New Girl Review: “The Box” (Season 3, Episode 5)


Nick’s finances have never been his strong point, but how bad could it really be? He lives in a beautiful loft apartment in Los Angeles, dresses plainly but stylishly, and doesn’t seem to have problems looking after himself. Sure, his car is a wreck, but aside from that he’s basically OK, right? Well, no, because in this episode we meet the eponymous “box.”

This week’s episode definitely isn’t the best New Girl, not by a long shot. In fact, if not for some choice moments (mostly Schmidt, as per usual), it’d be pretty damn forgettable. It comes at a strange point in the season too, about a quarter of the way in. I know that not every episode can be a total game changer, but any important plot points that we’re seeing are too far away from the season finale to have any overall relevance. We’re treading water this week.

Nick gets an inheritance from his father, who died last season. That episode, “Chicago,” might stick in the mind for its hilarious scene in which Jess, Schmidt, and Winston offer their condolences to Nick with squeaky helium voices, after inhaling the stuff from some balloons. Anyway, a representative from the “estate of Walt Miller”  drops off $8000 in an unmarked brown paper bag (then promptly runs away), which Nick proceeds to blow.

In the midst of all this, Jess discovers Nick’s box, where he keeps what he calls “junk,” but what you or I (and Jess) would call “bills.”Unpaid parking fines, a lot of final notices, various deeds for various cars, corporations, even a lifeguard certificate. All the stuff Nick keeps hidden from the adult world. Jess suggests he pays off some of his debt with his inheritance, or maybe even open a bank account, to which Nick flies off the handle.

This is a new development for Nick. I understand that “The Box” is a relatively minor episode, but after the progression in emotional maturity that Nick had been displaying over the last few episodes, a full-blown regression into behaviour even worse than his previous form doesn’t quite ring true. Neither does his drastic turnaround in attitude at the end, nor Jess’s sudden rebellion.

I guess the message of “The Box” is that a relationship is about finding the middle ground, but when Nick is involved, that middle will still be far off centre (so to speak). That Jess makes any concession at all to Nick’s utter insanity is surprising, given her violent reaction to Schmidt when his adultery was revealed, or even her threat to Winston when he attempts to blackmail her – which I personally wouldn’t even call blackmail, more “getting the money back that he is owed.”

I suppose you could argue that she is in love with Nick, and so she is biased in how she treats him, but that’s never bothered her before. The whole premise felt false to me, and out of step with the rest of what we know of the characters involved. We know Nick is bad with money, but without bailiffs or court orders, there was no peril. No jeopardy. So why should I care? Have nasty men hammering the door of the loft. Have Schmidt, Winston, or Jess’ belongings carted off by repo guys. Don’t just leave us in a jeopardy vacuum, because if the message is just “Nick’s terrible with money! Oh well!,” that just isn’t good enough. I’m not saying the writers should give him a heroin problem, or homelessness, just something more dramatically and emotionally satisfying.