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January 08, 2014 at 05:30 AM EST

In news that absolutely won’t shock you, Coach‘s plotline was pretty scant. His defining character trait this week was that he likes to time things. If he starts double dating cats with Winston, we’ll know this show officially doesn’t know what to do with non-white people not named Cece (and, considering her weak plot line in this ep, the jury’s pretty firmly out on that, too). Also, his real name is apparently Ernie (at least I think that’s what Schmidt garbled in the middle of a gym full of screaming Latvian basketball fans; he could have just as well  been saying “Brony,” which would be awesome). Nick and Schmidt decided to dub him “Coach” because he bosses around athletes/anyone nearby at random (not to mention the timing tic and numerous “character-enriching” details that I’m sure are desperately being crafted in New Girl‘s writing room at this very moment).

Nick tried several times throughout the night to share his story, but the guys shot that down repeatedly. Eventually, we were reminded that Nick once had terrible, terrible white guy dreads. He took those dreads to law school and wasn’t immediately ostracized. Even slicked-back Warner Huntington III tresses and a Schmidt-approved preppy scarf couldn’t jam Nick’s square peg into the legal world’s round hole. So where did Nick fit in? At the bar, of course! The year was 1997, and Nick took up studying for the bar at the gang’s eventual watering hole. There he saw a put-together, classy-looking chap at the other end of the mahogany and realized he was home! Never mind that now, in 2014, Nick had to play a pint-glasses shell game with the keys of the very same guy — now many years older, nicknamed “Kevin ’97,” and much worse for the wear — so that he wouldn’t drive home drunk. Never mind that! When the bartender over-served himself one day in 1997, Nick jumped behind the bar and found that this bar was the only place he truly liked himself. Sure, it wasn’t a glamorous life, but it was the one Nick chose for himself (even after he passed the bar, Jess learned with considerable surprise).

We saw nothing of Cece‘s professional past, but it was abundantly clear her present was less than ideal. As a 31-year-old model, she’d been relegated to gigs for a phone sex line (“and I was the one calling”) and as “day-old curry” in an antacid commercial. Just as Schmidt could sell anyone a Christmas tree, Nick was the best pitchman for bartending. After hearing his tale and learning that “you can tend bar ’til you’re 90!”, Cece decided to fling drinks, too. And I mean that literally because man was she bad at it. Another career option? Career counselor. After Nick suggested Jess look back at her own first day teaching, she remembered her first job at a super-ritzy private school where she encountered a timid tween named Clifton. She’d tutored him in math to build his confidence after he’d been beaten up by the school’s token “ethnic gay bully” Eddie Viscucci, which was pretty life-affirming in hindsight… until Nick did a quick Internet search and found out the FBI wanted Clifton “Baby Madoff” Collins for embezzlement. (Coach: “Sounds like the math took!”) Cece jumped in and corrected Jess: Cece had, in fact, been Jess’s first student. In a flashback of the girls’ first meeting as tweens themselves, Jess gave Cece reading tips and a spunky, if not entirely apropos, attitude toward tormentors: “They can drive it or milk it as far I’m concerned.” (My own slapdash Internet searching tells me this is a phrase used by Midwestern dads, though that’s pretty much all I can say.)

Circling back, what did Jess decide? Thanks to Cece, she decided not to give up on her calling as a molder of young minds. She turned down the museum job and returned to school, where she made educational lemons out of lemons. Naturally, her boss took all the credit, prompting Jess’s coworker to suggest she take his job. And so Jess had a new trajectory: She would put the “pal” in “Principal”! She would also do what made her happy — and, non-professionally-speaking, that was hanging out with these rudderless goofballs for as long as possible. Because, as they say, “All work and no play makes Jess a dull girl.”

What did you think, Newbies? Were you happy with Tuesday’s return, or did it feel a little too focused on the past and set-up-heavy? Did Jess make the right decision? And is there any way the show can rally in time for May finales?

NEXT: Scotchy Scotchy Scotch-Scotch

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