Winston's quest for Nick to pay his debts ends in a slap fight; Jess's quest for Schmidt to relax ends in a drum circle and third-degree burns
Credit: Patrick McElhenney/Fox
S1 E16

The distant rumbling finally became a reality last night, Newbies! Fat Schmidt returned — and in the most unexpected way. That inexplicable shot of Winston in cornrows and Nick looking like an extra from Singles‘ central casting? Totally unexplained! (Turns out those two have simply been out of step with the times for a while now.) What we did get was a deep dive into Schmidt’s tortured battle with obsessive-compulsive disorder, further confirmation that the guys are incurably petty and lazy, and yet another instance of Jess’s best intentions blowing up in her face. All wrapped up in a Baja jacket!

It all started with CeCe dropping Schmidt off in a shady parking lot to avoid anyone seeing them together. He was understandably miffed, particularly because he was wearing his “slippiest” loafers (making it harder to run) and because the bum nearby was clearly “new homeless.” In essence, CeCe was “ripping the side block out of [his] mental Jenga.” This lack of control in his personal life torqued up Schmidt’s OCD. He reacted by lashing out at Jess, who had brought home a hutch she found on the street. Schmidt’s ultimatum: Jess could either return the hutch to the freegan pile from which it came, or he would reinstate his ban on high waisted shorts. Jess: “You would not dare! That was the worst four weeks of my life!”

Jess immediately griped to Nick and Winston, who tried to reason with her that it was worth putting up with Schmidt’s foibles because he cooked and cleaned for them. From literally the first day Schmidt arrived at the loft, they had made their peace with his “odd bird” status and established a commensurate you-do-everything-we-do-nothing pecking order. Cue Fat Schmidt flashback involving a game of pick-up lettuce-head baseball and Schmidt throwing up in his mouth a little — then neon green alien vomit on the floor.

Cut back to the present, when Jess resolved to cure Schmidt of his disorder through shock therapy. Clearly she has never seen an episode of Hoarders because that tactic does not work. She littered the apartment with an afghan she found underneath the dumpster outside an animal shelter, a lamp she found underneath that, a discarded dress form, a derelict typewriter, and of course the offending hutch. Worst of all, she had crammed her run-of-the-mill vanilla extract next to his Tahitian vanilla. Bake-rilege! Jess also put into the hutch Schmidt’s oven mitts and fancy-pants coffee grinder (that’s after using it to make homemade crayons). Schmidt on his coffee gadget: “It doesn’t smash up the beans like some pedestrian blade grinder. It actually grinds them for a deeper, richer, more satisfying flavor profile.” Not anymore!

NEXT: A house without Schmidt was no home, no home at all

Schmidt was “emotionally nauseous,” which Jess deigned to cure with a field trip to Venice Beach, a.k.a. Freak Central 90291. While Jess saw sand, sky, and surf, all Schmidt could see were mangy cats gnawing on pigeon carcasses, discarded syringes, ice cream-covered fat kids (remnants of the past!), lunging human statues, and one very threatening kite. Schmidt told Jess, “I’m not like these people. I don’t have dreadlocks… I don’t own a snake!” And yet, somehow, someway, after a carefree bike ride during which Schmidt covered his handlebars with napkins, our man saw the light, hilariously and shirtlessly dancing his way into a drum circle. (It might have had something to do with the hippie chick beckoning him seductively.) And how did Schmidt celebrate his catharsis? By “taking a shower with Nick’s bar soap like a common ranch hand.”

While Schmidt was shakin’ that body, doin’ that conga, and rockin’ crystals (or “rock poo,” as Nick dismissed them), the apartment devolved into a veritable disaster zone. (Though I will say that the sludge in the coffee pot kind of looked like delicious, delicious brownie mix.) Realizing to be careful what she wished for, Jess sought out Schmidt in a park, where he was wearing a “drug rug” and eating street meat from a shopping cart-based vendor named Gordon. He hadn’t been to work in three days. Jess reminisced about the good old days when Schmidt got off to An Inconvenient Truth, when he dressed like Shia Labeouf in Wall Street 2, and when he deemed jazz music “America’s greatest mistake,” but the nouveau hippie was lost in the abyss. To be continued…

All the while, Nick awoke the next morning after a particularly drunken poker game. You know he was wasted because he went all in and screamed, “Uno, bitches. Read ’em and weep!” He owed Winston $487, a figure which Winston had scrawled — among other things that resembled cannons, long-stem mushrooms, and mossy caves, if you get my drift — across Nick’s torso. (Speaking of which, didn’t Nick’s torso look like it had lost Schmidt’s recommended five to seven pounds?) Since Nick obviously had no intention of paying his friend back, Winston drafted a letter that read like a Choose Your Own Adventure novella. The text of the double-sided letter included but was not limited to the possibility that Nick might tell Winston to “Relax,” which of course he did.

Winston offered to settle the debt for a paltry $200. Nick agreed, then almost immediately started haggling over everything. He used the 400 cognac and colas he’d served Winston at the bar as leverage, then pulled out the guns — that time Winston “accidentally” saw Nick’s mother naked in eighth grade (“before she stopped exercising and let herself get chubby”). Winston had his own tit for tat, as it were, and cited his sympathy during Nick’s break-up with Caroline, plus the money Nick needed to purchase The argument climaxed in the middle of a supermarket when the guys were tasked with observing Schmidt’s strict $100 grocery budget (to be fair, that’s a ridiculously low amount of money for four people). Nick threw out the Epsom salts Winston was buying for his “trick foot,” so Winston rebelliously deemed Mrs. Miller “Best Boobs, Master’s Division.” Cue a mano a mano slap fight. Wait seven days for that mess to upload to, people. It’s worth it.

NEXT: “We don’t ‘awwww’ in this family”

Back to the Schmid-astophre. The guys were getting nostalgic for Schmidt’s cooking: “What was that thing he used to make with the peanut butter and the raisins on a piece of celery?” Jess realized that she had indeed “upset the ecosystem,” as Nick put it, by reforming Schmidt. In an emotionally low moment, she admitted she had only brought in the hutch to put something permanent in the loft and establish herself as part of the family. Nick was quick to tell her she was welcome to this festival of sad clowns, and Jess couldn’t stifle the “Awwwww.” Nick: “We don’t ‘awwww’ in this family.”

Schmidt did eventually return home, but it took some convincing. Everyone approached the task in a character-appropriate manner. Jess warned Schmidt he would be foolish to run away from his problems because he’d just find new ones — “like hepatitis.” Nick was sardonic but vulnerable, and Winston sealed the deal by telling Schmidt he was the person who made this ragtag bunch of moppets a family. Well… okay, maybe Nick sealed the deal by offering to let Schmidt clean his room. Schmidt: “The white whale?!” Jess iced the cake (and fat kids do love cake) by giving Schmidt a crisp pair of twill, flat-front trousers from Calvin “Magnificent Wizard” Klein.

Later that night, Schmidt was cleaning like a madman, and life was back to normal. The roommates came to marvel, and Schmidt didn’t waste a second before snarking at Nick, “Your hair is doing that thing I hate.” Then he ordered Winston to help Jess move the furniture because he was looking a little [insert raspberry noise here]. Finally, he asked the guys plaintively, “We have a urinal, how are you still missing?”

Even later that night, CeCe returned by way of a 3 a.m. break-in booty call. There was wordplay. There were trousers worn in bed. And CeCe stayed anyway. Ants on a log for everyone!

NEXT: Zooey may shill for cotton, but Schmidt had no love for pine

Notable dotables:

CeCe: Okay, Schmidt, you really need to learn to take a breath and calm down, all right? We’re just being a little spontaneous.

Schmidt: Words that have never been used to describe Schmidt — “spontaneous,” “flexible,” “easygoing.” I’m like a Marine.

CeCe: You’re nothing like a Marine.

Schmidt: I’m totally like a Marine! All right, you know what? Fine. I’m outta here. [Hands over his loafers.] Take these, and take care of them. I can get a tetanus shot, but I can’t cure damaged suede.

Jess: Can you believe I found this on the street? Who would want to throw this away?

Schmidt: A blind man who suddenly recovered his sight? Get rid of it, Jess. Pine has no place in this loft. It’s the wood of poor people and outhouses.

Nick: Winston, why are you still drinking? It’s 10 in the morning, man.

Winston: Yeah, I know what it’ll feel like when I stop, so I’m just going to stay a little drunk… forever.

Nick: Why is there no girl version of you, my man?

Jess: Schmidt, you are legitimately crazy.

Schmidt: I think we’re all a little bit crazy, don’t you think, Jess?

Jess: No, I mean you’re like aging-ballerina, child-chess-prodigy, professional-magician crazy.

Schmidt: It’s my mom’s fault. You know I come from a Jewish family, but she used to tell me the reason Santa didn’t come to our house was become my room was dirty. The only thing I ever controlled was what I ate, which was why I got fat.

Jess: Yeah, I got fat because I ate Concord jelly from the jar using a candy bars as a fork.

Schmidt: Hey guys. I waded into the ocean without my Aqua Socks!

Jess: He did it. He let go. He washed his hands in a public restroom!

Schmidt: And there was a man in there, and he was using the toilet — full-sit, no door — and I didn’t break eye contact, not once!

Winston: That’s not letting go. That’s cruising.

Winston: What the hell happened to you?

Jess: I went down to the beach, and I tried to talk to Schmidt, but he just ignored me and went back to twirling his fire batons. It was really bad. He burned a lot of people. I feel like they should let you twirl it around a few times before you actually light it on fire.

What did you think, Newbies? Is more Schmidt psychotherapy just what the doctor ordered, or is it best to suppress this mess? After seeing Nick’s cheap streak, are you pumped for Dermot Mulroney’s first appearance next week as rich single dad Russell?

Episode Recaps

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

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