New Girl 3.15 “Exes” Review: The Ex-Factor

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Throughout its 2014 run, New Girl has been hitting its stride with a string of amazing episodes that may even rival the back half of season two, when show hit new heights with the developing romance between Nick and Jess. “Exes,” like this past Sunday’s “Prince,” is a funnier episode than last month’s “Birthday,” but it also packs the same emotional punch of that episode, just in a different way.

After allowing Nick and Jess to tell each other that they love each other in “Prince,” the New Girl writers decided to challenge the future of the couple with a look back into the past, specifically through Nick’s ex-girlfriend, Caroline, who after Nick left her back in the season one finale, never received an explanation for his sudden change of mind. Naturally, Nick is hesitant to explain his reasons why, causing Caroline to assume that he cheated on her with Jess, thus igniting an epic level of craziness that she unleashes on Nick (and a poor innocent person’s car).

While Nick attempts to cowardly escape from his ex, Jess embraces the presence of her former flame, Berkeley, played by The O.C.‘s Adam Brody (aka Seth Cohen, my favorite television character of all-time). Jess and Berkeley have kept in contact for over 10 years, since their relationship ended. Berkeley’s married and has a baby, but he’ still holding on to the belief that Jess is interested in him, something that Nick suspects but that Jess can’t fathom until Berkeley explains how he plans to leave his wife for her.

Essentially, all this craziness is funny and entertaining, but it gains a new level of importance when it crescendos into Caroline’s speech to Jess, where she tells her how things between her and Nick may seem perfect now but that will all end soon. Not before long, he will stop holding her hand, stop listening to her, and forget all about the love that they possess for each other now.

This impassioned plea is where “Exes” really reaches its full potential; one episode after the romantic high of telling each other that they love one another, Jess and Nick are now confronted with the realistic possibility that this could be all futile through the physical presence of Caroline. This is scary, new territory for New Girl to explore; no longer is the threat to Nick and Jess as a couple a character quirk or a convoluted, manufactured problem. Instead, the drama stems from an internal conflict outside of their control: the sheer possibility that, over time, their relationship will fade and the two of them will fall out love.

Confronting the crushing reality that things could end poorly for Nick and Jess is one of the many ways that New Girl is keeping the pair together while also continuing to make them interesting. For every grand romantic gesture, like there was in “Birthday,” New Girl never forgets the importance of making its characters, specifically its central couple, feel incredibly real, no matter how crazy the situation around them is.

And that’s what make New Girl such a special sitcom. Despite the rapid-fire jokes and wacky scenarios that the group finds itself in, it never lets itself become a live-action cartoon like so many other network comedies have. That’s the reason why New Girl is firing on all cylinders right now.

Other thoughts:

– While Nick Miller was (as always), the funniest character of the episode for me, the Coach/Winston/Schmidt plot, where they all attempted to use Schmidt’s fancy, newly decorated loft to impress their dates, was equally as enjoyable. Plus, I had some great Theodore K. Mullins’ flashbacks when Winston came out and proclaimed that he was “Frank Skabopolis.”

– Really happy that we were given a reminder in this episode that Winston is still planning on becoming a cop. Perhaps New Girl can then have a cross-over episode with Brooklyn Nine-Nine?

– Nick’s philosophy on exes: “You burn them swiftly and give their ashes to Poseidon.”

– Who knew Nick Miller was a Dave Matthews fan?

– “This is the scariest one yet. It’s just a bunch of smiley faces.” I agree, Nick. Overusing smiley faces can be kind of horrifying.

– I will now always refer to Winston as “Winnie the Bish.”

– “The good valley Schmidt hasn’t felt rain in months.”

– “Caroline, I never cheated on you, but I might as well have. See I fell in love with Jess the moment she walked through the door.”

What did everyone else think of last night’s episode of New Girl

[Photo via Ray Mickshaw/FOX]

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