I don’t think we’ve ever seen Jess’ birthday in New Girl. We’ve seen Schmidt’s 29th birthday on a school bus, but that was a wholly different vibe to the one created here. “Birthday” was a relatively slight episode, lower on laughs than you’d expect, but with so many heartwarming moments you might find yourself going into cardiac arrest. The central conceit is that Jess is prone to going birthday bonkers. As much as she’d like to be able to control it, and wants to be cool about the whole situation, she just can’t resist going crazy when it comes to that special day. She approaches it with the same level of enthusiasm and childish glee that we’ve come to expect, maybe more so.
The problem is that when someone who takes birthdays as seriously as Jess does meets someone who puts (on the surface) so little effort into preparation as Nick, then sparks are bound to fly. As Cece points out early on, this is their first birthday together. How the day goes acts as an accurate bellwether for their relationship as a whole. The twist is that while Nick’s already planned a wonderful party that the whole gang are in on, he didn’t realise that Jess’ birthday lasts for an entire day. He needs things for Jess today before the party. So he figures they’ll just stay in bed till noon. No big deal, right? Well, an alarm puts paid to that. It turns out that Jess was born at 7am, and she always wakes up at 7am on her birthday. Everything Nick tries in order to kill the time before the party – breakfast, sex, napping – happen incredibly quickly and by 8:45am, he’s out of ideas.
Last week I talked about how well-rendered the characters are by now and the surprising conflicts that their personalities throw up, which I think applies to an even greater extent here. I love that Jess was born at 7am. It’s early in the morning, but not too early, and allows for her to fully enjoy her own birthday to the maximum extent allowed by civilized society. I also love that Nick’s plot relies on Jess thinking he’s an idiot for it to work, but he is also an idiot for not realizing that a birthday lasts for an entire day, and not just an evening. In a funny sort of way you could say that Nick’s failing to manage to actually do anything in the day besides take Jess for a diabetes test and accidentally crash a little girl’s birthday party adds to the happy shock of just how wonderful their evening was. For once, Nick’s idiocy was actually used as a force for good, not evil. About time too I’d say – he’s earned it. That everyone had their own roles to play – roles that they took incredibly seriously, which accounts for most of the jokes this episode – was a nice touch, and it was good to see Nick in charge of a scheme that wasn’t going to end in anybody getting arrested, beaten up, or drunk. Or all three.