Over the last few weeks, New Girl has given viewers time to digest the shocking breakup of Nick and Jess that came out of nowhere. Yet for Nick and Jess themselves, it’s just the next day, when they now have to redefine their relationship not only personally, but to their friends who have no idea what’s coming.
This wound in “Big News” is still so fresh, Nick even has to write Memento-like reminders on his body so that he’ll remember they broke up. But even though they’re still co-habitating in the same room—thanks to Schmidt moving back into the apartment—Nick and Jess are now back to just friends. Simply put, boob season is over.
Throughout “Big News,” Nick and Jess admit that being apart doesn’t feel right. Jess cries to her mom, while Nick goes to his silent confidant and best friend Tran to open his heart up. They even keep their heartbreak from each other, pretending to be fine with being apart, even when both are having a terrible time. Is this just post breakup depression or is it the realization that maybe they have actually made a bad choice? Unfortunately, at this point, it seems like the former.
I usually have faith in New Girl’s ability to make and break these relationships, considering how it found the perfect moment to bring Jess and Nick together, yet this separation has felt somewhat abrupt. If anything, the entire third season has set up how perfect these two are for each other, how their strengths and weaknesses balance each other so well that it makes sense. What truly worries me about this development is that creator Elizabeth Meriwether has said recently that the show doesn’t usually plan out the arcs too far ahead of time and that she’s hoping this development will rewind the series back to the very beginning.
But, is this a good idea? Much of both Nick and Jess’ character development has relied on the strength they receive from each other and their relationship, so having these character reverting to earlier styles seems like a devolution of this show into the weakest point in the series’ history. However New Girl has always been about friends coming together to overcome problems that seem insurmountable. I’m optimistic about where the Nick and Jess relationship is going, but I’m still wary that it could be sending the show in the wrong direction.
The strength of these friendships is what “Big News” centers around, as the group’s support of Winston to try to join the police academy has paid off, with him finally getting accepted. The friends decide to throw a party for Winston to celebrate, a day that can be all about Winston! I do appreciate how this show has taken its weakness of always having Winston as almost a minor character in terms of story, and has turned it into a hilarious aspect of Winston’s personality.
Nick and Jess decide they will pretend to be a couple as to not detract from Winston’s party; however, Jess tells Cece and Nick tells Coach, so basically before the party begins, everyone knows except Winston. Winston’s party is a “honey roast,” which is a roast, except you say nice things about the person of honor. Nick has thrown himself into the party to keep himself distracted, even creating a throne that looks like what would result if the one from Game of Thrones was made of trash and sporting equipment, and MCing Winston’s roast. Meanwhile Jess has taken upon herself to fulfill Winston’s one wish that Nick won’t take on: dressing up like Winston.
With Nick filled with Schmidt’s anxiety pills and Jess increasingly drunk on wine, Winston’s honey roast quickly becomes about Nick and Jess dealing with their feelings over their breakup. Poor Winston, who can never be the center of attention, sweetly admires the attempt to cover up the break up so as to not ruin his moment. His heartfelt thanks in their show of friendship is almost as adorable as Winston’s yawn that has won over the entire apartment.
With Nick and Jess’ feelings all out there, they can now mourn their relationship separately, but still sort of together. Jess has taken to the couch to watch Dirty Dancing on repeat, while Nick has holed up in their room, drinking and listening along to the movie. Nick calls Jess, giving her a moment of support and some tissues, before calling her honey, to which Jess smiles at before going back to crying. There’s still a chance there maybe in the future, but for now it’s time to mourn the passing of a relationship.
New Girl is currently on shaky ground, but so far is navigating it fine. If the show reverts to its beginning, it could go south fast. When this show started, I railed against the idea that Nick and Jess should be together, but the writing on New Girl has navigated myself and the audience into believing that they are great for each other, by advancing their relationship in a very natural, realistic way. Going back on their recent work could be a disaster, but right now, it’s walking the right side of that fine line.
Ross Bonaime is a D.C.-based freelance writer and regular contributor to Paste. You can follow him on Twitter.