“New Girl” review: “Clavado En Un Bar”

new girl

Isn’t it nice to see a show hit its stride like New Girl has? All the characters defined (mostly), knowing what they do the best, how they talk and how to use them best. I feel like this episode, the halfway mark of season 3, set the table and refocused things for the rest of the year and beyond for everyone.

Jess’ higher-paying job offer to work as a fundraiser at a museum leads to the group reminiscing about big career decisions they’ve made in their lives. We get more insight into Winston’s European basketball career and why he even played the game, Schmidt (Sorry. The glorious Fat Schmidt!) as an expert Christmas tree salesman turned marketer, why the increasingly useless Coach always has a stopwatch, Nick’s hatred of law school and love of bartending, and Jess’ encouragement for a young student who’s now a Madoff-style embezzler.

I really feel like this show deals with issues that haven’t been handled on TV before, or often elsewhere. Schmidt, for all intensive purposes, should be hated. He’s a totally shallow, womanizing douche to the highest degree, but we love him. That’s probably due mostly to the great work by Max Greenfield, but whenever we see Fat Schmidt or when he makes a clever, pop culture-infused aside, you can’t hate him like you would most characters of his ilk. Likewise with this episode. On paper, a bottle episode about friends talking about career choices sounds dull, but it’s so relatable to a lot of people in their late twenties and early thirties (me!) who are at a career crossroads and figuring out if they’re doing or even should pursue what they love, or just try to find any job that pays well. The wrong choice could make you miserable. So when Jess decides, with help from the group, to stay at her underfunded, overcrowded school as a teacher over the museum job, we don’t hate her for it. Jess loves to teach, and in a sweet moment involving her first meeting with CeCe, she can touch and help people as an educator. Or now, interestingly, as a potential school principal.

Further integrating CeCe is welcome as well. You can tell it was always tricky for the writers to have her with the group because of her “modeling” (and Schmidt-ing). Hopefully¬†she’ll have a bigger presence on the show now that she’s bartending (albeit, glass-shatteringly) with Nick. Winston quitting his often-ignored sports radio job just opens up more hijinks for the indecisive one. The thing that he’s good at, it appears, is being a puzzle for the writers.

The reveal that Nick did pass the bar exam and chose bartending simply because he loves it more is noble and interesting. I don’t know many girlfriends who’d love to hear that, but Jess isn’t a normal girl and we love her for it. Nick’s maturity within the group trumps his lack of ambition for traditional wants and needs, life or career-wise. Having this relationship as the center of the show gives it more of a heart than it did before when it was just Jess the Adorkable.

Also, Kevin ’97 should be upgraded to a series regular and provide a full rendition of Madonna’s horrible “This Used to Be My Playground” from A League of Their Own. Which is not a baseball movie, Nick.