More than anything, New Girl‘s Season 4 finale makes the case for why Season 5 should be the series’ last. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — the episode was mostly enjoyable, if not a bit predictable, and featured a surprisingly emotional farewell to Coach — but it also showed that maybe New Girl has run its course. Some storylines have come to a close and some have become too repetitive to remain consistently entertaining. But “Clean Break” was, at least, a pretty nice way to end an uneven season.
Coach’s (and Damon Wayans Jr’s) departure from New Girl has been well known for a while now and from the second May was introduced, it was clear how they would write him off: get the two together and then sail ’em away. His goodbye is done well, especially since the writers have been able to give him a proper exit since they weren’t caught by surprise. The episode focuses on Coach’s “clean break” strategy that he’s previously honed by moving around a lot. His plan is to move across the country with a duffel bag full of “essentials” and nothing else; everything deemed “nonessential” (from photos of Jess to, he claims at one point, memories). Nick, a total hoarder, and Schmidt both try this clean break approach just to clear cutter out of their own lives. Nick isn’t very good at it (he wonders if an “ant farm full of wrappers” counts as essential) while Schmidt gets stuck on a box full of Cece’s stuff, including the $5 bill he had to put into the douchebag jar (!) during the first time he met her.
But then, because this is New Girl, they all get distracted by Nick and Jess’ break-up that happened over a year ago.
They come across the ex-couple’s “sex mug” which is much less gross than it sounds. It turns out, because the loft is always so crowded, Nick and Jess used the mug to signal when either one wanted to have sex by placing it on the counter “butt out.” This bit is funny but then the show decides to reopen the Nick/Jess case file by revealing that one of them had placed the mug on the counter just last week — as evidenced by a selfie Winston took with his cat. (Oh yeah, the cat’s back!) Thus, the “Are Nick and Jess still into each other?” question that we all knew was coming eventually is finally out in the open.
Nick takes the rap for the mug but we quickly learn that it was actually Jess who put the mug out in a moment of wine-induced weakness. It leads to a conversation between the two when they wonder if the door is still open for their relationship or if they are truly over each other. It’s a mostly roundabout conversation but well, that’s how their dynamic usually is. It does, however, make the Cece/Schmidt back-and-forth 100x more tolerable in comparison.
Last week, Schmidt broke up with Fawn, leading to a presumable reconciliation with Cece but Cece decided to climb a mountain for whatever reason, providing the show with another obstacle. The will-they/won’t-they thing was much better the first time around, and watching the two have a shaky but blossoming friendship has been one of the highlights of this season (the other highlight being Cece’s existence in general, especially in episodes like “Walk of Shame”). As I’ve complained practically every week something like this happens, it’s always disheartening to see Cece’s main narrative be directly tied into Schmidt’s: his wanting her or not wanting her, his other girlfriends, and so on.
That all said, this episode does do their little dance justice. Schmidt gets up the nerve to finally declare he’s done with Cece — because he has no idea that she’s in love with him; Winston tries to convince Jess that they have to tell him but Jess refuses to meddle again — and throw away his box of Cece memories. As soon he does, he immediately regrets it and ends up paying $500 to essentially get $5 back. When he finally does learn that Cece loves him (his reaction is adorably endearing), he plans to trek up the mountain to find her … only to open the front door and see Cece standing right there. How beautifully contrived! But effective nonetheless. Their reunion is nicely done, but culminates in a proposal that I could do without but hey, at least it’s better than Nick and Jess suddenly getting engaged, right? But really, it’s the performances that sell it — not just Max Greenfield and Hannah Simone but the rest of the loft as well who listen in and celebrate appropriately, even hugging each other.
The end of the episode nicely sets up Season 5. Coach has a satisfying goodbye with Winston and is now heading to New York, but will surely return as a guest star for Cece’s wedding. Schmidt and Cece are officially engaged and will probably spend most of the next season planning their wedding before a big sweeps blowout episode. Nick and Jess decided to chuck the sex mug once and for all before each of them individually snuck out late at night to retrieve the mug (because hey, they’re not over each other!) only to find it missing (Winston gave it to his cat) but are each secretly delighted to believe the other still has interest. They will surely spend Season 5 dancing around each other before getting together, and that will be that. Why go even further? Let Season 5 wrap everything up, and let our characters go out on a high note.