In preparation for the Season 5 premiere of Fox’s New Girl coming the fifth of January, here are (you guessed it) five of the show’s very best episodes and what makes them oh-so special. While it was difficult to limit the list to just five, the episodes that made the cut are iconic ones we’re sure you’ll want to re-watch before the new season debuts. There are some spoilers, so tread lightly if you aren’t quite caught up!
Season 1, Episode 10: “The Story of the 50”
- Quick recap: After Schmidt loses the “rez” on a decked-out bus (fit with a “love grotto” and a boob-shaped steering wheel) he’d hoped to party in on his 29th birthday, Jess plans an evening of debauchery inside an actual school bus. Schmidt attempts to impress his college “fremesis,” Benjamin, with the evening. When Benjamin makes a move on Jess, and implies that Schmidt is a loser in the act, Schmidt stands up for Jess with Nick and Winston on backup. Jess and Schmidt have a heart-to-heart, during which he mistakes a platonic but still poignant moment for something more, a mistake witnessed by the whole gang. This costs him $50 in the Douche-bag Jar, hence the episode’s title.
- Why it’s great: A strong, particular group dynamic has always been the glue of the show, and the way this episode sets up and carries that out is why it is one of my favorites. A big event with everyone in the group involved inevitably leads to trouble and hilarity that ensues when trying to solve it, and the tenth episode of Season 1 is no exception. The one-liners in this episode are classic New Girl, and the characters’ most prominent attributes are on show: Nick’s inherent oddball nature, Schmidt’s lovable douche-baggery and Jess’s adorkability and willingness to help a friend. While previous episodes were strong, “The Story of the 50” sparkles, solidifying the tone unique to the show.
- Highlights: Winston trying to pronounce “charcuterie.” Nick’s confessions to his recent girlfriend Julia, one of which includes his disbelief that dinosaurs actually existed. One of my favorite Schmidt lines: “Damn it! I can’t find my driving moccasins anywhere!”
Season 1, Episode 15: “Injured”
- Quick recap: A friendly game of flag football turns after Jess sacks Nick, injuring his back. Jess insists he see her friend Sadie, an OB/GYN, who prescribes Nick medication to manage his pain, but quickly notices in him what might be thyroid cancer.
- Why it’s great: Like “The Story of the 50,” “Injured” is fantastic in the bonds that exist within the group, but this time, for a different reason. There is a noticeable shift away from the typical out-and-out humour, wit and laughs into something more raw. (I was tempted to use “truthful,” but that didn’t feel quite right.) The episode peels itself back, revealing not anything more valid or true, but more vulnerable. A gripe viewers of the show — myself included — have in regards to such a shift is the lack of movement and arc in each character as they attempt to work through serious situations. In the same vein, serious moments can often be cauterised with a joke or a jab, not giving a situation’s truth time to come to the surface and be dealt with. However, “Injured” could not be farther from this. The severity of such a situation like Nick is facing isn’t something New Girl is known for, but handles well in this episode, feeling neither watered-down and stiff nor too jokey that it feels disingenuous and frothy. Certain scenes hold a great deal of weight and the show allows the emotion to come to fruition and blossom. Jokes are saved for before or after this growth. The most notable example of this is the beach scene with Cece and Schmidt, in which Schmidt makes a remark about Cece’s butt making a perfect imprint in the sand before they then discuss grief and pain and how the only way to “get through it is to get through it.” These windows of sincerity let characters’ relationships deepen and shine in a way that feels so real.
- Highlights: The entirety of the rap dedicated to Nick, with particular regard to Schmidt’s line, “The ice in my glass represents the tears from my eyes. I love you, dawg!” The fact that Winston had been starting his car with a bent paperclip. A looped-out-on-pain-pills Nick delivering the line, “I feel, like, really good in my uterus.” The Fredo kiss(es).
Season 2, Episode 23: “Virgins”
- Quick recap: Plainly put, the guys and the girls recount how they each lost their virginity. The gang wouldn’t be the gang unless some competition is involved, as they each insist their experience was the worst amongst the bunch.
- Why it’s great: This is a well-done flashback episode that feels true to the show. These types of episodes can sometimes feel awkward, like writers had a solid idea but were unsure of where to place the episode in the season’s line-up, as it doesn’t necessarily advance the existing plot. Similarly, flashback-exclusive episodes can be discredited as “throw-away” episodes — a dig at a show’s writers, accusing them of scrambling for content. Fortunately, this episode felt like neither. Though it didn’t serve a plot-pushing purpose, I can’t find fault in that due to its overpowering charm. It was steady and endearing, with that New Girl flair woven in perfectly. From the humorously ugly wigs during the peeks into each character’s awkward past to the twist Jess’s story took (who would’ve suspected that ginger fireman?), “Virgins” is an episode anyone, New Girl fan or otherwise, can have a laugh watching.
- Highlights: Winston’s reaction to Nick once taking mushrooms before a Dave Matthews Band gig: “White people.” And, selfishly, the Dylan O’Brien guest spot as “The Guy.”
Season 3, Episode 21: “Big News”
- Quick recap: Winston Bishop is officially in the police academy! Cue the champagne celebration. Or in the gang’s case, a “honey roast” in which they say sweet things to the man of the hour, which spirals into expected chaos and then turns to delve into the reality of the Nick/Jess split.
- Why it’s great: Season 3 was a rough patch for New Girl. The show dipped into a few ruts and had difficulty reestablishing its footing after each misstep (and sometimes couldn’t get back on its feet). But this episode found its way back to the bones of the show’s skeleton, returning to the charming (if not slightly silly) banter and antics the audience had come to know and love. Likewise, it regained the strength it had found in sentimentality both with and without a punchline (similar to the moments we saw in 01×15 “Injured”) in Jess’s and Nick’s respective grief in the aftermath of their breakup. The sweet-and-sour complexity of “Big News” showed promise in the final stretch of the third season, and personally, it was a hope I held on to for the show’s fourth.
- Highlights: Jess revealing that Nick calls birds “wind mice,” as well as her “cat-bernet” wine pun. Winston’s iconic yawn. Coach watching Winston’s iconic yawn.
Season 4, Episode 6: “Background Check”
- Quick recap: The gangs apartment is subject to a thorough search by Winston’s superior, Lieutenant Tess Durado, and (not surprisingly) tensions proceed to run high. Jess is left convinced she’s in the possession of a generous amount of crystal meth (hidden in the second-hand ottoman she keeps in her bedroom), Nick is on the verge of unconsciousness as he’s forced to lie and Coach roams the streets of Los Angeles looking for a boy named “Duquan.”
- Why it’s great: This is what New Girl almost consistently does right: goofy group antics. While, yes, it is admittedly harder for the show to navigate character development when things get more serious, when the opposite is executed as cleanly as it is in episodes like “Background Check,” you remember the show’s strength in the silly and in bottle episodes. Each portion of the ensemble has their own chance to shine in comedic moments and individual story-lines, with none overpowering the others as they sometimes had in episodes past. (I’m lookin’ at you, Jessica Christopher Day.)
- Highlights: Winston’s “You ain’t got a cycle, you’ve got a roller coaster.” Durado opening her introduction with the fact that “she likes music.” A sweat-drenched Nick singing Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide” in an effort to calm himself down. The use of the phrase “boob skin.”