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New Girl Review: "Table 34" (Episode 2.16)

February 6, 2013  |  4:57pm
<i>New Girl</i> Review: "Table 34" (Episode 2.16)

In recent weeks, two of the most popular sitcoms on television, The Office and New Girl, have had potentially huge relationship shakeups. On The Office, after nine seasons, we saw behind the camera and met Boom Operator Brian, who has flirted with and watched Pam for almost a decade. Last week on New Girl, we finally got the kiss that has the potential to change the inhabitants of the loft forever when Nick and Jess finally went for it after a heated game of True American. Seeing these two revelations in such close proximity has really made me admire the way New Girl handles this new dynamic.

With The Office, especially with the Jim and Pam relationship, we watched this pairing blossom, grow, get tested, reunite, and after nine years, struggle thanks to Brian. It’s become so expected at this point, that every huge relationship moment for Jim and Pam has generally happened in May just in time for season finales and is always drawn out for a ridiculous amount of time.

But as New Girl deals with its biggest shift in relationship dynamic so far, I almost didn’t expect them to even address it. Sure, Nick and Jess would probably act awkward around each other, but that would most likely be it. The Office, and shows like it, made me assume that these sorts of moments can and should be put in the background, save for a larger moment when the writers could reach out for an emotional grenade.

Not even close with New Girl. In fact, “Table 34” is brave in its approach, showing us the moments after last week’s big kiss and having Nick and Jess fight over it, dissect it, ask their friends about it and straight-up deal with it in a way that most sitcoms rarely ever do.

New Girl knows that people have been waiting for the moment of the Nick and Jess kiss, but what really matters is what happens after the kiss. The kiss can be insanely romantic, but it is the impact of it that changes the infrastructure of New Girl. So what we get in the moments after is Nick and Jess understandably freaking out. Nick can’t believe what he’s done, and Jess lies in bed all night with Sam, pretending to be asleep. When Jess tries to confront Nick right away, he nervously moonwalks away—and poorly I might add.

Jess immediately runs to Cece, telling her the details and how, yeah, sure, maybe while kissing Nick, she saw through space and time, but they’re just friends. Nick wants to confide in someone, but Winston is too hyped up from finding his mojo again and Schmidt is busy getting ready for an Indian marriage convention (because of course Cece will be there). With Nick and Jess both separately needing their friends and Winston just wanting to show off his mojo, all five of them go to the Indian marriage convention.

This premise just sounds like it would be horrible. The guys come wearing turbans, Love Guru jokes are made, and the potential’s there for it to be awful. But instead, it works really well as a way to give us different group dynamics than we expect and forces these five to deal with their relationships. The group is split up by their personality traits into their own tables. For example, Cece and Nick have to sit at Table 34 together since they are both college dropouts who work part-time. Why Schmidt and Jess are seated at Table 7 together makes no sense and is never explained, but it doesn’t matter.

No matter how hard they try, Nick and Jess keep proving they would make a great couple. After Nick says it was a nothing kiss, like kissing a cousin, Jess pushes that she believes it was something more than that. Later, when one of the conference activities is to make a table out of newspaper and tape, the two accidentally make the best one that won’t even budge with Nick and another man jumping on it. No matter what they do, fate seems to want to bring them together. When Sam gets to the conference, he realizes something is up, and he and Jess finally break up, as they’ve always been more like bros with benefits anyway.

It may seem now like all the pieces are in place for Nick and Jess to get together, but if The Office has taught us anything, it’s that things can never be that easy. There will always be another Roy or Karen type to get in the way. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be another New Girl relationship that seems to be working out, or at the very least advancing: After defending Cece from insults thrown by potential suitors, Schmidt ends up with Cece for the night, as they jump into bed with the turban on.

As the episode comes to a close, Jess is crying, drinking wine and listening to Taylor Swift because of her unfortunate breakup, and in comes Nick Miller. He’s no longer moonwalking, but rather ready to discuss what has happened in the last 24 hours. Nick apologizes for being the reason Jess and Sam broke up and the two reconcile, but after an awkward hug, both of their eyes say that things aren’t really going to be the same again between them.

It feels like most shows nowadays take their time to address relationship issues, and there is something exciting about the building anticipation. But New Girl isn’t like most sitcoms. The relationship between Nick and Jess had been building in the eyes of the viewers, but never in the eyes of Nick and Jess. It just worked out naturally. Now in the day following what may or may not have been a mistake, the two discuss it like normal people probably would, instead of drawing it out for months, years or forever. Because when we get right down to it, New Girl remains—and most likely will always remain—a television show about a group of friends, rather than one focusing on a central relationship. New Girl knows that, and as of right now, so do Nick and Jess.

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