“New Girl”: Kids, huh?

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Jess was already gone, left to go away for jury duty, but had one more joke built in, in the shape of a bowl filled with slips of motherly advice, umbrella sentences that could be universally applied like, “Nick stop doing that.” They’re meant to last, for the gang to pace themselves, but some time later that night they’re sitting on the couch reading them all.

It’s packed with great inside jokes, which New Girl has done well over the years without having to explain too much. Things like “Stop harassing Beck,” who cut him off driving, something with a shish kabob and another about Schmidt singing Rent songs.

Winston finds one: “Stop reading this within the first three hours of my absence.” How did she know, Cece wonders, until Winston pulls the next slip: “Because I know everything.”

“That’s super scary, right?” Nick exclaims.

And just like that, Jess’ brief appearance on season five of New Girl is over as Zooey Deschanel went away on maternity leave. The good news is she’s reportedly back on set, but the way “Jury Duty,” the season’s third episode, ends leaves me to wonder: How will New Girl keep Jess, the O.N.G. (original new girl), living and breathing?

Showrunner Elizabeth Meriwether wrote in a semi-permanent part for Megan Fox, who will attempt to fill in during Deschanel’s absence, but what arc will Jess have while she’s away? Will there be “phone calls”? The gang bought her a burner, after all, because they think she’s going to prison (also a box of cigarettes stashed with cash). It’s this aspect of season five that I’m immensely interested in because it’ll be important not to forget her. She won’t make surprise appearances, but how will she be kept in the dialogue?

What’s even more interesting is what she’ll be up to when she’s brought back because “Jury Duty” introduced a new plot line for her. She meets Daniel (John Cho) at the courthouse and they bond over their mutual respect for the judicial process and public service. He’s one of the lawyers on the case, as it turns out, and it’s a high-profile one — the reason the jurors are being put up in a hotel.

It’s funny that the whole time she’s trying to navigate her way out of jury duty — she’s being offered an interim principal role at school because Principal Foster broke his leg but won’t be able to take it because of the expected length of the court case — her reason she could be dismissed is her sudden interest in the lawyer.

But she’s sticking it out to impress Daniel, who has already given her his phone number. So this is a curious opportunity for the writers to enable Jess to live off screen. The best way to show it, when Deschanel returns, may be by creating a romantic relationship with the lawyer. One, it’s something Jess is seeking (see: “What About Fred). And two, John Cho wouldn’t be a bad guest star to have in a recurring role.

At least for a little while.

 

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