Sunday, January 26, 2014

New Girl 3.13: "Birthday"

“Why did I think that I could bartend?” “Because you can. You are strong, and you are confident. Those are skills. Use them.”
-Cece and Schmidt

This is the first episode of “New Girl” where I really did not like Jess. At all. Jess has a lot of quirks, and I find most of them endearing. I’m a pretty quirky person myself, so who am I to judge? In this episode, however, the quirk goes way too far. Apparently Jess has extremely high expectations for what people will do to celebrate her birthday, and when those expectations aren’t met, she falls apart. She has taken to just going to the movies by herself on her birthday, because then there will be no expectations. Poor Nick is actually trying to plan a nice birthday for her, and Jess is fighting it and being incredibly ungrateful every step of the way. Sure, she’s happy by the end of the episode, but she should have been grateful for whatever Nick tried to do, really. The one bright spot of the episode was some Schmidt and Cece interaction. I don’t think they’ll be getting back together any time soon, but Schmidt helps Cece through some work problems, and it was really sweet. When Schmidt is the most likable character in an episode of “New Girl,” though, we’ve got a problem.

Anyway, like I already said (and you could probably tell from the title anyway), this episode is about Jess’ birthday. We learn through flashbacks that Jess always has obnoxiously high expectations for her birthdays. For instance, when Cece gives her a shirt that has “Made in China” on the tag, Jess immediately assumes Cece is taking her to China, and she gets a little upset when that isn’t the case. I guess Jess has realized that this isn’t normal, but she has chosen to deal with it by spending her birthday alone at the movie theater. That doesn’t seem healthy, either. Nick wants to try and buck this trend, though. He’s planning an awesome surprise birthday party for Jess, and he has enlisted the whole gang to help. Winston is on cake patrol, Coach is on decorations, and Cece is covering Nick’s shift at the bar. Schmidt ends up helping by keeping Cece from getting fired on that shift.

The Winston and Coach tiny subplot is kind of silly, so let’s just get that out of the way right now. Coach and Winston are both competitive athletes (probably because Winston was developed as a replacement for Coach when Daymon Wayans Jr. had to go back to “Happy Endings”), so they have issues sticking to their respective assigned tasks. Each wants to believe that their task is more important than the other. Then Winston screws up the cake (he picks up the wrong cake from the store). Coach wants to show Winston how cake-acquiring should be done, but Winston also doesn’t want Coach to walk all over him. They end up baking dueling cakes. Because they put both cake pans in the oven at the same time, the cakes merge, and it ends up making one big cake that the guys decorate to look sort of like Jess. Mostly this little subplot made me sad at how marginalized Winton and Coach are. I miss the Winston of season 1, where it seemed like they were really actually attempting to make him into a fully formed character.

Nick’s doing a relatively great job planning the surprise party (you know, considering he’s Nick), but he runs into one potentially huge snag. The rest of the gang reminds him that Jess is probably going to expect birthday festivities during the day as well (the party is supposed to start at 7). Nick is pretty chill about it. He figures Jess will probably want to sleep in (since that seems like the kind of thing people might do on their birthday), so he’ll only have to start entertaining her beginning at noon. He doesn’t realize quite how deep Jess’ birthday obsession goes, though. She has her alarm set for 7:00 AM, and she’s ready and raring to go. At first Nick thinks he can stretch out some of the things he has planned (making breakfast, sex, a nap), but Jess keeps foiling all his plans and giddily wanting to move on to the next thing. They go for a walk in the park, and Jess starts getting a little upset that there doesn’t seem to be any point to the walk (I think just taking a walk is nice, personally). Jess sees a birthday party set up in the park, and she immediately assumes it’s for her. Nick doesn’t want to upset Jess, so he goes with it. Everything comes crashing down, though, when a little girl appears and starts screaming about how the lady stole her birthday party. Jess runs off, sobbing. Back at the loft (between sobs) she admits to Coach and Winston that she’s partially upset at Nick for his lack of planning and partially upset at herself for not being more grateful. Still wasn’t enough to excuse her horrible behavior in my book, though.

So, it turns out that Cece isn’t very good at bartending. Because of this, the other bartender she has to work with during Nick’s shift is not happy at all. He takes every opportunity to demean Cece. At one point, he says that if she can’t prove she knows how to make an Old Fashioned, he’s going to report her to the owner. Luckily for Cece, Schmidt comes in with a save. He tells her how to make the drink, and it turns out perfectly. Schmidt’s help makes Cece’s night go smoothly until neither of them can figure out how to tap a keg. Cece tries to do what she remembers Nick explaining, but she ends up spraying beer all over the grumpy bartender. Cece starts feeling extra sorry for herself, and Schmidt gives her a rather epic pep talk, reminding her that her attitude can be an asset in her job, even if she still has to work on her technical skills. Cece takes that attitude and finishes the night strongly.

Jess ends up rushing off to the movie theater to have her traditional birthday instead, but this plays right into Nick’s hand. He had planned to have her surprise party at the theater. When she’s about to start watching the movie, a video from Nick comes on the screen instead. He had gotten all their friends and family to say nice things about Jess and wish her a happy birthday. Also, all their friends are right there in the theater. The video was cheesy as hell (and for some reason, Winston had no idea what to say in his shout-out), but Jess loves it. She finally stops acting like an ungrateful grump and thanks Nick. I’m wondering how Nick is possibly going to top this next year, though. He’s set a dangerous precedent!

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