Zooey Deschanel Zooey Deschanel

If it feels like a month of Tuesdays since Fox aired new episodes of freshman breakout comedy New Girl (as well as Glee and Raising Hope), you're not far off. Between the onslaught of bloated X Factor episodes and baseball's post-season — which was much more thrilling than the singing contest has been so far — Fox's regular Tuesday lineup has been benched since Oct. 4.

Things return to (relatively) normal tonight, and the best news is that New Girl (9:01/8:01c) hasn't lost a giddy step. Zooey Deschanel as Jess reminds us she's still the season's most infectiously lovable new character, starting with the cold open of tonight's episode, when she crashes the guys' scary-movie couch party, burbling on to her peeved roomies about "Have you guys ever seen Fame?" until they've had enough. Personally, I can't get enough of her or the guys — even Winston, the rather undefined post-pilot replacement character played by Lamorne Morris, has his moments, getting a crash course in American pop culture from Schmidt to fill in the blanks from his years in Latvia. This episode is a better showcase for Jake Johnson as insecure and romance-starved roomie Nick, whose date with an inscrutably ironic but gorgeous co-worker (Lake Bell) is threatened when Jess walks in on him naked and has an inappropriate response. Just watching Jess try to say the word "penis" without singing or otherwise mangling it is somehow crazily funny, a bundle of so-annoying-it's-endearing affectations. Let's hope absence has just made the audience's heart grow fonder.

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