One of the big reasons I’ve been looking forward to Season 4 of New Girl, besides the continued exploration of the Nick/Jess break-up, is that we finally get a season when all of the characters are single at the same time. Relationships can obviously be good for sitcoms but it’s the awful awkwardness of the dating scene that provides the most laughs, especially when everyone involved can barely be considered adults. In “Dice,” it’s Jess who dives back into the dating world and, of course, she’s not very good at it.
“Dice” refers to an online dating app, the now preferred dating-leads-to-hijinks sitcom favorite since “speed dating” and “scheduling two dates at once” have now gone out of style. It’s essentially identical to Tinder except you swipe up and down instead of left and right. Dice is Schmidt’s new go-to for finding women to hook up with and he’s predictably good at it but urges Jess to stay far away. Curiosity (and maybe some loneliness) gets the best of her and she tries Dice anyway but immediately fails and has to enlist Schmidt to teach her Online Dating 101.
In a comedy like New Girl that has such a talented and funny cast, it’s always interesting when they get switched around and paired up with cast members they don’t normally spend alone time with, and to see who has good chemistry together. “Dice” pairs Schmidt and Jess together on her dating quest while everyone else hangs out with each other. The Schmidt/Jess dynamic can be an odd one because they’re both such different people who have different ideals and goals in life — and vastly different outlooks on the world — and so they often don’t spend a lot of time together.
In fact, when you really think about it, the biggest thing Jess and Schmidt share is how much they care about, and take care of, Nick. Nick is a mess but would be even more of a mess if Schmidt wasn’t around to whip him into shape and if he didn’t spend that last season with Jess helping him to the very basic of adult things. Outside of that, I can’t remember the show really expanding a lot more on their friendship — please correct me if I’m wrong; I haven’t rewatched any of the show — but they do work together in the context of this episode.
Most of their scenes go together much as you would expect from these characters but it doesn’t make it any less entertaining. Schmidt is a dating expert and a bootcamp instructor all at once, barking advice at Jess about how to act on dates and the type of guys to avoid. Jess is a wide-eyed student who is both ready to learn but hesitant to get back out there, crippled by the general insecurity that comes with meeting new people for the first time. Schmidt sweetly helps her gain confidence by liking her to the last piece of pie and her potential dates as all the fat men that want her. She’s the best girl on Dice, he says, and she finally starts to believe it.
She’s a little too good at this, quickly shutting down guys (Velcro shoes = pervert) and monotonously, blatantly giving fake excuses to bail (“An important document has gone missing. I need to find it” is my new favorite excuse for when I need to quickly exit an awkward situation). This backfires when she meets a sweet guy but her Dice Warning Signs give her the wrong impression and she shuts him down. She gets him to come back but her instincts were right: He isn’t for her but not for the reasons she thought. Nope, he’s a magician and she wants nothing to do with him. So we get the expected conversation between her and Schmidt where he admits that he just wants to date and date and date forever while she is going on dates in order to find love. It’s not a game-changer, but it’s nice, which is what I think this season might shape up to be.
Meanwhile, in a wonderful if not also trope-filled subplot, a couple of stoners go to a cookout! Worried about what they won’t be allowed to do once Winston becomes a police officer, the rest of the friends decide that they should smoke weed one last time — or one first time for Coach. Winston is having trouble become friends with his fellow police cadets so, not knowing that everyone else is high, has his friends accompany him to make him look better. It’s almost a bummer that this plot isn’t just the full 22 minutes because there’s nothing much funnier than these faux adults trying not to be high while literally surrounded by cops. There are hugs, a kicked over grill, and conversations with a dog until they finally seek solace in a closet — until Winston has his cop friends hilariously scare the shit out of them. It’s such a perfect subplot that doesn’t require anything more or less than what it is.