Zooey Deschanel, Jake Johnson, Lamorne Morris
Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Real friends will help you bury the body

“Where The Road Goes” opens with foreboding, as the cast—so young, so vital, their whole lives ahead of them—converge upon a graveyard in somber dress and sorrowful expressions. Whoever has died, it’s someone close to their hearts. There’s grim relief in their appearances as, one by one, the camera focuses on another familiar face, revealing that this core character, at least, has escaped death. For now.

So whose death is New Girl teasing? The answer, it turns out, is a little fuzzy. No one has died in “Where The Road Goes.” Instead, the group gathers to memorialize the anniversary of a death, and it is indeed someone close to our hearts: Furguson.

Too many people at this memorial service are repressing some secret guilt or sorrow. A year after Furguson’s death, Winston still hasn’t cried for his cat. Schmidt is suddenly distraught over the possibility of Cece remarrying if he should die first, and Cece gets more and more impatient with his questions. Coach can’t quite meet Nick’s eyes, and Nick can’t even be bothered to keep his outbursts of “ya jerk!” under his breath.

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I let that slip by like a cat sneaking a mouthful of purple glitter right under your nose: Coach is here! Coach is here!

Damon Wayans, Jr.
Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

Of course Coach is here for “Where The Road Goes.” In his own words, “What kind of adult man wouldn’t be here to support another adult man a year after his cat died?” One key to New Girl’s success is its ability to capture the inane things people will do in the name of friendship, whether that’s flying in from New York to attend the unveiling ceremony for a purportedly Jewish cat’s gravestone, lending $71,000.00 to a friend on the strength of an ill-defined business plan, or keeping a cat murder a secret (for a few couplets, anyway, before dropping the accidentally rhyming bombshell into a mic).

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That last secret belongs to Jess. The day before Furguson died, she saw him sneak a mouthful of her purple glitter. For a full year, she’s believed she killed Winston’s best friend, his bosom companion for puzzling and pasta ever since he stole the cat from Daisy to…

… well, to kill him.

What a bunch of potential cat murderers this seemingly harmless group has turned out to be! But Winston didn’t kill Furguson four seasons ago, and Jess didn’t kill Furguson a year ago. In “quite possibly the most bizarre of my small-time abuses of police power,” Winston ordered an autopsy, confirming that, having lived a long and fruitful life of eating, sleeping, and licking, Furguson died of natural causes. As easily as that, a year of guilt lifts off Jess’ shoulders.

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Nick’s impulse to unburden himself of secrets is, as Nick’s impulses often are, ill-timed but sound. This is a group that needs to get the, as Nick phrases it, skeletons off their shoulders. Nick never told Jess about lending money to Coach because his financial irresponsibility was a stumbling block in their previous relationship. Coach stopped talking to Nick because he was embarrassed about the loan. Cece doesn’t want to negotiate how long is long enough to be widowed before she finds a new husband because she can’t bear to think about being without Schmidt.

It’s a little too easy. In their early days together, Jess wasn’t upset that Nick was “bad with money,” but that he was terrified of dealing with money, financial planning, or any bureaucracy. Coach and Nick reconcile after one gross shared memory of an embarrassing penis injury, but they are, as Jess’ remark lampshades, unrealistically “cavalier about large sums of money.” Schmidt and Cece make up in a moment, and he assigns the bumbling (but eager) Dunston to “take care of my wife” after his death.

Most of all, “Where The Road Goes,” which is putatively all about Furguson, is not remotely about Furguson. It’s a strangely cursory goodbye to a beloved character, and a disappointing end to one of the great partnerships in sitcom history. Never again will Winston and Ferguson split a bowl of pasta. Never again will the two of them reach an epiphany in the shower. Never again will they best a skillfully trained “trash cat” in pursuit of stardom—and true love. Theirs is a friendship worth mourning for itself, not only for its effect on the family Winston and Aly are starting together.

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Lamorne Morris
Photo: Ray Mickshaw/FOX

That’s the biggest, saddest secret at the heart of “Where The Road Goes.” Aly’s fretting over Winston, who never cried over Furguson’s death. But Winston’s been holding those tears back for her. By the time grief hit him, Aly was pregnant, and Winston wanted to be a rock for her and for their future child. She’s worried for him, he’s trying to be strong for her, and the moment they start to talk about it, Winston is diverted into an apparent The Tell-Tale Cat situation, where he starts tearing apart the bar to locate a cat whose cries only he can hear.

Furguson’s unveiling and memorial are cluttered with trappings of sentimentality—a cappella group LAPD So La Ti Do performing a sobering rendition of “Cat World,” Robby’s scrapped interpretive dance, Jess’ rhyming couplets—but it’s a silly collection of cat generalizations rather than poignant memories of this particular cat, or of his peculiar relationship with Winston.

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The lost kitten climbing into Winston’s lap is adorable, and also a little too easy for a show that just finished describing Furguson as “irreplaceable.” Real friends, as Nick observes, will help you bury the body. They’ll help you get the skeleton off your shoulders. They’ll want you to be happy, and if you outlive them, they’ll want you to find a new companion, whether that’s a $5000.00 cat or the hapless but eager Dunston. (Welcome back, Sam Richardson!)

But real friends should also remember you when you’re gone, and not use your memorial as just one more excuse to work out their own problems. They should honor you with more than a token goodbye.

Furwell, Furguson. I miss you already.

Stray observations

  • “Your new husband would still be finding my bobby pins in couch cushions!”
  • Hello, Tig Notaro! Always good casting for an unflappable bartender.
  • Jess, waving off praise for having planned the elaborate memorial service: “He was a good cat, he would have done it for me.”
  • Now that Jess has capriciously spent five thousand of Nick’s dollars on a kitten, maybe he can stop worrying about whether she thinks he’s bad with money.

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