When handled correctly, learning the pasts of characters on shows can bring about some of the most delightful episodes. In the past, I’ve compared New Girl’s ability to do this to one of the best episodes of Friends, “The One With the Embryos,” where a majority of the cast expands on information we already had on the history of these characters by adding hilarious and weird details that make them even greater.
On New Girl, we’ve known that until college, Schmidt was—in the terminology of his friends—known as Fat Schmidt; then something happened and he became Douchebag Schmidt. Yet this transformation started even earlier, going all the way back to when Schmidt was seven years old, and it occurred because of interactions with Schmidt’s best friend. No, not Nick. Michael Keaton. Yes, that Michael Keaton.
As a child, Schmidt’s mother would write him letters as his favorite actor—Michael Keaton—and quickly the two became best friends. When he went to college, Nick took the torch, which led to Schmidt’s transformation from Fat to Douchebag. Now that Schmidt is returning to old habits, such as eating sliced meats and mayonnaise, yelling at the news and biting into chunks of fat boy cheese, it’s time for Jess to dawn the guise of Keaton. For Schmidt, Keaton isn’t the hero he deserves; he’s the hero he needs right now.
When Jess fails at being Keaton, Nick does what he needs to get into Keaton mode: puts on a flimsy Batman cowl, drinks some Jack Daniels and stares at the picture of an angry brown bear. You know, the way we all imagine Keaton gets ready for a role. Together with Winston, the group’s Robin, the trio attempt to get back the Schmidt that they miss.
Last year’s “Halloween” was quite a disappointment for New Girl, especially when you consider so often this show’s characters hide behind aliases and costumes, but “Keaton” more than makes up for it. Not only do we get great costumes from all the characters (Jess is Joey Ramona Quimby, Schmidt is a public serpent, Winston is David Letterman, Nick just grabbed a bunch of stuff from his car to become the Trash King), but we also get wonderful moments from everyone.
After a few weeks of trying to destroy the relationship of Nick and Jess and dealing with his own issues, it’s great to have Schmidt back in friendship mode with Nick. It’s especially nice to see Winston actually in a main storyline and not slowly deteriorating into insanity with Ferguson. It’s also been a while since we’ve seen Cece for this long, and seeing the state of her apartment, it’s nice to know that Schmidt isn’t the only one still dealing with Schmidt’s bad decisions.
“Keaton” ends with Schmidt moving out of Apartment 4D…and moving into Apartment 4C right down the hall. Since Schmidt has been blaming others for his actions and looking for an escape from his past mistakes, it’ll be interesting to see where his mind takes him now that he’s all alone in an apartment to himself. Even more interesting though is who the new roommate in 4D will be, and considering that the next new episode is titled “Coach,” the return of an old friend and the isolation of Schmidt will be fascinating to watch, especially after a fine episode like this to hold us over for a few weeks.