New Girl Finale 02
Credit: Adam Taylor/FOX

Fair warning, Roomfriends: If you haven’t seen New Girl‘s sea-legged finale, change course now to avoid the iceberg full of SPOILERS ahead. If you have seen the episode, click through while we ready the full recap (UPDATE: It’s live!) and see what Zooey Deschanel, Lamorne Morris, and executive producer Dave Finkel had to say about “Cruise.” (Secondary warning and deepest apologies to Schmidt: Prepare for lots of nautical puns.)

New Girl‘s season 3 closer saw the six friends embarking on a high-seas misadventure thanks to Jess (Deschanel) and Nick (Jake Johnson), who drunkenly booked a couples cruise before breaking up. Still, lingering chemistry between the exes and $600 worth of romantic activities gave shippers renewed hope that the duo might work out their differences. “We play off of [Jake and Zooey’s chemistry] as often as we can,” admits Finkel. “It’s not a matter of messing with the audience, it’s sort of a buoy for us. … It’s in the [show’s] DNA.”

Alas, Nick/Jess shippers didn’t get the reunion they wanted. When Nick went in for a kiss, Jess rebuffed him. “I never thought these characters were going to stay together for the duration of the show,” Deschanel asserts. She notes, “The best thing about these characters is that they’re so great when they’re at odds. Having conflict with them is good, and having them always being in love with each other but never really being able to get it together [offers] so many possibilities.”

Finkel explains, “From our point of view, this [story] is a marathon. We want these characters to continue to develop and let the dynamics change. This show was never built to be about Nick and Jess. It sort of gravitated in that direction, but it’s always been about six people. Having had them in a relationship and having them come out the other side is going to affect everybody in the loft.”

Morris agrees, “When you dive into a relationship [storyline], you’re forced to cater to that relationship, and maybe some other things take a backseat. Now that they’re broken up, you’ll see all the characters back to some of their old ways again.”

The resolution of the finale, says Finkel “definitely is a reset. This show has always worked best as [an ensemble], when these people are informing each other’s stories and when they’re all in it together.” He continues, “Everybody has a story to tell. We did a lot of focusing on Nick and Jess this year, and we want to broaden our scope a little bit.”

So what does that mean for the rest of the loftmates? Morris thinks Winston’s attempts in “Cruise” to smoothe over his roommates’ tension shows maturity that should progress in season 4. “Next season, Winston will be in the police academy or, depending how far they write ahead, will be a cop. We have to start taking that transition to his actually being a grown-up adult, or else he’d be the worst cop.”

Finkel also acknowledges, “We have a lot of work to do with Schmidt.” In light of unsuccessful efforts by the loft’s token d-bag (Max Greenfield) to reignite his relationship with Cece (Hannah Simone), Finkel says, “He still clearly has feelings for Cece and has a lot of work to do to get back in her good graces. She feels that she can be comfortable around him again. I don’t know if she can trust him yet. He wants that, so he has a long way to go to make that right.”

Indeed, new relationships are on the table for all the loftmates. “Because we have so many guys on the show, it’d be fun to have some fun stuff with some really great, funny girls coming in,” Deschanel proposes. For his part, Finkel name-checked Cameron Diaz. He also admitted that it would be a dream-casting for Deschanel to return to a fan favorite partnership: “We’ve been [pitching the idea of a Joseph Gordon-Levitt guest spot] forever, but the schedule’s never worked out. We’d kill to have him.”

But, in the wake of “Cruise,” with the dust finally settled on season 3’s biggest arc, Finkel is more than a little relieved. “We probably waited a little longer [to split up Jess and Nick] than we wanted to,” he says. “We knew the break-up was going to be an earth-shaker, and we’ve always wanted to end the season in a place where the audience was being told, ‘Look, it’s going to be fine. We’re resetting the table for next season.’ These two people mean a great deal to each other, and they’re still going to be in each other’s lives, [but now it’s about] what’s this new post-relationship construction going to look like, and where do we go from here?”

For starters, to the gym, says Morris: “I hope there is [more skin] next season. I’ve been working out. I’ll unveil it to you guys in season 4 — shirtless Winston, abs all over the damn place.”

Episode Recaps

New Girl

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

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