New Girl Review: “Winston’s Birthday” (Season 2, Episode 24)

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Through the myriad gems that this triumphant second season has provided us with (“Models”, “Neighbors”, “Quick Hardening Caulk” all being highlights), who could have expected that the penultimate episode would be so strong? This is doubly impressive considering the multiple plates that writers Brett Baer & Dave Finkel throw at us in this episode, all staying deftly aloft like, well, spinning plates.

The very first shot of “Winston’s Birthday” is The Morning After, so we’re in the immediate aftermath of Nick-and-Jess-have-now-had-sex territory. Nick’s in a state of disbelieving surprise that it’s happened, and in a nice opening gag he suddenly looks worried and checks her pulse – “You were very still”, he explains when she wakes up laughing. It’s a subtler version of the “immediate Nick overreaction”, in which he goes to bizarre lengths to remedy a situation that doesn’t need it – see when he drove into the desert rather than admit he didn’t want to move in with his girlfriend in season one, when he confided in an elderly Chinese man (culminating in a surprisingly intimate scene in a small swimming pool), ad nauseum – and is a nice insight into what their relationship dynamic would be were it allowed to play out in a normal way.

Winston’s birthday hasn’t been built up or foreshadowed in any previous episodes, and the idea is first introduced when Nick is making Jess a pretty disgusting looking cooked breakfast of sloppy scrambled eggs, pie, and torn grapefruit. Jess’s dad Bob abruptly shows up – yes, we get more Rob Reiner action in this episode, and his character’s importance seems to grow with every appearance – the morning after the night before, of course, leading to Winston to cover for Nick by asking if the food was his birthday breakfast. The look on Winston’s (or Wilson’s) face when Nick asks “It’s your birthday?” is a nice touch, as it would have been so easy to give a shifty look to Bob and let Nick’s forgetfulness slide. The fact that Winston immediately calls him on it and takes the food anyway for recompense turned a pretty straightforward double dose of awkward into a smart piece of wriitng. I only hope the breakfast tasted better than it looked.

Nowadays, no episode of New Girl is complete without a shot of Fat Schmidt, and this week doesn’t disappoint. Schmidt and Elizabeth wake up together in bed and, when Schmidt asks her about his body (has anybody ever savoured the words “perfectly sculpted pubic topiary” as much as Max Greenfield does in that scene?), she points out that she liked his body how it was before – cut to obligatory shot of Fat Schmidt’s vigorous dancing with Elizabeth at a college party. If you notice, Elizabeth is wearing a Y2Kitty Cat t-shirt – make a note.

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