If "Re-Launch" and "Katie" are any indication, Season 2 of New Girl features a whole new Jess -- one who's strong, sexy, and even a little dark. Tuesday's double-episode season premiere shows that Jess is still quirky, sure, but she's shedding that "adorkable" brand from last fall, and frankly, I approve.
Of course, she's edgier with good reason. In "Re-Launch," the elementary school teacher learns she's been laid off due to budget cuts. It's a grim slice of reality that must ring true to public school teachers. (Hello, Chicago teachers' strike!) Vice principal Tanya tries to lighten the mood by wearing a sombrero and offering parting gifts from the office "lost and found" (Jess chooses sunglasses and a tiny silver hat), but obviously, the news is devastating. Schmidt mutters "Obama" under his breath after Jess announces the layoff. The guys expect Jess to dissolve into tears, but surprisingly, she keeps calm, rationalizing, "It's just a job.
I'll get a new one." She admonishes the guys for pitying her and demands that they "act normal" -- or normal for them, anyway.
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Who is this girl? This isn't the Jess who sobbed to Dirty Dancing
on loop after Spencer cheated on her last season. It's not the Jess who
needs to be rescued, repeatedly, by her male roommates. She still
accepts their friendship and support, laughing on the couch with Nick
while joking about his "crazy old man" ways, but she's not leaning on
them this season. At least, not any more than they lean on each other.
Recall that New Girl isn't
just about Jess; it's about a group of friends limping through various
quarter-life crises, helping each other cope along the way. Last season,
socioeconomic setbacks, Jess struggled with
matters of the heart, Schmidt contended with the douche bag jar,
control issues, and his feelings for Cece, and Nick... well, Nick was
just an all-around mess. With the exception of Jess' layoff, though,
the horizons seem brighter for our lovable roommates. Winston has steady
work, Nick's escaped the pull of his ex, Caroline, and at the start of
"Re-Launch," Schmidt announces that he's recovered from last season's
broken penis. (Quick refresher: Schmidt broke his penis last season
after violent sex with Nadia, the crazy-vacuous Russian model. But it's
all good now!)
Will this season see the roomies emerge as the strong, pulled-together adults they're capable of being?
a nice thought, but really, who would watch that show? I'm sure Season 2
will bring new trials and tribulations to the whole gang. For now,
though, the spotlight's focused firmly on the new Jess and her journey
The season 2 premiere welcomes us back to the loft bathroom, where Nick is wailing "Groove is in the Heart" and Jess is getting ready for a meeting with the vice principal. Schmidt is still wearing his penis cast (along with his "shower diaper") and asking Jess to scratch his undercarriage using what looks like a toilet snake. Because Jess is such a good friend, she complies. Intimate.
Jess heads out to meet with Tanya, the vice principal, who gives Jess a pink slip and some farewell "lost and found" prizes. Meanwhile, Schmidt gets his penis cast removed, inspiring him to throw a marketing-style re-branding party letting everyone know that Little Schmidt is officially back in business. Who's he inviting? Well, the ladies from Lululemon, obviously, plus his financial planner, urologist, badminton partner, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and, oh yeah, Cece, his longtime hookup from last season. Winston fills us in, reminding Schmidt that Cece hasn't spoken to him all summer. Schmidt brushes it off: "Yeah I'm over it, it's not about her, I hope she comes." And that's that!
Despite the layoff, Jess insists that she's fine, and to prove the point, she volunteers to work as a shot girl at Schmidt's re-branding bash. The guys doubt she's the right kind of hot for the gig, but Jess insists she's up for the challenge. They go with it. Casey (played by guest star Parker Posey) is the other shot girl, and clearly, she's a natural, wearing a skimpy referee costume, accepting payment in whip-its, and calling every guy in the bar a "stupid jerk" in the most inexplicably charming way. Jess, meanwhile, looks like she hasn't evolved far beyond her "Hello, sailor" days.
Schmidt celebrates the functioning of his penis, getting down on the dance floor and pausing only to greet Cece, who shows up with a new boyfriend, a "commoner" who doesn't vacation in Europe, work for Goldman Sachs, or even like music. (What's this guy's deal?) Apparently, Cece's immune to Schmidt's many carefully controlled achievements. For now, anyway.
Nick sees Jess failing as a shot girl and tries to comfort her, but she'd prefer some harsh coaching instead. Nick complies, and it works! Jess hops up in the bar and shakes it, defiantly wearing her little silver "lost and found" hat from her layoff, even after Nick advises her, "No hat!" Um, yes hat! Jess tips her tiny hat to him, then accepts the cheers from the drunk crowd chanting "Shot Girl!"
And then it hits her; Jess can be a shot girl, but it's not what she wants to be. She's a teacher at heart -- and an unemployed one, at that. And she mourns the loss of her job, her stability, and her sense of identity. She lets herself be real, and hurt, in way that feels more authentic than any Jess-moment in New Girl history to date.
Nick dispenses very Nick-like wisdom: "Life sucks ... and then it gets better, and then it just ... sucks." Surprisingly, Jess agrees. And then use their grumpy, goofy voices on each other again, laughing, commiserating, and comforting each other. Clearly, they're meant to be.
In the evening's second episode of New Girl, Jess continues to explore the newfound freedom unemployment offers. She cooks frittatas that fall somewhat short of Schmidt's expectations, makes some weird art, and even impersonates a hot guy's blind date and brings him home for a hookup (!). I repeat: Who is this Jess?
Technically, Jess is going by "Katie" in this episode. That's the Creed-loving dancer Sam met online on CupidMatch and planned to meet at Nick's bar. Jess impersonates Sam's date after asking Nick to pass her number along to his bar-tending coworker. Apparently Jess is a player now!
Sound confusing? It is for the characters, too. Jess wants Nick to pass her number along to the handsome bar delivery man, Andy, who was laid-off from his real estate job, but instead, Nick gives her number to Bearclaw, a clumsy bar employee who's somewhat less appealing of a partner. (In fairness, Nick is the last person Jess should be asking for romantic help.)
After a crazy hot night with Sam, Jess exchanges texts with someone she thinks is Andy, but really, she's texting Bearclaw. Bummer. When he shows up to the loft ready for a wild dinner date, Jess is put in another new position: She needs to reject this poor guy she clearly has no romantic interest in. And when she can't muster the guts to do it, she lies to get out of the evening. Jess feigns sickness and then sneaks off to the bar, where she hooks up with Sam in the men's bathroom.
Of course, this can't end well. Bearclaw, Andy, and Nick all discover Jess and Sam getting cozy in a bathroom stall. Bearclaw has a minor emotional breakdown, and Sam discovers that "Katie" isn't really who she claims to be. Everything points to a sour ending for Jess, but this season, she's got too much swagger to keep her head down. As it turns out, Sam is cool with all the fun, meaningless sex he could potentially have with Jess, or Katie, or whoever. So Sam and Jess are on!
Side-plots include Nick meeting a crazy, old bar patron who claims to be Nick from the future. Old Nick might be nuts, but he still dishes up some sage advice. Meanwhile, Winston enjoys some quality time with his family, and Schmidt tries to move in on Winston's pro-ball playing sister, who clearly has too much game for Schmidt. The side-plots have their moments, but in both premiere episodes, the new Jess takes the cake.
(Image courtesy of FOX)