An ending is a rare privilege in series television, a medium that’s intended to run and run and run until the wheels fall off—or the network repossesses them. Contemporary TV producers are likelier than their predecessors to end things on their own terms, but getting to that point is a balancing act between building to a stop and simultaneously staving it off. It means keeping things open-ended. It means goosebumps walkaway. (Goosebumps walkaway, as defined by Nick Miller: “The line that the guy says to the girl in the movie that gives her goosebumps—and then he walks away forever.”)
With the end of Jess’ jury duty meaning the end of Reagan’s time in the loft, Reagan articulates the dilemma posed by her “Heat Wave” kiss with Nick: “I’m still leaving. What would be the point of telling him how I feel when nothing could possibly come from it?” The passion of last week’s climax (“He kisses you like a coal miner greeting his wife”) has spilled over into a casual physical thing, but the dictates of narrative and TV contracts look like they’ll leave that thing unconsummated. Unresolved feelings are the orders of the day: Jess comes home harboring a jurors’ box crush, while Schmidt doesn’t know how to feel about himself when he has other people’s opinions on his mind.
It’s been more than a month since the justice system plucked Jessica Day out of our lives, and as nice as it is to see her back, it’s also jarring to see her sharing the screen with Reagan. It’s like a schoolteacher cutting short a leave of absence to oversee the substitute’s last day in the classroom—we’re accustomed to seeing both of these people in this space, just not at the same time. You could also chalk that up to “Goosebumps Walkaway” really amping up Jess’ Jess-ness, re-asserting her stake in this territory with custom T-shirts, an improvised riff on the Golden Girls theme, and flashbacks to her steamy-but-stifled sequester romance with Juror 237-B (Demetri Martin). (“As every American knows, personal contact through the exchange of personal information between members of a sequestered jury is strictly forbidden.”) When she breaks into a newsboy voice to announce the search for 237-B, there’s a cut from Zooey Deschanel to Megan Fox, whose small, silent reaction tells us all we need to know: Even without the “Extra! Extra!”, Reagan’s read all she needs to read about Jess.
New Girl isn’t a show that sows conflict when it can forge an uneasy alliance, so rather than spending her last day in the loft butting heads with Jess, Reagan agrees to lend Jess a hand. It’s written as an excuse to get away from a panicky Nick, but it’s also her final initiation into the circle of roommates: Serve as Jess’ temporary sidekick, and she can wear the words “MY ROOMMATE FOUND THE DEFENDANT GUILTY ON 4 COUNTS AND ALL I GOT WAS THIS LOUSY T-SHIRT” with pride. But “Who is Juror 237-B?” isn’t the most important mystery being solved by this ersatz Cagney and Lacey—they’re also on the case of “I like that guy? Really?” It’s a fun space to work through Reagan’s sudden-onset feelings for Nick, with sympathetic backup from someone who’s been there, too—someone who’s asked similar questions and who can provide “He calls hand sanitizer ‘ham sanitizer’” with the appropriate topper: “He calls DNA ‘D And A.’”
“Goosebumps Walkaway” takes on more plot than the average New Girl, but its construction is sturdy enough to support Reagan’s farewell, Jess’ homecoming, miniature character studies for Nick and Schmidt, and Winston’s latest obsession: a wildly disorganized “dance gathering.” The episode sizes Nick up through Jess and Reagan’s eyes, giving Jake Johnson a chance to play his sweatiest, squirreliest version of the character, one who stands in Jess’ doorway and stammers through an Olympic-sized mixed metaphor (“I guess I have to address the 800-pound elephant that’s in the middle of the room”), then violates the decorum of lawn bowling in wide shot. The episode’s best joke also comes from someone watching Nick: Himself, when he momentarily thinks that the Nick in the mirror is the one giving the thumbs up.
The conclusion: There might be 959 Gary Garcias in the LAPD database, but there’s only one Nick Miller. Meanwhile, Schmidt’s already lengthy history of personal embarrassments gains a new chapter, as he regales Winston with the origin story of his perfectionism: A talent show, The Hustle, and the cruel taunts of his classmates. It’s not as if Schmidt would be unknowable without these biographical details; New Girl has him so pegged at this point that “Goosebumps Walkaway” delivers an A+ Schmidt joke through a completely separate character. (Jess, reporting back on her first attempts to circumvent the lawn bowling club’s “Men Only” policy: “So Winston didn’t answer. Schmidt said ‘They’re desecrating the “Time Warp.” Desecrating.’ And he hung up.”) But he, like Jess and Nick, is at his biggest, fullest self this week, and that wouldn’t be possible without a flashback to a little childhood trauma. Plus, it ties in nicely with his overly thorough instructions for writing a goosebumps walkaway.
So much happens in “Goosebumps Walkaway,” the ending nearly overshoots the runway. This is a big episode befitting a big milestone, but that also means the concluding beats of Jess’ story (the trial was all that connected her to Gary) and Schmidt’s (Winston just comes out and tells his friend to stop caring what other people think) come off a little rushed. Nick and Reagan don’t suffer that fate, however, because they get to keep things open-ended. It’s not goodbye for them—it’s “Sayonara, Sammy.”
The show leaves itself one more open end, which Jess walks into after returning to the loft. Bringing “Goosebumps Walkaway” full circle, she’s surprised to find Nick where Reagan was previously surprised to find Jess. “It’s been six weeks since we’ve talked, and I was ready to talk,” Nick says, a wink to the audience that brings New Girl back to its central friendship. They get too personal too fast—topics of conversation include masturbation and nose hair—then the episode pulls out its very own memorable parting shot: “I missed you, kid.” “I missed you, too.” But what do they mean by “missed”? And don’t they give you goosebumps when they say “missed”?
- “Who’s that girl?” This week in New Girl psuedonyms, alter egos, and nicknames: Before his true identity is discovered, Gary Garcia provides this feature with an embarrassment of riches, from Juror 237-B to Handsome Los Angeles to Lawrence from Torrance/Lawrence of Brentwood.
- Fox is promoting “Goosebumps Walkaway” as New Girl’s 100th episode, though it technically passed that milestone with “Reagan.” But this is the first episode with Zooey Deschanel to air after the show broke off a new hundo, so I suppose that counts for something. But if you want to dig into some truly unnecessary qualifications: “Goosebumps Walkaway” is also the 98th episode of New Girl (Jess Edition), the 97th episode of New Girl (Co-starring Lamorne Morris As “New Guy”), and the fifth and final episode (barring a potential reboot) of New Girl (Who Is Reagan This Time).
- Omitted from Jess’ jury duty memories: Whatever happened between her and that attorney played by John Cho?
- Great, top-shelf Nick Miller material here: “It’s not just because you have brown hair and you’ve shared this room, but because you’re great, top-shelf ladies and I had the opportunity, so I reached in the cookie jar and I grabbed a chocolate chip and an oatmeal. And I’m not saying who’s who.”
- Jess, following Nick’s cookie thing: “That’s the most embarrassed I’ve ever been for anyone not doing improv.”
- Be like Jess: Try working the simile “Like the door of a haunted house” into your everyday vocabulary. And: “By the way, if you like haunted houses, but hate lines, January’s a great time to go.”
- Schmidt will not stand idly by while the clients of Reckless Abandance disregard the highlight of Nick’s Sexy Mix: “What dance are you guys doing? Because it’s not Humpty’s!”
- Another solid callback: “It was crazy, it was chaotic, it was largely Nick’s fault. Then I realized he’s the only person I’d go into a duct with.”
- It is no surprise to me that Jess ruled the jury with an iron fist: “Is that adult man afraid of you?” “I cracked skulls as foreman.”
- This is one of those lines that must’ve been written with Max Greenfield’s enunciation in mind: “I learned to dance a dance the way that it was meant to be danced. And until I learned to dance that dance perfectly, I would never dance that dance.”