“Bully” is an episode that all New Girl viewers could see coming. “Bully” has our three main characters involved in stories that we knew would happen eventually. We finally see Jess teaching in her classroom, Nick and Julia’s break-up and the reaction to Schmidt and Cece’s Valentine’s Day hookup(s). And of course, Winston is left behind to make a few jokes. But while all these stories were bound to happen, they are all handled much more poorly than expected.
New Girl takes us into Jess’ classroom, which is—no surprise—filled with guitar-based songs for the children about not bullying, like the appropriately titled “Sad Sparrow (Imagine A World Without Bullies)”. Video of this performance shows up online, with Jess as an animated hawk pooping on a guitar, leaving Jess with a bully of her own, one of her students named Brianna.
Nick is meanwhile reeling over a present from Julia, a cactus, which Nick takes as a symbol that he can’t even take care of a flower, thus she must want to break up with him. Nick is tortured by the present, leaving seven messages on Julia’s phone about the meaning of the cactus. When Julia arrives at Nick’s apartment, she admits the cactus was just a present, but he’s made her realize that they must break up. With only about a minute on screen, Julia is gone for good. For only the show’s second real relationship, Julia gets a pretty weak send-off.
Speaking of relationships, or more appropriately, sex buddies, Schmidt and Cece have been jumping in bed together since Feb. 14, thus showing that apparently New Girl cannot have more than one relationship going on in the show at the same time. Schmidt and Cece basically spend the episode bantering with each other over when and where they will have sex next, until a nice moment where Schmidt states all the things he likes about Cece that aren’t related to her physical appearance.
Winston is, as usual, left in the apartment with nothing to do. The show even comments on that fact when Jess calls Winston after having broken Brianna’s science fair project for help, when Winston asks, “what if I’m busy?”, leaving Jess just to laugh. Winston does have some pretty fun moments here, such as his and Jess’ over-excitement when Schmidt tells them there is a crescent moon and his time at the science fair with a getting-ready-to-burst-with-emotion Nick. But all in all, if Winston didn’t have his trusty pair of good scissors, he’d have been pretty useless this episode.
In the end, Jess admits to having broken Brianna’s science fair project and after being heralded as a real teacher by the principal (a returning Rachael Harris) since she is now a “child hater,” she punishes Brianna by joining her in a duet. Nick eventually erupts from his plastered-on happy face into a rush of sad post-breakup Nick that we know all too well. Schmidt shows he’s more than just motivated by sex and his cheesy sex metaphors. And I guess Winston got to keep his scissors and brought back his childhood catchphrase, “Brown Lightning”? At least Winston has that.
“Bully” does get its fair share of laughs, since New Girl is always great when it tries to goes a little bit weirder with the jokes, but unfortunately the story isn’t really there to back it up. The Nick and Julia relationship, while it has had flaws, seemed like a strong relationship, one that most likely wouldn’t have been destroyed by the overreacting to a present. Plus, isn’t Jess standing up to Brianna for being who she is and not changing just Jess’ same conflict done over again, but just with a different character?
Much of what is enjoyable about “Bully” isn’t character-based comedy, which New Girl can do very well, but rather characters listing off funny phrases, like Winston’s reading of various terrible school projects like “What Can Old People Do?” and Schmidt comparing sex to himself with various cheeses. Which is a shame, because “Bully” makes some changes character-wise that could have been handled a bit better. After a string of pretty good episodes, “Bully” should be just a small misstep in an otherwise good stretch.