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?
AIRED ON 2/9/2016
Season 5 : Episode 6
AIRS ON 2/16/2016
Season 5 : Episode 7