By Lanford Beard
Updated September 18, 2013 at 04:21 AM EDT
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Life-changing revelations, rampant bribery, vehicular sex, addiction, international intrigue, threats of violence (nay, murder!), a valiant act of self-sacrifice, an unsolvable love triangle, and even a bit of original music. It may not have seemed like it, but New Girl‘s season 3 premiere had all the elements of a classic high drama. Admittedly, it didn’t all fit together perfectly. But, New Girl, you’ve never let me down before. Like Nick, Jess, and one of Winston’s puzzles, there are good, solid foundations there. I’m confident that over the course of the next 20-odd episodes, everything will fall into place (maybe with the help of an almond or two).

So, as we learned last week, this year’s opener began exactly where last season closed: Jess and Nick were in the car — amorous, “weirdly all-in,” and — after some backseat love-makin’ — unsure what to do next. They decided to head back home, but, doubt set in as soon as they approached the loft door. Were they really ready to live together after only 30 minutes (or so) of dating? Simultaneously, they were hit by a barrage of text messages from Schmidt — who was still very much in the throes of a love triangle with Cece and Elizabeth (more on that later). Despite only receiving about 10 of Schmidt’s average of 40 texts a day, they became convinced they’d never make it as a couple without some time alone. So they gave their roomies the slip, got back into the car, and drove once more into the night. Nick woke up the next morning with the sounds of mariachi music and a waft of churro-y deliciousness in the air. ¡Viva Mexico!

After picking up a piñata shaped like a monkey, the young lovers spent the next four days “getting to know each other,” ripping off parts of their wedding outfits, working on their tans, and (in Jess’s case) getting sassy hair braids. In short, they were ignoring their problems. Other things they were ignoring? General hygiene, the feral dogs watching them have sex, and Schmidt’s calls. Somewhere amid all the sexytimes, they’d transformed the back of Jess’s Volvo into a sweet little hovel, which was shaded by woven blankets and stocked with Jarritos (Naranja y Fresa!). True to character, Jess was beginning to accept that this set-up wasn’t sustainable. But Nick, God love him, wasn’t ready to surrender his “mega-chill” Paradise self yet, and he convinced Jess to sneak into the swanky beach resort about 200 yards up the beach.

Two scavenged drinks later, Nick and Jess were viviendo el sueño. That is, until they spotted a security guard looming in the near distance. Nick saved Jess by threatening to strangle a nerdy youngster if he didn’t hand over his all-inclusive bracelet, but Nick didn’t have time to score one for himself. After a foot chase, Nick sought refuge in the ocean, grabbing a rough-edged shell for defense and claiming he’d flee, “Point Break-style” if necessary. Now, unless Point Break ended with Bodhi getting tased in the shallows (it didn’t), Nick’s evasive tactics didn’t really pan out. To be continued…

NEXT: “Puzzzzzzzling, Winston’s ’bout to do some puzzzzzzzling…

Back at the loft, Schmidt had taken the coward’s route, refusing to break up with either Cece or Elizabeth, and was growing increasingly harried without a best friend to advise him. Winston was supposed to step into the best-friend role, but he was sweatpants-deep in a 750-piece puzzle (and by “sweatpants,” I mean a backwards hoodie worn as sweatpants). As Schmidt noted, Winston tended to get weird when he engaged with his jigsaw mistress. To wit, Winston suspiciously lowered his pants before and wantonly serenaded, “I’m gonna dooooo youuuuuu, puzzle! Right on the table. As nasty as you want to be….” That was day one.

Four days later, Winston emerged from his puzzle stupor only when Cece showed up at the loft. Thinking Schmidt had dumped her, Winston pulled Cece in tight to console her with semi-creepy humming and definitely-too-close hugs. He told her, “I am so, so sorry… about Elizabeth.” At this, Schmidt panicked and lied that Winston had slept with Elizabeth after Schmidt broke up with her. To honor his bros-before-hos agreement with Schmidt (or whatever), Winston found himself improv-ing. And, let’s just say Winston is about as good at improv as he is at pranks and puzzles. Within two minutes he’d told Cece he’d seduced Elizabeth “two and a half times” and that he’d asked Schmidt for Cece’s panties to sew into his own underwear (as you do). Owing to a sense of ridiculousness most certainly warped by dealing with all of Jess and Schmidt’s foolery, Cece believed the obvious lie. She was horrified — so horrified, in fact, that she slammed her purse into the table and destroyed Winston’s puzzle masterpiece.

That night, the rift between Winston and Schmidt had reached a zenith resulting in physical injury… by which I mean Winston stubbed his toe on a chair as he and Schmidt circled each other aggressively. (Schmidt taunted, “Yeah, don’t mess with me man. I’m legit! [A beat later] I’m getting very dizzy.”) Jess broke up the fight by charging in and demanding Nick’s passport. After Schmidt and Winston recovered from their dizziness-induced fainting spell, they accompanied Jess to spring Nick from Mexican hotel jail.

Once there, Schmidt assured the others he knew how to handle the locals. Cue a prototypical clueless-American-douchebag “bribery” “strategy,” which the staffers immediately sniffed out. Long story short, Schmidt handed his last $20 bill to a pubescent gringo bellhop named Brad, and they still hadn’t tracked down Nick. At the end of the wild goose chase, Jess spotted the original guard, who — after witnessing a ridiculous argument over Winston’s shoes that revealed Winston is color blind (hence the puzzle ineptitude) — was willing to accept Jess’s banged-up old Volvo in exchange for Nick’s freedom.

Despite watching roughly 12 hours of Yo soy Betty, la fea, reruns, Nick remained reluctant to return to the loft. In one last blaze of glory, he threatened to shred his passport so he and Jess would have to live in Mexico forever. At this, Schmidt raised the stakes by volunteering himself as tribute — indeed, placing his very ear against the shredder to force his best friend to come home. Of course that was unnecessary, of course Jess talked Nick down from the ledge (by sweetly declaring the four of them were a family worth fighting for), and of course Nick inadvertently shredded his passport anyway. Winston was emboldened that his puzzling acumen might finally come in handy…

Or not. Still, despite countless red flags (including Nick’s mangled passport issued by the “Unadered Stites of Amurica” as well as a red junker adorned with flames and pompons dangling from the windows), the border guard was willing to abandon all principles and let the whole gang back into the U.S. The roommates arrived back at the loft, where Schmidt and Winston watched as Nick offered Jess a sentimental token: the resort bracelet he’d snagged earlier, which would serve as a reminder of those few magical days they had together. As the new couple braced themselves for their shifting reality (not to mention cohabitation), they were both romantic and resigned — with a dash of old-school romantic comedy fighting-as-foreplay — as they vowed they could get through anything together. Schmidt and Winston, on the other hand, were disgusted. Well, boys, that makes two of you. As for me, bring on the showmance! And a shower for both of them (ideally together)!

All that said, I still feel like I barely scratched the surface, Newbies. Nick was adorably romantic, from the moment he and Jess christened the Volvo to the time he told her, “Of course [the guard] spotted you — you’re the prettiest girl on the beach!” Winston’s facial expressions were across-the-board priceless (and the singing!!!). And Schmidt’s smugness at telling his phone to dial “Best Friend 1” was classic. Again, it wasn’t the most polished — or even the most nuanced — New Girl episode ever. But a second viewing that made for even more laughs than the first gives me hope that this season has somewhere to go. Agree or disagree? Was the premiere what you hoped it would be? Speak up in the comments. But, before that, Dotables is back!

NEXT: “Nick is my bitch.”

Notable Dotables…

Jess [after sex in her car]: What’s next? What do we do now?

Nick: I’m really fightin’ the urge to buy you a lobster dinner.

Best Schmidt-isms of the night…

On Jess and Nick:“Where have you been? I’m having a major life crisis, and you guys are, what? Just driving around, French kissing each other like a couple Dutch hookers?”

On Cece: “We have this connection — it’s physical, it’s unhealthy. Look, I don’t want to get too graphic with you, but I’m not just a plug with her. I’m also a socket.”

The beginning of his break-up speech to Elizabeth: “In a marketplace of ideas… where… culture is king and data moves faster than people… where scalable opportunities come from turnkey solutions…”

The end of his break-up speech to Elizabeth: “Of course I picked you, it wasn’t even close. Come here, you crazy white girl!”

On Winston’s supposed tryst with Elizabeth: “[He] was all too quick… to rush in there and just get his jollies off — his sweating, disgusting jollies.”

On Winston’s puzzling skills (or lack thereof): “Would you like some truth, Winston? Here’s some truth for you, okay? You’re terrible at puzzles. Worst I’ve ever seen by a mile. What do you have? Fly vision? Look at this puzzle! It’s ages ‘Six and up.’ You’re up, Winston. You are way up. Look at this corner piece, Winston! How do you not see that? What are you, blind? I’m so sorry. Actually, a blind man could feel the smooth edges of a corner piece!

Upon bribing a Mexican concierge: “That’s for you to send your kids to college — or for you to send some fun up your nose. You choice, bro. We’re looking for our friend Nick Miller — if he’s still alive… and his head if it’s severed.”

After being swindled by said Mexican concierge (and many of his colleagues): “The streets down here, they run red with hospitality!”

Jess: Nick is in a Mexican jail! We don’t know this country. We don’t know their laws. I just hope he’s found somebody who can protect him and take care of him.

Winston: What, do you hope he’s somebody’s bitch?

Jess: No! Like a mentor.

Schmidt: He’d never be picked as a bitch.

Winston: Nick is very attractive. He could be a bitch.

Schmidt: A sissy, perhaps. But a bitch? No way.

Jess: Oh my God, what’s a sissy?

Winston: He could be a bitch.

Schmidt: What are you even saying? A chubby gringo…?

Jess: Stop it! [With palpable fear in her voice] Nick is my bitch.

Episode Recaps

New Girl

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