New Girl "Birthday" Review: Surprise!

By MaryAnn Sleasman

Jan 22, 2014

New Girl S03E13: "Birthday"

Not gonna lie, when it was first revealed that the majority of "Birthday" revolved around Nick planning a zany surprise party for Jess, I may have cringed. Jess's over-the-top enthusiasm for her birthday was initially repelling, partially because of my own "meh" approach to my own birthday (it's all downhill after 21 anyway, right?) and the fact that I just can't think of too many—if any—thirty-somethings who resort to the same level of childish delight as Jessica Day. The important notion to keep in mind during "Birthday" was that it was Jess's birthday, and "Birthday" itself was a celebration of the character. Surprisingly enough, it also managed to celebrate everyone else along the way. 

For Nick, Jess's birthday was one of those boyfriend tests that keeps popping up to make him question his worthiness. He was halfway to victory with a solid plan for the evening, but neglected to come up with any Jess-approved ways to fill the day up until that point, and he also neglected to compensate for the fact that Jess is basically a 13-year-old trapped in a adult body who embraces the "day" in birthday completely. So of course she was disappointed and of course she ran off to be alone and sad, and then of course Nick's surprise was awesome and sweet and perfect: a self-esteem-boosting celebration of Jess from those who know and love her best (and also some random people who only tangentially have any idea who Jess is).

In celebrating Jess, Nick and New Girl also effectively celebrated everyone and let's face it: the best birthdays aren't just fun for the birthday boy or girl; they get everyone in on the awesome.  After a bumpy beginning to Season 3,, New Girl's second half is showing a marked improvement with a return to the status quo, or rather, a return to understanding how these characters work together instead of a bunch of desperate attempts to make them "new."

Nick and Jess were paired off because they're Nick and Jess, but after weeks of friendly and not-so-friendly competition, Winston and Coach had their breakthrough when Nick put them in charge of replacing Jess's birthday cake after Winston brought home a version that involved a frosting-sculpted gun. Of course it turned into a competition between comfortable-in-his-superiority Coach and constantly-trying-to-prove-himself Winston, but rather than declare one wannabe baker winner over the other, New Girl took the sneaky route and had their cakes meld together in the oven, creating one giant super-cake. 

When Coach returned earlier this season, the question of what his return meant for Winston was at the tip of our tongues (okay, my tongue) because while Winston/Lamorne Morris's place on New Girl was never in question, I'm protective of Winnie and the fact is, Winston initially arrived in the loft to replace Coach. What would happen to Coach's replacement when Coach came back? 

They became baking besties, of course! You know, this week. 

In addition to new partnerships, New Girl also explored an old one in "Birthday" by dipping a toe in the frozen waters of Lake Schmece (IDK, sorry, their names just don't lend themselves to mash-ups) and having Schmidt help Cece in her new career as the Worst Bartender Ever Who Probably Still Gets Decent Tips Because She's Hot. Apparently Nick routinely covers for Cece's lack of competency at work, but with Nick off planning Jess-fest '14, Cece was left to fend for herself with Mike the Meanie. Although honestly, I've worked quite a few foodservice gigs in my time, and I would have hated working with Cece too. (Sorry, Cece.)

I've been wondering where Schmidt and Cece stand for a while now. I'm firmly of the opinion that their angst has been drawn out long enough (plz make it stop), but at the same time, Schmidt did severely damage Cece's trust in him with the whole Elizabeth thing, and she's right to approach him with caution. Their interactions in "Birthday" were perfect in Schmidt's sincerity—he genuinely wanted to help Cece do well in her job—and Cece's cautious, but positive, acceptance of that help and Schmidt's presence in her personal life again. Schmidt and Cece weren't really friends before they were a couple, approaching their relationship from the opposite direction of Nessy. Schmece just got right down to doing like the rabbits do. They may never get back to where they were. I think they will, but that's based on literally nothing other than wishful thinking. 

They can be friends, though, and it seems like New Girl is ready to let them be just that. 

In a back-half that, so far, has taken a cautious approach to New Girl's characters, "Birthday" was a pause—a reflection, if you will—and a love letter to everything we know to be true about the loft gang. 

New Girl's next new episode will air Sunday, February 2, after the Super Bowl. See you there!


– LOL line of the night: Mike the Meanie's rant about how unattractive Cece's body is, "It's just... it's fine.. but it's just... it's bumpy. It's creepy."

– "Einstein. Bill Gates. Anne Frank." 

– I think the funniest thing about Nick's video ode to Jess were the descriptors beneath the names, "Outside Dave: Neighborhood Color."

 "BEHIND!" If you've ever worked in a kitchen (or watched Top Chef), you understand why this was funny. 

– If we're being honest, Cece's Old Fashioned was probably terrible. You gotta MUDDLE! Jon Tapper would be livid at her pouring, too. And the glass in the ice bucket. I REALLY LIKE BAR RESCUE, OKAY?

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  • Spectre_ Jan 30, 2014

    It was a decent episode. It did well sticking to Nick and Jess' classic personalities with Jess being a 30-something child, and Nick proving he can be responsible, without it all being too cringe-worthy or cheesey, even if Jess' quirkiness is sometimes laid on a little thick.
    Glad to see the Schmece thing creeping into play again, though it always annoyed me that Schmidt was so quiet about the circumstances of their falling out. Schmidt told her he loved her, only for her to ditch him, get engaged at his own party, almost marry the guy, then out of the blue asked him to choose between him and Elizabeth right then and there at the wedding in front of her, when she knew they were dating and knew how hard it was for him to actually get over Cece and be comfortable with Elizabeth again. Of course, Schmidt is totally to blame for everything thereafter, but she did her share of mind games too and put him in an awful position. I'd like to have seen Schmidt a little more defensive about it.

    Coach continues to be the worst part of the show. Dreadful actor playing a dreadful and annoying character. Each time I watch New Girl I beg for his scenes to be over and done with. Any of his involvement is irksome, boring and anything that tries to delve a little deeper into his character or past is uninteresting. He only manages to be bearable because the rest of the characters, especially Winston, carry him through.

    Mike the Meanie? Hilarious. Hope he makes more appearances.

  • MollyPoppy Jan 24, 2014

    I cannot stand Jessica Day. I know I'm supposed to find her adorable but this grown woman crying because her birthday was not the center of everyone's universe really raised my ire.
    I watch the show for the ancillary characters.

  • samig26 Jan 23, 2014

    OMG the kitchen moment! behind and then infront,i was in a fit of laughter IT HURTS. still "moist" comment should of got a mention. great episode. The reason why i love new girl was there in this episode,it makes you laugh,its sincere,stupid but it has heart and your always left with a smile on your face hahahaha BEHIND hehehehehe.

  • J_Pip Jan 23, 2014

    Tran you old beautiful crazy racist.

  • No1Slayerette Jan 23, 2014

    I don't think Coach will ever be a character that I feel comfortable with because of his personality. I mean, the competition stuff between him and Winston was fun and all, but poor Winston has always been treated badly by the others characters on New Girl, but Coach takes it to a new level. Take the pairs closing exchange, Winston's birthday message to Jess was hilarious, was is really necessary to have Coach point out and berate Winston for failing in such an arrogant way?

  • vcivi Jan 23, 2014

    This was a very nice episode....things came together perfectly.
    Cece and Schmidt in the cafe, was really funny with the gay guy...."all of this it is just uurgh" whahahahahahaha that was soooo funny...
    Coach and Winston with the Cake...hahahahaha...those two were really funny..
    Poor Jess, Nick had really a crappy day planned for her...but
    I LOVED the MOVIES part....wish someone did that for me...that was sooooo sweetly done..
    Loved to see Jamie Lee curtis...

  • DavidJackson8 Jan 23, 2014

    Oddly enough, this was almost undoubtedly my favorite episode of the season. The odd part is that for the whole episode, I wanted to tear Jess' face off. I've never been annoyed at her character more than I was in this episode. I HATED her in this. So I guess I enjoyed this episode for every other character.

  • pa-tan Jan 23, 2014

    Really liked this episode cause I do can empathize with Jess it sucks when you have big hopes for your B-day and people disappoint you.
    Yes I would have been really mean with Cece, I mean she is working in a bar as a bartender she should at least have studied about drinks receipts or had a book or use her phone.
    Loved Winston part in the video where he is all about glasses, hair, eyes. So funny I love Winston.

  • safibwana Jan 22, 2014

    Man, I have that test on Saturday and now the curve is ruined. Nick, you dick.

    As it happens, I had a bit of a tasting party for Old Fashioneds in the fall, and the recipe that scored highest in fact contained no muddling whatsoever. I could totally make you one. If you're wondering if I often offer drinks to girls on the Internet, the answer might not be no.

  • alyxkay Jan 22, 2014

    This was the best Schmidt's been in awhile. He actually served as a good friend and make good use of his quirks. I even appreciated his patience with helping Cece make an Old Fashioned.

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