Don’t get excited by “Jaipur-Aviv”’s first-act promise of a day spent stripping. Like Winston, you know Schmidt and Cece mean they’ll be stripping old wallpaper from the inexplicably sticky walls of their new house. If the events of the day make only a token gesture to the tedious work of wallpaper stripping, well, that’s the kind of compromise sitcoms have to make. Instead, the show acquaints the audience with a new space, gently incorporating Jaipur-Aviv (Schmidt’s name for the house “celebrates the union of India and Israel that their marriage represents”) into New Girl’s landscape.
Even as the characters and camera explore a new setting, the plot revolves around the old space. When Jess suggests they find a replacement roommate, Winston notices for the first time that “this loft is enormous” and runs off searching for echoes, leaving Nick and Jess to talk about candidates. Reagan fits all Jess’s specifications: She’s a girl, she’s not Coach, and she’d pay rent. She’d even live in Nick’s room, letting them convert the fourth bedroom into Jess’ longed-for multi-purpose room. Besides, she’s already lived there, which—as Nick puts it—“gets us out of the whole ‘Here’s what you need to know about Winston’ conversation.” (I dearly want to see a supercut of Lamorne Morris bits illustrating “what you need to know about Winston.”)
There are downsides to this plan. Reagan’s moving soon, so she’d overlap with Cece and Schmidt, violating the No More Than Five Damn People May Live In This Loft At Any One Time Act (formerly the No More Than Four Damn People May Live In This Loft At Any One Time Act, and clearly distinct from the lease stipulating that no more than three damn people may live in the loft). And instead of living across the hall from the ex she still loves, Jess would live across the hall from the ex she still loves and his new girlfriend.
Yeah, that’s a downside.
“If Nick wants Reagan to move in,” Jess tells Cece, “then I want her to move in! I mean, I don’t want her to move in…” With typical enthusiasm, Jess devotes herself to persuading her roommates to vote in Reagan’s favor, coaxing out objections and crafting compromises. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Cece, trying to protect Jess from her own big heart, is the hold-out nay vote. But in the bustle of the plot, it’s plausible that Jess takes all day to figure it out.
That bustle also lets New Girl have its own “Here’s what you need to know about all these people” conversation. To soothe Schmidt’s humiliation at living with even more roommates, Nick and Reagan must pledge to answer any and all inquiries about where they live with a boilerplate response:
Jeez, beats us! We’re just dumb kids living paycheck to paycheck. Thank gosh for our upwardly mobile friends Schmidt and Cece and the three guest rooms in their loft. We’re crashing with them until we get our lives together, and we remain there at their pleasure.
(“Do I have to memorize all that?” Nick asks. “No,” Jess reassures him, “you just read it from the toilet paper.”) In addition, Schmidt must be allowed to purchase Nick one pair of jeans, and Winston must be the first person to see Nick wearing them, from the bottom of a grand spiral staircase where Winston will await Nick’s descent, weeping in anticipation of presenting Nick with a new belt. Then there’s the Ferguson-Bishop White Immersion Program, where Nick and Reagan will spend time redressing Winston’s cat’s unrealistically progressive worldview in which mixed-race couples are overwhelmingly the norm. You know, pretty standard roommate agreements.
After all Jess’ petitioning, promising, and compromising, Nick votes against his own proposal—against his own wishes. ““Once I got the votes, I panicked.” Again, Nick is stalling and self-sabotaging, and again his friends won’t let him. Putting Winston neatly in possession of Nick’s phone early on lets the final act skip a lot of rigamarole. When Nick postpones once again, his roommates draw out his feelings and Winston surreptitiously composes a text to Reagan saying Nick want to spend more time with her, and he’d be honored and happy to if she moved in, and hits send before Nick can agonize over it. No, Nick. No more brooding, no more postponements, no more self-doubt. You said yourself it was perfect (“and it’s already in my phone!”), and this is no time to compromise.
The episode’s most explicit compromise, and the most important, is the one between Cece and Schmidt. Cece teaching Schmidt to communicate without ultimatums, stalemates, or simmering resentment is a big step. That meaningful progress is in no way undermined by her realization that she’d rather hand over design choices to her husband, who’s more passionate about it. In turn, Schmidt admits that he needs to make symbolic concessions in his vision for the woman he loves. Cece’s joyous shimmy to the “La Cucaracha” doorbell is flat-out adorable.
Like the premiere, which introduced this run-down house, “Jaipur-Aviv” promises New Girl is capable of expanding its world without compromising its characters or comedy. It’s almost a bottle episode; only the opening in the loft takes place outside Schmidt and Cece’s new home. In a story perfectly suited for exploration of this new setting, Winston studies its architectural elements, trying to confirm whether Schmidt and Cece’s home to be is also the set of Daddy’s Long Leg, a 1971 porn with which Winston is intimately acquainted. If it is, he and Nick agree, Schmidt can never know.
Schmidt is fastidious, extravagant, and histrionic. There’s no telling what he might do if he suspects his love nest was a… well, a different kind of love nest. Nick and Winston coddle Schmidt’s delicate sensibilities. To shield Schmidt from Pornographic House, they’ll have to declassify Lost Umbrella, Jalapeño 19, Duck Duck Gavin, Upper Deck Time Share, or Halloween 2004. Which will they choose, and who has to break it to Schmidt? In yet another compromise, Winston will spill a secret… if he’s allowed to decide which one.
This compromise and this surprise are seamlessly based on established dynamics. There’s no backstory or explanation from the writers, just an assumption that we’ll accept Winston and Nick’s longstanding self-appointment as The Keepers Of The Five Secrets. And they’re right, because it’s so perfectly in keeping with everything we know about these three friends, right down to the highly codified protocols and elaborate handshakes. Even six seasons in, New Girl can still deliver surprises that dovetail perfectly with the people and friendships it’s built on, without a hint of compromise.
- “Six words you never get to hear: Nick is calling a loft meeting.”
- Even Jess’ eagerness to whip votes in Nick’s favor is a compromise. “My love for Nick exists,” she tells Cece, “so it has to come out somewhere.” And that somewhere is her friendship hole.
- Nick, critiquing porn through a new perspective: “So many close-ups, it’s so frustrating! I mean, for our purposes of today.”
- “I think this is the bathtub where Daddy bathes the Soviet dissident.”
- Hannah Simone puts on a distinctive, comical expression of wide-eyed restraint when Cece reacts to some absurdity from Schmidt or Jess, and it never fails to amuse me. It’s a strong silent reminder of the nonsensical similarities between the two otherwise dissimilar people she loves most in the world.
- Max Greenfield’s endless variations on Schmidt’s strange emphasis choices keeps expanding, but somehow they always seem to fit into his peculiar lexicon and range of expression. His “It’s spreading!” is a gift.
- The last shot of Jess’ custom photo magnets shows just Nick’s and Jess’ stuck to the wall under the yea column. It might as well be called the will they/won’t they wall.
- Though Nick’s last-minute save means Winston doesn’t have to spell out the details to Schmidt, next week would be an excellent opportunity to reveal the secret of Halloween 2004 (“something unpleasant about some candy you ate many years ago”) in flashback.