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New Girl: “Eggs”

While cable becomes the auteur-friendly realm of the Louis C.K.s and Lena Dunhams of the world, the business of writing and directing a network sitcom remains a primarily collaborative effort. When you’re cranking out upwards of 24 episodes in a calendar year—as the people responsible for New Girl will for the show’s second season—a roomful of writers and a regular rotation of directors is a necessity. On some shows, a writers’ room could easily become a “too many cooks in the kitchen” situation (especially once notes from the bigwigs upstairs start filtering in)—the good shows, however, have a strong enough core and confident/passionate enough showrunners that the many voices sounding behind the scenes of an episode can be synthesized into a half-hour harmony. The sole writing credit for “Eggs” went to 30 Rock vet Kay Cannon, but the finished product almost certainly features uncredited additions from other writers, from Elizabeth Meriwether and her fellow New Girl bosses Brett Baer and David Finkel, or from director Neal Brennan. It’s also likely that half of the spectacularly suggestive innuendos that spill out of Schmidt’s mouth in the episode’s funniest scene were “written” on the spot by Max Greenfield. 

The contributions of all the aforementioned people can be heard in “Eggs,” but the episode doesn’t collapse in on itself—in fact, it supports and in some cases elevates these contributions—because it’s built around a solid core. And on New Girl, that core is the five principal players: Jess, Schmidt, Nick, Winston, and Cece. At this point in the series, enough is known about these characters and the way they relate to one another that writers like Cannon can try out a little role-reversal experiment on the gang. A recognizable version of New Girl needs to exist in order for “Eggs” to work as well as it does; we need to know, for instance, that Schmidt fancies himself a “vagenius” for that invented term to be funny or for a challenge to Schmidt’s skills in the bedroom to have any sort of resonance. It’s a simple concept—albeit one that’s consistent with what we’ve seen of season two so far—but it’s also a playful one, and New Girl is nothing if not playful.

Or gleefully crass: “Eggs” is prefaced with a “viewer discretion is advised” disclaimer, and it earns that warning, if only for the wild, entirely insinuated tongue-lashing Schmidt doles out in Sadie’s office. The return of June Diane Raphael’s character sets the tone for that scene and the rest of the episode: Sadie and her wife Melissa (played by Cannon) are the guests of honor at a cold-open dinner party that warns any Nick Millers in the audience that talk of “two sets of boobs” is about to give way to frank and practical discussions about procreating, the type of which New Girl was incapable merely a year ago. Of course, Jess’ old squeamishness about sex is one of those previously established character traits that “Eggs” requires to spin into its main storyline and jokes where the character screams “Fertilize me, Los Angeles.” But the episode improves on the failings of “Bad In Bed” by layering the clinical talk about aging and egg-loss over the noisy narration of Schmidt’s latest night of contractually bound sexual escapades with Emma. The offscreen shouting strikes a great balance for the episode, keeping things “Business Time” silly while Jess and Cece fret about how many more child-bearing years lay ahead of them. It’s something of a new frontier for the show, so the Mars-rover imagery is apt.

Clocks of all kinds are ticking away in “Eggs”: Jess and Cece’s biological timepieces, for starters, but also the timer counting down Nick’s chances to finish that damned zombie novel. It’s a short-term dilemma with a facile solution—to paraphrase Winston, Nick just needs to stop procrastinating, start writing, and admit he’s scared of the amount of work it will require—but it’s an age-appropriate analogue to what Jess and Cece are going through. Not that either character wants to hear that comparison, but from a writer’s prospective, Nick is trying to bring life into the world—even if that life is represented by the unyielding undead of Z Is For Zombie. Nick’s “world turned upside down” response involves an unhealthy amount of day drinking and elaborate stalling techniques, and as such is initially portrayed as exaggerations of the character’s natural instincts. But it all results in 14 hours of productivity, which feeds neatly into the “Opposite Day” vibe of “Eggs” while also giving the episode a fun denouement via Winston’s dramatic reading of the horrible, no good, very bad Z Is For Zombie.

“Eggs” gets laughs from most of its reversals—Jess and Cece deciding to act like the guys, for instance, or Winston’s frequently cited “adjusted schedule”—but it mines some poignancy from flipping Cece and Schmidt’s prerogatives. The script does a modicum of nudging, but the show’s finding an organic method of bringing Schmidt and Cece back together, suggesting that Cece wants to start a family sooner than Robby does while also getting Schmidt to admit that he was—and still is—in love with Cece. I’m thankful that the show is taking its time with such a development, and I’m similarly appreciative of the way Cece’s various season-two epiphanies peel back her defenses. Let’s hope a 180 into full-on domesticity isn’t in order, but season two continues to provide the character with subtle reminders that she might need to start thinking beyond her next modeling gig. Between her career and cutthroat attitude, it’d be easy for Cece to lapse into cartoonish, one-dimensional territory, so concerns like these bring the character back to earth. Only time—and the next few episodes—will tell if it brings her back to Schmidt as well.

One of the continued delights of New Girl’s second season has been seeing its stars pushed out of their comfort zones alongside their characters. This episode takes that concept to the extreme, and while it’s great to receive a sequel to “Jess cries about a teacup puppy” in Zooey Deschanel’s squirmy chatter at Sadie’s office, it’s probably best for the show if Max Greenfield never reprises his role as the glammed-up Studio 54 Busboy of Emma’s “most secret fantasy.” (I can’t help but feel like Brennan got the actors to such places by favoring longer-and-looser-than-usual takes—particularly in the two scenes in Sadie’s office, where Deschanel and Greenfield were seemingly let loose to ramble.) An episode like “Eggs” gives the writers a few new outfits to put on their characters, but too many role reversals and challenges to what we know about the characters could start to take chunks out of that all-important core. Tonight’s episode shakes things up, but only to the point where it doesn’t need to spend the whole third act reassembling characters and relationships. Because if the core’s strong enough, the episode will find its way back to it: a group of friends, in an apartment, laughing with and/or at one another. Someday biological imperatives may force them to need more than that, but for now, I’m glad that they don’t.

Stray observations:

  • Winston’s relatively stable and self-fulfilled state reinforces his role as the voice of reason in an episode like “Eggs,” but I feel like that makes it harder for the writers to come up with decent storylines for the character. Not that there isn’t meaty material to mine from stability—it’s just that the show is so rooted in late-20s/early-30s panic, there’s little to give Mr. Passionate About His Work beyond “I’m sleepy.” Maybe having Nick around the studio to mess things up is a start toward finding a conflict that aligns with something Winston cares about deeply.
  • As someone who’s spent a lot of time staring at blank pages in word processors, I can attest to the accuracy of Nick’s clapping and drumming swiftly devolving into a diversion from writing.
  • Unsurprising Nick Miller facts, part one: At some point, he started a ketchup collection.
  • Unsurprising Nick Miller facts, part two: The headboard of his bed is one part Stranger In Town by Bob Seger And The Silver Bullet Band.
  • Nick is grossly unfamiliar with the exploits of young Ernest Hemingway and how to be more like the legendary writer: “I gotta eat my way out of a sandwich house.”
  • It’s tough to pick a favorite excerpt from Schmidt’s “vagenius” summit with Sadie, but I’m partial to “I’ll go outside, get the paper, shake the neighbor’s hand” and “Everybody… gets… a churro.” 

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