So far, this season of New Girl has found Jess pouring shots, dancing on bars, scooping casserole and partying with hipsters, so why wouldn't she give modeling a shot? In the wake of her layoff, Jess is trying on all kinds of hats (and even Cece's Bond girl dresses) on the path to self-discovery. This week, she jumps on stage for Cece after jeopardizing her modeling job. More importantly, Jess and Cece examine their friendship, while Nick and Schmidt have a heart-to-heart about the rules of male bonding.
Like lots of adult friends who've known each other since childhood, Jess and Cece love each other, but they don't have much in common besides their shared past. Jess reminisces about Cece's past birthdays, watching Clueless on VHS and eating cake, but Cece has other plans for her birthday. She's going to a club with her model friends. Of course, Jess is invited, too, but the club isn't Jess' scene, and the models -- including the spacey, hilariously deadpan Nadia -- are not Jess' favorite people. They're dumb, vaguely racist and think Jess looks like a cartoon monkey from a Russian cracker commercial.
Jess tries to play along anyway, pouring herself into a modelesque, slinky black dress and dancing like the cracker mascot while the models chant "monkey," but the night still devolves into a boob-slapping battle between Jess and Cece. (Props to New Girl writers for skipping the easy 50 Shades of Grey joke that 2 Broke Girls went for last week.) While Cece calls Jess embarrassing, Jess patronizes Cece, calling her dumb and admitting that she feels sorry for Cece for selling herself short with her shallow career, not even allowing herself to eat cake on her birthday.
The truth hurts, and no one can hurt you as much as the people who've known you the longest. Jess storms out, while Cece proceeds to drink vodka straight from the bottle, alarming even Nadia. When Nadia's worried, you know things are getting dark.
The Rules of Male Friendship
While Jess and Cece fight it out, Nick and Schmidt evaluate their own friendship. The catalyst for this examination? Schmidt has given Nick a cookie. Nick would be fine with accepting an extra cookie Schmidt bought for himself and couldn't finish, but this isn't just an extra cookie. It's a token of friendship, purchased because Schmidt was thinking of Nick and wanted to do something nice.
Nick can't handle the intimacy and leans on faux-macho, vaguely homophobic assumptions about male friendship to justify his discomfort."Do you not think about me?" Schmidt asks, to which Nick explodes, "Of course not!" Now Schmidt is as hurt and rejected as Nick is discomforted. Later, when Schmidt tells Nick he's hurt, Nick admonishes, "The only time a man is allowed to think about another man is when that man is Jay Cutler."
Ever the voice of wisdom, Winston takes Schmidt's side and breaks it down for Nick, explaining how much Schmidt cares about Nick, listing the kind things Schmidt does for Nick, and concluding, "That wasn't a cookie; that was a piece of his heart." And I'm now officially in love with both Schmidt and Winston.
With Jess fighting with Cece and Nick at odds with Schmidt, Nick and Jess now have further reason to bond. They wonder how they ever became friends with the people they're friends with. More significantly, they wonder if they'd still be friends if they met today. While Jess and Cece have known each other since childhood, Nick and Schmidt have less history binding them together. Nick flashes back to meeting Schmidt in college; a chubby Schmidt crunches on a dried cube of Ramen noodles while Nick shouts, "You're a super weird guy!" Takes one to know one, apparently, since they've been together ever since.
Still, both Nick and Jess conclude that if they met Schmidt and Cece today, they might not be friends with them. It's a sad thought.
The Car Show
Jess stops by Cece's apartment to apologize for their fight. She finds Nadia seducing a guy pretending to be Wilmer Valderrama (as if the real Wilmer would be more respectable), while
Cece nurses a hangover. Obviously, Cece can't perform on stage while choking back vomit. (Ask Justin Bieber! It never works.) She goes to her job at the car show anyway, where the director promptly rejects hungover Cece but accepts amateur Jess as a replacement. The man's clearly desperate.
Jess looks killer (because, Zooey Deschanel), but she makes pointing at a Ford Fusion look like the hardest job on earth. She loses a shoe, then proceeds to awkwardly stop around the rotating stage to Hall & Oates' "You Make My Dreams Come True" (another (500) Days of Summer reference) while the announcer sells us the Ford Fusion. Environmentally conscious! Eco-boost engine! Your co-workers will be jealous! Great, now I want a cookie and a hybrid.
The car show is an epic fail, but if nothing else, Jess has reestablished her bond with Cece. Back at the apartment, Nick gives Schmidt a black-and-while cookie cut into the shape of the star of David; it's a strange gesture, to be sure, but Nick's heart is in the right place. "You gave me a cookie, I gave you a cookie," Nick says, and he then repeats this insecurely, confusedly, with each repetition getting louder, sadder and more desperate.
It's really a well-played scene and a great performance by actor Jake Johnson. Nick describes wandering through the grocery store, wondering what to get Schmidt so that they'd be "even"; he could get Ramen noodles like Schmidt used to eat in college, but Schmidt probably eats fancier food now; Nick doesn't really know this new, successful Schmidt, and he's afraid of how much Schmidt still cares about him because Nick feels like he doesn't measure up. "I'm just going to let you down," Nick tells Schmidt, cutting to the heart of the matter.
Nick cries, and Winston is right there with the comic relief: "Just let it rain, man!" All three hug it out before scattering in their own separate directions, still wary of being too emotional.
But Schmidt is left smiling in the kitchen, happy to know how much Nick cares.
Later, Cece and Jess celebrate Cece's birthday with Clueless and cake, just like old times. While they eat, Jess asks the million dollar question: "Do think if we met today, we would still be friends?"
Cece answers honestly, "I don't know. But we're friends now." It's a satisfyingly sweet ending, complete with cookies and cake.
(Image courtesy of FOX)