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New Girl Review: “Neighbors” Review (Season 2, Episode 4)

Let’s make no mistake: in the eyes of his friends, Schmidt has never been cool. The man has an overwhelming enthusiasm for all things chic and haute. He orders sushi by the gross, he knows what kind of cheese should and should not go on crackers, he fauns over Calvin Kline pants… in short, the very fact that he pours effort and feeling into these things alienates him from people. However, that also makes him an excellent friend, because in his own small way, he’s always looking out for those around him. He can’t not care, especially about those around him.

This concept – of aging properly and knowing where you are in life and acting accordingly – is hilariously illustrated by Nick, whose B-plot involves him pranking Schmidt into becoming more and more of an old man. Shaving Schmidt’s left shoes just enough to give him hip pain, tailoring his pants so that they need to be belted at waist height, and replacing his contacts are the least of his assaults on Schmidt’s self-image. One of his more extreme ploys involves dumping urine on Schmidt’s bed to make him think he is incontinent. “Sometimes, up close, art is ugly,” he muses. Because to Nick this is art, this is his calling. He’s good at it, he enjoys it, and he will sacrifice for it.

Of all the people in the apartment, Nick is the most comfortable with his age. In fact, he thinks he is finally aging into his personality, which is illustrated by a hilarious flashback of a young boy shouting at kids who throw a Frisbee on his lawn. They never got it back either – it turned into his dinner plate.

Winston, meanwhile, uses Schmidt’s actuarial chart to realize he may only have 3.5 years to live, and attempts to quit his job, but winds up being promoted because of his ability to “talk about so little for so long” which is a big deal in radio. This is good news, because he is passionate about sports as much as Nick is about pranking Schmidt, but Winston lacks a “pranking sweet spot.” How much so? His idea of an excellent prank involves hitting someone in the throat with a ski.

Plenty of shows deal with the recently-adult trying to find out what that means. New Girl is one of the few that really captures the gleeful precipice that exists between nights of drunken reverie and mornings of trudging off to a job that may not be right, but is at least a step on the direct path toward your goals. The defining moment of this episode comes when Jess realizes she has always known what she wants, and doesn’t have to figure it out with a bunch of freshly-minted “adults” who don’t know how to work a washer/dryer. She torpedoes her cred with them and she and Schmidt return to their apartment, where Schmidt is happy to find that he isn’t old, just a bit of a “viciously unbearable asshead.”

But that’s just their opinion on him, and since he loves himself, he doesn’t care what they think anymore. He returns to work at his uncool, corporate job. Jess puts on a blazer and goes out to find a tutoring job. Nick will tend bar to pay off the $1,300 debt he now has from indulging in his passion (pranking Schmidt). And Winston will become a producer and hit Schmidt in the throat with a ski.

Because that’s who these people are, this is how they want to grow up, and no one can tell them that that is wrong anymore. Sure, they aren’t there yet, and not everyone will get it, but inside of their little ecosystem of still-forming personhood, they’ve found acceptance, support, and suitable victims for pranking.

What did you think of this week’s episode of New Girl? Let us know in the comments below.

About the author

Brian J. Roan