‘New Girl’ Season 3 Episode 20 Recap: “Mars Landing”

There is so much happening within this half-hour of New Girl that I’m not exactly sure where to begin. There is so much good happening, I should clarify, but there’s also a bit of heartbreak. The first two acts of the episode had me laughing nonstop. It was joke after joke after joke—visual gags, physical comedy, character bits, perfect punchlines—and everything was completely on point. The writing and the acting were all top notch tonight (and, as always with the show, a specific shoutout to the editors) and it was a good reminder of just how far this show has come from its shaky beginnings, how well this cast works together, and how invested we all in Nick and Jess’ relationship. “Mars Landing” took seemingly small bits and blew it up to a stunning conclusion—and it’s one of the best episodes of New Girl to date.

“Mars Landing” begins on a comedic high note as the friends play True American, the loud, drunk, vaguely historical drinking game. I love this recurring game—it’s the number one reason I’d love to hang out with these characters—and it sets up a high-spirited but very hungover episode. It’s all fun and games and lapping up bourbon until the next morning when Nick and Jess are so hungover that they can barely dress themselves but have to somehow make it to a one-year-old’s birthday party.

Outside of their bedroom, the rest of the loft isn’t doing so hot, either. Schmidt, Coach, and Winston spend their time trying to impress their pretty new neighbors but are also suffering from vicious hangovers. There are some expected hi-jinks: the obvious competition between the three men, the plotting on how to save face—Schmidt and Coach try to stage a “spontaneous” meeting whereas smart Winston goes the better route and offers to help them move furniture—and, as always, great Winston moments.

Cece has a plot here, too, which is nice. I like when New Girl gives everyone something to do. It’s not the greatest but there are still some laughs as she finds out that she drunk texted a nonsensical Russian novel to her new and very young boyfriend. Her attempts to fix it make it worse, but there’s no real harm done. I’m still unclear as to the point behind this “Cece dates a 20-year-old” story, but I’m rolling with it.

That brings us to the biggest and best story of the night: Nick and Jess. Before they can head to the party, they have to put together the child’s gift. This brings out a small personality difference between the two—Jess is always going to be someone who puts together a gift for a child, Nick is always going to be someone who doesn’t get why this is necessary and would rather just hand over the box—but it slowly builds into something bigger and more substantial. Jess and Nick have vastly different opinions on their future: Jess has visions of living back in Oregon with a bunch of kids that she can clearly picture; Nick thinks he may become a long haul trucker with a family in either Montana or Mars. Also, the firstborn child has to be named Reginald VelJohnson, after the actor from Family Matters, because of a bet he lost with Schmidt. “Should we just break up?” they wonder, out loud, but quickly shrug off the idea. It’s probably best to take Nick’s advice: “Never talk about anything serious when you’re hungover.”

It’s a clever rouse because later they do break-up. They do try to compromise (Nick agrees to learn to fish with Reginald and to maybe start a newsletter called “Lake Father, Lake Son,” which is a golden idea). But they can’t put the toy together without a fire breaking out. The little things they attempt turn into bigger problems. It’s all layered; underneath this disagreement about the toy, the fake future child, and whether or not people could live on Mars (and underneath that hilarious screaming argument about Nick’s literal “meat bucket”) is a legitimate problem in their relationship. Jess’ angry, frustrated “If I was always honest with you, then we would never stop fighting” admission is a bit devastating to watch because of how true it is.

As much as I love Nick and Jess together, they are often written to be completely incompatible. That’s part of the joke—and part of what makes them such a realistic, well-written, and funny couple—and it’s why they are so drawn to each other, but it’s also why it’s hard to see them lasting in the long run. It’s a little jarring because this has always been apparent in their relationship and many of the better episodes this season has had them realizing this, again and again, and learning how to deal with each others eccentricities that will never go away. Then, in “Mars Landing” they realize the only thing they have in common is that they love each other. Sometimes it’s enough to take a deep breath and tell yourself that you accept something shitty about your partner; sometimes it’s wise to know when it’s too much and you need to call it quits before it gets worse.

Yet it’s not all about their differences. Nick misses the friendship between the two and wants to go back to that place where they didn’t constantly fight. New Girl has always been interested in exploring these different types of relationships between people: roommates, friendships, romantic partners, exes, etc. This is just another one to explore and it’s going to be a tough one.