TV Time: New Girl 3.05

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

new girl disappointed

 

*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.

 

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8 thoughts on “TV Time: New Girl 3.05

  1. So I’ve seen this on a number of blogs/posts today, and I’m genuinely curious. A lot of people seem to be excusing Jess’s behavior, for any number of reasons, but they have a real problem with Nick throwing her purses out the window. The bottom line is that – regardless of her good intentions – she stole money from him. She invaded his privacy, overstepped every conceivable boundary of both their friendship and their romantic relationship, and stole money from him. It doesn’t matter that the money wound up paying his bills, it wasn’t hers to take. I regard what she did as just as bad, if not worse, as what he did, and I would have had no qualms with Nick breaking up with her on the spot. In fact, the anger on Nick’s face at the beginning of the living room confrontation felt like the most honest emotion that I’d ever seen JJ portray. And I was sort of annoyed at how Nick eventually backed down when he had every right to be angry.

    Not that Nick is blameless of course. I disliked him on multiple levels last night – as you said, for the first time, I couldn’t figure out why Jess would want to date him. And I finally understood what the writers and cast have been alluding to in interviews when they’ve expressed doubt about the relationship lasting. (BTW, that they’re taking Nick OOC to get that done is beyond infuriating.) But I don’t get why we’re apt to give Jess a pass here.

    I guess I also feel like both of their actions would have been irreparable damage in a “real life” relationship, so the fact that everything was smoothed over with a Nick-rant and a make-out session at the bank really rings hollow.

    • You bring up an excellent point about Jess. Technically, she did steal from Nick, but, if I’m recalling correctly, she wrote him the check at the end to pay him back for the money she took. Nick never apologized for the purses, but at least Jess stepped up and gave him his money back. I’m not saying what she did deserves a pass (and I probably should have mentioned more about how much her characterization felt off in this episode, too—because it did); I’m just saying that she did end up paying him back.

      I echo your frustrations on needing to take Nick OOC in order for his personality to be a true obstacle to their relationship. It rings false to me, and I hope this is the last we see of this kind of overreacting from either half of this relationship. As you said, both of their actions would cause irreparable damage to a relationship in the real world, and that’s not what I want to see from a TV couple I really enjoy watching.

      • She did pay him back, you are right. But I’ve also seen lots of people taking issue with the fact that Nick cashed the check. (For the record, I don’t have a problem with him cashing the check, but I think he should return all of the crap he bought at the mall and get cracking on a repayment plan!)

        Thanks for the outlet for discussion. My husband loves the show too but even he has his limits on over-analysis! 🙂

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  3. I actually liked the change of format. There was a lot wrong with this episode and I think this was a good way to get through it all.

    You’ve already said all of my thoughts about Nick/Jess so I’m going to focus on Schmidt. Max Greenfield somehow made me feel badly for a guy cheating on his girlfriends because he made me believe he didn’t want to hurt them. I want more of that Schmidt – the very flawed but ultimately caring version of him that was completely missing in this episode. He was caught between two girls that represented very different aspects of him and I think he has a hard time integrating those two sides of him, so this storyline could have given him a chance to really be introspective and reconcile “thin” and “fat” Schmidt into one well-rounded person. I think it would have made him a more interesting character and it definitely would be better than the version of him we got last night.

    On a happier note, Winston is continuously cracking me up this season. I really need him to get his own story and not just be the wacky guy in the background.

    • I love everything you said about Schmidt’s storyline. I thought they were really going to take his plot into some deep territory, but the way it was handled in this episode was uninspired. You’re right; Schmidt has a chance to use this to reconcile both parts of himself into one person with a healthier outlook on life and relationships, but instead we’re treated to him whining about whether or not he’s a good person.

      And YES to the idea of Winston getting more screen time! Lamorne Morris is killing everything he’s been given so far this season.

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