New Girl Review: “Models” (Season 2, Episode 5)

The concept of relationships in general, and friendships specifically, is something that can be a little hard to grasp. In school friendships offer an escape from monotony, and since you are all stuck together in a fixed learning environment anyway, so you might as well get along. But what happens once you’re free from the restrictive geographical bindings of an institution of learning? What happens when your forced equality of experience gives way to the vast expanse of adulthood?

Those are the questions this initially hilarious but ultimately uneven episode of New Girl hopes to answer in between trying to sell you a Ford Fusion. I’ll try not to let that third act setpiece derail my enthusiasm for this episode too much, but when an entire scene involves Jess making character-appropriate pratfalls while a random suit spouts off facts about a car I just saw a one-minute long actual commercial for, it’s hard not to let that work on you a bit.

We begin with the seeds of discord being planted for two different sets of friends. One thread finds Jess arriving at Cece’s house with a fresh baked cake and plans to watch Clueless, as has been their tradition up until now. However, Cece turns down her invitation to pig out, seeing as she has a modeling gig tomorrow and doesn’t want to rise her figure. As for Clueless, well, seeing as they are older now, wouldn’t it be nice to go out clubbing?

Meanwhile, while Jess is getting ready for her night on the town, Nick is watching a documentary about turtles, which inspires him to go get a turtle as a pet. After all, they are “the thinking man’s best friend.” Though he is worried that Jess will be offended, as he wanted to name his turtle Jess, though this was way before he met her.

These are all things he is bouncing off Schmidt, who arrives home with a cookie for Nick. It’s a present of sorts, and one that deeply unsettles Nick, who isn’t sure how to accept gifts from his friend of ten years.

From these humble setups we get a lot of interesting and insightful commentary on the nature of friendships, as well as a series of oddly hilarious jokes, the funniest of which might just involve Jess and her resemblance to a Russian cracker mascot. The weirdly sweet animation of a Russian monkey with Zooey Deschanel’s big blue eyes and bangs bringing crackers to the proletariat is something that will stick with me for a while, and the way in which Cece’s crazy Russian roommate makes her learn the song and dance from the commercial is creepily funny as well.

Jess can only take so much of this treatment, however, and in a moment of anger says that she misses her old friend, and she wonders whether Cece’s years of being a model have made her dumber. This is of course overheard by Cece, who responds by getting into a shouting match with Jess that devolves into a boob fight. It turns out that no one in this circle of friends is good at fighting – as previously evidenced by Winston and Nick’s previous slap fight – and despite this ineffectual physical quarrel, nothing becomes solved by the end of the night.

Likewise, Nick’s uncertainty over how to respond to the cookie, and his apparently pattern of emotional distance throughout the years (a flashback shows him throwing over Winston for a cool looking rock he wants to put in a jar) has caused friction among the men. Winston joins Schmidt in being cross with Nick, who can’t fathom the demands placed on him, and before long Nick realizes he will have to do something to prove his love of his friends.

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