The episode comes to a climax at the Halloween carnival that Jess is working at, with all of the roommates appearing with their respective romantic interests. Jess is heartened when Sam arrived sporting a clown nose, which she takes as a sign she ought to pursue a deeper relationship. Nick is with his old flame, carving pumpkins together as he attempts to reconcile her reality with his ideal. Winston and Shelby arrive, and Winston is crestfallen to see that she has shirked their plans to wear “sexy” costumes. Meanwhile, Schmidt is trying to insinuate himself between Cece and her new boyfriend, Robby.
At some point, Nick rightly compares relationships to a haunted house. The idea of them is fun, but they are terrifying to enter. It should speak volumes, then, that Jess not only is fine entering a haunted house, but works in one. This particular gig ends with her getting punched, however, when a nervous Nick enters the house to tell Jess not to go after Sam. Turns out, Sam really is being honest when he says he wants nothing further, and that this is really how he feels about relationships. It’s not fear, his aloofness isn’t a costume, unlike Jess’s own detachment. It would be easy to hate him if he hadn’t been so honest. It’s hard to say, but it’s Jess’s own fault for not being honest with herself at the outset.
This news crushes Jess, though the pain might be somewhat diminished by the bag of peas that Nick is holding to her cheek at the end of the episode while he consoles her. This, of course, is only after he comes clean to Amelia about his disillusionment with her, and she slaps him for dehumanizing her and not respecting her as a real life person. He forced a costume on her – that of the perfect girl – and she refused it, leaving him to once again comes to terms with his lack of communication, and his inability to fight his fears to enter the haunted house of relationships.
Winston and Shelby break up, and Schmidt makes some small measure of peace with Robby, secure in the knowledge that Cece still cares about him in some way. The group comes together as a family once more, licking their respective wounds in the loft. Jess’s wounds are physical in addition to emotional, though, and that can only mean one thing: she gets a free punch on Nick.
Though by the way he was screaming when those haunted house workers were dog-piling him, the perfect retribution may already have been wrought.
In all, this was a particularly strong episode, one that stripped away a lot of the false developments we have seen in this characters both this and last season. Schmidt may have calmed down his alpha male nonsense regarding Cece; Nick has come one step closer to maybe becoming able to express something more than ambivalence towards his own future; Winston dropped a girlfriend who maybe have helped him grow, but wasn’t right in the long term; and Jess now knows that she can’t hide her desire for love any more than she can deny her desire to teach.
Now that we’ve got all our characters on a fresh starting point, the season can hopefully begin to ramp up towards some of the hilarious high points it reached last season around this same time.