‘New Girl’ Season 3 Premiere Recap: “All In”

Jess and Nick getting together was a terrible idea. You could get an inkling of back in the early days of their sexual tension, and last season, that the couple was constantly bombarded by assertions that their impending romance wasn’t headed anywhere good. Clearly, Jess and Nick have both always known this, and you can see panic in their faces as they drive away from an aborted wedding like the end of The Graduate. But they’ve also always been powerless to fight their tension, and Jess and Nick have avoided the Sam and Diane route by going “all in.” They’ve already risked their friendships by even admitting a mutual attraction, so there’s not much of a point in backing down now.

Sitcoms have long been notorious for a “Will they or won’t they?” approach to romance, with the idea that a delayed consummation kept viewers interested. But New Girl‘s refusal to draw out its sexual tension (though maybe you’d argue that a season and a half is a long time for that tension to boil) is one of the reasons it’s such a fascinating show. Classic TV may be made up of several seasons of cold showers, but those long-overdrawn scenarios are rare in real-life relationships, and one of New Girl‘s biggest strengths has always been its unfaltering dedication to reality.

Sure, as one of the most slapstick-heavy shows on TV right now, New Girl may seem pretty unreal. Perhaps a confused couple wouldn’t go to Mexico and dive right into Blue Lagoon mode in the span of four days, but people are stupid, messy, and irrational, and this show has been about that human tendency from that beginning. Despite their status as full-grown adults, the characters of New Girl are really still a bunch of kids who should know better, and the presence of other people is usually to blame for their questionable decisions.

Take Schmidt’s repetition of the incredibly tired “fix a love triangle by lying to two people at once” trope, in which he tells both Cece and Elizabeth that he’s chosen them in order to hold onto them. We’ve all seen this situation play out over and over again on TV, and surely Schmidt has too, but of course he hasn’t learned from them. Of course this cocky control freak thinks he’s different, that he can have it all, and his attempt to have two girls at once is incredibly in line with Schmidt’s character. And yes, this plot is terribly boring (though I, too, am looking for excuses to hold onto the delightful Merritt Wever), but this is just the first episode, and it could be a segue for prim Schmidt to come to terms with his messy, embarrassing past. It’s always fun to watch Schmidt grapple with his imperfections, and that road of character development would be a lot more interesting than a recycled love triangle plot.

But I see some of this season’s most potential in Winston, who’s repeatedly gotten the shaft for most of New Girl‘s run. Lamorne Morris is probably the unsung hero on a show full of incredible comedic actors, and he sells absolutely everything the writers throw at him. Unfortunately, they never seem to know quite what to do with him, aside from making him weirder and weirder (which is also pretty true to life, as I’d argue growing up is not about getting wiser, but weirder). But the gradual reveals of a Charlie Day-level haplessness show some promise: Winston does not understand the basics of children’s puzzles! He’s colorblind to a dramatic degree! Is a realization that money is not, in fact, brown enough to trigger some sort of existential panic we’ll get to see? There’s a small sign of something along those lines as he gives a Mexican border guard the mangled passport he terribly assembled with his own hands.

If Winston’s high degree of cluelessness doesn’t lead him to good plotting, the impending return of Coach might do the trick. Damon Wayans, Jr., the original third roommate, is scheduled to come back to the show in a few weeks, and the end of Happy Endings makes it hard to tell how long he’ll stick around. He could only be on the show for a few episodes, or he could stay and become the central cast member he was meant to be, but his reintroduction into the fold will almost certainly further complicate the show’s relationships.

And honestly, something about Jess, Nick, Schmidt, and Winston’s never-ending commitment to each other is kind of sad. At the end of the episode, Jess and Nick resolve not to move out of the apartment, but their problem really might be solved if one of them just had the gumption to find somewhere else to live. Schmidt and Winston are right: these two probably aren’t going to make it, and the trajectory of that relationship is going to affect everyone in their household. So a loud declaration of loyalty may seem like triumph at the moment, but the endlessly playful New Girl has a tendency to plunge into the darker aspects of adult relationships. After a certain point, “friends forever” just doesn’t seem all that realistic an idea, and this seemingly unbreakable foursome has been heading for a dissolution since day one. If that’s where this season is going, it could be New Girl‘s most interesting year yet.