In which we travel to Chicago, meet Nick’s family, and learn why Elvis is everything. EVERYTHING!

Hello. Nanea here with this week’s recap.

The episode opens with random balloons, because why the heck not. Jess got them from some guy in a van. Is it just me, or is there this pattern of guys in vans giving Jess cool things? Either way, this is not a thing, kids. Strangers in vans mostly want to know if you think this napkin smells like chloroform, so stay away from them.

If you’re Jess, however – balloons! Nick walks in the door and gets in a fight with the balloons. I love it very much that his first impulse, when walking into a bunch of balloons is to start punching and yelling at them. Then his phone rings and he tells the balloons to “SHUT UP! It’s my mom!”

Winston and Schmidt immediately begin huffing helium. So does Jess, threatening to break their faces in if they do that again, but in a sweet, chipmunk voice. I would like it now if Nick came in and yelled, “Wiiiiiiiiiiinston!” And then Winston, Schmidt, and Jess sing Christmas songs. This does not happen.  Instead, Nick tells them his dad died of a heart attack and that he has to go back to Chicago. He’s looking pretty shell-shocked, and so are the roomies. All they can do is stare at him. Then they throw their arms around him and offer chipmunk-voiced condolences. They love him.

Which is why they end up accompanying him back to his childhood home in snowy Chicago. Jess: “So this is where Nick Miller grew up.” Nick: “Well, except for the fall of ’88 to the spring of ’89. That was our van year.” Van year? Oh, Nick. Jess wants him to know that she is here for him. So is Winston, because Walt loved him more. Schmidt is bummed because the airlines lost his baggage. Schmidt: “I wanted to look fantastic for your father’s funeral and now I have nothing but the schmatta on my back.” Nick slaps his face like a fighter heading into the ring. He’s psyching himself up to see his family. They are a little crazy.

In the Miller house, chaos reigns. There’s a baby crying and kids are darting through the halls (“Hey, Uncle Nicky!”) and Nick can’t help but smile. He’s home. His brother Jamie and his cousin Bobby are arguing about whether or not you call it ‘pop’ or ‘soda.’ “Why would you call it soda if it’s pop?!” “You call your dad pop!” Valid points, both. They look up and see that Nick is there. Bobby apologizes for the fact that Jamie was being a douche. Jamie: “I’M NOT BEING A DOUCHE. I’M EMOTIONAL!” And then it’s time for hugs. He grabs Nick. Nick: “You been crying a bunch, buddy?” Can I just say here how sweet all this is? Uncle Nicky! Caring big brother Nick! Gah. Jamie is a wreck. Nick takes charge: “Jamie, here’s what I need you to do: grab a bunch of kids and teach ‘em how to build a snowman outside.” Jamie: “I can’t do that! I did that already!” Bobby: “He put the carrot in the crotch.” Why would he do that? Because the kids told him to! Jamie: “Those kids were cool and I wanted to hang out!”

Then Nick’s mom, Bonnie, is there. More hugs. She is so happy Nick is here. Mama Miller: “I miss him, Nicky. That bastard was a saint. A saint. The bastard.” Nick: “I know. Come here.” He comforts her while the gang looks on. Jess is fascinated watching him navigate these people. Nick asks his mom what needs to be done. Basically? Everything. Including planning the funeral. Bonnie: “That’s why you’re here, Nicky. You take care of everything.” Jess is flabbergasted. Jess: “Is Nick taking care of people?” Winston says yeah. Nick’s dad was in and out, so he had to be the one to step up and be the man. Winston: “He pretty much takes care of all of them.” Schmidt: “Don’t laugh when they say he’s responsible. They don’t realize why that’s hilarious.” Anybody else getting a little choked up thinking about little Nicky taking care of his whole family in the absence of his deadbeat dad? Just me?

Jess wants to help. She introduces herself to Nick’s mom, who is less than impressed with her. “Winnie and Fat Schmidt, I know.” Jess, she doesn’t know. “Is she Hispanish?” Nick’s brother has a more important question. Jamie: “Are you guys, uh …?” Nick: “Jamie, I’m begging you to shut up.” Meanwhile, Bonnie wants Walt to have the funeral he always wanted – the same one Elvis had. With 12 white limos and Elvis impersonators. Nick doesn’t even blink. If that’s what his mom wants for his dad, that’s what’s going to happen. She should just tell him what needs to get done, and he’ll do it. Watching Nick step up into the role of caregiver/man of the house makes your heart ache, because 1) it’s obvious how much he loves his mom and 2) it’s pretty clear why he’s such a mess in the rest of his life. Bonnie wants to know if Nick will write the eulogy. A panicked look flits across Nick’s face, because Elvis impersonators? Fine. But standing in front of a room full of people and talking about his dad clearly scares the shit out of him. His family is all encouragement. “You just say a bunch of nice things, all in a row.” “C’mon. Do it, college!” In the end, Nick can’t say no to his mother. He agrees to do it. Bonnie: “That’s my boy. He takes care of everything.”

Cut to Nick, at what must be his dad’s desk, going over figures with an adding machine. He’s preoccupied and deep in thought, which is how Jess finds him when she comes to check on him. Given how sexy she found his desire to be responsible and do laundry last week, it’s sort of surprising that she doesn’t just fling him down on top of the bills and have her way with him right then. Actually, though, she just wants to make sure he’s okay and see if she can do anything to help.  Jess: “Are you having time to process this?” Nick: “Yeah, I’m just trying to figure out the level of Elvis impersonator we can afford, and I think a white one’s out of reach.” Jess wants to know if there’s anything she can do to help. Actually, yes! The eulogy. Nick’s all tied up with this Elvis funeral stuff. Jess: “I didn’t really know your dad, except for the one hour that I committed fraud with him.” Nick: “That’s all there is to know, really.” Jess really thinks this is something Nick should be doing, because hello, avoidance. But Nick looks at her and says, “You asked if there was anything you could do and there is. The eulogy.” Neither of them have ever been any good at saying no to the other when they were really needed. No matter how ridiculous the request. Nick will leave a bar with a hot girl to come home and protect Jess from an imaginary intruder. Jess is going to write the eulogy for Nick’s dad whom she barely knew. That’s friendship, folks.

Meanwhile, Schmidt is borrowing one of Walt’s old suits to wear to the funeral (which isn’t weird at all) and he’s having some difficulty. “Look at all these buttons, Winston. I feel like a remote control.” How is he supposed to mourn in this? Winston says this funeral is not about mourning. It’s a celebration of Walt’s life. The truth is, Schmidt is freaked out by death. He wants to be there for Nick and his family, but he’s just too scared. Also, he’s trapped in this suit, which has too many non-functional buttons. He’s having a bit of a meltdown.

Jess is working on the eulogy, but she doesn’t have a lot to go on, so she’s interviewing Jamie and Bobby. They are super helpful. Jamie: “I’ll give you the goods on Walt, Glasses Face. My pop had a table at every diner in the city. He had silverware from the finest hotels in the area. He had a gold chain as thick as floss. But like, thick floss.” Bobby is outraged to hear that Walt has that chain, because that was his father’s chain. Bobby: “My dad took a dart in the eye for that!” Jess feels they are losing focus. Can they just talk about Walt, please? Apparently not. Jamie wants to know if she and Nick are doing it. He makes suggestive eyebrows at her. Jess asks him to PLEASE stop doing that with his eyebrows. Not only does he not stop, Bobby joins in, because apparently they’ve decided Jess and Nick are totally doing it and this means they need to fist bump in male celebratory fashion. Jess: “No!” Jamie: “Whoever denied it supplied it.” Okay then.

Winston, who seems to be Schmidt’s new nanny/life coach, is trying to help Schmidt overcome his fear of death by impersonating a corpse. He encourages Schmidt to approach and say his goodbyes. Schmidt: “You left us too soon, you beautiful black butterfly.” Winston: “Start over.” It’s going okay until Winston moves. Schmidt: “YOU MOVED!” Winston: “Of course I moved! I’m not a real dead person!” Schmidt: “You ghoul!” Okay, it’s not going that well.

Nick is having difficulty trying to plan his dad’s funeral on a limited budget. “Two thousand dollars? Well, what if it wasn’t six feet under? What if it was three feet?” Bonnie needs the Elvis-themed food to be perfect. It has to be perfect. Jess can see that Nick is under a lot of pressure. She wonders if it would really matter that much if the food was not Elvis-themed. This is the wrong thing to wonder. Nick senses impending disaster. He tells the person on the phone he’ll have to call them back. Bonnie: “You don’t think Elvis is important?” Nick: “She knows Elvis is important.” Jess: “I know. I know Elvis is important. He’s the king. He’s the king. I’m sorry, Bonnie!” Bonnie storms off and Nick looks at Jess like, dude. Not helping. Jess is sorry, she really wants to help, but she just can’t write Walt’s eulogy. Nick is incredulous. “I asked you to do one thing. I need you to write the eulogy. Nobody wants to hear what I have to say about my dad.” And there it is.

Jess says it doesn’t matter what he says. Nick has to say goodbye to his dad. She says it as compassionately as possible, but Nick is getting mad, which is his default reaction, it seems. “I’m not asking you to do too much! Just write my dad’s eulogy!” He stomps off.

Then it’s the day of the funeral. Nick is nowhere to be found. Schmidt is cowering behind a door because “it’s bad luck to see the body before a funeral.” Jess thinks it’s her fault that Nick isn’t there. It’s something she said. But then, there he is – drunk off his ass and with a new friend. He found this guy at a bar who will be Elvis for twenty bucks. Drunk guy: “I thought you wanted me to kill Elvis for twenty bucks.” Nick: “Then why would I give you the outfit?” Drunk guy: “The element of surprise? The mirror effect?” Yeah, this is going to go well. Nick has had one dozen beers to drink and he did what Jess wanted and wrote the “giggliography.” It reads: “Walt Miller, am I right?” A stunning piece of funeral oratory, written on a Post It note.

Jess snaps into action. She’s going to go sober up Nick and Elvis. Winston needs to go buy them some time. Schmidt needs to quit asking people if they can smell the body. Okay? Okay. She is on this.

While Schmidt is hanging around, saying nothing as he has been instructed, he notices cousin Bobby sneaking up on the coffin. He’s about to steal Walt’s chain! When Schmidt realizes no one else sees what is happening, he puts aside his fear of death and corpses. He’s not letting Bobby take that chain. A scuffle ensues in which Schmidt gets his face shoved in the coffin, and guess what? It’s not so bad. Turns out, he’s not afraid after all. “I could do this all day, son. All day.” Schmidt to the rescue!

In the bathroom, Jess is sponging Nick’s face with a wet paper towel and listening to him mumble apologies. “I know you tol’ me to write it, but I couldn’t. I didn’t have anything to say. You’re mad at me. You got the mad face.” No, Jess isn’t mad at him. She’s not. Jess: “I’m not mad at you. I have your back. No matter what, no matter how stupid it gets. And you and I both know it can get really, really stupid.” Nick: “I’m the stupidest of all the stupid boys.” Jess: “I’m gonna be there, and I’m gonna hold your hand. And I wanted to tell you that last night, but you ran away.” It’s a sweet moment, and it shows that there’s more to these two than hilariously hot chemistry. They like each other; they get each other. And when it matters, they are there for each other.

The funeral is getting off to a late start. Bonnie asks Winston to get up there and say a few words, but “keep it light. Keep it happy. Don’t mention the felony thing. Or Paraguay. Or the storage space.” Got it. Winston proceeds to have an epic, grief-stricken meltdown at the podium. “Oh, WALT! I cain’t do this no mo’, Lawd!”

Bonnie comes back to find out what is going on and is horrified at the sight of drunk Elvis. The funeral is ruined. She’s going to cancel the whole thing. Jess says, no, please wait. Bonnie: “Are you tapping me on the shoulder, girlie?” Bad move. Bonnie doesn’t know Jess; she doesn’t want her there. Jess, however, is not going to back down. Bonnie: “Ya tap me twice?” Jess asks if she will please wait for Nick. It’s important. Bonnie wants to know why, if it’s important, Nick is not there. She’d rather not have a funeral if it’s not going to honor her husband. Drunk Elvis chooses this moment to pass out.

Bonnie has just announced to the guests that the funeral is over when … Elvis appears! Or rather, Jess in Elvis drag. She breaks into “In The Ghetto.” The guests are stunned but riveted. She’s in mid-song when Nick finally returns, and his smile looks something like thankfulness and relief. He can’t take his eyes off of her. Bonnie thinks this is crazy. She’s ready to punch Jess, but Nick says no. Walt would have liked this. “He’d have faked a slip and fall and sued the funeral home, but he would have liked this.”

Nick takes the podium. He looks back at his dad’s casket and takes a shaky breath. He tells the crowd that he used to pretend to hate Elvis just to piss off his dad. “And he’d get really mad, the way Walt could get really mad. And he’d turn it up loud just to spite me and sing all the Elvis songs.” Jess is looking at him like he’s one of her students who just figured out something important, like topic sentences or imagery. Nick’s pressing his lips together and his voice only trembles a little when he says, “He was very good at gambling. He had a great mustache.” (Winston loses it. Schmidt smacks him.) “He was so mean to cabbies in such a cool way, and he never was scared.” Nick shakes his head, bewildered. “How did he do that?” Jess might cry. “I don’t know if Walt was a good guy or a bad guy in the whole scheme of things, you know. But he was my dad and I’m sure gonna miss him.” When Nick finishes, his mom is looking at him with love and pride. He’s standing there with his eyes closed, just trying to breathe, and he’s worrying his hands with his thumbs, like he wants to grab something but he doesn’t know what. That’s when Jess steps up and takes his hand, just like she said she would.

Jess: “You okay, mama?” Nick: “I’m gonna be okay, mama.” Jess starts singing again. “’Cause if there’s one thing that she don’t need, it’s another hungry mouth to feed … in the ghetto …” She’s waiting for Nick to join in, but all she gets is the turtle face and a headshake. She tries again. “In the ghetto …” She points up because he’s got to go higher on the next phrase. Nick gives in. “In the ghetto …” Jess nods in approval. Then, Bonnie is on her feet, singing. She gestures to the crowd to join in, and suddenly everyone is singing. It’s a party, just like Walt would have wanted. Schmidt: “I really feel transported to the ghetto.”

Later, as the gang is leaving, Bobby is insisting that Schmidt owes him either a gold chain or the price of a gold chain. Bobby: “Or at least a giant lobstah. It’s the gesture. And I will get my gesture.” Schmidt ain’t scared of him. His face touched a dead man’s mustache, yo. Bring it on. Bobby says Schmidt better never visit Boston. Schmidt: “What, you’re gonna keep me out of the whole city?” Bobby: “I work TSA at Logan. I’ll put a gun in ya luggage.” Schmidt: “Why you gotta bring weapons into it, Bobby?”

Winston, it turns out, is taking a bunch of mementos of Walt, including his hat, some fishing wire, and the leg of his favorite chair. Bonnie says he can keep it all.

Jess bids Bonnie goodbye but almost taps her again. Jess: “Sorry. You scare me.” Bonnie laughs. She’s made Jess a snack for the trip – a baggie of cheese puffs. Jess is touched. They hug. Nick sees this and gets a funny smile on his face.

Jamie wants to know how far Nick is from getting married. Nick doesn’t know, why? Jamie is thinking of asking his girlfriend to marry him. Nick realizes what this is about and tells him that it’s okay – brothers don’t have to get married in order. Relieved, Jamie rushes off to propose. Nick and his mom laugh and shake their heads.

It’s time for Nick to say goodbye to his mom. “Hey, I couldn’t find the cat. I looked all over, but I just decided to clean out the litter box.” Bonnie: “I owe you an apology.” Nick: “What are you talking about?” Bonnie: “We all depended on you so much, and you were just a kid.” Nick: “Don’t do this, Ma. You’re going through enough.” Oh, the heart-hurty feels. Bonnie looks over at Jess, who is struggling to open the baggie of cheese puffs with her mittens. “I’m glad you have someone who takes care of you.” Nick looks thoughtful. “I love you, Ma.” She urges him to visit more so she won’t have to talk to his brother all the time. Just then, Jamie rushes out, elated. His girlfriend said yes! Nick goes in for a hug and Jamie slugs him gleefully in the stomach. Nick drops to the ground.

That’s life. Messy feelings and chaos and good friends and family, and every once in a while, a punch in the gut.

The closing tag is Jess as Elvis, rocking the funeral with “Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love.”

This episode was surprisingly tender and provided interesting insight into Nick’s character and friendships, and highlighted the family dynamic of the roommates as a whole. What did you guys think?

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