Credit: Ray Mickshaw/Fox

It’s closing time, Newbies. Hard to believe 25 episodes have come and gone this quickly. But as a wise man once said, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” What that means for Jess, Nick, Schmidt, Winston, Cece, Schivrang, and… Taylor Swift? Well, you’ll just have to click through. Fair warning for everyone who hasn’t seen tonight’s episode: Stop now because there are SPOILERS AHEAD!

It was the day of Cece and Shivrang’s wedding. Maid of Honor Jess was in a gorgeous aqua and coral sari, Schmidt and Winston were looking predictably dapper as well, and Nick was channeling Miami Vice in a white T-shirt under a tan linen suit (the one he’d worn to his high school graduation). At least he thought he was channeling Crockett and Tubbs. When the roomies assembled for a picture, Jess’s dad Bob (Rob Reiner) made it clear he thought “Rick’s” style was more Chinatown dumpster than South Beach sleek. As he aimed the camera, Bob directed Nick — who’d been cuddling close to Jess — to take a step to the right, then another, then another until he was fully out of the picture. Taking Bob’s not-so-playful ribbing that he was an “unemployed alcoholic bummer” and “a child” to heart, Nick borrowed Schmidt’s “worst suit — he said if I could get it over my thighs he didn’t want it!” Big thighs or no, Nick looked all kinds of handsome — even when he started carrying Jess’s pink purse for her.

Schmidt compounded Nick’s stress when he told Nick this attempt to clean up (deodorant — under both arms!), to become responsible and romantic for Jess, was a sham. He said if Jess didn’t want the “real Nick” (a.k.a. the schlubby, surly, drunken manchild we’ve come to know and love), she probably didn’t want Nick at all. Though it was a worthwhile consideration, Schmidt undercut himself — in truth, he only said that out of pure selfishness because Nick wasn’t helping Schmidt achieve his agenda. Backing up, Schmidt had accidentally stumbled into Cece’s dressing suite on his way to the bathroom (he has a weak bladder, we learned). Convinced that Cece had begged him with her eyes to “sabo” (i.e. sabotage) the wedding, he set about doing everything he could to thwart the nuptials. He claimed he was doing it “as a friend, nothing more” — a notion only slightly more deluded than Nick thinking his cheap linen suit looked like Miami Vice.

Anyhow, about the time Schmidt was taking Nick down a peg, he was also instructing Winston to kickstart Operation: Cece Sabo. Yes, like the bank robber who knows he’s getting too old for this shiz, Winston had been roped into “one last prank” for his pal. He admitted he was no good at pranks, always got over his head, and was supposed to “cut the nonsense” now that he’d turned 31, but Schmidt lured him with the chance to “give [them] full-on crazy,” and Winston’s eyes went bigger than a galago’s. And so they began with phase 1: Setting off an air horn to spook the white horse tasked with carrying Shivrang to the venue. Though the horse didn’t go so far as to run onto the highway, his bucking definitely did some damage to Shiv’s testes. Not a good omen for the wedding night of two newlyweds who’ve never had sex.

NEXT: Phase 2…

Operation: Cece Sabo — Phase 2 also incurred damage, but not necessarily to the expected parties. While Shivrang sat on the marital altar wishing dearly for an ice pack, Cece looked resplendent in her red sari as she walked down the aisle to the sweet strains of… “Cotton Eye Joe” by Rednex? Nick ran to the back, where Winston had hijacked the sound system. Jess followed close behind. But! Instead of thinking Nick was trying to save the day, she accused him of being in cahoots with Schminston. To be fair, all the circumstantial evidence was there — the sound system had been duct taped (in a hobo handyman quick fix that Jess deemed “brilliant”), “Cotton Eye Joe” was Nick’s jam (we even got a flashback to prove it), and he was uncontrollably fist pumping even as he insisted he’d done nothing wrong. Jess called him childish, echoing her dad’s doubts about him and confirming to him that she didn’t really want him. Thus, Nick fllipped and joined Operation: Cece Sabo. If this were Homeland, Nick-as-Brody would basically be a quadruple agent by now.

Phase 3 was already in progress when Schmidt came to Jess in a full-on panic, panting as he admitted, “We went too far. It’s bad. It’s really bad!” He admitted the final prank was Winston’s idea. After she gasped, “Oh my God!” Jess knew she had to bring up the big guns, threatening Schmidt, “Tell me everything, or I’ll mess up your hair — your precious hair.” While she gave him a scalp noogie interrogation, we cut to the air ducts above, where Nick was discovering exactly what Winston had devised for the pièce de prank-sistance.

A little background: Before Winston had gotten drunk with adrenaline and prank-power, he’d spotted Bucky the Badger, the mascot for the University of Wisconsin, outside the venue. Somewhere between horse spooking and ’90s Eurotrash pop, Winston had abducted Bucky for use in his masterpiece — dropping the varmint on the priest mid-ceremony. Flash back to the present, where Bucky was hissing and snarling as Winston banged his carrier against the metal in the air shaft above the ceremony. (Or, as Schmidt told repeatedly, “The duuuuuuucts!” Jess finally slapped him out of it.)

The upside: In seeking help from Jess, Schmidt also inadvertently revealed that Nick hadn’t been involved in the plot from the get-go — that he’d fought for Jess initially and only joined after she berated. Unfortunately, the guilt Jess felt was useless because he was already terror-struck as he shimmied around in a tight space with a jacked-up Winston and an irate badger. And he was right to be scared. Jess tried to get things under control by calling Nick, triggering Winston’s paranoia (“they can track us using our phones!!!!”). The resulting scuffle accidentally set Bucky free — just in time for Jess to join them in the air shafts (because nothing says comedy like a loose badger and a woman in a flowy skirt!) as Winston told her, “Welcome, welcome! I’m pretty sure this is where we die.”

Instead of high-tailing it out of there, Winston started thinking very deeply. About the earth: “We gotta leave it better than how we found it.” About himself: “Sometimes I think I never really felt love, you know? You know?!” Closing thought: “Boobies!”

Meanwhile, Jess and Nick had the most claustrophobic heart-to-heart of all time. He asked her point-blank if she was scared he’d been too much of a mess and if she felt like a relationship between them might be a mistake. She admitted she did partly feel that way. And then they fell through the ceiling — at that, Nick received a disapproving head shake from Bob.

NEXT: The fallout (literally)

Still swathed in fabric from the marital altar, Jess tried to break the tension by shouting out, “Always a bridesmaid!” But jokes and placations were irrelevant to Cece, who took it as a sign the ceremony had stopped just before she and Shivrang completed their seventh circle around the ceremonial fire that made them officially married. Indeed, the jolt was exactly what Cece needed to finally admit she was in love with someone else (though she made sure to state clearly that all Schminston’s stupid pranks had no impact on her choice to call off the wedding). Shivrang followed suit, revealing he also wanted to be with someone else. Enter Elaine (Taylor Swift). They spewed out their love for each other, their dreams to have tiny children with careers in useless artsy professions, then “Shivvy” swept Elaine off her feet, and they absconded to Vegas to elope. Oh, and someone presumably found Bucky skittering around in aisle nine, if Winston’s eagle-eyed directions were any indication..

After the guests departed, Elizabeth went to town on Schmidt for sabotaging Cece’s wedding. She wasn’t stupid, and his insistence he would have done the same for any friend fell flat (and I won’t even mention how he offered to sabotage Cece’s tax audit). Cece walked up, awkwardly breaking the ice with a “Weird day, huh?” Elizabeth wasted no time in forcing Cece to admit the guy she was talking about on the altar was Schmidt. Cece conceded, at which point they both turned on Schmidt. Who would he choose? Schmidt asked, gobsmacked, “We’re gonna do this now? Can we sleep on it, maybe? Take the night? I just got this brand new Coldplay bootleg — Live from Rotterdam. What if we just make some pasta and really listen to it?” As his two loves glared at him, clearly not down to hear the umpteenth version of “The Scientist,” he got the look of a caged badger. And then he fled. Literally, just hot-footed it outta there. To quote Strictly Ballroom, “That was unexpected.”

Elsewhere, Jess and Nick finished their heart-to-heart. He said sadly, “I think we should call it. It’s not like we’re in love or anything. We had one night.” His voice broke a little at this, and Jess agreed to abandon a potential relationship. But, as she walked off, she was barely able to hold back her tears. Nick fell back on his default defense mechanism and headed to the bar. Winston crashed through an air vent and joined him there. And, though Winston was badly bitten by Bucky, he had plenty of insight. He pointed out that Nick was doing exactly what Walt would have done by getting drunk and running away from his problems. He urged Nick not to let this one go, and Nick headed outside as Winston said coolly, “Hey bartender, can you call an ambulance? I’m about to bleed out. Thanks, man.”

Nick found Jess in tears. She told him she didn’t want to give up that they should “un-call it” and “Before you say no… don’t say no.” He didn’t have to say anything. All he needed to do was walk over and kiss her and hug her. It was a beautiful moment, complete with a giggle from Jess that showed how their transition from friends to roommates might be dramatic at times, but it still had an ease to it that is what real couples hope to have even a little bit.

Nick asked Jess for her keys. Jess wondered where they were going. He said he didn’t know — “Where do we come from? Where do we go?” Yes, he was quoting “Cotton Eye Joe.” As she laughed some more and got in the car, he did a hilariously inept slide over her hood before getting in the car and driving them off into… well… not exactly the sunset. And this is where I turn not to Rednex but to The Vaccines, whose “I Always Knew” closed out the season with these words: “So let’s go to bed before you say something real. Let’s go to bed before you say how you feel. ‘Cause it’s you, oh, it’s always you. Oh, I always knew, oh, it’s you.

So, Newbies, how did it all shake out for you? Are you bummed Schmidt abandoned Cece now that they’re finally on the same page? Or have you changed your alliance to Team Elizabeth? If he survives, is Winston your new favorite character? What do you think the future holds for Nick and Jess? What else do you want to see in season 3? And will you be humming “Cotton Eye Joe” all the live-long week?

NEXT: A little ditty about Shivvy and Elaine

Notable Dotables…

Elizabeth: There are so many fun, cool traditions at this thing. The groom comes in on a white horse!

Schmidt: So basically they’re just copying my bar mitzvah.

Winston: Oh my goodness, that is Wisconsin mascot Bucky the Badger. I’ve got a sweatshirt with his face on it — and he’s wearing a sweatshirt with his face on it. Bucky cool! [Runs to the badger.] Bucky!

Nick [to Schmidt and Elizabeth]: He’s got a super-weird thing with badgers.

Jess: Cece loves Shivrang. I know this because I know her better than you do.

Schmidt: False! When you’ve had sexual congress with someone and you’ve peered into their soul at the exact moment of fulfillment–

Nick & Jess: Ewwww!

Winston: Oh no, hear him out.

Schmidt: Bros ever before the ho.

Nick: Anybody have a jar?

Shivrang: Cece, it is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. I don’t know why I didn’t tell you the truth ages ago, but I want to be with someone else, too. Yes, I have tried to forget you, Elaine, but really I just can’t.

Winston: Who the hell is Elaine?

Shivrang: And I don’t care what my family says. I want to marry you — in a Presbyterian church!

Elaine: Oh, Shivvy! I’ve loved you since the first grade, and I’m so lonely without you, I just lie awake, and I just write in my journal, and I paint pictures of you on my easel.

Shivrang: I want our children to be photographers and backpack across Europe!

Elaine: Will you take me away from this madness? And you are not too short for me, I don’t care what your mother says!

Shivrang [runs down and picks her up]: Oh, Elaine!

Elaine: Let’s go to Vegas and elope!

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

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