The idea of Jess teaching any group of people seems to be rife with comedic possibilities, but for some reason it never manages to be as great as it should be. When she tried to teach the appreciation of music in “Bells,” dealt with a mean student in “Bully,” or even become a surprise leader to the hipster roommates in “Neighbors,” the episode always seemed to be lacking compared to other loft-based adventures. “Pepperwood” is a different approach to this student-based episode, and it is stronger than previous attempts, but it does still feel not quite up to par.
What makes this week better than past Jess-teaches-others episodes is the introduction of Julius Pepperwood, Nick’s alter-ego—a former cop and Marine from Chicago, who is also one of Jess’ new creative writing students. Nick thinks one of Jess’ students, Edgar, played by Nate Corddry, is writing stories about how he wants to kill Jess. Based on Edgar’s in-class doodles of stabbing deer and his creation of a Jess-like character he plans to kill in the story, it may be a good thing that Julius Pepperwood is on the case. The two go from slightly startled to full-on stalking Edgar to make sure that Jess isn’t going to be one of his stabbing victims.
Back at the loft, Winston finds out about the idea of pogoes, the things that annoy your friends that they talk about behind your back. For Winston, it’s the fact that he always accidentally runs into people with his morning erection. Of course this leads Schmidt to spastically irritate Winston to find out what exactly his pogo is, causing him to shave his eyebrows in a terrifying fashion and interrupt Winston’s showers. Winston finally admits that Schmidt’s pogo is his disgusting toenails. We also find out that Jess’ pogo is that she’s a know-it-all and that Nick’s pogo is that everyone is afraid of how he lives, so they sneak vitamins into his meals and money into his laundry. Like Schmidt, Cece is determined to find out what her pogo is, but she doesn’t get that it’s more of a loft thing.
It never hurts to see this group of friends out of the loft and in a different world than they are used to. Take, for example, Winston and Schmidt trying to buy crack from street youths. Likewise, it is fun to see Jess and Nick/Julius Pepperwood cracking the case of whether or not Edgar is a murderer. Of course it’s all just a big misunderstanding and Edgar is just a fine creative writer. But like Bert Macklin from Parks and Recreation, here’s hoping we see more of Julius Pepperwood and Nick’s newest novel, Julius Pepperwood: Zombie Detective.
It is sometimes nice to just watch these five people go on weird adventures that don’t really have any place in the continual story of the show. There’s no mention of relationships or curiosity about the future of their lives, just a weird mystery and Schmidt’s toenails. There hasn’t been an episode like this since the aforementioned “Neighbors.” While it is enjoyable to see an episode where these characters just act insane, that lack of larger-picture story does bring some disappointment, even if the episode is a lot of fun.