Monday, June 4, 2012

New Girl 1.23: "Backslide"

“Russell was perfect. What’s wrong with me? Am I self-sabotaging? Am I secretly a Cylon?”

More than perhaps any other episode of “New Girl,” “Backslide” makes me wonder if somehow the show’s writers are plugged directly into my brain. In this one, there’s a joke that you would really only easily get if you happened to have been born in the late 1970s or early 1980s and been named Jennifer or Jessica. And if you’re like me, who was born in the early 1980’s and whose parents’ first and second choices for girls’ names were Jennifer and Jessica, it’s even funnier. Oh, and there were jokes about Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky and the Electoral College. Pretty much perfect for a politics geek like me who grew up in the 90’s. Anyway, this episode, as is pretty obvious from the title, centers around the concept of the “Backslide,” aka going back to dating someone you had dated previously. All of the characters (with the exception of Schmidt and Cece) are experiencing and experimenting with the backslide in this episode. The episode also served to deepen the relationship between Nick and Jess, which I appreciated. I think the show is doing a really good job setting a foundation for when they eventually, inevitably get together.

The episode opens with Jess moping over the break-up with Russell. Instead of watching “Dirty Dancing” over and over, this time she’s listening to a song called “The River” over and over, on a record player no less. Schmidt, Winston, and Cece all try to comfort her. Cece is the only one who succeeds in finally getting her to turn that song off. This upsets Nick and Caroline, though, because they had been making up a dance to the song. So sensitive, Caroline is. She cannot get off my television screen soon enough. In addition to being the one who gets the music turned off, Cece is also the one who manages to get Jess up and out of the house by convincing her to go get a drink. Much of the set-up for the episode then happens at the bar. At the bar, Schmidt warns Jess about backsliding. He thinks she’s in prime backsliding state of mind at the moment. They also have to send Winston away from the conversation because his life is too perfect now to relate to Jess’ problems. After talking with Schmidt, Jess goes up to the bar and accuses Nick of backsliding with Caroline. His response is that it’s better than being alone for the rest of his life. This convinces Jess that maybe backsliding isn’t such a bad idea, and she steals her cell phone back from Schmidt while he’s talking to Cece about his broken penis and an upcoming visit to see Cece’s grandmother in the nursing home. We think Jess is going to call Russell, but in actuality, the next morning, she wakes up with Paul.

Back at the loft Winston and Schmidt are talking about the ridiculous earring Winston got while playing poker with his boss (the earring becomes more ridiculous throughout the episode and is kind of a running joke), when Jess walks out of her bedroom with Paul. After Paul leaves, the guys accuse Jess of backsliding (which she totally is). Jess tries to defend herself by saying that maybe now she’s in a place where she’s ready for a relationship with Paul. Jess’ theory turns out to not be true at all when Paul admits that he has a serious girlfriend. Paul and Jess start dorkily freaking out about how they’re like Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski (which was hilarious), and Paul’s new girlfriend enters the room. She looks sort of like an Asian Jess. Jess runs out of the room after explaining that Paul was freaking out because she just explained the Electoral College to him.

At the nursing home, things go pretty well with Schmidt and Cece’s grandmother. She warns him that Cece is more vulnerable than she looks, and if Schmidt hurts Cece, she’s die so she can haunt him. It’s all said in good humor, though. She wants to like Schmidt, she just doesn’t want to see her granddaughter hurt. At a second visit, Schmidt starts asking for relationship advice from all the residents, and they’re quite enjoying it. Cece’s grandmother eventually says that Schmidt is just what Cece needs. Cece hears her grandmother say this, and she and Schmidt have a talk about the future of their relationship. They both think they’re ready for something more real and long-term than what they’ve had in the past. Then Schmidt starts feeling pain from his broken penis again, asking Cece to ask the most hilarious question, “Is emotional intimacy turning you on?”

Nick is helping Caroline look for a new apartment, and when they’re looking at one with a really fancy fireplace, Caroline asks Nick if he’d be interested in moving in with her. When Nick tells Winston he’s thinking about moving in with Caroline, Winston jumps up and makes this hilarious strange bird noise. Schmidt comes running out of his room and fetches a DVD Nick made after the last Caroline break-up. It is rather hilarious, and it’s supposed to be Nick explaining to Future Nick why he should never, ever get back together with Caroline. Nick is all disheveled and miserable, and it really reminded me of Barney’s post-Shannon break-up video from “Game Night” in season one of HIMYM. Another thing that was cool about the video was how well it stuck with series continuity. When Schmidt needed some help dealing with Nick at the end of the video, he called for Coach. Unfortunately, though, the DVD only convinces Nick that he should be with Caroline, because he’s convinces that things have changed since he made that video.

Jess tells Winston and Schmidt about Paul’s girlfriend. She really wants to tell Paul’s girlfriend what happened because she thinks she should know what kind of person she is dating, but the guys think that’s a bad idea. The idea of there being an “Asian Jess” kind of turns Schmidt on, though. Jess talks to Paul again, and she tells him that if he doesn’t come clean to his girlfriend, she will. Paul explains that he slept with Jess because he was scared about the seriousness of his current relationship. He’s even bought a ring for his girlfriend and wants to marry her. The girlfriend then appears again, and we learn that her name is Jen. And this is when I became convinced that this show somehow has a direct conduit into my brain. Of course Jess’ doppelganger would be named Jen. I have a half-written pilot for a law school dramedy that is loosely autobiographical where the main character’s name is Jess for the exact same reason. “New Girl” writers, if you’re reading this, hire me maybe? Anyway, after the truth comes out and Jen has gotten over the initial shock that Paul cheated, Jess helps Paul propose to Jen, even going so far as to ask Jen to marry Paul, and Jen agrees. The whole thing was kind of pathetic (the guy just cheated on you…don’t agree to marry him!) but I love the fact that Jess’ doppelganger is named Jen too much to be too irked by it.

Jess gets home and is gushing to Winston and Schmidt about how beautiful the proposal was, and they tell her she needs to go talk to nick. She finds him just getting out of the shower, and she starts gushing to him about how Nick shouldn’t settle, the right relationship will be simple, and she’ll be there to keep him from being lonely while he waits. Nick’s appreciative, but he drops the moving in with Caroline bomb, and poor Jess is left standing in the bathroom, completely shell-shocked. We end the episode with a montage of stuff Nick said in the video to his future self, my favorite of which was, “Be nice to Coach of he’s going to take off and live with another bunch of white people.” You never can have too much of Jake Johnson yelling random stuff.

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