Earlier today, Liz Meriwether teased the latest New Girl twofer with the following tweet. And when she says “crazy,” she’s not just talking about that kiss between Winston and Aly. (Though its intensity is crazy enough that I hereby dub it The Kiss 2.0.)
There’s hyperbole at play here, but “Road Trip” and “A Chill Day In” certainly exist outside the New Girl norm. In addition to splitting up the roommates by gender, “Road Trip” pits windbreaker-clad, reverse-trike-renting city boys against the Mojave Desert’s Rottweiler-vest set. “A Chill Day In,” meanwhile, puts Jess and Cece out of their comfort zone by getting them all stoned and larcenous. (The bread maker thread works on two levels: baked and baking!)
These are all good things. The “Road Trip”/“A Chill Day In” two-parter is as structurally and formally daring as New Girl gets, written to fit the two-episodes-a-week itinerary of season five’s conclusion. The first episode lays out setups for punchlines delivered in the second: As soon as Jess pulls that bong out of her purse, her indecipherable text to Winston (“With Aly Trip on the squirts [Chicken leg emoji.]”) starts making sense. The episodes interlock with and mirror each other in incredibly satisfying ways, from their dueling bachelor party/bachelorette party setups to their slo-mo, incongruously soundtracked fight scenes. The “something crazy” Meriwether alluded to is an ambition that suits a typically modest sitcom in the twilight of its fifth season—and generates big laughs from unexpected places.
Because even when the show is toying around with the story beats of a Hangover-style “men behaving badly” romp or discovering that its sense of humor and rhythm are a pretty good match for a stoner comedy, the New Girl voice is there. In a High Noon standoff against desert-dwelling rough necks, Nick and Schmidt can’t help but point out that one of the roughnecks is a small child. (Words to live by: “You don’t touch Dirt Boy. Dirt Boy touches you.”) Facing the charges of shoplifting, consumption of a controlled substance, destroying an expensive wedding gift, costing Aly her job, and tarnishing the trust between Schmidt and Cece, Jess doesn’t miss the opportunity to make a groan-worthy “dough” pun. And the songs featured in the episodes (“Roar” and “Return Of The Mack”) exist in the very New Girl intersection between “anthems by female pop stars of the 2010s” and “the top requests at a middle-school dance in 1997.”
In terms of pure, giddy laughter, “A Chill Day In” (more like a wild Day out, amiright?) has the advantage on “Road Trip.” High Jess is likely too over-the-top to win points with the Pot Verisimilitude Police, but it doesn’t matter—Zooey Deschanel plays under-the-influence well, regardless of the influence. I’ve probably brought this up before, but it’s all in the old acting trick to appearing authentically wasted (to paraphrase Rob Delaney, “you’re trying not to seem that wasted), which “A Chill Day In” eventually turns into its driving force. That’s a big factor in Jess and Cece’s theft of the bread maker floor model, which combines energetic physical humor, the character’s stoned befuddlement, and a bothersome Bad Company parody in a highlight-reel-worthy set piece. I’ve watched the “Should we get snacks?” kicker four or five times now, and it’s still cracking me up.
Like the Reagan arc, “Road Trip” and “A Chill Day In” are examples of New Girl making the best of season five’s unique production and broadcast schedules. It’s a big swing from the show, from the corresponding commentary on the modern expectations for bride and groom (“Look, it’s 2016. She’s not looking for a strong husband—that’s not where I was going with this…”) to the rhyming “That’s what a husband does” and “Mama Bear” exchanges. The episodes are strong individual entries made stronger by airing on the same night, and though this sort of feat feels like a once-in-a-season feat, I hope it’s the kind of “crazy” that the next two week’s double features have in store.
- “Who’s that girl?” This week in New Girl pseudonyms, alter egos, and nicknames: “High Jess” makes her debut. Unfortunately, we won’t see her again for another 10 years.
- If you’re reading this immediately after “A Chill Day In,” you’re missing Fox’s memorial encore of “Prince.” You should go watch that, then come back to this review. It’s okay. I’ll understand. Anything beautiful is worth getting hurt for. (That’s very well put. You know who said that? No? Prince.)
- There are some contingencies built in for times when “Road Trip” and “A Chill Day In” won’t be viewed on opposite sides of a brand new Grandfathered: Winston’s reiteration of his marital status, for example, or the reintroduction of Aly’s boyfriend Trip (Kal Penn) and his work in the field of animal actor representation. Then again, Jess and Cece didn’t meet Trip in “Helmet,” so it makes sense that his occupation would come up again tonight. (If I was Aly, I’m not sure I could stop myself from shoehorning Trip and his adorable clients into everyday conversation, either.)
- Where is Winston getting all of these wonderful sweaters, and can I get them, too?
- Yes, Schmidt’s bachelor party was supposed to be held in Tokyo, but something went wrong with the tickets: “Turns out Nick booked the trip on a website called Pricelive Dot Cob.”
- J. Kronkite Valley-Forge, unofficial Las Vegas spokesman: “Ah, Vegas: Truly a town in which to devour and be devoured.”
- The road house is frequented by customers who aren’t J. Kronkite’s or Nick’s favorite sort of white people: “My favorite kind of white people are redheads with high socks. Male or female.”
- When the groomsmen reminisce about lost loves, it brings up a bittersweet memory from Big Schmidt: “My ex. She was a pill, but when she used to go to second base on me, she was like Joe Morgan.”
- Schmidt’s slang terms for fighting suggest that he’s been spending some time in Marina Del Rey: “I got my ass wopmed out there. I got womped up and down the road.”
- After assuring Schmidt that he doesn’t have to be a man of the old world, Nick has to run away and do some old-world man stuff like shouting and kicking: “He’s been having some really nice moments today—and then kind of freaking out.”
- Marijuana: Jess likes “to call it Giggle Dirt.” I like to call it Anne Of Green Gables.
- High Jess’ every-10-years rotation is immediately backed up with a flashback pop-culture reference: “I’m gonna Jackass into these melons!”
- Nadia is Jess’ weed-and-kettle-corn dealer (and the dealer of “Chill Day In”’s ending), but she moves some more explosive product, too: “I have Russian nesting doll. Uh oh. It’s grenade.”
- A perfect sight gag: Jess: “Wait! Wait! Wait!” Cece: “What?! What?!” Jess: “You’ll do a lot more damage with this!”
- Colonel Fantastic in the Alfonso Cuarón movie? Don’t make Trip laugh. And don’t try pulling any Mickey Mouse shit with his owl client: “No, he won’t wear glasses. Because he’s not a library owl, he’s a horror movie owl!”
- A baby in a raincoat? “It’s like, just like a little baby meteorologist.”
- Winston actually had the perfect name for Aly’s “cop-a-versary,” but he went a different way: “My first choice, though, was ‘Police Navidad.’”