Man, when New Girl gives us a great episode, it really gives us a great episode, and last night, that came in the form of “Birthday,” definitely my favorite episode of New Girl of this season, and one that will probably be near the top of my all-time favorites list from this show. “Birthday” featured laughs, a great character and couple storyline for Nick and Jess, and one heck of a heartwarming, guest star-featuring conclusion.
As the title would suggest, “Birthday” focuses on Jess’s birthday and her sometimes unrealistically ambitious expectations for her special day. (I loved the flashback we got to Jess reading the label on the shirt that Cece got her. “Made in China! You’re taking me to China?”) However, while these wild hopes and dreams of birthday surprises have caused Jess to spend the day at the movies by herself for her past few birthdays, this year, thanks to Nick, she has a surprise party waiting for her. The only problem is distracting Jess for the entire day before the party starts, an issue that, as we see throughout “Birthday,” Nick was not prepared to handle, ultimately resulting in some quite hilarious moments and one emotional exit from Jess.
And even though the buildup of this episode is great, from everything with Nick and Jess together in the apartment and then in the park, to Schmidt helping Cece bartend, to Coach and Winston’s bake-off, it’s during the last ten minutes of the episode where “Birthday” transforms from a typical good New Girl episode and reaches the heights of a great one. Jess sits in the dark movie theater, believing that she is alone again, left to sulk and gorge herself on popcorn on yet another disappointing birthday, but that all changes the moment Nick appears on the movie screen and then in-person in the seat next to Jess. The whole theater is lit up to reveal Jess’s best friends calling out “Surprise!” and the video on the screen features person after person (main characters like Cece, Winston, and Coach and returning favorites like Jess’s mom, dad, Tran, and even Bearclaw) wishing Jess a happy birthday and stating why she is so important to them.
But in the end (of both the video, and in the grander scheme of things), it all comes down to Nick, whose birthday movie for Jess, specifically through his confession that he continues to hold onto a coin in his pocket that he had in there on the night that he and Jess first kissed, proves that their love is worthy of the big screen. New Girl is not a traditional sitcom, and Nick and Jess’s romance is not your typical rom-com, Hollywood story, but frankly, that’s what makes it so special. That’s why it truly deserves to be called cinematic.
– Schmidt’s CGI-filled birthday messages to Jess were great and totally convinced that I could watch an entire New Girl spinoff-spoof movie of Schmidt running away from dinosaurs and explosions.
– Coach has never been funnier than in his bake-off with Winston, and his whole monologue about the word “moist” and girls’ reactions to it was the highlight for me.
– The rebuilding of Schmidt and Cece’s friendship was handled very nicely tonight. Aside from one small remark, Schmidt never attempts to hit on Cece, and he doesn’t feel the need to stand up and “save her.” Instead, he gives her tips on how to make drinks and offers advice. It’s the most mature we’ve seen Schmidt act with Cece in a while, and it made their little exchange at the end (“You called me your friend.” “Did I?”) feel totally earned.
– I really love how the New Girl writers subtly hit the point that Jess was afraid that Nick had reverted into an old, less mature version of himself, when she told him that he wasn’t the type of guy who planned things out. One of the most heavily criticized parts of New Girl’s third season has been the Nick/Jess relationship and how it’s changed the characters for better/worse, and I think we see here how with Jess (and through revelations like the fact that he passed the bar exam), Nick has been able to step up and be the guy he has always wanted to be, someone worthy of Jess’s love and their relationship.
– Schmidt needs to work on his motivation skills, as his list to Cece of people who didn’t graduate high school takes a darkly comedic turn: “Einstein, Bill Gates, Anne Frank…I’m gonna take back that last one.”
– It was so wonderful to see all the cameos in Jess’s birthday video, from Josh Gad as Bearclaw to Outside Dave showing up, to Jamie Lee Curtis and Rob Reiner making brief guest appearances as Jess’s parents. Top honors have to go to Tran, though. I’m sorry, Nick Miller, but Tran will always be my favorite New Girl character.
– Damon Wayans Jr.’s delivery of certain words and phrases is the absolute best. I’m still cracking up as I think about how Coach laughed at Winston and said, “You make mistakes!”
– “This is the coin I had in my pocket the first night we kissed. And I always have it. Happy birthday, Jess.” – Nick Miller
– New Girl is now on a short break until it returns back on February 2nd with its post-Super Bowl, Prince-guest starring episode. Hopefully, New Girl can provide another gem like “Birthday” as it will likely be watched by its largest audience ever.
What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of New Girl?
[Photo via Greg Gayne/FOX]