I recommend New Girl to basically everyone I know. This show has been there for me during heartbreak, boredom, sickness, health…am I married to New Girl?
If you love this comedy series as much as I do, join me for a recap of the best adventures of Jessica Day (Zooey Deschanel), Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), Winston (Lamorne Morris) and Cece (Hannah Simone), plus some hilarious recurring characters, as we count down the top 10 best episodes of the Fox series, New Girl.
10. Wedding (Season 1, Episode 3)
This episode has it all. Group camaraderie. The great Natasha Lyonne. The slo-mo chicken dance. Most importantly, this episode gives us the perfect example of Nick’s relationship with Caroline (Mary Elizabeth Ellis, who's part of some of the best It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia episodes) and his new relationship with Jess, who’s posing as his girlfriend to make Caroline jealous.
This episode also lets us know that Winston is NOT the straight-man of the group, as we see him take his job as an usher way too seriously, with him stating:
B-Plots include Winston’s battle with the “alternate usher” and Schmidt’s funny attempts to avoid sex with Gretchen (Lyonne).
This episode comes in at number ten because while it's one of my favorite episodes of the gang being straight-up good friends to each other, we don't quite get to see them acting as fully crazy as they do in later seasons. Even so, good friendship is something I think we can all slo-mo chicken dance about.
9. Fancyman, Part 1 (Season 1, Episode 17)
We’re introduced to Nick’s Fancyman, Russel (played by Dermot Mulroney), when Jess is informed that she must make nice with a rich father at her school or risk losing the rather large donation he contributes.
Nick and Jess end up at a party at Russel’s house and Nick is swept off his feet by the “man stuff” in Russel’s Fancyman office, including a fancy sweater.
Russel and Nick meet, and Nick (wearing the sweater) introduces himself as “the one with no phone,” which he cannot get because he wants to stay off the grid and his credit score is too low. After Russel and Nick have a man-to-man conversation, Russel gifts him the sweater with a very special instruction: Fold the sweater. Don’t hang it.
Nick takes the instructions seriously and even remembers to fold the sweater up before helping Jess get out of the koi pond in Russel’s backyard. It's a small bit of quintessential Nick, and that's why this episode makes it to number nine.
8. Cabin (Season 2, Episode 12)
Number 8 on our list follows a double date that's doomed from the start between Jess and Sam (played by David Walton) and Nick and his wild girlfriend Angie (Olivia Munn).
After Jess shoots the power line and leaves the crew without electricity at a cabin in the woods, Angie suggests they spice up their power-less party by drinking Absinthe.
Back home, Schmidt has a hard time understanding why Winston acts differently around Black people (like “Pixar Winston”) and wants to let Winston turn on his “black switch."
Winston manages to convince Schmidt that the best way to honor his Black heritage is for the two of them to smoke crack together, something both Winston and Schmidt clearly know nothing about. It’s nice that Schmidt was willing to do something as extreme as smoke crack to help his friend…douchebag jar anyway, though.
While we get to see how much Nick cares about Jess when he's takes care of her after she pukes, this episode would have ranked higher if Schmidt had actually done crack for Winston.
7. Clean Break (Season 4, Episode 22)
This is an important one for the gang, and one that definitely can't be left off the list. Schmidt and Cece get engaged, Coach admits his friends mean a lot to him, May and Coach move to New York, and we find out that Jess still has unresolved feelings for Nick. We also get yet another example of Winston being good on the phone during his smooth voicemail to Cece, where he explains that Schmidt is now single and that she needs to come home from her mountain-climbing trip.
The best part of this episode is the sex mug, a coffee mug of Schmidt’s that Jess and Nick used to leave out to indicate they wanted to hook up. Winston has seen the mug out recently though, and he has photo evidence to prove it.
While this episode isn't the most jam-packed with laughs, it's full of important milestones for our TV friends that earn this episode the number seven spot.
6. Background Check (Season 4, Episode 6)
Who doesn’t love a bottle episode? In this hectic episode, Winston must complete a home interview as part of his background check for the police academy. Jess has a secret, though. She’s been hiding a huge amount of what she thinks is meth that she found in a thrifted piece of furniture.
It’s not meth (it’s just aquarium rocks). But, Jess and the others spend the day trying to hide Jess’ criminal activity from Winston and the officer conducting his interview, including trying to flush the rocks down the toilet, force them down the drain, and hide them in Jess’s bra:
The episode becomes increasingly unhinged, ending with Jess believing she’s gotten a contact high from the meth and Nick singing a rendition of Landslide by Fleetwood Mac. If that isn't enough to earn a spot as one of the best New Girl episodes, I don't know what is. This episode is the only part of Winston's cop plotline that I actually support, which is how it made it this far into the Top 10.
5. The Crawl (Season 4, Episode 15)
The crawl is for all! After getting dumped by Kai, Nick decides it’s finally time to complete his special project: creating the perfect Bar Crawl. Which happens to take place on Valentine’s Day. Attendance mandatory.
As the bar crawl chugs along, Nick picks up a lot of stragglers who also need a pick-me-up on Valentine’s Day, telling them that the crawl is for all. Meanwhile, Schmidt takes care of Cece, who’s sick after vowing to out-drink Nick.
Plus, Coach (played by the delightful Damon Wayans Jr.) and May meet in this one! Sing it with me: Bar crawl, bar crawl, bar crawl, talkin’ bout, bar crawl. Bar crawl.
This is an iconic episode that makes us laugh and feel for our characters, and that's why it makes the Top 5.
4. Pepperwood (Season 2, Episode 14)
In this one, Nick takes it upon himself to investigate when a student in Jess’ adult creative writing class starts making some serial killer-esque short stories that seemingly are about Jess. He goes undercover in her class as Julius Pepperwood, an ex-cop/ex-Marine from Chicago (and the future subject of Nick’s own novel).
Nick convinces Jess to stake out her student’s house, but while spying they see him doing some shady-looking things that seemingly confirm Nick’s suspicions.
By the way, have you ever heard of a Pogo? Don’t even go NEAR Winston in the morning. This episode sets up Nick's entire character arch in later seasons, and that's why it's included. Apricot. Er, sweet tangy balls.
3. Landing Gear (Season 5, Episode 22)
This is my favorite TV wedding of all time and undoubtedly one of the best New Girl episodes. Schmidt embarks on a chivalrous mission to fly to Cece’s hometown of Portland to convince her mother to give her blessing for their marriage. Big Mama P actually shows up in LA to give her blessing anyway, telling Cece that Schmidt has been leaving long, rambling voicemails for her in which he professes his love for Cece on a weekly basis. The only problem is that Schmidt is still on the plane—they never left the tarmac at LAX.
The wedding reception goes on without Schmidt, but when he finally gets back home in the middle of the night the gang has set up an intimate wedding ceremony in the loft.
I’ve watched this about a hundred times and I’ve never made it through without crying. It gets me every time when they smash the douchebag jar, and "Stay" by Seinabo Sey is a perfect song to capture the moment.
There’s also the tension of wondering if Winston is going to prank the wedding—he always goes way too big, or way too small.
2. Virgins (Season 2, Episode 23)
In my second-favorite episode of all time, the gang recalls the story of how each lost their virginity in preparation of Jess’ date with Teddy, whom she says “took her flower.”
We learn that Schmidt’s first time was with his college girlfriend, Elizabeth (while Nick was sleeping in the bottom bunk), Winston’s was with a hooker Nick’s dad bought for him, and Cece’s was with…Mick Jagger???
Fans will recognize guest star Dylan O’Brien, who recently starred in the Taylor Swift (who's also a New Girl guest star) music video for "All Too Well" (10 Minute Version), as the smooth guitar player who tried unsuccessfully to take Jess’ virginity on prom night.
P.S. Nick and Jess hook up for the first time. Since this is a classic example of a New Girl flashback episode, it earns the number two spot on our list.
1. Cooler (Season 2, Episode 15)
What can I say? Nick and Jess are my One True Pair. This episode marks the first time they kiss, all thanks to a good ol’ game of True American, the New Girl drinking game with very few discernable rules. (Ex.: The floor is lava.)
The players of the game are Jess and Sam, Winston and then-flame Daisy (played by Disney alum Brenda Song), and Schmidt and Nick plus the girl from the bar who’s attracted to sadness and self-loathing. When Nick and Jess get locked in a room together until they kiss (as per the rules of the game), they’re forced to discuss the fact that Jess has yet again ruined one of Nick’s romantic prospects.
Fellow Nick and Jess stans will recall that when Jess tells Nick to “just kiss her already,” he says “No, not like this,”…and then subsequently climbs out the window and scales the building to avoid dealing with the fallout. All while wearing his ladies’ trench coat.
When the game is finally over and everyone’s heading to bed, Nick and Jess kiss for the first time.
And, wow. It truly is a kiss that earns the number one spot on this list.
Fans of New Girl can watch this binge-worthy series on Netflix or stream it on Hulu.
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She/her. Lover of female-led comedies, Saturday Night Live, and THAT scene in Fleabag. Will probably get up halfway through the movie to add more butter to the popcorn.