New Girl Review: “The Captain” (Season 3, Episode 4)

New Girl has always succeeded in finding unexpected ways for the characters to interact. This is sitcom bread and butter – it’s how Frasier kept so fresh for so long, and how Friends managed to become stratospherically successful in its mid-period. Not every sitcom needs to do this, Seinfeld being a great case in point. Seinfeld‘s humour wasn’t in how the characters reacted to each other, it derived from the situations those extremely well-defined-from-season-one characters found themselves in, coupled with Larry David’s acutely, painfully hilarious observations on real life.

While New Girl may not have the critical acclaim nor the worldwide success of those examples – I’d be very surprised to see New Girl season nine, and I love the show – it can easily go toe to toe with the sitcom greats in character interactions, and finding interesting and surprising ways for the characters to crash into each other.

This makes the pairing of Jess and Nick exemplary writing, and is the central thesis of this episode – what happens when someone who struggles to verbalise their feelings (Nick) starts dating somebody who can’t stop talking about their feelings (Jess). There’s a good chance you know two people in such a relationship, and it works. One makes up for the shortcomings of the other, speaking for both in a way that suits the unit as a whole. But, when faced with an external force hellbent on forcing them apart – a “Schmidt”, you could say – that bond could be used against them. Hence the title.

“The Captain” is Schmidt’s latest idea to break the couple up, in line with his vow two episodes ago. Jess and Nick’s loud sex and constant cloying affection has driven Winston to buying a survival kit, containing a blindfold and ear muffs, amongst other essentials. Schmidt’s solution on the other hand, is less passive, more aggressive – to psyche out Nick so he struggles to perform sexual, then persuade Jess to perform “The Captain,” a sexual scenario so disgusting that we’re not allowed to hear it (only a few choice phrases – “How comfortable are you with racial epithets?” “…then you make the dolphin noises…”) over the noise of the blender as Schmidt makes a smoothie. Yep, it’s the old “can’t hear the naughty business over a loud household appliance” trope, but it’s deployed brilliantly.

I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a tape somewhere of Max Greenfield’s improvised audible sentences, and Zooey Deschanel’s increasingly shocked face. The whole scene had a nice, improvised, second season of New Girl feel to it. Less plot-focused than the show has become in season three, which is nice in small chunks. That’s not to do down season three at all, as it was a progression that probably had to be made from a creative standpoint, as the show gained regular viewers and needed to use some of the directionless flab. But by keeping those improvisational skills in the glovebox (so to speak), they have a neat little “bit” that they can use to great effect, if done correctly.