Photo: Patrick McElhenney/FOX
At first glance, it makes sense that Jess Day is a teacher, given her childlike enthusiasm and penchant for singing. But as this episode points out, Jess has a big flaw as a teacher, and that’s her lack of authority. Kids aren’t going to be won over by cuteness, because come on, they’re kids — they win cute-offs every day. And few demographics are less forgiving of aggressive quirkiness than a room full of tweens.
The trouble starts when Jess steps in to protect a student, Nathaniel, who’s being bullied by his peers: When he eats lunch in the cafeteria, kids put pennies in his butt crack. Poor hapless Nathaniel offers Jess 46 cents, but she tells him he’s earned it. Then she makes the class listen to her perform a song called “Sad Sparrow (Imagine a World Without Bullies).”
She’s hoping to teach a lesson through music, but it doesn’t quite achieve the desired effect. Instead, a perfect-looking but patently evil student named Brianna records the performance and puts up a parody video on YouTube. You know those Taiwanese animators who make short clips about news events? Apparently Brianna is one of them. Or she hired them. Either way, the kid has technical know-how.
Jess’s problems with little bully Brianna, though, might be less ego-destroying than Schmidt’s problems with Cece. She’s giving him the full Jordan Catalano–in-the-boiler-room treatment, all hot to trot one minute and then totally embarrassed by him the next. Schmidt, it must be said, does not help his case with postcoital declarations like “L’Chaim! To humping!” Or his sexy cheese speech: “A little sharp-aged Cheddar. Manchego. Some buttery Gruyère. You sure you want to miss out? I just want to slowly peel the wax off your Babybels. How about a little stinky taleggio? Or maybe some cream cheese? Want some schmear, Cece?”
Since Cece won’t admit to the relationship and won’t take Schmidt back to the model dorm where she lives, he’s forced to sneak her into and out of his apartment. The roommates know something’s up, but they don’t know what. Luckily, they’re all pretty gullible. Schdmit’s even able to create a diversion by telling Jess and Winston to go look out the window at the crescent moon, which might not work on a less twee crew. (Winston, sighing: “I’m going to live up there someday.”)
You’d think Nick at least might pick up on what’s going on, but he’s distracted by a crisis entirely of his own making. Julia, who’s away on a trip to China, has mailed him a cactus. For Nick, this is a sign of The End because it’s proof she doesn’t trust him to take care of a real plant. As he’s panicking, he drops the cactus. This sends him further along a downward spiral until he’s locked in his room, leaving desperate voice mail after desperate voice mail on Julia’s answering machine.
When Julia returns, she explains that the cactus didn’t mean anything. Nick apologizes for overreacting, but it’s too late. Sure enough, Julia wants to break up — not because he’s bad with plants, but because of the seven voice mails about the significance of the cactus. At least Nick gets the last word: “So I was right about the cactus.”
Meanwhile, Brianna turns out to be a serious Mean Girl, albeit one with impressive engineering skills. Jess sits down with her and the robot arm she made for the school science fair, hoping to have a dialogue about the video. But Brianna immediately starts picking on her, quizzing her about her love life and finally stating, “Your happiness seems like a mask.” After she leaves, Jess, in a fit of anger, breaks the robot arm. It’s a very Curb Your Enthusiasm move, or would be if Jess weren’t too sweet to come anywhere near Larry David’s level of pettiness.
Jess scrambles to fix the arm, but no luck. When the science fair rolls around, it explodes in front of everyone. Brianna accuses poor bullied Nathaniel of sabotage, leaving Jess no choice but to shamefacedly confess. Luckily, Winston’s there to provide the sort of Curb-esque spite that Jess just can’t muster. He tells the moms, “Your daughter sucks. Okay? She is a demon seed, she is the spawn of Satan. And do believe I speak for the entire human race when I say that people like that” — dramatic pause — “should not be building robots.”
As this is going down, Nick is wandering around the science fair in a state of post-breakup shock. Sad Nick is really kind of amazing, with his frozen smile and his way-too-cheerful delivery. “My friends! Guess what I just learned! What’s inside of a pumpkin! Apparently a lot! I didn’t know!” It’s obvious that he’s going to crack, and his explosion comes shortly after the arm’s. Hoisting a globe, he delivers a speech to all the kids at the fair about how the world is so very big and he is so very small.
At least his weeping takes the focus off Jess. The good news is that vice principal Tanya has no intention of disciplining her; after all, Jess is a kid-hater now, which means she’s finally become a true teacher. Actually, Jess’s real epiphany is about how to use the power of song to get her point across. She forces Brianna to help her perform an original number called “Let Me Lift You Up With Your Robot Arm,” and she tells the other kids to feel free to make videos.
As for the one roommate who has not chosen to spend the day crashing a science fair for children: Poor Schmidt accompanies Cece to a party, but she wants him to wait in the car. “What am I?” asks Schmidt. “Your sex dog?” Cece doesn’t seem particularly shy about her answer: Yes, she’s ashamed of him and assumes she’s not the first woman to be. That’s mean, Cece. That’s, like, bullying-level mean. But rather than enlisting Jess to write a song about it, Schmidt asks her to at least have breakfast with him.
While they’re eating, Cece explains why she’s being so cold. She’s sick of men treating her like a trophy. Schmidt replies with all sincerity that she’s the dopest, fliest, smartest, ballsiest, bitchiest, truly terrifying woman that he has sexually enjoyed in a long time. His speech works: Cece tells him he can make an announcement about how they’re dating to the entire half-empty Chinese restaurant where she took him for breakfast. Aw! Sort of.