Six months after the final episode of Happy Endings, Damon Wayans, Jr. is finally back on TV! I’ve been excited for Wayans, Jr. to reprise his role as Coach on New Girl ever since they announced he’d appear on the show, and last night’s episode did not disappoint. And thankfully, “Coach” is really solid for reasons beyond its fantastic cameos, which is a lot to say about an episode featuring Taye Diggs.
Last night’s episode was named after a character we’ve only seen once, so the writers could’ve done whatever they wanted with Coach. Wayans, Jr. left New Girl so quickly that his character became inconsequential by default, and I remember feeling glad he left because Brad on Happy Endings was a much better character. Then again, Brad developed over the course of three seasons — who was Coach anyway? He was loud, occasionally temperamental, and didn’t understand women. Really not much ground for the writers to work with, but it made it easy to pick up right where they left off. Coach is fresh out of a breakup wants to take everyone to a strip club? Sure, that fits with the minor information we’ve received thus far.
As a girl on a sitcom, Jess isn’t crazy about the idea of going to a strip club, and Nick, being a boy on a sitcom, doesn’t really want to betray any sense of romantic duty to his friends, so he trivializes his relationship with Jess in front of her. Of course she gets mad, so she does what most of us would do: vents over drinks. Jess tells Cece about a hot barista named Artie who hit on her, and Cece eventually invites him to the bar with them. Lucky for us, that barista is Taye Diggs! Artie is the kind of dreamboat Diggs often plays: sweet, flirtatious, cosmopolitan, and put-together (and what a great voice! I don’t know about you, but I could listen to Taye Diggs say “rubber baby buggy bumpers” all day). I was both thrilled to see Diggs and hoping he and Jess might get together. If you’re lucky enough to be presented with such a catch, why not take it? Somehow, despite how spellbound she seems at the bar, Jess eventually admits she doesn’t even really like Artie, but not before inviting him back to the loft.
I wondered why Jess didn’t want such a well-rounded man, but love is incredibly complicated, and our hearts don’t always follow our heads. I’ve watched more than a few friends turn down kind, well-rounded people in favor of more dangerous, exciting partners. Jess said in a previous episode that she’d prefer a passionate love to an easy one, and while it’s an admirable desire, it starts to seem a little less realistic as you get older. More often than not, “exciting” as a romantic personality trait translates to “doesn’t have his/her shit together.” This is definitely true of Nick, but he’s an undeniably good guy who’s cool enough to forgive Jess after finding a naked Taye Diggs in her bed. These kids will probably be fine in the end. There are undoubtedly be a lot of bumps ahead of them, but Nick and Jess usually seem to sort everything out.
And while Nick may err on the side of S.O.L., at least he’s smart enough to know it. After all their weekly mishaps, there’s something refreshing about watching these overgrown children squirm uncomfortably as their panicked friend drags them all to a strip club on a Tuesday night. The boys immediately know this night out is just Coach’s weird way of dealing with a breakup, and he proceeds to cry in the middle of a strip club after Nick confronts him about this. Sooner or later, they’re all drunk in front a police station, wearing several dollars worth of strip club merchandise as Coach attempts to beat up the cop who stole his girlfriend. In a wonderfully lucid moment, Nick proposes they’re all too old for this entire night, and hopefully, this downward spiral will inspire everyone to reevaluate their messy lives. Then again, they all end the episode with the first of what will probably be several meals from a strip club, but hey, one day at a time!
For a moment, I thought Wayans, Jr. was a bit underused, but he has only been on one episode. As much as I adore him (which is a lot), I hate when writers devote way too much attention to guest stars. Liz Meriwether & Co. handled Wayans, Jr.’s return perfectly, heartily displaying his comedic chops throughout the episode, but pushing him to the background when necessary. I’m hoping this is just the first of several episodes to feature him in the principal cast. Maybe he’ll make like Adam Pally on The Mindy Project and become a full-time cast member!
The guest stars may be its most obvious selling point, but they’re not the reason “Coach” succeeds. This is a wonderfully paced episode with a lot of fun, clever plotting that all manages to be productive to character development. Despite how annoying Jess and Nick’s relationship can get, their resolution managed to feel sweet instead of cloying. And yes, the writers are still paying a great deal of attention to Jess and Nick, but it seemed to serve a good purpose this week. The miscellaneous events of this episode led practically every character to try and make sense of their weird lives, and I wouldn’t change a thing about it.