For the latter half of this season, New Girl has been trying to get its characters to get out of the stereotypes that were initially put upon them. Jess has become less obnoxiously quirky; Schmidt is prouder to show his soft side. “Tomatoes” harkens back to the earlier ideas of these characters, in an episode that sets us up for the final pair of shows this season.
“Tomatoes” starts off about couples (Jess and Russell, Schmidt and Cece, Winston and Shelby), but Nick is the only one without someone. Since his recent trysts with increasingly younger women have failed, he has taken to growing tomatoes on their roof. Each of these relationships gets tested throughout “Tomatoes.” Jess wants the passion with Russell that he shares with his ex-wife Ouli. Cece isn’t sure if she wants something this serious with Schmidt after their pregnancy scare. Winston and Shelby are doing better than ever, but Nick misses his best friend.
Jess sees the fire in Russell when he’s near Ouli and desperately wants that with him as well. We see Jess’ antics come back in full force, as she uses her childhood tactics to stop Russell and Ouli from fighting in a restaurant by doing a dance routine to Cheap Trick’s “Surrender.” She even attempts to anger Russell by glaring at him and throwing coasters at him. It all feels like early Jess, which is a double-edged sword. Jess has grown with Russell and become more mature, but ever since they have been together, it has seemed as if Jess isn’t quite being herself. Even if she can participate in games of True American with Russell in her apartment, when the two have been together alone, it always seems like Jess has been hiding her true self.
Also, Jess complains that Russell isn’t filled with passion when he’s around her like he is when he’s with Ouli, yet in the first Russell episode “Fancyman,” we see that fire as he confronts Jess about his daughter. Now granted, that was several months ago in New Girl time, but still, Jess has seen that passion. It seemed an inevitability that these two would break up eventually, but the way it is done doesn’t seem like a very rational idea.
The Cece and Schmidt fight seems like just an excuse to see Schmidt back in his true douchebag form. To make Cece jealous, he instantly asks out her roommate Nadia, a borderline insane Russian model. Their date is funny, especially when she explains her likes (sidewalks, Despicable Me, ice skating for fun not to save life), but the episode takes it too far when we see that during sex with Nadia, Schmidt has broken his penis. In last week’s episode “Kids,” we saw Schmidt call Nick in an attempt to make Cece jealous. This was pretty adorable and was Schmidt’s way of making her jealous without going too far. Here, he goes too far in his attempt at jealousy, especially if we are to believe that Schmidt does truly care for Cece.
Nick and Schmidt’s story is fun; any attempt to watch Nick try to do masculine things, like play sports, fix household items and now farm, is usually worth a few laughs. But Nick’s story is there to show his disappointment in not currently having a relationship, leading him to call his ex Caroline again.
New Girl has recently tried to not force the idea of Nick and Jess getting together eventually. Even creator Elizabeth Meriwether has come out and said that Nick and Jess will not so much as kiss in the first season, since they both have much more to learn before they can be together. “Tomatoes” has the most blatant example of this set up however. Immediately after Jess breaks up with Russell for a lack of passion, she finds Nick in bed with Caroline, only to lead Jess and Nick into a Russell-Ouli level fight that ends with them shaking their butts at each other. This is exactly what Jess wants: fights filled with passion, yet just weird enough to not make them too serious. Through the last few episodes, the two might not kiss, but maybe one of them will realize they want the other?
“Tomatoes” just kind of feels false, in general. These characters have grown beyond their original personality quirks. The last half of the season has done a great job of showing the main group staying mostly true to themselves, while also becoming more mature. “Tomatoes” disregards this though in favor of broken penis jokes and allowing Jess to tap dance in a Mexican restaurant. At the very least, “Tomatoes” sets us up for some intriguing final episodes, but with Caroline back, are we going to see more of the old versions of these characters? I hope not.