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Jessica Day's 7 Best And 7 Worst Episodes Of New Girl Ranked

With the incredible comedic performances of cast members like Lamorne Morris and Max Greenfield in "New Girl," it can sometimes be easy to forget the anchoring brilliance of Zooey Deschanel's work as Jessica Day. Jess is a great protagonist not just because she's funny, but also because she's different from most other sitcom main characters. She isn't an aimless, cynical 30-something, she's a woman with passion and optimism and agency. She's far from perfect and has plenty to learn, which is a running theme in the show, but there's plenty of room to grow.

It's refreshing that Jess wants to see the best in people, and even more refreshing to see an unapologetically feminine protagonist who loves a job that's not remotely adjacent to the media and entertainment business. Jess bakes and works with kids and nurtures her friendships and wears adorable clothes, but she's no less strong or three-dimensional because of those aspects of her personality. She's an iconic TV character who will no doubt endure for a long time, but sometimes she leans a bit too much into the quirkiness and the writers don't always get it right. These are Jessica Day's best and worst episodes of "New Girl."

Best: The Landlord (Season 1, Episode 12)

"The Landlord" is one of Jess' best episodes because it firmly establishes the incredible comedic dynamic between herself and her roommate — and sometimes lover — Nick Miller (Jake Johnson), something that comes up again and again in future episodes. After arguing with Nick that people are basically good if you give them a chance to be (Nick, the consummate cynic, believes that people will be the worst because people are the worst), Jess tries to get their landlord Remy (Jeff Kober) to fix things around their apartment by being nice to him.

It seems to work, but Nick is suspicious, and rightfully so — when Jess makes dinner for the three of them, Remy reveals that he's been expecting them to have a threesome after dinner. Nick and Jess enter into a hilarious game of chicken, neither wanting to be the person to admit they're wrong about people and back out of the threesome. In the end, Jess blinks and they don't get very far, but the audience is left with the memory of Jess, Nick, and Remy loosening up to the dulcet sounds of Rusted Root.

Worst: Naked (Season 1, Episode 4)

Jess' behavior in this episode is so irritating that even Zooey Deschanel herself called it "grating" on her rewatch podcast with Hannah Simone and Lamorne Morris. Nick becomes self-conscious about his body after his roommates tease him about his stomach pudge. In preparation for a date with the beautiful and difficult-to-read Amanda (Lake Bell), Nick strips in his room and dances to reggae to build up his body confidence. Jess opens the door to ask Nick to turn it down, and, realizing that he's naked, runs away — but not before letting out an unhinged giggle/shriek.

Throughout the rest of the episode, Jess literally cannot say the words "penis" or "testicle." This is out of character, as evidenced by her much more coherent maturity level in the rest of the show (she actually said the word penis two episodes before this, making the whole thing even more nonsensical). It's just not a good look for Jess, but it seems a failure of writing more than anything else.

Best: Chicago (Season 2, Episode 20)

"Chicago" is a really important episode for Jess and Nick and the serious side of their relationship. After Nick's father dies, the loft gang flies to Chicago for the funeral and encounters the dysfunction of the Miller family up close and personal. Nick is expected to handle the funeral arrangements while also processing his father's death, and Jess is basically the only person there who really focuses on supporting Nick himself. After Jess tries to help Nick write his father's eulogy, he disappears to a bar and comes to the funeral drunk on "one dozen" beers along with a random, drunk man who is there to impersonate Elvis (which his father wanted for his funeral).

Jess realizes that this won't work, and decides to take on the impersonation herself. Nick's mother is horrified at first, but Jess' genuine desire to help Nick gives him the boost he needs to give his father a meaningful eulogy. Zooey Deschanel is hilarious in her Elvis get-up, and it's particularly funny when she needs to check her palm for the lyrics to "Burnin' Love."

Worst: Models (Season 2, Episode 5)

Jess and Cece's friendship is a huge pillar of the series, but the episode "Models," which revolves around Jess' issues with Cece's job, is just not an example of Jess' best traits. Cece overhears Jess deriding modeling as a profession and implying that it has made Cece "dumber." Jess feels terrible, and rightfully so — the scene highlights her tendency to judge people for having different priorities from herself. The next day, Cece is horrifically hungover but cannot cancel a car show job for her agency. Jess goes to the event with her and offers to fill in when Cece nearly pukes upon seeing the spinning platform she's expected to stand on.

It's not that Jess isn't funny as she struggles to highlight the car in comically large faux lashes and heels — she's hilarious, in fact. However, the main comedic showcase of the episode surrounds Ford product placement, and it feels a bit in-your-face. Combine that with Jess' initial judgments of Cece and her profession, and it's one of her worst episodes.

Best: Basketsball (Season 3, Episode 12)

In this episode, Jess is obsessed with becoming friends with Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.) independent of her relationship with Nick. Coach is in the midst of basketball season and therefore uninterested in basically anything else, so Jess pretends to be a Detroit Pistons fan and starts to watch games with him. Jess stays the course despite Nick's frustration that she's supporting the rivals of his favorite basketball team, the Chicago Bulls.

Her relentless pursuit of friendship with the oblivious Coach is both charming and funny to watch, especially after she tries to break the TV cable to avoid watching more basketball (in the hope that she can grow her friendship with Coach beyond a sport that she doesn't even like). Her no-sex fight with Nick is a hilarious B plot, especially the part where she tries to turn him on by describing the purpose of a piston, and it's great to see so much of Jess' personality and interpersonal relationship dynamics throughout one episode.

Worst: Birthday (Season 3, Episode 13)

Jess gives off major Annie Hall vibes in this episode, with her twirly mannerisms and manic energy surrounding her birthday expectations. Nick asks to spend her birthday with her and secretly plans a surprise party for the evening without realizing that he would need to fill the day with activities as well. Jess, not knowing about the party, only sees Nick scrambling to think of something for them to do and becomes increasingly upset at his apparent lack of foresight.

When Nick and Jess come upon a birthday tableau set-up in the park, she is ecstatic and digs into the cupcakes right before a little girl yells, "That lady stole my birthday!" Jess runs away crying, and even though Nick is able to salvage the party by surprising her later at the movie theater, it's still sad to see such a positive character so let down — albeit because she had unrealistic expectations.

Best: The Last Wedding (Season 4, Episode 1)

"New Girl" had many hilarious guest stars over the years, including Jessica Biel as Kat in the Season 4 premiere. Kat provides the perfect foil to Jess' antics in "The Last Wedding," the stoic, confident genius to Jess' funny, adorable, and approachable character. When Kat and Jess find themselves fighting over the only eligible man left at a friend's wedding, the Best Man (Reid Scott), hilarity ensues. Jess looks gorgeous, and it's a little annoying when the show tries to make jokes implying that Kat is somehow much more attractive (we'd go ahead and say Zooey Deschanel and Jessica Biel are both Hollywood-level beautiful), but for the most part, the dynamic is played wonderfully by both actors.

After Jess attempts the "Biden" strategy by always "being there" wherever the Best Man is, Kat goads her into an "extreme Biden" wherein Jess follows the Best Man into the men's bathroom. In the end, the two part amicably after the Best Man is incapable of making a choice between them, and it's nice to see two women on TV approaching a love triangle with humor, realistic expectations, and respect for the game and the players.

Worst: Goldmine (Season 4, Episode 7)

After a series of bad dates and dud guys, Jess has finally found someone she likes enough to bring over to the loft for some intimacy. The gang informs her that it will be difficult to convince her new guy Ian (Michael Stahl-David) that Nick's presence as Jess' ex-boyfriend/current roommate isn't a deal breaker-level of weird, but she brushes them off. However, she quickly realizes they're right upon seeing Ian's reaction. In a panic, she takes Nick's suggestion and tells Ian that Nick has recently come out as gay, which is the only thing that assures Ian enough to come over to the loft with Jess.

Nick promises to help Jess maintain her lie but then accidentally brings a girl home later that night. Ian eventually discovers the truth about Nick and storms out on Jess. It's not too difficult to sympathize with Jess in this scenario — after all, it's not like they can really kick Nick out of the loft (and therefore off the show). But it's still a really bad look to get someone to come home with you by lying to them about something so significant. This is definitely not Jess' finest moment.

Best: Background Check (Season 4, Episode 6)

Zooey Deschanel showcases her gift for physical comedy throughout the entirety of "New Girl," and she's at her best with it in "Background Check." Winston tells his roommates that an officer from the police academy will be coming to the Loft to conduct a background check on him, his apartment, and his roommates. Jess is immediately stressed, believing that she has a bag of crystal meth in her closet which came to her unknowingly inside of a storage piece she bought at a flea market. Jess and the others decide not to tell Winston about the drugs and a series of antics ensue as they try to dispose of them while the background officer is conducting interviews in the living room.

Jess has the "drugs" stuffed inside her bra at one point, and it's surreal to watch as she tries to hold up her chest and answer questions about why Winston will make a great police officer. Eventually, they are unable to hide the crystal meth any longer and the officer examines it, quickly concluding that they've all been trying to dispose of aquarium rocks. It's a great piece of television, and particularly fun to watch the entire main cast get caught up in the zany misunderstanding.

Worst: Goosebumps Walkaway (Season 5, Episode 10)

"Goosebumps Walkaway" marks the return of Jess to the loft after serving in a sequestered jury (and Zooey Deschanel's return to "New Girl" from maternity leave). She comes home to find that Cece and Winston have gotten closer, Schmidt is planning the wedding in a frenzy, and Nick and Reagan (Megan Fox) are into each other. She finds out about this last thing almost immediately thanks to Nick's awkward tendency to blurt things out, and it leads to a really weird moment that hangs over the rest of the episode. Reagan spends the episode helping Jess find a juror with whom she had a brief flirtation, and Jess helps Reagan come to terms with her feelings for Nick.

It's not the Reagan/Jess combination that makes this episode one of Jess' worst — in fact, Jess and Reagan often have a very funny dynamic when they're together. What makes this episode so frustrating is how much the writers are trying to tell the audience that Jess is fine with Nick and Reagan's relationship. Jess offering advice and support to a potential romantic partner for Nick is just weird, no matter how they frame it. Yes, they acknowledge this weirdness in later episodes, but having even just one episode where Jess is totally cool with Nick and Reagan's romance feels forced and untrue.

Best: Jeff Day (Season 5, Episode 15)

This episode is great because it combines several elements that have always worked well for Jess' character. The premise of her storyline is that a car salesman won't take her seriously because she's a woman, so she emails back and forth with him instead to get the deal she wants on her new car, signing off as "Jeff Day." Unfortunately, the salesman is expecting a man to come sign for the car in person, and so Jess must ask Nick to come and lend his Y chromosome to finalize the deal.

Nick, feeling that his manhood has recently been derided by Jess' current boyfriend Sam (David Walton), seeks to get Jess an even better deal and ruins everything she negotiated the first time. Jess loses it after Sam arrives, also as "Jeff Day," and the car salesman blames her for bringing her drama everywhere. She test drives the car and puts the fear of God into all three men by speeding and driving aggressively. In the end, Jess gets the deal she wants, forces Nick and Sam to be civil to each other, and doesn't have to sacrifice an ounce of her personhood and femininity to do so.

Worst: 300 Feet (Season 5, Episode 14)

It's not nearly as easy to get a restraining order against someone as TV might have you believe. At the beginning of "300 Feet," Jess finds out that Sam has filed one against her, meaning she cannot come within 300 feet of him. At this point, all Jess has done is drop off some baked goods and attempt to apologize for their past, but this is sitcom land. What's even more concerning is how casually Jess regards the restraining order, deciding to find a way to make contact with Sam anyway and ask him to drop it.

Winston thankfully has something to say about this as a cop, but Jess doesn't listen and ends up in the back of Sam's pickup truck going through a car wash. The episode ends with the two of them making out in the middle of the road. It's all a bit creepy, and definitely doesn't show Jess in her best light. "300 Feet" makes light of a serious issue, and not in a particularly funny way. The episode hasn't aged well and is among the worst "New Girl" installments ever aired.

Best: Single and Sufficient (Season 6, Episode 3)

"Single and Sufficient" is the highlight of Season 6 and such a fun episode to watch. Jess has joined a platonic singles club which includes Cece's amiable ex-boyfriend Robby (Nelson Franklin) and her hilarious ex-boss Principal Foster (Curtis Armstrong). Schmidt and Cece inadvertently invite Jess and her singles group to join them on a fun camping vacation, where they are constantly derided for "single shaming" everyone there without a partner. Schmidt is perplexed and irritated, and he and Cece soon realize that Jess and Robby have some chemistry. Jess, however, is not ready to date after realizing her existing feelings for the unavailable Nick over the summer, and the trip ends with the disbanding of their hilariously structured singles group — though Jess later runs into Robby at a restaurant and invites him to join her at her table.

It's a great episode for Jess because it allows her to lean into her nerdiness and penchant for rule following and organized activities. It also establishes a really fun dynamic between her and Robby that will play out throughout Season 6 and provide her with some relief from her feelings for Nick.

Worst: Hubbedy Bubby (Season 6, Episode 2)

Hollywood had a high degree of confidence that Hilary Clinton would win the 2016 presidential election, and so did Jess. The writers of "New Girl" had the protagonist spend an entire episode excitedly volunteering for the Clinton campaign and arguing with Schmidt about his Republican views (he doesn't support Donald Trump, instead loathing both candidates).

It's hard for a network sitcom like "New Girl" to do a story about politics in a way that isn't cringe, let alone in a way that's effective or enjoyable. People watch shows like "New Girl" for safe escapism and joy, and having the ugliness of the 2016 presidential election leak into the show was a tactical error. On top of everything, it's not a particularly funny episode, and Jess and Cece come off as out-of-touch elder millennials in their interactions with the UCLA sorority house they're canvassing. It wasn't fun to watch at the time, and it's even worse today.