Schmidt's crazy company holiday party was the setting for last night's New Girl, which fell short of its hilarious high water mark set by "Cece Crashes" and "Bad in Bed" but was still an enjoyable episode overall.
"The 23rd" was one of those installments that wasn't quite as fall-down funny as you'd think, even with all the humorous elements in place and despite a bunch of memorable quotes and genuinely sweet moments.
Maybe like the guys, my comedic expectations for the party were just too high. Don't get me wrong, though, it was a solid installment from one of my favorite new shows of the season, for numerous reasons.
It's was interesting that Schmidt, who fancies himself as a player, and who we saw relish the role of being the only man in his workplace last week, found being Sexy Santa so humiliating and degrading.
Self-respect, it turns out, is more valuable than any dirt that his drunk co-workers might spill while on Santa's lap. Even for Schmidt. In cases like this, Max Greenfield's character is delightfully complex.
Schmidt somehow manages to go out of his way to be a douche without having the audience hate him. It's a fine line to tread, but he pulls it off, since somewhere beneath that exterior lies a real softie.
His homemade perfume gift idea was beyond bad, but it helped Cece - fans hoping to see more of the gorgeous and humorous Hannah Simone finally got their wish - reconsider the guy she was dating.
She wasn't the only one who realized their relationship wasn't working, of course.
After Paul dropped the L-bomb on Jess, she responded with an awkward "thank you." This was quite unexpected since Jess, as she herself noted, is totally the type of girl who loves harder than anyone.
Besides, Paul is such a nice guy, and the sex - Nerdy Weird Sex That Works for Both of Us (No Returns or XXX-Changes), according to her card - is great. How could she not reciprocate?
It didn't help that in an attempt to console him, Nick unknowingly revealed to Paul that Jess didn't love him back. There was no going back from there, since she wasn't ready to move that fast. Her anatomically correct heart just wasn't in it.
I enjoyed this twist as it meant Zooey Deschanel playing against type a bit, and with Justin Long out of the picture, I wonder if this will reignite the "will they / won't they" questions surrounding Nick and Jess. Personally, I hope not, as I enjoy their dynamic as is and don't think the show needs to go that obvious route.
Winston, meanwhile, made major strides in connecting with that cute, troubled kid. If this lands him a job, it'll go a long way toward defining his character, which has lagged a bit compared to the other roommates. If nothing else, it should boost confidence to be called LeBron ... if you can consider that a compliment these days.
Growing pains and minor character inconsistencies aside, the chemistry improves each week among the fab four. Despite my undying love for Deschanel, New Girl is at its best with the cast gelling as an ensemble, rather than the guys merely serving as ancillary props for her adorkableness. Even Zooey needs balancing.
The concluding scene, in which they revisited Candy Cane Lane and implored residents to turn on their lights at 4 a.m., was emblematic of how far the sitcom has come already. Their friendship is strong and the whole crew close-knit enough that they would totally do that - not just to cheer up Jess, but for their collective amusement.
Here's to 2012, New Girl. A few closing thoughts and random observations:
- At Cece's "Before and After" shoot, was it okay to laugh at the former?
- Men on roller skates and stick-on mustaches are both never not funny.
- If you haven't seen it, check out Schmidt's online dating profile.
- Why does the most sensitive guy, Nick, give such terrible presents?
- And seriously, Nick. There are 11 a.m. flights. Figure something out.
What did you think of last night's episode? Discuss it below!