Let’s get this out of the way right at the top, this is clearly the best New Girl has been all season and it could also be one of its all time bests. “Background Check” taps into what makes up the best episodes of the show as the group of friends are forced into close confines. The all important bottle episode, a technique that New Girl has mastered. The show doesn’t need to work on its core cast’s chemistry, which is crucial to a bottle episode, as it is on full display here. Putting these things together along with a winning guest turn from Cleo King (Deadwood, Pineapple Express) as Sergeant Tess “The Fish” Dorado and you have the makings of a very funny 22 minutes of television.
Framing the episode around Winston’s home visit background check by a superior officer is a smart move as it allows Lamorne Morris to play the straight man for a change, something this show has sorely lacked. Sure, Morris is one of the most gifted actors on the show in the comedy department but the show’s straight up refusal to have him be a main focus of a recent episode is downright criminal. This time though Winnie gets to shine. The background check gives the episode weight and an emotional core as all viewers know the need for Winston to get a win. When Jess reveals that she unwittingly bought an ottoman with a bag full (and I mean full) of crystal-meth though, things get out of hand fast.
Immediately, the mission becomes to find some way to dispose of the drugs before the Sergeant finds them while at the same time make Winston look as good as possible. Of course, this goes as well as an attempt to herd cats. Schmidt and Coach back themselves into crafting a story about how Winston works with The Boys and Girls Club. Thus the formation of the B-Plot where Coach leaves the apartment and attempts to pick up a 10 year old boy that he wants to role play as Duquan. Wayans does what he can with the thin plot he is handed but makes up for it handily during the tag with Duquan (I mean Juan) and their mutual love for outlet shopping. Nick on the other hand is left with the one person he should not be, Sergeant Dorado, while he himself must cover up his overactive sweat glands with a kimono.
The breakneck pace that the show operates in during this episode allows it to roll from one joke to the next, forcing the viewer to pay attention in an effort to not miss the joke of the evening. For what it is worth though, the entire scene where Nick unloads his deep childhood moments onto The Fish is the joke of the night. What the pace also delivers is the ability for the emotional beats to resonate even deeper. Schmidt and Cece’s mutual understanding that their fake kiss was at least a little real is one of these moments. The other, and far more important, is the conversation that Jess and Winston have in the bathroom. This scene along with approval of Winston by Dorado, who calls him one of the academy’s best cadets, allows Winston to break free of the pack. Ever since he quit the radio station the question was whether Winston was going to be able to make his own choices and have those choices make him happier. The approval gives this satisfaction to Winston in front of his roommates and Cece, makes them proud of him and delivers the win Winston has needed.