By Lanford Beard
March 26, 2014 at 05:00 AM EDT
Adam Taylor/Fox
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What a set of bookends! True American, that green shirt, a hallway embrace. I can’t say I saw it coming. I can’t say I’m 100 percent on board. But I also can’t say it’s not the right decision. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, stop reading now because SPOILERS about Tuesday’s episode of New Girl lie ahead. If you’ve seen “Mars Landing” and want to feel feelings with me, click through…

It’s been a rough week, y’all. Love is falling on its knees all around us, both on TV and off. Most relevant to this conversation, though, is that Jess and Nick are no longer a couple. I’m kind of heart-hurt about it. I really liked those two, and it seemed like such a whimper of a break-up — which kind of gives me hope it’s only temporary. Confession time: Having myself been in an “I love you, but we really shouldn’t be together” relationship (who hasn’t?), it’s difficult to cut that cord. Maybe it’s better that Nick and Jess ended things while they could still be friends. (If only it had been before Jess had seen the Schmidt-icles.) But seriously, how are you folks out there feeling? As you read, please do bring your thoughts, and tissues, to the comments.

The seeds of discontent were sown after a night of True American-induced heavy drinking. It was a truly joyful, rambunctious start to the episode (see Dotables). The next morning was less joyful and decidedly less rambunctious. Everyone felt like garbage, and there were about two full minutes of glorious acting by Zooey Deschanel and Jake Johnson as Jess and Nick sluggishly squirmed around in bed, grumbling and barely able to speak from their crippling hangovers. It’s those moments in hindsight that make me realize how much I’ll miss these two as a couple. My favorite part:

The roomfriends woke up abruptly when Sadie called and ordered Jess to get to her godson Jacob’s first birthday party ASAP. After putting on her finest found-on-the-closet-floor bikini top and floral button-down, Jess was ready to go. One hitch: Nick hadn’t assembled Jacob’s birthday present Jess bought two weeks prior. Nick was confident he could use his hobo handyman skills to sort it out in five minutes… 10 minutes tops… but, because Jess gets emotional when she’s hung-over, she suddenly got weepy about the disappointing Christmases to come for the children she imagined having with Nick one day. Wait, what?

Jess tried to pretend her fantasies about the future were fairly low-key and non-specific (you know, like how Jess is… ever). Except: “We live in a house by a lake. We live in a town with a sense of history, but not so much history that the locals are suspicious of new people. [We have] two small children who are so incredibly creative they named themselves. We don’t need to discipline the kids because they’re so afraid of disappointing us… [and] if there’s a horse out back, you’re not gonna get any guff from me.” Yep, just passing thoughts…

Naturally, Jess’s super-detailed vision of the future freaked Nick out a little. He tried to play it off, which ironically caused things to escalate. Over the course of the next few exchanges, it became clear — and, more to the point, explicit for the first time — that Jess and Nick have very different philosophies on just about everything. His desire to be a long-haul trucker and/or resident of Mars (not to mention his pejorative use of the term “girly”) might never jive with her hopes to move to somewhere like Portland or San Francisco and send her children to school… as opposed to making the young’uns grind away in the yard until they “beg for” an education.

NEXT: Into the crevasse… 

Interestingly, the only thing Nick and Jess didn’t bicker about was their future child’s name: Reginald Veljohnson (per a bet Nick lost to Schmidt: “He said I could flip a big pancake, and I couldn’t”). But everything else… yeesh…. Jess claimed Reginald would be too shy to beg for an education and would instead delight in the leaves by the lake where they lived (Nick hates lakes, apparently?); Nick wondered why he’d spend his hard-earned truck-driving money on “an earth house” when they could live on Mars Landing. Brass tacks: Nick was the first to mention breaking up. In a knee-jerk reaction, they both laughed it off and agreed this particular fight was not worth ending their relationship. They went back to assembling the toy with such vigor and forced togetherness that it seemed inevitable something bad was coming. Nick even agreed to move near a lake, where he and Reginald would start a newsletter called Lake Father, Lake Son. Jess even claimed she put up with Nick’s trucker life “for six months, tops.”

Several snapped toy parts and one foolhardy attempt at welding by Nick later, things got literally explosive. Nick had an incident with a Zippo and accidentally set his blanket on fire. When Jess sought something for water to douse the flames, he reminded her she couldn’t use his “meat bucket” — not a euphemism. She naturally, if shriekily noted what an idiotic idea that was, but he insisted she had praised his idea of “tast[ing] what meat tasted like before electricity.” Jess had to admit she’d only accepted it because “if [she] was always honest… then [they] would never stop fighting.” Soon enough their relationship, Jacob’s playset, and the loft were up in flames.

Hours later, while sorting through the wreckage, they reached a bittersweet and surprisingly adult agreement not to continue this relationship at the expense of their friendship. Nick and Jess parted awkwardly, honestly (and with a bit of Saving Private Ryan because… Nick). Their last moments were like a greatest-hits retrospective of their time as a couple: Jess gave Nick the same finger guns she’d given him when he declared his he love, and they walked to their separate rooms before she ran out of her room for a fierce embrace that mirrored their first kiss in “Cooler.” Jake Johnson confirmed at a Stella event in NYC on Tuesday that everything about the scene (beautifully directed by Your Sister’s Sister helmer Lynn Shelton) was blocked for this very effect — right down to Nick’s green shirt. No wonder I couldn’t help but feel wistful.

The break-up itself wasn’t a waterworks moment — for me, at least. It was much more understated than that. But I did feel a distinct sinking of the heart as they walked off in toward their rooms — only a few feet apart physically, but seemingly irreparably distant. What do you think, folks? Will Jess and Nick be able to recover as a couple? As friends? Do you want them to?

NEXT: And now for something a little lighter…

Elsewhere, the remaining loftmates were scamming on Michelle and Laurie, the new — and, I should mention, foxy — residents of Schmidt’s former loft (played by True Detective‘s Alexandra Daddario and Stevie Nelson). As those who have been truly hung-over will understand, the guys’ first impression was worse than awful and basically incoherent. (Not helping: Coach was wearing lady sunglasses that made him look “like Magic Johnson’s son EJ” — a reference I personally appreciated because I am one of about five people who watched #RichKids of Beverly Hills.)

To make up for this shortfall, two camps emerged: Winston wooed the ladies by offering to help them move in, despite his roommates’ dismissal that schlepping around furniture would make him seem like a doormat. Meanwhile, Schmidt and Coach peacocked around the building (choice line from Schmidt, who was “on a business call” during an “accidental” encounter at the elevators: “Yes, well, it’s my garden party, and Zachary Queen-toe is not on the list!”). Once Laurie, the roommate with a boyfriend, made it clear that Michelle was “not really the relationship type” and “just having fun right now,” the alpha males’ posturing led to in-fighting (Schmidt: “I will freak out so hard on you right now, you will not even know– on your face!”). In fits and starts of machismo, they ended up breaking two of Michelle’s most valuable possessions — “her study abroad mirror” and “her dream vase,” per Winston. When they tried to blame it on Winny the Bish, he became enraged:

Winston called out his roommates for “trying to sex Michelle every which way from Tuesday.” Had he stopped there, maybe things would have been fine, if a little uncomfortable. Instead, he talked about how much he wanted to “sex” Michelle, spoke at length about her “crazy witch eyes,” and then claimed he was a good guy (true — but poorly timed). His grand finale? Hoisting an armoire on his back and marching toward the burning building. Something tells me Michelle’s still on the market.

Elsewhere, a True American-wasted Cece had text-bombed her 20-year-old Aussie toy boy Buster (the delicious James Frecheville) with a deluge of drunken mini-missives (see Dotables). The next day, Schmidt advised playing off the gaffe by sending Buster a breezy emoticon or two. Winston helped her pick them out — bad call. Though we didn’t see the Cece’s digitally transmitted dis-ease, Schmidt and Coach’s comments while looking at the e-no-ji indicated they were “borderline pornographic” and maybe involved bestiality (“are those nursing cats… wait, those are not cats — that’s a human man!”). When Cece and Buster reconnected over the phone, she was sure the fling was over. Instead, he playfully admitted the flood of texts had weirded him out a little, but he still liked her enough to show up at the loft and meet her face-to-face. Now imagine all of that being said in an Australian accent and… swoon.

One last loose end: As followers of the show already realized, Schmidt was oblivious to Jess and Nick’s break-up and still living in Jess’s room — doing full downward dog in the nude, no less. So, for the moment, Jess is still sharing a bed with her ex-roomfriend. As such, what the next episode will bring (other than more naked yoga from Schmidt) is anyone’s guess.

Notable Dotables…

Selected lines from this round of True American:

Nick: Grover Cleveland round — non-consecutive shots!

Nick: Welcome to Ellis Island, folks. [Hands out beer cans] You’re a Bill, you’re a George, you’re a Bill. [To Jess] You’re a Greek — get out! [Sees Winston coughing] He’s got the plague! Scatter!

Coach: Taft just sat on you!

Schmidt: My name is Eli Whitney, and I created the cotton gin! [Everyone else, while pouring gin down Schmidt’s throat: “Gin! Gin! Gin! Gin!”]

Winston [to Nick, who’s lapping cognac from his hand]: Drink it up, Checkers, forget what you saw.

And…

Digs at Cece’s “child bride” Buster…

Winston: Is he smooth all over?

Coach: Does he take baths in the sink?

Schmidt [looking at Cece’s texts to Buster]: Oh dear lord.

Cece: I know…

Schmidt: “I miss the way that your hands smell.” Did you write an entire Jewel song in here?

Coach [a little too enthusiastically]: Is it from Pieces of You?

Schmidt: You want to buy a rabbit with him? This isn’t a text message, it’s a frickin’ Russian novel!

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