Tuesday, November 4, 2014

REVIEW: 'New Girl' - The Whole Loft Goes Crazy In Order to Help Jess Hide a Bag of Drugs in 'Background Check'

FOX's New Girl - Episode 4.06 "Background Check"

As part of Winston's police academy training, the loft must pass a home visit and background check, which shouldn't be a problem until Jess admits she might be hiding illegal substances in her closet.

Crazy Winston works as a character on New Girl because the show and Lamorne Morris have just decided to go all-in on it. It's a trait that is never the same from episode to episode and yet has become one of the more enjoyable aspects of the show. Because of that though, it could be really easy not to take his attempts to join the police force seriously. He's this out-there character and now they're trying to give him a gun and a badge. "Background Check" definitely delves into that sensibility. The plot mechanics of the episode don't especially work for me but the emotional beats are really strong when it comes to Winston's dynamic with the rest of the gang.

Seriously though, why does Jess keep a bag of meth in her room after finding it in a piece of furniture she bought at a garage sale? As a character, I expect her to be smart enough to handle it accordingly. She's a vice principal after all! Instead she just throws it into her closet and does absolutely nothing with it. That's stretching things a bit too far. Moreover, the show doesn't offer up a great reason as to why Jess, Schmidt, Nick and Coach keep the bag full of drugs in the apartment when Winston has enough time to go downstairs, meet the officer doing his background check (Dorado) and bring her back to the loft.

A lot of this episode though is making the rest of the loft appear like crazy people while Winston is the sane one. They are all freaking out over the drugs. Nick starts sweating excessively. Jess and Cece try dumping it down the shower drain and the toilet - effectively causing their pipes to burst. Schmidt then takes his shirt off to mop up all the water while also freaking out that Cece is dating someone named Paul. Meanwhile, Coach has left the loft in order to find a kid to pose as a little brother who Winston mentors on the weekends. The show is pushing all the characters to the crazy extremes. That way when Winston is let in on the big secret he seems like the sane one with a calm head on his shoulders. He is the one willing to take the fall. Becoming a cop is his dream at the moment and he is valiantly ready to accept the punishment his roommates have flung onto him.

It should come as no surprise then that the episode reveals that Winston is one of the police academy's best cadets right now. That seems surprising to us due to the strong number of reference points of Crazy Winston in the past. But in the context of this episode, it makes all the sense in the world. "Background Check" is about everyone accepting that Winston can be a good cop. Jess and the rest of the group didn't want to go to him with this problem because they didn't believe he could offer any help. And yet, he is growing as a character too. He's not overreacting. He is approaching the situation like a rational person would do. It ultimately turns out to be nothing. The bag contained aquarium rocks instead of meth - making the characters seem even more dim. The goal of this episode isn't to introduce that Winston could be a good cop and then take it away from because of the mistakes of others. That wouldn't be rewarding at all. And yet, I found "Background Check" to be serving Winston though a disservice of the rest of the cast. That's just not a good way to do character development

Some more thoughts:
  • "Background Check" was written by Rebecca Addelman and directed by Lorene Scafaria.
  • With all my issues with the character beats of this story, "Background Check" had a lot of really funny moments. Nick singing "Landslide" and over-sharing with Officer Dorado, the three personal details Dorado gave the gang, and Schmidt & Cece's discussion about Mark-Paul Gosselaar.
  • This is also the first episode this season to have the full opening credit sequence. It's humorous because Jess declares that she "has a bag of meth in her closet" and then it immediately cuts to the upbeat "Hey girl!"
  • Dorado is also confused as to why Winston lives with these crazy people. After this episode, I would be too.