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You must remember this: A kiss is not The Kiss, even if the passionate clinch at the end of “Heat Wave” mirrors the first between Nick and Jess in many ways. Both occurred near the end of an episode, both projected a believable steaminess, and both left one of their participants in a state of bewilderment. These are moments of tremendous romantic-comedy catharsis, relieving tension that spans multiple episodes and builds up in the scenes preceding them. They’re satisfying cappers to satisfying episodes.

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But the thing about The Kiss was that we knew both of its participants were going to be around for a while. New Girl has pushed Nick and Reagan toward this moment since Megan Fox arrived on the scene—with the knowledge of Fox’s inevitable exit. There’s a possibility that she could return, but there’s also the possibility that Nick and Reagan will have to work through the aftermath of their kiss in the space of a single episode, and that threatens to crush some of the butterflies that take flight at the end of “Heat Wave.”

But that’s the same sort of defeatist logic that keeps Nick running from his feelings for most of the episode. The amount of shared history between Reagan and Nick can’t compare to the roller coaster that led to “Cooler,” but their kiss is steeped in a Miller family history of avoidance. That stubborn tendency is the engine of “Heat Wave,” a quasi-bottle episode where heated emotion and high temperatures trigger near-season-two levels of squirreliness from Jake Johnson. Temperatures are rising citywide, but Nick’s attraction to Reagan has made the loft feel like a pressure cooker for weeks.

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And when you’re living in conditions like that, a little push is all it takes to make a big impact. To some extent, “Heat Wave” feels like an excuse to send the cast tromping through the motions of a crazy-from-the-heat storyline, a loose framework for fancy fixes, wardrobe hijinks, and the relative ease of working with pre-existing dynamics on pre-existing sets. But the stakes rise with the mercury, so when Nick refuses to join his roommates in Reagan’s air-conditioned oasis, things take a turn for the life-or-death. The conflict sown by Reagan’s AC unit and Nick’s proprietary “Ranch System For Cooling” gives way to one character caring for another’s well-being—and from there, Make Out City is only a hop, skip, jump, blown fuse, rat-on-the-face, and neighborhood brownout away.

Does “Heat Wave” arrive at its emotional climax through some narrative shortcuts? Sure. Is the rest of the episode solid enough to distract from the shortcuts and Nick and Reagan’s lack of long-term viability? Almost. Cece, Schmidt, and Winston are basically off in their own world, but they find some big laughs there, wearing outdated ski parkas after the air-conditioning proves too intense and testing out the persuasive power of Winston’s police voice.

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The heat’s magical stakes-heightening touch bypasses Cece’s audition anxiety, but at least that plot thread makes a thematic tie with Nick’s evasion tactics. While sudden-onset yips are out-of-character for Cece, they’re also a platform for some touching moments between her and Schmidt, and a motivation for further riffs on Winston’s evolving voice authority. If you’re still watching New Girl every week, if it’s for tangents like Lamorne Morris shouting cop clichés in the bathroom (“Down on the ground fugitive of the lawwww!”) or narrating a parade of people passing out on the sidewalk. (“Oh! But the Good Samaritan to the rescue! Aw damn, Good Samaritan just collapsed.”)

You might also be sticking with the show for moments like the kiss that’s not The Kiss, and that’s okay, too. Just don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t amount to anything more than a little extra heat to a hot Los Angeles night. Me, I’m feeling a little bit like Nick: Perplexed, and unsure about what comes next.

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Stray observations

  • “Who’s that girl?” This week in New Girl pseudonyms, alter egos, and nicknames: Nick bestows this one on himself, but I wouldn’t mind it coming back somewhere down the line, a la tonight’s shoutout to the cranberry that got stuck in Winston’s ear: “Ol’ Nicky Pots And Pans.”
  • Schmidt gives an eerily accurate description of conditions in the AC-less loft: “Finally we can stop living like the people in a beer commercial before the beer shows up.”
  • Winston loves gas station TV: “It is the intersection between information, and also gas.”
  • Just chalk this Schmidt-ism up to the heat: “Don’t tell me what to do! I am her fiancé, not some schnook off the street, eating a peanut butter cookie!”
  • At the height of their disagreement, Reagan hits Nick where it hurts the most: “I hope that the Chicago Cubs win the World Series while you’re in a coma.”
  • Winston is too whimsical about the blackout: “ATMs are down, cash is king, and batteries is queen!”
  • Cece makes it to that anchor audition, but after hitting the bar pre-audition, things go… poorly: “While you’re gassin’ up, let’s look at the stock merkets!” “Scientists have discovered a new kind of butter… fly in the Amazon! What the crap does that mean?”

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