Not since Parks and Rec‘s “Galentine’s Day” have I seen a Valentine’s Day-themed episode of anything that successfully plays the friendship card — until last night. “The Crawl” was an unfettered look at what it’s like when Nick Miller, anti-planner extraordinaire, calls the shots. And it was as glorious as a slightly contrived holiday-themed sitcom episode gets.
Still reeling from his breakup with Kai, Nick sits shiva in his manchild cave for more than a week. Magically, it’s Valentine’s Day when he emerges, covered in gravy and eager to socialize. He announces to the group that attendance is mandatory at his smiley face-shaped bar crawl, which can now be completed due to the opening of a new bar. Right, because new bars are often throwing grand openings on Valentine’s Day. Whatever, at least Nick will stop binging on the comic strip “Cathy” now, much to Schmidt’s disappointment. (There’s truly nothing sadder than a “Cathy” binge on Valentine’s Day, ACK!)
As unlikely as this premise is, the set-up is strong. In New Girl world, a structured set-up that manages to wrangle the whole cast into one place — let alone numerous bars specifically created for the episode — for an extended amount of time counts for a lot. It’s when the zaniest jokes tend to happen, with Nick performing his lone wolf weirdness for the group and Winston trying (and failing) to downplay his own.
And so, the group humors Nick, knowing that he needs this but never letting him know that they know. Nick’s emotionally blocked baby thing is getting old for me, but the abundance of covert camaraderie it inspires in the roommates is downright heartwarming. Jess and Ryan — hereby anointed the oh-so-tragic nickname of “Jyan” — postpone dinner plans to join the Crawl. Schmidt rushes over after his Ken doll shift with Councilwoman Moscato (great name). Cece… well, we haven’t had a big Cece personal life freakout in a few episodes, so I’m not sure what else she would have been doing besides masking dead-end feelings about her future by trying to keep up with Nick at the bar and working up the courage to admit she belongs with Schmidt. On call for the job he’s taking so seriously, Winston gets the opportunity to ‘other’ himself further by taking on a role I’m surprised he hasn’t played until now: Backpack Guy. As in life, he’s kinda creepy, but ultimately quite helpful.
As the gang moves through the crawl, they collect outcasts along the way. With a catchy motto to chant (“The crawl is for all”), I’d buy Nick as a cult leader. In fact, I think I like Nick the best when he’s convincing others to join in with his delusional scheming. It really allows you to forget how gross you’d find him if he were your own roommate.
As much as “The Crawl” was one of the New Girl‘s great celebrations of freaks, the episode had a little something for the lovebirds as well. Coach keeps running into the same woman, May. He tries (and fails) to pull his lame moves on her, but she seemingly agrees to the long game with him by offering up her email address. With Damon Wayans Jr. leaving New Girl again, why would the writers introduce an involved plotline like that? Maybe they’re going to have him ghost once he gets into a serious relationship, like Coach always does.
When Ryan floats the notion of Jess moving in with him, she panics. (He makes a succinct argument though: “I have my own home. You live in a loft with four guys and and urinal.”) I can’t help but wonder the same thing Jess does about Ryan as a character: when will the other shoe drop with him? He’s too perfect. Why am I still shipping Jess and Nick when Ryan is the ideal guy to play off Jess’s zaniness? I think it’s because I just don’t believe it fully. Now what happens — he turns down a headmaster job at his alma mater back in England, Jess moves in, and he ends up resenting her? Well, at least they’ll end up friends, as Jess’ head-scratching current relationship with Nick proves.