What do you do when a friend asks your ex out on a date? It’s supposed to be a thing that never happens, but the world is a strange, stupid place, and every now and then, a friend will lock eyes with a former flame and get the bright idea to ask them out. It depends on the situation; if it’s clear that a relationship is absolutely 100 percent over, why not go for it? Schmidt was so terrible to Cece that he’s forfeited the right to be angry if a friend like Coach comes into the picture. Besides, are you really going to tell a close friend who they can and can’t see?
One might make the argument that a true friend wouldn’t ask a friend’s ex out in the first place, even if they’ve received permission. But attraction is a complicated thing that none of us have control over — who’s to say a simple “no” will prevent anything from happening? You can’t stop a person from liking whomever they like, and you have to let things run their course. After Coach asks Cece out, the selfish, volatile Schmidt seems to know this situation is out of his control, and he actually handles it a lot better than he could. Somehow, he doesn’t seem angry at Coach or Cece, and he doesn’t blame or complain about either of them. The root of Schmidt’s sadness doesn’t seem to be that his friend is pursuing the woman he’s obsessed with, but that Schmidt knows he could’ve had her if he hadn’t blown it so spectacularly. Something about that is nice for Schmidt’s character development, considering the overly confident peacock probably would’ve been fairly cruel to Coach if this had happened just a couple of seasons ago. This season, Schmidt has been rudely awakened to the fact that he’s kind of a terrible person, and it’s made him regress in one way and mature in another. Schmidt knows it isn’t quite fair that he’s hurting, and he clearly wants his friends to be happy.
It starts to look like Schmidt was worried for nothing — we learned in the pilot that Coach has no idea how to talk to women, and this episode picks right up on that. The confident Coach is as intimidated by Cece as Schmidt has always been, and he spends their date texting his mom in the middle of buying Cece everything he sees. Cece is grossed out and starts to leave, so he stops his showboating and tells her the truth: that he recently got out of a relationship and can’t figure out how to date anymore, and Cece empathizes. Maybe it is kind of out of line that Coach would even think to ask Cece out, but he’s a nice guy with his heart in the right place, and each of them might actually be what the other needs. Schmidt and Cece are easily one of the show’s defining relationships, so surely some fans will cry foul at this new pairing, but it’s hard to tell if Schmidt ever saw Cece as human. Schmidt was too busy idolizing Cece to think about her feelings, and Coach starts out by putting her on a bit of a similar pedestal, but he goes from macho to vulnerable a lot faster than Schmidt. Coach and Cece are both heartbroken, which puts them on the same level, and Schmidt and Cece never really were.
I loved the Schmidt-Cece-Coach storyline this week, because I’ve been in that situation, and the writers handled it in a way that felt painfully true and occasionally comforting (watching Schmidt keep his composure as Cece and Coach made out in front of him felt like a lesson in maturity — another testament to his emotional progress). Nevertheless, Winston might’ve been my favorite part of last night’s episode. In fact, I now look forward to his stupid plots more than anything else. His story in “The Longest Night Ever” was actually his most normal plot this season: he went out looking for a girl and found one, albeit in an unpredictable manner, and the object of his affection is just as weird as he is.
People like to complain about the way Winston is written, and I’ve usually agreed, but at this point, his borderline-psychotic weirdness is part of his character. It occasionally feels like the writers just have no real idea what to do with him, but it can be pretty entertaining to watch, and I feel like they’ve been playing with his character for so long at this point that they might have gotten comfortable with him. I’ll gladly let him have his quirks — especially because he is still, somehow, one of the most mature people on this show. My perspective on Winston’s weirdness used to be that assumption that the writers were confused by his character, that of course they give the single black friend the weirdest storyline they can think of (and in that vein, the “socially inept jock” character is also present in Troy on Community). However, everyone’s complete inability to deal with their own problems has gradually led me to a different conclusion about Winston: if he wasn’t so weird, he’d probably be irritatingly well-rounded. Without his quirks, Winston could’ve easily been the show’s straight man, but Lamorne Morris does so well with outlandish material that it somehow feels right to make him as weird as he is. The fact that Winston is doing just fine with the hand he’s dealt makes him an interesting, strangely powerful character. Unlike his friends, Winston doesn’t seem to wallow or torture himself about all of his trivial problems. He knows what he likes and just does it, even if it gets him funny looks. In that case, shouldn’t we all strive to be like Winston?
But people forget that the whole universe of New Girl is incredibly strange. Every week, these characters are wont to screw everything up in ways that would be scary in real life, but nobody dies or gets arrested or discovered by the IRS. The cop who listens to Jess explain that she hit Schmidt with her car out of love speaks for all of us when he says, “You guys are into some weird stuff.” I’m not sure anything has ever summed this show up better.