Okay, I take it back. "Double Date" is no longer my least favorite episode of season 5. That honor now belongs to "The Box." That's not to say that "The Box" is an affront to TV audiences everywhere, because it's not. The nice thing with a show like New Girl, which almost consistently airs great episode after great episode, is that when I say that I didn't much care for "The Box," what I mean is that it just didn't measure up to other New Girl greats. Outside of that context, it's still a pretty decent chunk of television. I didn't want to burn my eyeballs out when it was over. I just didn't laugh as hard as usual, and looking over my notes, I don't think there was a single stand-out one-liner. It was just a mediocre episode.
This week, New Girl continued its Season 3 trend of recycling old sitcom situations and somehow making them better, and despite the rampant mediocrity of "The Box," the show did manage some greatness when it bestowed an unexpected pile of cash upon the loft's resident hot mess, Nick. I loved that it came in a paper bag from one of dearly departed Papa Miller's skeevy associates. LOVED IT.
What followed was the expected course of Nick blowing all the money (or trying to, anyway), and Winston trying to get the newly flush Nick to pay him back the $1900 he owed him, and Jess... stealing the money to pay off Nick's giant box o' debt? Uh. Okay. Because that's not completely out-of-line with her character at all. The desire to help, sure, that makes sense because Jess is generally a good person who wants to help Nick out, and because dating someone—and theoretically thinking about a longterm commitment with that someone—who has such a complete disregard for his personal finances is SCARY and pretty much the complete antithesis of fun. However, at the end of the day, Jess stole that money. Like, she stole it. It doesn't really matter that she used it for a good thing that would, theoretically, make Nick's life better. It wasn't her money and she took it without asking.
The theme of good people doing bad things formed the backbone of "The Box," though, and in a way, Jess's story this week paralleled the ongoing saga of Schmidt, Cece, and Elizabeth. It's been a rough couple of weeks for Schmidtty after the break-up, what with Cece's refusal to even speak to him and his failed attempt to sink Nessy. Desperate to hear that he's not a bad person, Schmidt terrorized his roommates and his rabbi (a woefully underused Jon Lovitz) and finally, a bike messenger whose life he saved when the dude was hit by a car and started choking on his gum. New Girl's usually elegant PSA execution wasn't quite up to par with the bike messenger's word vomit to Schmidt about how it doesn't really matter how many bike messengers he saves, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people all the time.
I guess this is where New Girl lost me, because for as cut-and-dry as the bike messenger's message seemed, the subsequent actions of the show's core characters seemed to muddy the waters a bit. Schmidt went back to his rabbi to whine about the natural state of life, and the rabbi promptly threw him out of class. For all the angsting and raging about Jess trying to "change" Nick and overstepping her boundaries, in the end, Nick put his money in a bank like a non-paranoid person, but then raged about the processing fee—which Jess joined in on because, I guess, like Wise Sage Winston said: Sometimes good people do bad things. Or she just wanted to do something for Nick because he opened a a bank account for her? Idk.
So... what's the takeaway here? Being a good person doesn't matter? That's kind of nihilistic for New Girl. The concession that good people do bad things without becoming bad people is such a rich concept to explore. Unfortunately, it felt like in "The Box," New Girl somehow got lost in its antics. The show's bizzare need to cram a Nessy story into what honestly might have benefited from a heavier focus on Schmidt (or even Winston, I mean, he did steal Daisy's cat), plus an unusual lack of focused writing, worked against the episode from almost the beginning. "The Box" wasn't bad. It was just okay. Okay? Okay.
What did you think?
– BANK LADY IS THE BEST! <3
– Nick and the vintage purses and the window. He is dead to me. DEAD TO ME.
– Where was FERGUSON?
– Of course Jess sent cash. Of course she did.
– "You're a terrible person and it's hilarious."
– Wise Sage Winston was okay, though. He can stay. Alternate him with Creepy Weirdo Winston every once in awhile, give him some human interaction, and I think y'all have a fully realized character on your hands, New Girl!