New Girl Season Premiere Review: “All In” (Season 3, Episode 1)

all in trimmed1 New Girl Season Premiere Review: “All In” (Season 3, Episode 1)

New Girl is finally back and season 3 has begun! “All In” picks up at the end of the last episode, giving us a quick recap of where we were with regards to Nick and Jess, and what happened on the drive home. Well, they did get back to the loft – to the door at least – before realizing that behind that big brown door lies all their problems, issues, everything that could conceivably come between them. In an effort to avoid this they get back in the car, drive around a little more, during whch Nick is slowly lulled to sleep. When he awakes, he discovers that Jess has driven them to Mexico.

OK, I know what you’re thinking – is New Girl really going for broke, getting big and broad this season? The show has always experimented with big broad comedy in some respect – the beaver at the wedding, the dead man in the park, Jess and the potential serial killer student – but if ever the show was going to get really broad, it would be in its third season. But really? Mexico? This is where the title of the episode comes in to play. Having not known what the episode was called before watching it, I took a stab at the title being “All In,” so often is that phrase used. It’s a becomes a catchphrase between Jess and Nick to denote reckless enthusiasm in their developing relationship, to give priority to their shared needs against all sanity, logic, or legality. Jess or Nick exclaiming “all in!” is usually a precursor to a plot point, or setpiece.

Case in point: in Mexico, Jess and Nick are on the beach. They’ve only been there a couple of days but Nick’s clothes are destroyed, Jess sports a rather fetching hair braid, and they don’t have any money left. Desperate, Nick spots a beachside resort. Using the reasoning that “Paradise Nick” (ahh! the aliases return!) is much more chillaxed about everything, Jess agrees (as Paradise Jess) that they should attempt to break in. All in!

Meanwhile, Schmidt is still stuck between Elizabeth and Cece. Such a physically mismatched love triangle is refreshing to see in a mainstream sitcom, where normally Elizabeth would be kicked to the kerb the moment Cece arrived on the scene, and that classic sitcom staple of the threesome relationship leads to some very funny situations. Schmidt continue to date them both, telling each that he rejected the other. Of course, he has the best of intentions (combined with a generous portion of lily-liver), and genuinely doesn’t want to hurt either of their feelings. This can’t end well… can it?

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301 006 new girl all in trimmed New Girl Season Premiere Review: “All In” (Season 3, Episode 1)

Indeed it doesn’t – not for Winston, anyway, who becomes inexorably drawn into Schmidt’s web of deception in a most humiliating way. That he was outed as a fictional pervert before Cece is bad enough, but by going along with Schmidt’s scheme and lying to her he is now complicit, a bone of contention that remains for the rest of the episode. Speaking of Winston: his love of pranks was rammed home to us throughout the last season. His defining feature throughout season two was his love of pranks – that he memorably goes either “way too small, or way too big,” culminating in him kidnapping and releasing a beaver into the vents of Cece’s wedding venue, during the ceremony – basically, Winston loves pranks. Not in this episode though, not at all. Pranks are not mentioned once. It seems like Winston’s feature this season, for he can apparently only have one dimension to his character, is his love of puzzles.

Now, this is the part of the episode that really, really didn’t work. Winston’s running gag is that he is attempting to complete a jigsaw puzzle, and having real trouble doing it. That is Winston’s story for this episode. Literally all of it. It’s a really long set up for a gag at the end that just isn’t worth it at all. Sure, it’s funny to put Schmidt into Winston’s jigsaw situation, to quickly vent a few audience frustrations, but that’s because Schmidt is such a rounded, living, breathing character of explosive comedic joy that, at this point, putting him in any situation guarantees that laughter will ensue. His shouting at Winston and subsequent confrontation scene is one of the episode’s funniest moments, even though the whole premise of the scene is pretty weak.

That the fight occurs after Winston covers for Schmidt in the confrontation with Cece shows not only that he is a total douchebag – nothing new there – but also that he remains resolutely ungrateful at Winston’s sacrifice, not even understanding the basics of what he did. Schmidt has no shame, which is also nothing new, exemplified perfectly by his comedic escalation of Winston’s fictional perversions in their scene with Cece. There was no reason for Schmidt to declare that Winston wanted him to smuggle some of Cece’s underwear out without her knowledge, just as there was no need for Winston to take it a step further and say that he wanted to sew them into his own underwear.

Presumably, Winston was trying to desexualise stealing someone’s underwear by turning it into less an act of gratification and more a psychological compulsion, but it quickly turned to disgust from both Cece and Schmidt – the latter being architect of the entire situation in the first place. The speed with which his mood switched from disgusted to thankful as Cece left was hilarious, as was Winston’s changing facial expressions as Cece looked from Schmidt to him and back again in utter disbelief. The whole scene was really funny, and demonstrates how Cece’s character has become integral to the dynamic of the show. She might fall into that staple female character of the “fun-killer” occasionally, but her earnest nature and occasional naivety works really well for her.

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301 005 new girl all in trimmed New Girl Season Premiere Review: “All In” (Season 3, Episode 1)

Meanwhile, Jess and Nick are having their own problems. Nick manages to steal Jess a wristband – hilariously threatening to strangle a child to death in the process – and ends up being dragged off to prison. Jess panics and rushes back to the loft to get more money and Nick’s passport, appearing right in the middle of Winston and Schmidt’s passive-agressive (and dizzy) stand off. They grab their things and drive to Mexico, speculating all the way on what problems Nick could be having in prison.

After a very funny sequence poking fun at Schmidt’s latent racism – bribing every menial worker in the entire hotel – they eventually find out where Nick is being kept. It turns out that “resort prison” is very different to “prison prison,” even in Mexico – he’s having a nice time, no real problems. After a violent confrontation about whether to stay or leave, and deciding (after an inspirational speech from Jess that lasted a touch too long) between the four of them that they are a family now, and that they should be together back in the loft, his passport ends up in the shredder. Cue Winston, with his puzzling skills (see? What a payoff), who endeavours to puzzle the passport back together, like a big papery jigsaw. Of course he makes a mess of it, and there’s a minor will he/won’t he moment concerning Nick’s re-entry into the United States, but he gets back safe and sound in the end.

It might have been nice for the show to follow Paradise Jess and Paradise Nick’s life in Mexico, completely disregarding the entire history of the show up to that point, but that probably would have been sitcom suicide. As it stands, “All In” is a great start for season three of New Girl and a fantastic re-entry point into the world of Jess and the gang. Here’s hoping that season three manages to match the success of the previous two.

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  • Wiseguy

    “It’s a becomes a catchphrase between Jess and Nick”? “kicked to the kerb”? “Schmidt continue to date them both”? Ever take English 101?