Title The Box
Two-Sentence Summary After Nick inherits a large amount of money from his deceased father, Jess tries to convince him to use it to pay the pile of bills sitting in a box in his room, which doesn’t go over well with bank-hating, tax-evading Nick, who also refuses to pay Winston back the money he loaned him a long time ago. Meanwhile, Schmidt’s crisis of conscience only worsens after he saves an injured bike messenger from choking to death.
Favorite Line “I performed Heimlich’s maneuver on him.” (Schmidt)
My Thoughts I know this is a little different from my usual New Girl reviewing setup, but I think this broader format will help me share my thoughts a little better than what I’d normally use for a post about this show.
I didn’t like “The Box.” I didn’t like it at all. Don’t get me wrong; I laughed really hard at some points: Winston—who would have been Episode M.V.P. had I used my usual format—wishing for more candelabras; Schmidt sprinting down the street; Schmidt yelling “YOLO!” and singing Hebrew songs; Jess’s night peanuts; “Bobby’s pins;” and the return of Outside Dave. And the scene with Winston telling Schmidt that good people sometimes do bad things did manage to find the balance between sweet, honest, and funny in a way that has come to define my love for this show.
However, the bright spots in this episode (and they did exist) couldn’t make up for its glaring problems with characterization, tone, and continuity. Writer Rob Rossell didn’t seem to have a handle on who these characters really are beyond their more cartoonish qualities, especially when it came to Nick. His script lacked the depth and nuance that a writer like J. J. Philbin brings to her episodes, and, instead, it felt like an exercise in pushing the characters to their worst possible extremes.
Schmidt’s storyline could have been mined for so much more emotional weight, but it just seemed to further highlight the fact that this season is doing this character no favors in terms of making him a sympathetic (or even relatable) character. There have been scenes this season where I completely bought Schmidt’s claim that he didn’t want to hurt either Cece or Elizabeth (mainly thanks to Max Greenfield’s acting), but this episode brought him a huge step backwards with his ridiculous line about being happy to have been with two girls at once. Yes, his discovery that bad things can happen to good people was realistic and relatable, but it shouldn’t have really been a revelation for a character as old as he is.
I think the theme of “good people sometimes do bad things” bled over into Nick and Jess’s plot, too, especially where Nick was concerned. No, Jess shouldn’t have taken Nick’s money without asking him. Yes, she should have been honest with him. But there is no way I’m buying the idea that Jess was in the wrong there. What Nick was doing wasn’t just stupid; it was illegal. All Jess was doing was trying to help him. She has never really tried to change him, so I didn’t understand (or like) Nick’s accusations. Instead, she was merely trying to make sure he didn’t go to jail for all of the things he was keeping in his box.
Here’s the thing about Nick Miller: He avoids responsibility like the plague (which is probably because he grew up having to be too responsible). He acts like an overgrown adolescent sometimes. He gets angry and drunk more often than your average human being. But he is also a man who almost graduated from law school, a man who handled his family’s finances, and a man who genuinely cares about Jess. I can believe Nick carrying his money in a plastic bag or even not paying a couple of parking tickets, but I can’t believe this man who almost became a lawyer would not only be stupid enough to commit tax evasion but wouldn’t admit it was wrong. Nick isn’t an idiot, and one of the things he’s smartest about is not hurting Jess. To see him choose his own apathy over her feelings was a very upsetting setback for a character who we’ve seen go through so much growth.
“The Box” made me question not only why Jess would date a guy like this version of Nick Miller but also why anyone would want to be friends with him. His reaction to Winston’s completely logical hope that Nick could pay him back wasn’t funny; it was obnoxious and nonsensical. And as soon as he began throwing Jess’s purses out of the window because he was mad that she tried to help him, I knew there was no way this episode could be redeemed. If a guy I was dating took my stuff and threw it away like that, it would be over. I know New Girl isn’t reality, but I think we can all admit that was a “douchebag jar” moment if ever there was one.
The episode tried to close on a happy note with the scene between Nick and Jess at the bank, but it felt empty to me. Yes, it was sweet to hear Nick say he would do anything for Jess, but that’s not why he should be opening a bank account. He should be growing as a person because he wants to—not because he feels like it will appease Jess. Also, he really should have apologized for his overreaction, but, instead, we got Jess telling Outside Dave Nick was right about her purses, which infuriated me because she had every right to be mad at Nick. And I really hope Nick was planning on giving Jess her money back rather than opening his own bank account with it. I thought this episode was going to end with real character growth for Nick, but instead it felt like a cheap way to appeal to those who only care about watching Jake Johnson and Zooey Deschanel kiss.
I’m willing to give New Girl a pass on this bump in the road because it was handled by a new writer who I hope they decide not to use again. This show works because we still like its characters even when they’re being ridiculous, but this episode gave me very little to like.
A New Girl GIF* For My New Girl Feelings
*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.