New Girl Season 6 Episode 8 Review: “James Wonder”

New Girl Season 6

Throughout its five-plus seasons, New Girl has had quite a bit of fun with its characters and different personas. Whether it’s Jess pretending to be Sam’s date, Katie, or Nick channeling all of his Chicagoan idiosyncrasies into the character of Julius Pepperwood, this sitcom has never shied away from goofy and downright strange alter egos, and it’s provided some of the series’ funniest moments of all-time. Sometimes, New Girl is at its best when it just gets weird and wacky and allows its characters to indulge their craziest antics, and “James Wonder” certainly gives both Winston and Nick plenty of opportunities to be their weirdest and funniest selves, as Winston uses his potential undercover alias, James Wonder, to help Jess try to land the principal position at her school and Nick struggles to find the perfect wedding gift for Cece and Schmidt months after their actual nuptials.

The title character of James Wonder isn’t the first persona we’ve seen Winston adopt on New Girl. Who could forget the glorious speech given by Theodore K. Mullins back in Season 1, or the excitement that Winston had when he created his own legal-drama character, Courtroom Brown, in Season 3? However, “James Wonder” does mark the first time we’ve seen Winston act out one of these ridiculous characters outside of the loft, and of course, because it’s Winston, his undercover routine doesn’t somehow blow up in his face; instead, it’s a rousing a success, as he pretends to be a widower looking at Jess’s school as an option for his child and ends up bonding with Ed Warren, the one person whose approval is absolutely vital for Jess to obtain the principal job.

Throughout most of “James Wonder,” Jess resists the urge to use Winston’s alias to help secure her the principal position at Banyon Canyon. However, she ultimately caves, allowing Winston to go full Wonder at a dinner with Ed and Genevieve (returning guest star Lucy Punch), who is clearly infatuated with Winston’s alter ego as she continuously flirts with him, even going as far as to grab his leg under the table while they eat. The entire dinner, as Winston’s James Wonder persona begins to unravel the more and more Genevieve hits on him, is an absolute blast, and each line or piece of physical comedy delivered by Lamorne Morris throughout the half hour is gold. Everything about the James Wonder character, from Winston’s intense commitment to the alias (Winston doesn’t remember drawing the several, well-crafted and nicely colored lawn designs that James promised to have for Ed, but he finds them underneath his pillow in the morning) to how he came up with the name in the first place (a combination of his two favorite singers’ names: Stevie Wonder and James Blunt), is just so wonderfully funny that it makes up for any narrative shortcomings this episode has.

But even though there’s not a lot of story in “James Wonder,” the most important storyline of the episode does go to Jess, and it’s a refreshing break from her awkward, on-and-off romance with Robby. Jess’s struggle to impress the Banyon Canyon parents leads to her agreeing to some ridiculous requests from Ed, such as limiting the amount of math courses the school offers in favor of an emphasis on ventriloquism, and when she’s flooded with even more outrageous demands from the rest of the parental community, she finally has to put her foot down, declaring herself a principal for the kids, not for the parents. Zooey Deschanel sells the hell out of what could be a somewhat cheesy speech and proves, yet again, the importance of Jess’s values. Sure, Jess wants the principal job but not at the expense of the kids’ education; they’ve always been what’s most important to her and will continue to be, and she brings up some strong and specific examples to several of the Banyon Canyon parents about how she’s improved their children’s life with her teaching methods. For the past few weeks, I’ve been calling for New Girl to give Jess a work-centric storyline, and “James Wonder” doesn’t disappoint, especially by injecting some always enjoyable Winston humor into the situation.

While Jess and Winston are paired up together during this episode, Nick spends the half hour trying to get the most special and unique wedding present he can for Schmidt and Cece. A blender from their registry won’t do; Nick wants to go off the registry, and Schmidt allows him to after seeing how important this is to Nick. Of course, since this is Nick Miller we’re talking about, he ends up getting his friends the oddest wedding gift possible: a tattoo of the two of them on his leg in the design of the Pretty Woman poster. Nick’s explanation for the gift: it will last forever, unlike any appliance that he could purchase them.

Nick’s exasperated search to find the perfect gift for Schmidt and Cece is funny enough on its own (his drunken exchanges with both of them at the bar might have been my favorite moments from “James Wonder”), but the payoff of the tattoo is what makes this story so exceptionally funny. Schmidt and Cece’s horrified reactions to the tattoo are marvelous, as she tells Nick that it’s “like you stole our souls,” while Schmidt complains that his best friend “depicted my wife as a common street whore.” Plus, Nick getting a tattoo of the two of them on his leg is so perfectly in character for him, and yet I would never have thought of it. Major kudos to the New Girl writers for that hilarious idea and for also having Nick alter the tattoo at the end of the episode from just Schmidt and Cece to his four roommates, as the artist adds Jess and Winston to the design as well (although no Furguson, much to Winston’s dismay).

Aside from the strong Jess storyline, there’s not much to “James Wonder” other than a lot of really great laughs, which I’m perfectly fine with. Not every episode of New Girl needs to feature some type of major development for one of the loftmates; I love these characters enough that I enjoy simply hanging out with them for 30 minutes every week, no matter what they’re up to. “James Wonder” gave me that and more laughs than pretty much any other episode in Season 6. How can I complain about that?

Other thoughts:

  • I know that Genevieve is leaving to open her own elementary school at sea, but I really hope this isn’t the last we’ve seen of Lucy Punch on New Girl. She was terrific in this episode, and we haven’t gotten enough of her since Jess joined Banyon Canyon last season.
  • So, out of all the alter egos that New Girl has given us over the years, which one is your favorite?
  • What’s the best Nick Miller moment from the episode? Calling his situation a “double-edged-coin,” believing robots control everything after Winston’s walkie-talkie prank, or getting his hands stuck in the same pants pocket?
  • “I’ll do it, but under one condition. Actually, no, I don’t have any conditions.”
  • “Are you shouting at a podcast again, Jess? You know it can’t hear you, right?”
  • “I remember when the internet used to just be a naked lady and a bunch of dancing hamsters.” “How drunk are you, Nick?”

What did everyone else think about this week’s episode of New Girl? Comment below and let me know. 

[Photo credit: Ray Mickshaw/FOX]

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