New Girl aired a total of 146 episodes on Fox during its seven-season run, but only one can be the best New Girl episode. While many of these episodes were funny, heartwarming, and full of romantic tension, some were better than others. The series was at its best when balancing storylines for its cast of loft-mates on the edge of romantic tension with the stories of friendship. New Girl’s writers had a particular talent for fitting emotional storylines into the sitcom’s particular brand of “quirky” humor.
New Girl kicked off with Jess (Zooey Deschanel) moving in with three complete strangers after her boyfriend cheated on her. Over time, she grew to become incredibly close to Winston (Lamorne Morris), Schmidt (Max Greenfield), and Coach (Damon Wayans Jr.), though the latter would move in and out of the series. Jess also found love with her roommate Nick (Jake Johnson). While the romantic relationship provided a long-term arc for the series, the theme of the show was really about these 30-somethings learning to grow up with the help of their friends, and those friendships made the best New Girl episodes really stand out.
25 Landlord (Season 1, Episode 12)
The first season of New Girl is largely devoted to the roommates getting to know one another. When that comes to Jess and Nick, that means learning how stubborn they both are and just how far either of them is willing to go to prove a point. The epitome of that is in “Landlord.” Jess doesn’t realize that her loft-mates don’t call the landlord for anything because they’re in violation of multiple parts of their lease, and it leads to a visit none of them are expecting.
The funnier part of the episode comes from Jess not realizing that the landlord is so willing to help her because he’s attracted to her, which Nick picks up on right away, and refuses to leave Jess alone with him. A comedy of errors follows in which the landlord thinks all three of them are spending the night together, making for one of the funniest misunderstandings in New Girl.
24 Chicago (Season 2, Episode 20)
Because it’s a comedy, it’s hard to imagine that a more dramatic episode would be one of the best episodes of New Girl, but “Chicago” is definitely that. The entire group travels to Chicago after the death of Nick’s father, intent on helping him with funeral preparations. The episode allows the audience to see a different side of Nick as he tries to take care of everything for his family, but crumbles under the grief of losing his father, ending up drunk just when he’s supposed to give a eulogy, and unable to get an Elvis impersonator for the service.
Each character deals with the death of Nick’s father differently, and even with the emotional storyline, the writers are able to find the humor for all of them. The cast plays it perfectly as Winston openly grieves, Schmidt becomes afraid of a dead body, and Jess dons the Elvis costume for Nick.
23 A Chill Day In (Season 5, Episode 18)
While there’s plenty of drinking in New Girl, there isn’t a lot of illegal substance use. While some characters are open about their past drug use, Jess is someone who only gets high once every seven years according to Cece. This is the episode during the run in which she does, intending to have a “chill day in” with Cece before Cece gets married.
What follows is Cece and Jess, while high, accidentally destroying one of the wedding gifts and setting out to get a new one. Ally has to come to their rescue when they’re causing a scene in the store. It’s a new way for the audience to see the characters, and at five seasons in, that’s an accomplishment for the writers.
22 The 23rd (Season 1, Episode 9)
One thing that New Girl does incredibly well during its run is holiday episodes. The holiday episodes play on classic tropes, like everyone trying to get home for Christmas, but manage to still make them fun. Here, however, before everyone can try to get home, Jess and her new boyfriend attend Schmidt’s holiday party at work and decide to break up when they realize they see the relationship differently.
Nick is the one caught in the middle, hinting at what’s to come in their relationship. He’s also the one to try to cheer Jess up in one of the best endings of a New Girl episode, taking her to see a street full of lights in the middle of the night as he and their friends all encourage people to turn their lights back on after they’ve all gone to sleep. It’s a sad ending for Jess’s first serious relationship in the show, but a sweet one for the roommates.
21 Injured (Season 1, Episode 15)
When Nick is injured and has to see one of Jess’s friends (who is a women’s health doctor) because he doesn’t have health insurance, he discovers that he might have a life-threatening medical condition that he has to have checked out. The news sends all the roommates into a tailspin as they consider Nick’s mortality.
“Injured” takes the idea of one of the roommates dying and finds both the pathos and the humor in it. It also has one of the best musical sequences in the show as Winston composes “Sad Song” while all the friends are in the bar with Nick and the friends band together to attempt to cheer him up. It’s one of the best New Girl episodes to deal with a more serious subject.
20 Parking Spot (Season 2, Episode 17)
Audience members who have had experience with limited parking will appreciate this Season 2 gem from New Girl’s best episodes. It features Schmidt, Jess, and Nick in a standoff that gets a little awkward, but is very entertaining.
When the roommates find out that a great parking spot becomes available for the residents of their building, they all want it. Initially, Jess and Schmidt put Nick in the middle, wanting to make him choose which of the two deserves the spot most. Ultimately, it is a test of wills as Schmidt, Jess, and Nick all try to outlast one another, sitting in the spot and hoping the others will admit defeat. It’s standard sitcom fare, but the episode uses tropes that are consistent crowd-pleasers to great effect.
19 Santa (Season 2, Episode 11)
Every sitcom has at least one holiday episode. New Girl had quite a few holiday episodes in its seven seasons. Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and more were touched on with suitable hilarity. In this case, it is Christmas.
The group of roommates split their Christmas Eve between a few different holiday parties, but most of the episode is devoted to the relationship drama of it all. While Jess finds her ex trying to woo her all over again, Nick finds himself intimidated in his potential new relationship, and Schmidt finds himself striking out with Cece (again) due to a misunderstanding. The episode balances the relationships among its core cast incredibly well here, something that other episodes struggle with, and that’s a big part of why it works so well.
18 San Diego (Season 6, Episode 21)
Setting aside Nick’s horrible decision to break up with Reagan by leaving her on a train to San Diego, this episode is a solid one heading into the final stretch of the series. Right near the end of Season 6, it sets events in motion for the last season.
While Jess spends time figuring out her feelings for Nick, she also distracts herself from her own romantic troubles by setting her dad up with a new woman. Schmidt decides he needs to find a way to be taken more seriously in the business world and thinks using his first name is the way to do it. The trouble is, his first name is actually Winston, leading to some good old-fashioned roommate conflict. Despite the big story being Jess and Nick, the episode is able to feature everyone. Episodes like this one, that find that great balance, make for the best New Girl episodes.
17 Birthday (Season 3, Episode 13)
The title alone keys fans to the fact that a character is celebrating. In this case, it’s Jess. Her roommates get pretty caught up in the competitive aspect of making everything perfect.
Coach and Winston battle it out to create the perfect cake. Nick also tries to plan the perfect day for her. Perfection, as is often proven in the sitcom world, can be overrated. In the B-story, Cece and Schmidt spend some more quality time together, this time with Schmidt trying to help her become a better bartender to get her coworker off her back. It’s a both hilarious and heartfelt New Girl episode.
16 Secrets (Season 1, Episode 19)
Close friends and roommates are supposed to tell one another everything, right? This episode proves that maybe some things are better left unspoken.
When Winston learns that Cece and Schmidt have a casual physical relationship, he can’t keep the secret to himself. Eventually, the news makes its way to Jess, and she isn’t exactly thrilled for her best friend. As a result, she decides it is better if all the roommates get all of their secrets out in the open. Increasingly outlandish things are revealed throughout the episode, providing hilarity for the audience, and a little bit of growth for the characters. Hilarious secrets and character progression make for one of New Girl’s best episodes.
15 Engram Pattersky (Season 7, Episode 8)
Series finales have love-hate relationships with long-time fans, but New Girl manages to maintain its momentum until the very end and give the audience a great send-off. The final episode has the gang dealing with the news that they are being kicked out of the loft. As they pack up, they reflect on all the great things that have happened there. They also, briefly, imagine what their future in the loft would have looked like.
In the end, the gang learns that the eviction notice they received was actually part of one of Winston’s elaborate pranks. However, they decide to move out and on anyway, embarking on a new phase of life. This caused the episode to act as a nostalgic end to the series.
14 Quick Hardening Caulk (Season 2, Episode 19)
Jess deals with her romantic interest in Nick in this Season 2 episode, while Schmidt figures out his own feelings for Cece via an elaborate metaphor involving a lionfish. After Jess gets hit in the jaw, she gets put on painkillers, which, unfortunately for her, leads her true feelings for Nick to spill out. This causes a lot of confusion for Nick when he becomes unsure whether “real Jess” or “drugged-up Jess” expressed her wishes to be with him.
Not all New Girl fans wanted Nick and Jess together during the series run, but this episode proves that the tension between the two could make for some hilarious storylines. Nick trying to figure out just how Jess really feels while Schmidt is in denial about his own feelings makes for great parallel storylines and one of New Girl’s best relationship-focused episodes.
13 Virgins (Season 2, Episode 23)
Each member of the loft reflects on the first time they “did it” in this Season 2 episode. The stories are told through a series of flashbacks, and outside of Cece’s, they’re all pretty awkward. The storytime ends with Nick and Jess finally embracing their romantic feelings for each other. Most fans were happy to see the Nick-Jess romance finally continue in a major way, but that’s not what makes the episode so great.
When most TV series employ flashback episodes, especially ones taking plays years prior, younger actors are hired to play the characters. New Girl embraces the cheesiness of the episode by having the actors, all in their mid-30s at that point, play their high school selves. Friends did the same thing during its run, and it only makes the audience find the storylines even funnier.
12 Prince (Season 3, Episode 14)
Jess and Cece receive an invitation to a party at the iconic Prince’s house in this Season 3 episode. The guys also want to come along and set their minds to sneaking in. However, all of their plans get a little uncomfortable after Nick blurts out an “I love you” to Jess, and she replies with finger guns. Prince himself makes an appearance in this episode and helps the couple figure out their issues. Though the plot initially received mixed reviews from critics, fans loved the episode as a whole.
Sitcoms frequently employ the “accidental I love you” trope in new relationships, but rarely does a sitcom have a guest star of Prince’s caliber to help the characters figure out the status of their relationship. That’s what makes the episode so fun even if the plot itself is a little thin.
11 Elaine’s Big Day (Season 2, Episode 25)
This episode follows Cece’s wedding day and Schmidt’s plan to sabotage it. Things get complicated when Jess, who recently began dating Nick, mistakenly believes he is involved in causing the chaos at her best friend’s wedding. It’s also worth mentioning that Schmidt’s plan to get Winston (Mr. Prank Sinatra himself) involved only makes things worse. The escalating chaos that leads to Nick and Jess going “all-in” on their relationship already makes the episode a great one, but it’s Taylor Swift’s cameo that pushes it over the top.
While Jess is a big Taylor Swift fan and listens to her music throughout the series, Swift doesn’t cameo as herself, but a past love of Cece’s groom. It might create a plot hole, but it’s the kind of moment New Girl fans would never have expected when the episode aired, making it a great moment for fans to talk about, and giving it a spot among the best episodes of New Girl.
10 Models (Season 2, Episode 5)
While a lot of the best New Girl episodes feature the ensemble in larger group scenes, this particular episode breaks the main characters up into smaller friend groups for the stories. Here, Jess deals with feeling like she and Cece don’t actually have much in common after hanging out with her model roommates. Nick and Schmidt find themselves at an impasse when Schmidt feels underappreciated by his oldest friend, prompting Nick’s often quoted, “you gave me cookie, I got you cookie” moment in the series.
This episode asks whether these particular friendships would have formed if the characters had met at a different point in their lives. While the question is an interesting one, in the end, it doesn’t really matter as both sets of friends slowly begin to understand one another’s point of view. The episode allows the audience to get to know the characters and understand their dynamics better, even after an entire season of spending time with them.
9 Pepperwood (Season 2, Episode 14)
In “Pepperwood,” New Girl lays the groundwork for Nick’s eventual novel as Nick actually takes on the guise of the character he will one day write about it. He does it when he decides to go “undercover” in a creative writing class Jess teaches, believing one of her students might be a dangerous killer.
Fans of physical comedy will find a lot to love in “Pepperwood.” As Jess and Nick end up in the most ridiculous of situations, they also end up in some of the most ridiculous physical positions during their arguments and their talks with Jess’ student. It’s an episode very much reminiscent of the days of Lucille Ball.
8 Pilot (Season 1, Episode 1)
It’s rare that a pilot episode of a television series ranks among the best, especially if a series has more than 100 episodes. The pilot episode of New Girl, however, is definitely one of the best in the series. It’s a great snapshot of just who the characters are, and it provides the entire crux of the show in its 20 minutes: that Jess is going to bond with and become a lifelong friend of the men she moves in with, whether they want her to or not.
The episode teases the relationships that will build, like Nick and Jess immediately having conflict, but Nick being the first one to want to come to her rescue, or Schmidt taking brief strides to become a better person just in his handful of interactions with Jess. It’s a nearly perfect pilot episode.
7 Cabin (Season 2, Episode 12)
Jess and Sam try multiple times to have a relationship in the series, and every time, other people in their lives get in the way. In this episode, however, it’s not Jess and Sam who have trouble in their relationship, but Nick and his new girlfriend Angie.
Angie is more of a free spirit than even Nick is ready for. He realizes that when she encourages the group to drink absinthe on a trip to a cabin and tries to get them to switch partners – then steals his money and leaves without him. Olivia Munn might not be one of Nick’s best love interests in the show, but she’s certainly one of the most entertaining, shaking things up for the group of friends and exposing some of the insecurities they have, which is what makes her episodes so great.
6 Fluffer (Season 2, Episode 3)
While the B storylines of the episode involving Winston and Schmidt are fairly typical for New Girl, it’s the A story featuring Nick and Jess that really holds the episode together. When Jess has a hard time having a purely physical relationship with someone, she turns to Nick, spending more time with him, and asking him to do things that she would normally ask a boyfriend to do.
When it’s pointed out to them, it’s the first real step toward Nick and Jess admitting how they feel about one another. New Girl plays the long game with its big relationships, and gradually building up Nick and Jess in the first two seasons is a smart move because it allows the audience to get to know them separately and see how they would act as a couple. “Fluffer” isn’t the first hint at that, but it takes the story a big step forward.