[Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers from “New Girl” Season 7, Episode 4 “Where the Road Goes.”]
“New Girl” has spent its final season covering a lot of ground. The three-year time jump in the premiere pushed several stories forward, which includes the ongoing relationship between Nick (Jake Johnson) and Jess (Zooey Deschanel), a child for Schmidt (Max Greenfield) and Cece (Hannah Simone), and one on the way for Winston (Lamorne Morris) and Aly (Nasim Pedrad). Because of this fast-forwarding, the show has also been filling in the blanks of what happened during those three years.
On Tuesday’s episode, “Where the Road Goes,” the gang braves the rain and travels in a motorcade to a cemetery for a service for Winston’s beloved cat Furguson. It’s not a funeral but a memorial, performed according to Jewish tradition, to honor his passing a year before. Because apparently, Furguson was one of the Chosen People.
IndieWire spoke to showrunner Dave Finkel and executive producer Brett Baer about the bizarre but touching episode. In honor of the passing of all of Furguson’s nine lives, we present nine facts we gleaned about the episode.
1. Winston’s Need for Catharsis
Despite Furguson’s absence, Winston has seemed pretty happy so far, and there was no indication of when exactly his cat had scatted from the timeline. While this episode nails down that timeframe and explores the relationship dynamics of the core group of friends, Winston’s internal struggle is brought to the fore since he hadn’t mourned yet.
“Since Furguson came on the scene, that was his only legitimate relationship [for a while],” said Finkel. “His care for that cat was paramount. We wanted it to feel like Winston was actually dealing with something and sending it off. At its core, it is about a guy trying to deal with his own mourning progress.”
Baer added, “The idea that he’s able to finally put the Furguson relationship to rest in preparation for the birth of his baby, was something that timing-wise was really important to us.”
2. Less Cat Jokes
While there are a handful of cat-related jokes in the episode, most are just gags that are funny because they are adjacent to a cat memorial.
“We went into this with was at least from a tribute standpoint, kind of play it as real as humanly possible,” said Finkel. “We didn’t want a lot of cat jokes.”
Therefore, on Furguson’s tombstone, it does not read, “And meow his watch has ended,” versus “And now his watch has ended,” which is the actual reference to what the Night’s Watch says when one of their own has fallen in “Game of Thrones.”
3. A Long Time Coming
“This idea for a Furguson funeral piece, one of our writers, Noah Garfinkel, has been pitching this idea for a couple years now,” said Finkel. “We kept going like, ‘No, no, no, no, no. We can’t do that, we can’t do that.’ And then when we knew we were flashing-forward and we were on our writers’ retreat, he brought it up again. We were like, ‘Yep, now’s the time.’”
4. Always Enya
“There were two things that were 100 percent we wanted to do,” said Finkel. “One was that it had to open with Enya. That was again in Noah’s original draft. The episode had always been called ‘Who Can Say Where the Road Goes?’ [sic]”
Garfinkel got his wish, and not only does the song provide the episode’s title, but it plays over the opening of the episode, as the friends drive to the memorial.
5. How Furguson Became Jewish
“Well [the writer’s] last name is Garfinkel so you can put two and two together,” said Baer.
“There’s not really a ton of questioning his motives as to why [Winston] decided the cat was Jewish,” said Finkel. “Everyone was sort of like, ‘Oh, okay that makes sense.’ I love that that’s the group dynamic. They all have their weird idiosyncrasies.
“Having Schmidt officiate, that was also very important,” he added. “He was a cat but he was a Jewish cat. Again, in its own odd internal logic, the fact that we got to do a three-year jump and then you get a traditional one-year memorial after, which is a real Jewish tradition. It just felt like a really good real thing for the show.”
6. ”Cat World”
Anyone familiar with Gary Jules’ cover of Tears for Fears’ “Mad World” (popularized on the “Donnie Darko” soundtrack) may have recognized the song sung by the law enforcement a cappella group at Furguson’s memorial. Only, it wasn’t “Mad World,” but a special version with lyrics suited to a cat’s interests:
All around me are feline cat faces,
Warm cat places, whiskered face-eh-eh-es.
“That was all Noah Garfinkel,” said Finkel. “I gotta give him total credit for that. The a capella group, they’re actually the same group that sang to Aly in the bathroom when he proposed to her in the cat costume. This show is insane.”
Here’s a snippet of the song:
7. Blasts From the Past
Among the many familiar faces that dropped by to pay tribute to Furguson were: Dr. Sam (David Walton), wearing a snazzy cat-themed shirt; Robby (Nelson Franklin), whose plans for an interpretive performance as a laser pointer dot were thwarted; and Coach (Damon Wayans, Jr.), who had a beef to settle with Nick.
“A lot of people knowing that this was the final go round for the show wanted to come back,” said Baer. “Even though they were working on other shows, they went out of their way to clear it with their line producers to make sure that they could come by and do two hours of work and get on the show again. That was really special to us.
“There was a moment in Season 5 between Dr. Sam and Winston that we all found really funny. They had a really funny dynamic together, so we wanted to do a callback to that dynamic.”
Franklin had to wear a full-body red bodysuit for his gag. “We did get Robby in red onesie,” said Baer. “That’s not as hard to do as you would think.” Finkel added, ‘He came to us immediately with that idea.”
And it turns out that Nick had loaned Coach tens of thousands of dollars to fund a restaurant, which he had yet to repay.
Baer said, “That story between Nick and Coach, to us was really funny – just the idea that he had lent so much money, a new Nick kind of problem played at a very small, kind of roommate loft level. That was sort of the joke there for us.”
8. Schmidt and Cece’s Grown-Up Problems
Furguson’s passing prompted Schmidt to wonder just how long Cece would wait to remarry after he died. Although she initially said three years, she eventually admitted she only said that because of the pressure he put on her. In fact, she never wanted to think of life without him.
“This notion of a relationship as special as theirs and when it was okay to think about moving on through the lens of the Furguson story to us seemed kind of funny with Schmidt obsessing about that,” said Baer. “We liked the idea that it was going to force a real conversation. It was the deepest, most grounded aspect of the episode. We were trying to find something that was very small, intimate, and personal for them. A lot of the early part of the season, because we were establishing Ruth was focused on their child. We wanted to have a story that was focused on their love and their relationship and their marriage and those issues.”
Finkel added, “I think the idea was, now settling into parenthood and marriage, what are the final stones left unturned? As funny as we could make it, the idea of like, ‘What does our life look like now?’ and acknowledging the fact that they’ve grown a ton and they’re still growing. Being able to ask these questions of each other is a very adult thing, which is nice to see from these very immature people.”
9. Furguson’s Successor
After the memorial, Winston discovers a cat inside the bar, which he adopts and names NAFTA. At first, the writers considered not giving him another cat to honor Furguson.
“We talked about that, but think it was sort of important for us to bring this full circle in a way,” said Baer. “There was a feeling in the room that because we were taking him to such deep despair that we wanted to lighten the load a little bit at the end of this episode instead of waiting for when the baby arrived. It just felt like a nice conclusion, specifically with this episode to send him into the future. I think it also lets us up a little bit to the Schmidt and Cece story that life goes on and we continue having relationships.”
There wasn’t any real specific reason for Winston to name the cat NAFTA though other than the writers found the name funny as soon as they thought it up. “There was no alternative,” Finkel said before adding in jest, “And we’re writing a spin-off just based on the cat. It’s literally 22 minutes of a cat wandering around.” Might we suggest the title “Mew Girl”?
”New Girl” airs Tuesdays at 9:30 p.m. ET on Fox.