Credit: Greg Gayne/Fox
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And so we’re back to the drawing board, Newbies. All that hope I had last week now seems slightly too optimistic, no? To put it in thematically appropriate basketball terms, “Longest Night Ever” was an air ball: It felt very much like the writers realized they now have a six-person ensemble and, instead of building on the strength of the group, they did anything possible to split it up. As a result, what could have been a game-winning free throw was instead a whoosh and a whaaaa?

It all began as Jess readied herself for a quiet date night with Nick. Those plans were quickly compromised when Winston had an epiphany that he was a little too attached to Furguson (his exact words were, “Last night when Furguson and I were in the shower”… do I really need to finish that sentence?). Nick reluctantly agreed to watch Furguson — including administering a mere “one butt pill” — about the time Schmidt arrived with a pipin’ hot plate of peach cobbler. He was drowning his sorrows in comfort food after finding out that Coach intended to ask Cece out on a date.

Schmidt insisted he was fine, but Nick knew from experience that Schmidt’s “fine” was far from anyone else’s version of “fine.” Cue a flashback when he told a Fat Schmidt that “there’ll be other open mics with sturdier stools — then we’ll get to see your rap skills…” at which point Schmidt began choking himself as well as he could given his average-size hands and plus-size jowls. Back in the present, Schmidt claimed that the date was “good for Cece, it’s good for Coach, it’s good for America. Who knows? We might even get another Tiger Woods out of this situation. Wouldn’t that be nice?”

To Schmidt’s chagrin, his musings became ever closer to possible when Coach emerged from his room to announced that Cece had accepted his date invite. It wasn’t long before Coach admitted he was nervous and gave Schmidt the bro code-mandated power of veto. Still, Schmidt’s pride prevented him from telling Coach to back out of the date. Instead, he gave him an unlimited stream of passive-aggressive high fives that made me worry about the state of Damon Wayans Jr. and Max Greenfield’s hands after shooting this scene. Feeling like he was all-clear, Coach once again began puffing his chest and bragging how Cece’s “first-class ass is sittin’ in Coach tonight, and you best believe my seat will be in an upright and locked position.” (It’s going to be a happy holiday with all the contributions to the Douchebag Jar we’ll get out of these two!)

Seeing that Schmidt had to be contained (perhaps literally, considering Nick thought aloud, “I wish I had that dog cage… when you see a dog cage for sale, you buy it”), Jess and Nick put their date night on hold. Jess wasn’t too concerned because, as she let slip, “We’ll have date nights when we’re married–” At this, she launched into a stream of Swedish Chef durp-durping to cover up the boyfriend-terrifying M-word. With bigger fish to fry, Nick was more than happy to gloss right over that awkward moment. Thus, he started working on his containment strategy for the evening — ironically, by regretfully telling Schmidt he hadn’t bought that dog cage, which Schmidt apparently thought would solve all his problems, too.

NEXT: Sparks for Coach and Cece

When Coach picked up Cece (side note: has Hannah Simone ever looked more like a young Maya Rudolph than in this episode?), he was still super-anxious, and his insecurities almost instantly transformed him from Good Guy to Jackhole. And since I immediately think “macho” when I think “WNBA,” he took Cece to an L.A. Sparks game and began showering her with merch and soft pretzels. When he wasn’t tossing bills at passing-by vendors, Coach was glued to his phone. Given how Schmidt had cheated on Cece, this naturally stoked her own insecurities, and she eventually stormed off. More to come…

Back at the loft, Winston had returned home fairly defeated from a night out trying to meet “human ladies.” And so he was content to spend his nights with Furguson… only, Furgie Furg was nowhere to be found — Nick had left the loft’s window open. Winston panicked (“You know he’s always tryin’ to kick it with those pigeons!”) and enlisted Nick in on the search.

After Winston and Nick left, Schmidt immediately moved toward the door to stop Cece’s date. Jess tried to punch him in the chest and actually hurt her hand on his pec. When she started open-palm smacking Schmidt, he said incredulously, “Is that literally all you have? Oh my God, we’re screwed!” And FYI: That was before she started singing classic Neil Diamond, tap dancing, reading him inscriptions from her high school yearbook, and doing deep dives into The Practice with him. Schmidt did find scant consolation in the “smooth, brown” contours of the couch, but when he placed two pillows next to each other and started groping them, Jess thought he was getting too sexual with the sectional.

Jess thought taking Schmidt out to the bar would remind him of his old prowlin’ days. Alas, the plan backfired. Schmidt used his years of pre-Cece experience to convince a girl that “in another life, [they] might have been lovers…” but in this one he needed to make a quick escape. At her signal, he skipped out on Jess.

Elsewhere, Winston received a call while searching for Furguson with Nick. Someone had found the cat — specifically a weirdly minxish, hamster-owning bus driver named Bertie (The Heat‘s Jessica Chaffin), to whom Winston took an immediate shine. She had much to offer, including bologna (the classy kind you “have to peel the wrapper off just to get to the meat”) and pudding (“never… in a cup”). Nick didn’t know what was going on, but he knew it was potentially a game changer for Winston. Nick should have left the apartment at that very moment. And yet! He stayed. Nick stayed with Winston and Bertie long enough, in fact, that he was privy to her recitation of her innermost truths: “I used to manage a shoe store, then I quit, had a few dark years. Sold Christian T-shirts for a while… got my tubes tied — not cheap! Pulled myself out of that personal hell and, voilà! I like driving a bus. I get to put whatever I want on the dash… keeps the darkness away. I also paint.”

As Bertie excused herself to take her stomach medication, Nick was all kinds of uncomfortable, but Winston was feelin’ it. He had to admit his sandwich was “a little hard to chew,” so she purred, “Well, you can suck on it to make it soft.” At this, Nick nearly choked to death on his crusty bologna sandwich. And that‘s when he left, with Furguson, so Winston and Bertie could “do what adults do.” SPOILER: Apparently what adults do is drink off-brand Pepto Bismol and make love in a sink.

NEXT: Cruisin’ for a bruisin’

Elsewhere, Schmidt was sprinting through the streets of L.A. Because he’s a classy cad, he stopped at a chocolate store so he wouldn’t arrive at the date bust-up empty handed. After ordering a few dulce de leches and some “caraMELs”, he asked the girl at counter, “Do you have anything that says, ‘I’m sorry I cheated on you, please don’t sleep with my friend’?'” She stared at him blankly, and he noted perceptively, “Of course you don’t. Ooh, look at that — samples!”

Back at the Staples Center, Coach ran after Cece and admitted he’d been texting his mother to ease his nerves. He confessed he’d been feeling vulnerable because he’d been in relationships so long he didn’t feel like he knew how to date anymore. It broke the ice — even after he reverted back to his bizarrely Alpha Male demeanor briefly to say, “Let’s go put on some Drake and get up on ya, girl.” Cece giggled.

Somewhere near the arena, Jess found Schmidt still sprinting and in search of “a pretty candle” for Cece. He admitted he knew he had to let her go, but he also admitted that he had an insurmountable instinct to flee from Jess: “In about 30 seconds I’m going to run away from you again, and this time I will lose you. I’ll go down alleys, I’ll cut across parks, I will live in the shadows — just slithering, lurking, trolling the darkness.” He believed the only way Jess could stop him was by running over him with her car. Of course she resisted, but he goaded her about how he’d cheated and tried to break up her relationship with Nick. After much back-and-forth, he started a countdown and told her to “do it for Cece.” She tapped on the gas and ever-so-slightly grazed him on the tush. Schmidt was absolutely shocked (“These are my favorite utility khakis!”). He was even more shocked when a police car suddenly flashed its lights, spooking Jess enough that she put pedal to medal and took Schmidt up into her windshield. The cop — who had very little to say about the whole situation except “You guys are into some weird stuff” — eventually let them go.

Jess and Schmidt pulled up in front of the loft, proud they’d made it through the night. Seeming back to old, douchey form, Schmidt assured Jess he’d pay for his own hospital bill. Just as she started to squabble with him, he froze at the sight of Cece sharing a sweet smooch with Coach. He admitted earnestly, for the first time, “I’m not fine… but I will be.” He and Jess agreed to wait their friends out to stave off the awkwardness. And so they waited. And waited. And waited. After Cece jumped up and wrapped her legs around Coach, Jess snarked, “It’s been half an hour. Come up for air, ya weirdos!”

What do you think, Newbies? Were you as bummed about this week’s scattered storytelling as I was? Are you pro Coach & Cece? Or do you still hope there’s a way for Schmidt to get back in there? Is Bertie the best Winston can do? (That’s more of a rhetorical question because I mean really.) Were you shocked Jess dropped the M-bomb? Do you think any of these stories can pull the show out of its junior slump? While you mull over those important questions, check out the Dotables….

NEXT: Siri, not sorry

Notable Dotables…

Jess: Oh, hey! I was wondering about date night tonight. Do you want to just stay in? Because you know what that means…

Nick: Romantic dinner and Homeland?

Jess [at the same time]: Sex on the couch?

Nick: Or your thing.

Jess: Actually, Homeland sounds great.

Nick: Or your thing….

Nick: Look, I know Schmidt — he’s going to try and stop that date from happening. The strategy is containment. We’ve gotta lock him up, distract him like a baby. If he gets out of line, we’ve gotta get physical.

Jess: We’re getting physical with a baby?

Nick: Please don’t question me, I’m a pro.

Winston’s Pick-Up Lines:

“Do you ever wonder if someone in here has killed someone?”

“Furguson is his name, yeah, he’s my cat — here’s him in a cowboy hat….”

“Good Lord, darlin’, how big are your feet?!”

Jess: Where’s the old Schmidt? When I moved into the loft, you used to pull so many ladies — you were legendary!

Schmidt: That year Hurricane Schmidt did demolish a number of beach communities…

Jess: All right, we’re going to go talk to this girl over here.

Schmidt: She’s on a flip phone, Jess. That means she’s either poor or a time traveler.

Schmidt [to Siri]: Find Staples Center.

Siri: Finding Starkles Medical Center.

Schmidt: No, you dumb pocket robot!

Siri: Damn flubber rubber stuffers.

Schmidt: Now you’re just making up words, that’s not even a place. Damn you!

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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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