The strength of most hangout sitcoms can be measured by its ability to split its characters up into different combinations that have distinct dynamics but can all equally bring something good to the story table. New Girl’s best episodes almost always confine all of the characters to a specific place. Even when multiple storylines happen within that space, the proximity allows the show to play to its strengths, giving every character an opportunity to interact with each other. That’s what made “Spiderhunt” and “The Crawl” two of the best episodes of the season.

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But episodes like those are special partly because of their infrequency. As fun as it is whenever it happens, New Girl can’t confine all of its characters to the loft every week. They have to go out in the world and do their own things, which is where New Girl can play with mixing everyone up and splitting the crew up into their own stories that are narratively and physically separate from one another. This season has given us more Jess/Winston stories than we’ve previously seen, and that turns out to be a very funny combination. With the introduction of Coach, there are even more permutations the show can play with. “The Right Thing” separates Jess and Coach from the pack for a story that never quite finds its footing, making me wish that the whole thing had just been scrapped so Jess and Coach could participate in the much stronger story that hinges on the arrival of Schmidt’s controlling mother (played by the always hilarious Nora Dunn).

Jess and Coach crash a funeral for selfish reasons, even though Jess insists she’s just doing the right thing, and their escapades aren’t without a few funny moments. J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans guest stars as himself, and the three improvise a song about hot dogs when the girlfriend of the deceased catches them snooping around the garage. It’s not nearly as funny as “Gay Wolf” from “Walk Of Shame,” but Watt is just as committed to the bit as Zooey Deschanel and Damon Wayans Jr.

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Coach and Jess sound like a strong comedic combination on paper, especially since Jess’s earnestness is so counter to Coach’s chill, but in practice, there’s something missing from the pairing. Part of this probably has to do with how new Coach still is to the series when compared to the other loft inhabitants. Even though he has been around since season three, he doesn’t have the same kind of shared history as Jess does with the other guys, so sometimes their storylines together—which occur pretty frequently since they’re coworkers—just lack that extra substance. And it’s doubtful we’ll ever see the two reach the same chemistry as Jess and the others since Wayans is departing the series (again) at the end of the season.

The whole funeral sequence feels pretty gimmicky, and not in the typical fun and weird New Girl way. The episode could have easily ended the cold open with Jess informing the loft that the first person she ever sexted just died and left it there. That’s funny enough on its own, and the funeral isn’t quite funny enough to warrant its focus in the episode. On top of that, it doesn’t even work that well on a character front. The other storylines lead to more cogent momentum for the characters, like Schmidt and Nick acquiring 10 percent of the bar and growth for Aly and Winston’s partner relationship.

A much more classically New Girl antic than the funeral is the interrogation sequence that unfolds when Winston and Aly band together to do some police-style work when Schmidt’s mom tells him he has to finally write the thank you notes for his bar mitzvah gifts if he wants her to give him the bar mitzvah money she owes him all these years later. Nick, Schmidt, Aly, and Winston all bring the same level of over-the-top dedication to the cause of writing these thank you cards as the crew brings to all their strange endeavors—from spiderhunts to games of True American. “The Right Thing” has a lot of individual pieces that work well—like this thank you note cold case and Schmidt’s relationship with his mother—but they never quite come together for a cohesive episode.

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Cece—in a pattern that is becoming more and more frequent for the character—never really fits into any of the plotlines going on here. Right now, Cece really only seems to exist to pine over Schmidt. When was the last time she had a storyline outside of him? Her renewed crush on Schmidt at least factored into the main narrative framework of “Spiderhunt,” but here it’s just kind of forced in. There’s more to Cece than who she likes. Or, at least, there should be. But you won’t find much else to define the character in this episode.

Stray observations:

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if Aly telling Winston she doesn’t want him to fall in love with her signals that these two are eventually going to be a brief romantic pairing. That was some blatant will-they/won’t-they talk, and in most will-they/won’t-they scenarios, they almost always will.
  • I’ve had this song stuck in my head since the second I saw J.J. Watt on screen.
  • Nasim Pedrad’s noises and faces when she’s contemplating Winston’s invitation to hangout made me laugh harder than any other joke. I’d like to see Aly stick around and become a more developed character, but given the news of her own forthcoming show, it’s probably not likely.
  • New Girl was renewed for a fifth season today!
  • Jess’s interactions at the end with Schmidt’s mom were so great that it only made me sadder that their storylines were so removed from one another all episode.

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