The smartest thing about New Girl reintegrating Coach back into apartment 4D isn’t that they’ve brought a new character into the mix to shake things up, but that Coach has a history with each of the other roommates. New Girl could have easily introduced someone completely new, but it wouldn’t have the same power as someone like Coach.
Cece would have eventually started dating someone new and Schmidt would have inevitably found out about it and tried to break it up, regardless of who it was. But what’s great about it being Coach who Cece starts dating is not only that it spurs conflicting emotions in Schmidt, making him want it to succeed and fail at the same time, but it makes the audience want the same thing.
While the audience’s allegiance most likely lands in favor of Schmidt—we’ve spent more time with him—New Girl has given us enough reasons to want both of these men to end up with Cece, and also not to. It’s a fine line to play, but between the relationship of Nick and Jess and the likability of Schmidt, New Girl knows how to handle tough problems.
Taking romantic entanglements out of the equation, Coach’s return has also changed how the rest of the roommates are acting lately. Winston’s had a pretty rough year, but seeing Coach’s ability to get over his ex, he decides to try to get back in the game and meet some human ladies. And without his new cat/best friend Ferguson!
In fact, Ferguson is on the loose, since Nick left a window open, even though he clearly knows Ferguson always tries to kick it with the pigeons on their roof. This throws Nick into maybe the most proactive mode we’ve ever seen him, as we watch him maneuver, along with Jess, in an attempt to keep all their friends from going insane. Jess has to make sure Schmidt doesn’t interrupt the Cece/Coach date, and Nick will take Winston on a ride around town to find his missing feline friend.
I can’t remember the last time—if ever—Nick was the most responsible male in the group. Not only is the relationship with Jess slowly changing him for the better, but with everyone else freaking out over their own problems, Nick is the only one stable enough to help out.
Beyond Nick’s newfound leadership, all of the guys take steps into new paths. After an incredibly rocky start, Coach and Cece’s date ends well, with the two of them making out like crazy. Schmidt, having escaped from Jess’ distractions of dancing and explaining, The Practice, heads to the Staples Center to stop the date. Jess gets to him and even hits him with her car to stop him, but when the two return home, they find Coach and Cece kissing, effectively breaking Schmidt’s heart.
Winston finds his cat with a bus driver named Bertle who seduces Winston over bologna sandwiches, making Nick incredibly uncomfortable. But once that third-wheel Nick gets out of the way, Winston and Bertle hook up, creating by far the creepiest relationship that New Girl has ever embarked on.
The Coach experiment has worked incredibly well for New Girl, so much so that Damon Wayans Jr. has signed on for at least the rest of this season. Coach’s return is already doing wonders for the various characters, even making Cece something more than Jess’ friend and Schmidt’s obsession for the first time this season. Initially, I imagined Coach appearing at 4D would just be some fun fan-service, but with episodes like “Longest Night Ever,” his ability to shake up the apartment’s inhabitants makes him integral to the evolution of these characters in the third season.