Jan 9, 2013

New Girl: "Cabin"

By Josh Oakley

New Girl  is a show that took its time finding a voice, eventually realizing that Zooey Deschanel worked better as a piece than the centerpiece. That allowed Max Greenfield to shine in the back half of the first season, and Schmidt became one of the most beloved characters currently on TV. While Greenfield still consistently kills it, this has been Jake Johnson's season without a shred of a doubt. Deschanel rarely has the show's best material, though in "Cabin", the great jokes were pretty evenly divided. Too bad the same can't be said for the storytelling.

It's unfair to say that Olivia Munn's character was a complete mistake. But if this is indeed the last we see of her, and it looks to be, it becomes difficult to not feel like we wasted our time. Her intended purpose was to show a different side of Nick. As with most big guest-star arcs, they hope to move a character from point A to point B. That's something this show is definitely capable of pulling off; just look at Dermot Mulroney's work in season one. But Munn's "sexy stripper girlfriend" never brought out a revelation in Nick, beyond "be a little more honest", and really, it took him absinthe to get there.

Absinthe is responsible for most of this episode's best moments, at least within the A-story. Jess, Nick, Olivia Munn and that guy that Jess is dating all go to the cabin, and things go about as well as one would expect. Jess fires a gun into the transformer and the cabin is without electricity. With the power out, everyone snuggles underneath blankets and drinks the aforementioned beverage, and then Olivia Munn tries to have sex with Jess' boyfriend. It's an incredibly weird development, one that makes sense on a purely surface level. Olivia Munn likes sex but not relationships and Jess' boyfriend needs to prove that he can commit?

Honestly, Jess' current boyfriend is the blandest thing about the show right now, especially with Munn gone. Hopefully, in the near future, he'll be allowed to be funny, but even on absinthe he wasn't given much to do. Nick and Jess on the other hand, knock this particular field of comedy out of the park. Jess begins hesitant ("absinthe has killed so many of our most famous painters"), but succumbs, and her quirkiness rockets to a heretofore unseen level. Deschanel absolutely kills, and then Jake Johnson comes along and brings it to an even higher level. We've seen drunk Nick many a time, but it's always a delight, and given the special effects that absinthe have, this may be his best appearance yet.

While the cabin stuff spends too much time walking in relationship circles and pretending it's progress, the stuff back at the apartment doesn't have anything in mind but comedy, and thank god for it. Schmidt wanting Winston to be more "black" (and therefore more comfortable, he reasons), isn't a perfect B-story, but it certainly works, especially its centerpiece scene. Convinced that Winston grew up doing crack (in a story that is funnily told by Winston, but too out there for even Schmidt to believe), the two drive out into the "hood" to score some drugs. It's fairly dumb and only kind of works, until they let a man into their car. Both the stranger and the roommates are convinced that the other one is mugging them, and they all scream and flinch to an outrageously perfect degree.

This episode is by no means New Girl at its best, but at this point the show is so assured in its tone, that even some missteps don't make an episode bad. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, Jess will ditch that guy whose name is not worth remembering, they'll bring on a partner for Nick or Jess that feels as natural and vital as Mulroney or Lizzy Caplan did, and we'll get some more sincerity from a show that is more than capable than pulling that off. For this week, the humor mostly works, even if the emotions don't, but it's a new year, and coming off a great 2012, there's no reason to think this show won't remain one of the best on TV.

Grade: B


  • Schmidt, seeing Winston around black people: "You were like Pixar Winston."
  • Jess, on shooting at a can: "I need a backstory, why am I mad at the can?"
  • Nick, on absinthe: "If you were a hat you'd be a top hat, but like a big Monopoly one"
  • And what better to leave us with then: "I am gonna poop weird tonight!"

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