By Lanford Beard
February 02, 2014 at 12:00 PM EST
Fox
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SPOILER ALERT: If you haven’t seen the post-Big Game episode, do not read on, Newbies. If you have and want to discuss how Prince(!) paved the purple-licious path for a major moment between Jess and Nick, click through. 

I will not spend any time talking about the guys’ extensive opening conversation about panties or the ladies’ ridiculous “We’re going to a party at Prince’s house!” geek-dancing (even though they both showcased everyone’s improv-ving skill). Those moments were instantly overshadowed once Nick, who was sending Jess off to the party, blurted out, “I love you.” Nary a split-second had passed before a look of abject terror settled on his face. Other than a jut of the chin and a slight raise of the eyebrows, he was frozen. Jess’s response? Finger guns! Witness:

En route to Prince’s manse, Jess was similarly awash in panic (later groaning, “If the limo hadn’t pulled away, I probably would have done a lasso!”) — and, if Cece would have her way, she’d also soon be awash in champagne.

The guys had much the same instinct, and they headed to Nick’s bar to talk about the bomb Ol’ Turtle Face had just dropped. Nick admitted he meant what he said and did love Jess, but he’d hoped to tell her in a more appropriate/romantic context. Winston could relate since he’d done a lot of sneak-attack  “I LOVE YOU” shrieks in his day — much to the detriment of at least one of his surprised girlfriends, who looked like she needed the Heimlich maneuver afterward. (Speaking of flashbacks, there was one of superfan Nick in full Prince regalia, singing “1999” — poorly, it goes without saying — and high kicking to punctuate the chorus while Winny the Bish provided backup on the keytar. YES.)

After talking to his buddies, Nick’s vague sense of regret turned into a full-on freak-out, prompting Schmidt to suggest Nick “fix” the situation by crashing Prince’s party and taking his “I love you” back. So, like the fools they are, the guys rolled up to Prince’s house. Fun fact: When I spoke to Jake Johnson earlier this week, he gave me inside intel that Prince’s people actually walked through the set and approved all the décor so it would befit The Purple One’s aesthetic. Yes, Newbies, what you saw on Super Bowl Sunday was entirely Prince-approved.

Once there, Nick & Co. faced a major road block: They weren’t invited. Winston and Coach apparently had a scheme in college called “Fire and Ice” (it even came with its own pump-up ritual and victory dance!). The gist was they pretended to be old friends who may or may not have been military vets who lost one of their buddies after the war. The pièce de résistance? Coach saying, “What a great night. I hope nothing ruins it,” then looking pointedly at the bouncer. The bouncer was sufficiently inspired, so in “Ernie” and “Winston L. Bishop” went.

Nick and Schmidt decided they needed their own “Fire and Ice.” Nick yelled, “Ham and Cheese!” and made a beeline for the door — even though he and Schmidt hadn’t settled on a story line or rehearsed. Nick followed Winston and Coach’s first play, pretending to recognize Schmidt, but he took a left turn when his riff on back-story was that he and Schmidt was bitter enemies (“The last time I saw him, I was out in the desert, and he was putting my mother into prison”). Naturally “Ham and Cheese” was a disaster, but Nick managed to sneak in by “Trojan Horse”-ing, a.k.a. creeping into a crowd of models unnoticed. Schmidt, unfortunately, was left in the cold.

NEXT PAGE: Prince teaches Jess about love by hook, crook, or makeover montage

Inside Jess was beating herself up for not saying “I love you” to Nick. Cece suggested she was scared. Jess insisted she wasn’t, saying “I love you!” loudly, to no one in particular. It attracted the attention of L.A. Dodgers’ super-pitcher Clayton Kershaw, who introduced himself. Jess thought it was a line and rudely dismissed him. Moments later, Nick appeared. Jess said she wanted to tell him something, that she should have said it earlier, and struggled to get the right words out… before fainting.

Jess regained consciousness outside, surrounded by the whole gang (even Schmidt, who had scratched his way through a well-manicured hedge filled with purple Frisbees: “Prince is terrible at Frisbee, there are like 10 of those in there!”). Nick offered to take back his “I love you” to clear the air, which understandably upset Jess. After asking the others to leave them alone, she wondered if that’s how Nick really felt, and he asked, “Well… how do you feel?” Jess didn’t have time for another panic attack because she and Nick were soon face-to-face with Prince. Greeting this Afro-sporting icon in many textures of black, they both let out high-pitched squeals of excitement — okay, mostly Nick, who shrilled like a howler monkey before he fainted —

After a few awkward moments together on a slightly-too-small bench and a brief explanation of finger guns, Prince asked Nick to give him some time alone with Jess. The Artist Once Again Known As… shared a late pancake supper with Jess before taking her on journey of self-discovery — including a montage makeover (to “When You Were Mine”!), a game ping pong in which he handed her ass to her, and a personal introduction to his pet Monarch butterfly. It was a deliciously understated performance and a nice counterpart to New Girl‘s frequently over-the-top comedy (a style I happen to like but that many have slammed during season 3). The greatest single moment of all this, to me, was when he locked Jess in a closet (or maybe it was a fancy rich person’s in-home elevator? either way, it was sparkly!), only to appear inside moments later — without opening the door — illuminated by a flickering lighter like some sort of ghoulish sage. Jess stopped screaming long enough for him to turn off his lighter, turn it back on, and say, “Boo!” After Prince was sufficiently satisfied that he’d shared the secrets of the universe with he, he leaned in for one last whisper in her ear (that he had to repeat because the man speaks softly) and sent his little purple velvet-clad cub out into the wild.

NEXT PAGE: Supermodels, sour pusses, and a sweet ending for Jess and Nick

Nick got silly-drunk while waiting for his lady, which had a negative impact on Coach and Winston, who were working “Fire and Ice” on Victoria’s Secret supermodels Alessandra Ambrosio and Ana Beatriz Barros. Just as they were about to go somewhere private to have a good cry with the ladies, Nick barreled right into the middle of the double meet-cute and assumed the lingerie models would try to get with him. He basically accused them of being sex-crazed homewreckers, offending them enough that they click-clacked away (probably to Clayton Kershaw). And that‘s how Nick Miller c–k-blocked his buddies. With Jess still in the thrall of The Purple One, Nick drunkenly threw down the gauntlet: “Let’s tear the roof off this joint and show Prince how we do!”

Elsewhere Schmidt and Cece continued to rebuild their friendship, specifically with a slow dance (he was hiding from a bouncer — in her cleavage) and a Lemon Mouth competition. Even though Schmidt claimed at the beginning of the ep that he would leave the gang behind the minute he found cooler friends, he was clearly in the exact right place as the night ended back at the loft. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Once Jess had proven to herself — or, more accurately, Prince had proven to her — that she was no longer afraid of being vulnerable, she spotted Nick across the dance floor. (Jake Johnson had the greatest man-in-love look on his face. Man, how he makes me swoon!) They met in the middle, and she leaned in to whisper those three little words — of course he couldn’t hear them because of the loud music, so she fearlessly shouted “I LOVE YOU, NICK MILLER!” for all to hear. They kissed, she explained her Prince-styled look to him, they kissed again, and were interrupted when Prince took the stage. As the music began, he beckoned Jess/Zooey Deschanel to the stage to join him in the performance of his new song “Don’t You Wanna Fall in Love Tonight?” (There are probably more numbers and symbols in that title, so apologies if I didn’t write it an appropriately Prince-y fashion. UPDATE: The correct title, I’ve confirmed, is “FALLINLUV2NITE”.) Jess eventually invited the whole gang up, and it was truly surreal and magical — just like Prince.

A short while later, the gang sat around the loft marveling at what a bizarrely only-on-a-sitcom experience they’d just had. And that’s probably what I liked best about this episode — that they knew (and the writers felt compelled to acknowledge) how gloriously contrived it all was. Coach was the hands-down MVP of the scene with his uncontrollable spurts of gleeful laughter and by asking Jess, “How did you know the words?” As much as I enjoyed the big musical group number (which was slightly reminiscent of “The Chicken Dance” in “Wedding”), this little self-deprecating shout-out to how unrealistic it was took the satisfaction up a notch. I also enjoyed the bonus kicker featuring Cece ping pong sharking Prince, who he stormed away — followed by his magical Monarch butterfly. Great follow-through!

What did you think of the post-Super Bowl ep, Newbies? Were you as impressed by Prince as I was? Did you want more face time with Clayton Kershaw and the Victoria’s Secret beauties? Are you super-excited about where Jess and Nick are headed now that they’ve declared their love for each other? Or does it make you even more worried knowing that their exes are going to show up on Tuesday? Discuss!

NEXT PAGE: Super (Dota)Bowls!

Notable Dotables…

Winston: Look, before [Nick] and Jess were together, I moved her panties hundreds of times.

Nick: What?

Schmidt: Hundreds of times? What were you just hanging around the dryer like some sort of panty hawk?

Coach [laughs raucously]: Panty Hawk! I’d watch that show.

Jess: Which shoe should I wear to Prince’s house? [shuffles feet back and forth] White or black? White or black? Come on, Nick! The limo’s about to get here any minute. White or black?

Nick: I think you look great in everything, I just want this moment to end.

Winston: What are your open-toe options?

Schmidt: Nick, are you wearing cargo pants?

Nick: Yes.

Schmidt: You’re going to wear those to an A-list party? “Hey, guys, how are we going to transport all this cargo? Oh wait, we have Nick’s pants, we’re saved!” Get the friggin’ pants off!

Schmidt: We’re not invited? Then why did I buy this $2,000 suit?

Winston: Dude, my suit cost $200, and it came with socks stapled to the lapel!

Schmidt: In every man’s life, there is one party that changes everything. You don’t understand, and that it exactly why I’m leaving you all behind.

Coach: So this whole time you’ve just been waiting for cooler friends?

Schmidt: Yes, of course. Coach, look around [at this loft], this can’t be the finish line.

Episode Recaps

Zooey Deschanel plays lovable Jess, who is plodding through life with a good group of friends.
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seasons
  • 5
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  • 09/20/11
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