Two-Sentence Summary The sudden death of Nick’s father brings all four roommates to Chicago, where Jess meets the Miller clan for the first time. As Nick takes on the responsibilities of planning an Elvis-themed funeral, Jess tries to support him in any way possible, while Winston helps Schmidt deal with his intense fear of death.
Favorite Line “I really feel transported to the ghetto.” (Schmidt)
Episode M.V.P. You know a television show has really hit its stride when the whole cast is so good on such a consistent basis that you begin to hate the idea of singling one of them out every week for being better than the rest. “Chicago” provided memorable moments for all of the major characters, and every actor brought their A-game to the table once again.
Although Winston and Schmidt had less emotionally intense storylines than Nick and Jess, they both had standout moments of comedy. Winston’s complete breakdown as he attempted to eulogize Walt was hilarious, and Schmidt’s “butt-ton”-induced panic attack was yet another scene for the Max Greenfield highlight reel. (Why are his strange pronunciations of words so funny?) One more potential addition to that reel: the way Schmidt faced his funeral fears (“All day, son!). But because New Girl is becoming the best show on TV at mixing comedy and emotional sincerity, Schmidt and Winston also had a genuinely sweet moment with Schmidt giving a fake (but very heartfelt) eulogy for his friend. I definitely “awww’ed” when he called Winston “the brother I always had.”
While Winston and Schmidt brought the laughs for the majority of the episode, Jess brought the heart. This was some of Zooey Deschanel’s best and most nuanced work to date. Yes, her Elvis impression was hilarious, but it was the way she played the quieter moments of the episode that had me really admiring her talent as an actress and her understanding of this character. I loved the way Jess interacted with Nick throughout the episode. I’m not sure if it was written as such or if it was a decision made by Deschanel, but from the softness in her voice to the gentle way she held Nick’s hand, it was clear that Jess knew how hard this was for Nick, even when he didn’t want to admit it. The scene between the two of them in the bathroom felt real—there was no other way to describe it—and so much of that came from the honesty of Deschanel’s performance. For so long we’ve all been swooning over how much Nick loves Jess, but that scene made it clear that Jess loves him just as much as he loves her. And yes, I am throwing around “the L-word” because if you didn’t get that feeling from watching Jess tell Nick she’s going to be there holding his hand no matter what (and from watching Nick’s reaction to that promise), then I’m not sure we’re watching the same show.
All three of these actors may have been amazing, but this episode once again belonged to Nick Miller. It’s getting to the point where Jake Johnson not getting an Emmy nomination this year just seems ridiculous. The range he had to exhibit this week was truly impressive. I loved what we learned about Nick through what this episode showed us rather than told us. Nick grew up with way too much responsibility thrust upon him at a young age, so his hatred of responsibility suddenly made complete sense. It’s not that Nick doesn’t know how to function as an adult; it’s that he doesn’t want to because once he escaped that house he didn’t have to be responsible for anything anymore—not even himself. Of course Nick doesn’t take care of himself; he was always too busy taking care of his family. Of course Nick is angry all the time; the burden of high expectations, a strained relationship with your father, and being asked to do too much for your family for too long will do that to a person. It’s amazing how one episode can flesh out a character so fully and in such a believable way.
Anytime I talk about Nick, I have to take a moment to mention Johnson’s incredible nonverbal acting. There were so many subtle moments in this episode where a look from Johnson took a scene from good to great or great to exceptional. I especially loved the way his eyes widened with admiration for his dad when he talked about how Walt was never scared, and my heart broke when his eyes closed as he tried to gather his emotions at the end of his eulogy. But the best of Johnson’s facial expressions in this episode were directed towards Deschanel. Please tell me I’m not the only person who just wants someone to look at her the way Nick looked at Jess throughout this episode. That’s love—pure and simple.
Favorite Moment Nick’s eulogy was such a real moment, and each actor gave subtle and perfect reactions to the situation, making it feel grounded in the kind of genuine emotion that makes New Girl such a unique sitcom. For me, the moment really began with Nick watching Jess try her best at being an Elvis impersonator. It was as if you could see him finally accepting that he’s head-over-heels in love with this woman, and he’s done trying to fight it. I’ve spoken volumes already about the magical powers of Jake Johnson’s face, but it can’t be said enough: The man can make me melt into a big, happy puddle like no one else on TV right now.
The eulogy itself was beautiful—sweet without being saccharine, both funny and heartbreaking in a very genuine way. You could feel Nick’s loss, but you could also sense the complex relationship he had with his father. That strained relationship wasn’t lost just to deliver a big dramatic moment. However, we still got an incredibly poignant moment of grief in Nick’s struggle to maintain composure at the end of the eulogy. The tension visible in just his hands was such a perfect detail, and it made the moment Jess reached for his hand all the sweeter.
When Jess took Nick’s hand, his face both broke my heart and made me smile at the same time. He looked so vulnerable but so happy to have her next to him, and it looked like it was taking everything in him not to kiss her right then.
And I especially loved the shots we got of Schmidt, Winston, and Mrs. Miller after Jess took his hand. They know Nick. They love him. They know what a good man he is. They know it better than anyone. And they’ve watched this good man struggle for so many years, trying to take care of his family but failing to take care of himself, letting his fears and anger run his life, and getting his heart broken again and again.
But then they see this girl take his hand. This girl who is willing to dress up in an Elvis costume and sing “In the Ghetto” to a room full of strangers. This girl who stands by his side at one of the hardest moments in his life and has tears in her eyes not because of Walt but because of Nick. This girl who just wants to make sure he’s okay. And they see Nick look back at this girl like she’s his lifeline, his rock. And they smile.
Because they all love Nick in their own ways. They want what’s best for him. And they can see that what’s best for him is Jess. In that moment, Schmidt and Winston aren’t thinking about no-nail oaths or loft dynamics, and Mrs. Miller isn’t thinking about how she doesn’t know Jess’s people. They’re thinking about the fact that the man they all love finally has someone who will hold his hand the second he falters. They’re thinking that maybe—just maybe—Jess could be the best thing to happen to the man they all want the best for.
Jess is the one to ask if he’s okay. Jess is the one to get him to laugh as she starts singing again before she finally gets him to join in. Jess is the one Nick softly tells, “I’m going to be okay, mama.” (Seriously, can we talk about how gorgeous Johnson’s voice was when he said that?) Jess is the one. That’s it. That’s what Nick is coming to see in this moment, and that’s something that’s going to color everything that happens between them from now on. We’ve seen the heat, but this moment allowed us to see the love between Nick and Jess more clearly than ever before.
A New Girl GIF* For My New Girl Feelings
Sometimes, like Jess, I cry when things are really sweet. This was one of those times. “Chicago” was a brilliant episode in terms of character development for both Nick and Jess, and it moved their relationship forward in a subtle but major way. It also combined pathos and humor in a way that felt remarkably true-to-life. In fact, I think this was one of my favorite episodes of New Girl to date because it took what makes the show so special—it’s ability to seamlessly blend comedy and authentic emotional beats—and put it directly on display with genuinely moving results.
*I have no talent for GIF-making. Thankfully, I am highly skilled at searching Tumblr for the best GIFs. I take no credit for this beauty.