Seven episodes in, New Girl finally gives us an episode that focuses on Winston, the late arrival to the group and, as past episodes have shown, one of the more interesting yet overshadowed characters on the show. With “Bells,” not only do we get an episode that finally shows Winston getting more of the spotlight, but also a well-rounded episode that gives all its main characters plenty to do.
“Bells” gives us two major conflicts: Schmidt vs. Nick and Jess vs. Winston. Schmidt, who is tired of Nick’s cheap ways of fixing things around the apartment, decides to hire a plumber to fix their toilet held together by plastic bottles and string. This leads to a “Schmidt has plenty of money, Nick is a struggling bartender” conflict in which the two claim what each has bought around the apartment. While this conflict is beginning its upwards climb, Jess brings home a few troubled students who have chosen to learn how to play bells rather than go to detention. Winston, who is bored in his new temp job, picks up the bells fast and becomes the star of their team. When the group can’t learn “Eye of the Tiger,” a song Winston states ended the Cold War, he treats the kids badly, leaving Jess to defend her students.
It’s clear from the beginning how both these conflicts will end. Schmidt and Nick are too old of friends to let a minor squabble over money get between them, and they get over their problems, while Jess calls Winston out on his competitive nature and tells him that he shouldn’t take out his insecurities on her students.
“Bells” isn’t one of New Girl’s strongest episodes, but it does go further into who these characters are. It was great to finally see Jess with students, even if they are used merely as props to play bells and be yelled at by Winston. We also see a struggle between Nick and Schmidt that had been constant throughout their friendship.
“Bells” also says a lot about who these characters are, even if it’s through very small hints. For example, Nick is content with doing the bare minimum to get by. He dropped out of law school and instead of applying himself, is content with squeaking by, shown in the great montage of Nick repairing things like a fan he fixed by tying ice packs to it, or getting rid of rain runoff on the roof by drilling a hole in the roof. We also for the first time see the dedication Jess has to her students.
What “Bells” lacked in great jokes this episode, it made up for in hints of character. The show works well when it is about four people in their twenties living together who are still trying to figure out who they are and what their futures should be. “Bells” shows how interesting New Girl can be when it isn’t just about the havoc that Jess brings into the guys’ lives, but rather how these four are dealing with the next steps in their personal evolutions. If New Girl can meld these types of story arcs with the great comedy it already does, we could see some truly great episodes in the future.