‘New Girl’ Season 3, Episode 4 Recap: “The Captain”

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I hate to say it, but I’m so, so bored with Nick and Jess. They are both great characters, but when they get together, I get why the will-they-or-won’t-they trope is so persistent in sitcom relationships. The further we get into this season, the more the increasingly functional Nick and Jess annoy me. But why is it that audiences are so famously turned off by happy couples? Is it because they’re uninteresting? Is it because we’re jealous? Personally, it’s the lack of compelling challenges that frustrates me. Personal growth usually comes from going to extreme places, and if things feel too comfortable, the plot can get really boring, really fast.

Then again, will-they-or-won’t-they is also pretty detrimental to character development, and season after season of sexual tension is just as annoying as putting your characters into a happy relationship, if not more. So as much as Nick and Jess bug me, I might’ve been wrong about them all along. I’ve been anticipating this couple’s dissolution for weeks now, but last night’s episode made me think that I might have been looking for problems where there aren’t any. Maybe these kids really can make it!

Schmidt is just as bothered by these lovebirds as I am, and last week, he vowed to break up Jess and Nick because of their supposed role in his stupid, dead-end love triangle. His weapon is, of course, sex. Schmidt excels in making his lovestruck roommates get uncomfortable with one another. He indirectly prevents them from having sex after getting into Nick’s head, which leads Jess to idiotically ask Schmidt for advice. He describes an unspeakably deviant sex act called “The Captain,” an act so disconcertingly kinky that both Nick and Jess have trouble forming words after they’ve done it. As they struggled to look at each other, I was on pins and needles to see if this was the catalyst that would break them apart.

But that would be too easy, and Schmidt appears to have forgotten just how weird Jess and Nick are. They make up in a really strange series of confessions, mostly on Nick’s part, and problems are resolved all too quickly. Yet the resolution didn’t feel cloying or easy — it felt like Jess and Nick were acknowledging that they’d seen the worst of each other, and they were both still in. I wondered if their questionable willingness to listen to Schmidt was an admission of insecurity about their relationship, but these kids seem to be cozy — for now, at least. I’d be interested to see if Jess ends up getting bored with Nick’s newly open, talkative streak, and that’s a potentially interesting development, but they seem to be in the clear at the moment. Why not let them have it?

Of course, the other thing plaguing Schmidt is the evolution of the apartment that’s been occurring since Jess moved in. In the midst of his sabotage, Schmidt keeps saying he wants “to get this place back to the way it was,” but that’s out of the question, especially because the seeds for this current predicament were there from the beginning. Nick always had a clear soft spot for Jess, and the question wasn’t if they’d get together, but when. This has been coming for a long time, and what happens next will be the real test of everyone’s friendships. I’ve seen this scenario go down in real life, and the solution is usually to move out. That outcome doesn’t seem to be a huge deal when it happens off-screen, but these codependent characters are so strangely, endlessly dedicated to making their living situation work. It’d be sweeter if it didn’t seem a bit sad.

That sage Winston totally understands, and he confirms the suspicion I’ve had for awhile: “Ain’t no way in hell I got a cat brothel goin’ on in my room and I’m the only normal person in this loft.” Well, OK, I didn’t see a cat brothel coming. Yes, Winston had another stupid plot this week. On his way to neuter Ferguson, Winston gets sad that his cat will never know physical love, so he goes on a weird, weird mission to get Ferguson laid. At the pet store, he meets a flirtatious Riki Lindhome (of Garfunkel and Oates), who hopes that the silly cat date Winston schedules is just a cute way of asking her out. Unfortunately, by the end of the episode, she realizes Winston’s strange fixation and leaves, and Winston only gets it once she’s out the door (which is a huge shame, and not just for him — I was hoping the delightful Lindhome would stick around for at least an episode or two).

He doesn’t seem too broken up about it — in fact, Winston seems to heal from most of his internal ordeals much, much faster than everyone else. He continues to reveal that he’s very smart about other people’s problems, but perhaps a little too distracted to see his own. Once again, I’m convinced there was a breakthrough that’ll make way for Winston to finally get a decent story line, or even just some sort of nice, uncomplicated development in his life. Nevertheless, we’ll probably see another really dumb plot by next week, but it’s nice to that he’s not too broken up about his weird life. He seems like he’s having fun, and you really never know what stupid adventure he’ll go on next. I still think Winston’s weirdness is mostly due to the writers having no idea what to do with him, but just like Jess and Nick’s annoyingly happy relationship, this works for now.

For the first time this season, I don’t have the feeling that everything’s going to fall to shit next week. The apartment seemed to get a bit calmer after this episode, and that doesn’t have to be bad thing. This is a sitcom, after all, and just because problems feel a bit lighter, it doesn’t mean characters didn’t go through hell on the way to a tidy ending. But obviously, this is far from the end — we’ve got a long, long season ahead of us, and the problems of New Girl are far from resolved. Schmidt’s probably going to be an emotional wreck for most of this season, and Jess and Nick remain aware that their relationship could fall apart if they let it. But in a weird way, most of the loft residents look happier than they have in a long time, and I’ve got no problem letting them enjoy it while they can.