Here is a universal truth: Breakups suck. It doesn’t matter if it’s one-sided or mutual, quiet or explosive, longterm or a shorter fling — whatever the case, breakups will always suck, at least a little bit, no matter how much you try to pretend that they don’t. It’s also a universal life event that’s full of awkwardness, which is why breakups are such great fodder for sitcoms. New Girl is aware of this fact and the show has played around with various approaches in the past (all of the main characters have gone through a breakup at one point or another during these three seasons) but it still manages to tackle the subject in new ways.
“Big News” is about the aftermath of those last few devastating minutes of “Mars Landing,” the minutes where Nick and Jess broke up and shattered shippers’ hopes. Even those who were only mildly invested or lukewarm about the couple have to admit that it was just plain cruel how the show framed the end of the relationship to be nearly identical to its beginning moments in “The Cooler,” right down to the color palette. Then came three excruciatingly long weeks of waiting, us viewers wallowing way more than Nick and Jess ever would.
There is an added layer to Nick and Jess’ breakup. They are no longer together romantically but they are still together in plenty of other ways. They will not stop being friends — that is never going to be an option on this show — and they are also still together as roommates, both in the bigger loft apartment and in the smaller bedroom that they share. The transition back to friendship is hard enough but throw in having to get dressed in your ex-boyfriend’s closet (they’re no longer allowed to see each other naked) and it becomes damn near impossible. Add in the task of keeping this a secret from roommates (not exactly a sitcom original but I’ll take it) and pretending that everything is alright and it’s a surefire recipe for disaster.
Jess and Nick don’t want to break the bad news and ruin Winston’s good day — he passed the police exam! Can’t wait for him to jump ship to Brooklyn Nine-Nine — so they agree to pretend to be dating for another day, long enough for Winston to have a celebratory party. Winston’s idea? A “honey roast” which is just like a roast except everyone says good things about the person of honor. (This is now the theme of all of my upcoming birthday parties.) Jess confides in her mother (who cries about never having grandchildren and instructs Jess that she just needs to get the sperm cookin’) and Nick confides in his silent park friend Tran but it doesn’t take long for everyone else to find out, too.
Cece has decided to get her GED (what a weird arc she’s had this season: model to bartender to aspiring high school graduate) and Schmidt offers to be her tutor. Their tutoring session is immediately interrupted to Jess who informs Cece of the breakup because she needs comfort. Nick, meanwhile, blurts out the news to Coach. Coach’s way of comforting Nick is to give him some of Schmidt’s anti-anxiety pills, resulting in a drugged up and falsely happy Nick explaining to Jess that he’s great and perfectly fine with the breakup — not the answer Jess was looking for. She finds solace in wine, lots and lots of wine, just in time for Winston’s honey roast.
By the point, even Schmidt knows the truth and only Winston is left in the dark. But Winston is happy enough with his honey roast, clad in a fantastic white suit and having successfully convinced one of his roommates to dress up like his cat Ferguson. A druggy Nick piles on the compliments — he’s so cute that teddy bears buy Winstons for their kids — while Jess slurs around next to him and the other three stare at the pair of wrecks, unsure of what to make of the spectacle in front of them. They’re also unsure of what to do and how to make their friends feel better, especially when none of them “know” that this couple has broken up.
The honey roast deteriorates comically, as one would expect, with drunk Jess fumbling around and the two eventually breaking the news to a mostly unsurprised and unfazed room. It’s all New Girl sweet: Winston cares more about what his friends/roommates are going through than he does about his own success (but quickly says that the honey roast will resume tomorrow) and everyone weirdly stands together and hold hands because, what else can you do in this situation? Everyone’s helpless and despite how much Jess wants, they can’t just go live inside of a peach.
Similar to the last episode, there’s another parallel here. Both Nick and Jess revert to their past selves and their past ways of dealing with breakups: he takes swigs from a bottle of liquor and drunk dials Jess, she sobs and watches Dirty Dancing on the couch. It’s easy to say that this is a step back to both of them — how I disliked that earlier version Jess — but they’ve gone through so much growth since then that this reads as something different. This is a step forward in a fantastically written episode and it’s promising the short remainder of the season.