inventing this hybrid term for his fundamentally complex, weird-and-wonderful relationship with Jess. (Related note: Do you think the writers debated using this term over “girlmate”?) As someone in the business of words, it was a wonderfully dynamic way of showing not only his attempt at hedging his bets, but it was also probably the truest thing to come out cagey Nick Miller’s mouth in a long time. Just as satisfying, it also defies the typical definitions of relationships in a way that is delightfully consistent with this bizarro courtship. It was so THEM. End nerd transmission.

Despite her claim that she had no rights over Nick, Jess upset enough to storm out the bar. Nick followed her home, where she snarked, “I’m really glad her name is Shane. Who’s next? Cody? Tex? The Sheriff?” To Nick’s credit, he shut down her snarky banter and forced the issue. He told her what she’d said on the pain meds and admitted getting together with her was something he’d “thought about a lot.” He lost his train of thought a little when he started talking about his “little piggy,” so she yelled, “What are you talking about?!” He asked bluntly, “Do you want to have sex with me or don’t you?” Jess: “YES! … NO! … YES!” (And we’ll count that a win for the “Yes”-es.)

Terrified of the silence between them, Jess backpedaled furiously, claiming she was only attracted to him because he was getting his s— together. He called her a gold digger, and she snapped back that, if that were true, she’d be “the worst gold digger in the world.” It was clear at this point he playing with Jess, and she was playing along. He continued ribbing her as he moved in closer. She moved in, too. Then they were face to face. She said one last time, “I’m not a gold digger!” Nick: “Then prove it.” Cue the frenzied kissing.

They careened around the loft, each fighting to be on top as they made out on tables, couches, whatever moved them an inch closer to Nick’s bedroom. It was hot, yes, but also hilarious as they continued to reinjure each other. (Join me in overlooking the “They’re only hurting each other!” metaphor… at least for now.) They would kiss and yell at each other, kiss and yell at each other. Jess: “Kiss me like a man. You are a mess! Why are you so angry all the time?” Nick: “You are so annoying in your little shorts!” But the clincher? When Nick said, “Shut up and take off your damn clothes. I mean it.” Excuse me for a moment while I fan myself.

The sexy crash course, sadly, came to an abrupt halt when Nick shattered a giant fish tank Schmidt had installed in the living room. Nick volunteered to get some paper towels, and Jess immediately snarked about what an absurdly useless response that would be. And so they had stopped kissing and were back to bickering. But it’s funny: They might as well have been holding hands as they walked in tandem, yelling each other, back to their separate rooms. They slammed their doors then immediately reopened them so they could meet in the middle for one more furious embrace before heading back to their rooms alone. So tonight wasn’t the night, but it was a major one, no less. Anything else would have been too much, too soon, yes? Either way, Nick and Jess… it is ON.

Which leaves us to wonder how long they’ll be able push off the inevitable. Next week sees the gang go back to Chicago to meet Nick’s family. For a number of reasons, I think that’s a non-starter, sexually speaking. The next week is a repeat of “Cooler” (set your DVRs, Newbies — that is, if you don’t still have the ep saved on there from Jan. 29!). Now, as we know, the April 30 episode will flash back to the each roommate’s devirginization. So will they be reflecting on their first times before or after Jess and Nick’s first time together? Oh, the anticipation!

NEXT: Schmidt’s gone fishin’

Elsewhere, Schmidt was still reeling over Cece’s engagement. Since he couldn’t drown his sorrows in Midori for free anymore, Winston tried to distract him with an afternoon as the Pacific Sea Center. But Schmidt sublimated his laser-like focus onto a California lionfish, which he described in terms eerily like a certain Indian model ex-girlfriend (“So beautiful, exotic, perfect curves, giant almond eyes, caramel-colored stripes, sumptuous lips… floats like an angel”). Schmidt attempted to physically intimidate an attendant into letting him illegally buy the lionfish, landing himself and Winston on the curb. Winston bought a clownfish to console Schmidt, but he spat back, “I don’t want some janky, freshwater bitch fish, Winston!” No, Schmidt would get his lionfish straight from the source. Winston: “The ocean?” Schmidt: “That’s an even better idea!” Wait, what?

After a heart-to-heart, Winston agreed he’d join Schmidt’s idiotic (and, again, illegal) mission because, “If I was doing something stupid, you definitely would be involved.” Schmidt: “You’re damn right I would! And I would probably be there to make it even stupider.” Kidding aside, Winston wanted his pal to be happy. But he couldn’t possibly have imagined how the day would test their friendship. After pouring themselves into wetstuits and waiting in the water for several hours, they thought they spotted a lionfish. Schmidt leaned down into the water and got a face full o’ jellyfish stinger. Back on the beach, he told Winston they had only one option: Winny would have to pee on Schmidt’s face to sterilize the wound. Unfortunately, Winston had just peed in the ocean (which Schmidt hilariously deemed “disgusting!” — more disgusting than face-to-urine contact?). Winston asked hopefully, “I know this is a dumb question, but… will number 2 help?”

Cut to the hospital where there were mercifully no traces of feces on Schmidt’s face. The douchey ichthyophile was sleeping when Cece arrived (he’d called her from the ambulance). She held a lionfish tank in her hands: “One of the perks of being a model — you get to meet a lot of sketchy people. The guy who got me this also said he could get me a box of dolphin steaks or a mostly white baby.” Winston realized then that, as hard as it was, the best way he could make Schmidt happy was to was ask Cece to back off. It was really uncomfortable, but Cece agreed to give Schmidt some space, then left.

In the end, the incident made Schmidt realize the lionfish had been a metaphor for Cece. (Of course everyone else knew this from the start, but there wasn’t any point in telling Schmidt he hadn’t been “subtle as hell.”) He told Winston of his coveted lionfish: “I don’t know if it was the jellyfish’s venom or the paramedic’s urine, but it made me realize she’s not mine to keep.” Then he went to flush the fish in the toilet, which Winston pointed out did not flow to the ocean. Schmidt: “What are you, the city planner?”

The next day, they returned to the scene of the sting. Schmidt made a teary speech: “I know you’re going out into the ocean, lionfish. But, if I ever see you again, and, well… And should you meet a charming, physically fit… I don’t know, whatever fish Gefilte fish come from, treat him well.” Then he dramatically raised his arm to throw the glorious creature to freedom — and she slipped out of his palm and flew backward into the sand. Ha!

NEXT: Straight ballin’

Notable Dotables…

Schmidt: Throw me another cocktail there, Johnny.

Nick: Schmidt, that is melon-flavored liquor. It’s 4 proof! That is safe to drink while you’re pregnant.

Schmidt: Melon balls!

Winston: Schmidt, no matter how much you drink, Cece’s still going to be engaged. We know you’re down about it.

Schmidt: I’m not down about it. There are plenty of things to be down about — the air pollution in China, the deficit… The Hobbit wasn’t very good — if I wanted to see dwarves in a real-time dinner scene, I would have gone to Koreatown. Booyah! Ball me.

Jess: Ball you?

Schmidt: Ball me! [Grabs a bottle of Midori.] How do you get these toppy things off, Nick? [Turns the bottle upside down and chugs.]

Jess: You look like a lab rat.

Jess: I think Nick being ambitious about the bar is making me want him more. Is that, like, a thing?

Cece [deadpan]: No. No one’s ever been attracted to power and success.

Jess: Why do you smell so good?

Nick: It’s because I did laundry. I smell like a baby in a damn meadow.

On Schmidt’s impulse purchase…

Nick: I don’t trust fish. They breathe water, that’s crazy.

Jess: An aquarium? When did you become a Bond villain that couldn’t afford not to live with roommates?

Schmidt: A rare beauty, the result of generations of interracial fish breeding. Look at it undulating in the water with that wry smile, perfect round fish breasts. They say it’ll be impossible for me to get it, but I’ll get it. She will be mine, and we will create a life together.

Nick: We’re not talking about fish here, are we?

Nick [at the hardware store, after pulling chain from a shelf]: I feel like Russell Crowe in every movie he’s ever done.

Jess: All right, Nick, we have to go.

Nick: We just got here. We have tons of stuff we need to get.

Jess: Fine, let me see what we have left… [reads shopping list] long-shafted driver drill? [Grows reluctant.] New nut wrench?

Nick [sultry]: Our old nut wrench is bad.

Jess [uncomfortable]: Quick-hardening caulk?

Nick [even sultrier]: You don’t want to wait forever to that caulk to harden…

Jess: Lube for drill shaft?

Nick: Can we also get a box of gummy sharks?

Winston: I don’t know why you want that damn fish so bad. But what I do know is that it’s going to make you happy, and that’s all I care about. Remember, I’m the one who shaved your shoulders after you got that scoopneck sweater.

Schmidt: And I appreciated it. I’d do the same to you. If you want to lose that last 55 pounds to be happy, I’ll help you do that.

Winston: I don’t have 50 pounds to lose!

Schmidt: In very evident in this [wetsuit].

Read more:

Episode Recaps


New Girl

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

  • TV Show
  • 5
  • TV-14
  • In Season
  • Fox
stream service