New Girl writers really threw Nick and Jess shippers a bone with this week’s episode, “Fluffer.” The romantic tension grows between the two roomies as they discuss the nature of their friendship.

Nick and Jess Enjoy a Thermos of Wine

Jess is still hooking up with Sam from last week’s episode, but their fling is rapidly cooling off. Jess complains to her roommates that after an attempt to make out, she and Sam “just lay there like two old people in The Notebook waiting to die.” Schmidt suggests that they all go on a “friend date” to give Jess the emotional fulfillment she’s missing with Sam, but predictably, Nick is the only friend to show up, thus drawing out the will-they-or-won’t-they drama of their relationship. 

This plot line isn’t my favorite for three essential reasons. 1) The guys are back to handling Jess like a damsel who needs coddling, and Jess accepts it. 2) I’m not personally one for will-they-or-won’t-they plots because, honestly, the lovers in question usually do end up romantically entangled; I never feel much suspense in these stories. And 3) Schmidt’s reason for bailing is just absurd, even for Schmidt. Are we really supposed to believe the guy Winston affectionately calls “Tagg Romney” wants to be besties with Kanye West? (More on that in a minute.) 

Despite my reservations, though, Nick and Jess’ date charmed me. After learning that Schmidt and Winston were bailing, Nick got up to leave the stuffy restaurant that Schmidt-Romney chose for the date, only to be stopped in his tracks by Jess’ arrival in a red dress. Jess really did seem to take Nick’s breath away. It was a sweet moment! That is, it was sweet until it dissolved into their quirky friend-banter they engage in so well. And even then, it was still pretty sweet. 

Nick laments that he’s too broke to order anything but the valet parking and extra onions from the fancy restaurant. Luckily, Jess thought ahead and brought a thermos of wine to dinner, and the two sneak sips like college kids until they get drunk enough to openly

guzzle from their smuggled thermos of booze. “This is fun,” they both agree before Jess gets a text from Sam and ditches a happily drunk, approving Nick. So much for romance.   

Schmidt Passes as Tagg Romney 

Winston jokingly calls Schmidt “Tagg Romney” at the loft, foreshadowing Schmidt’s adventure for the episode. It starts out a little unlikely: Schmidt wants to befriend Kanye West in a feeble attempt at social mobility, because apparently bonding with Kanye makes you respectable these days, at least in Schmidt’s mind. He and Winston follow Kanye to a club, which they can only enter after Winston tells the bouncer that Schmidt is Mitt Romney’s son. (I guess I can see a certain squared-jawed resemblance.) 

Schmidt ditches the persona after getting into the club and going after his real conquest — Cece, not Kanye — but apparently the Romney aura followed him inside. Before long, Schmidt is surrounded by lithe Daughters of the Revolution gushing over the Romney son 

like he’s a member of the Jonas Brothers. 

While the Kayne quest seemed a little forced, Schmidt’s Romney respect is believable and enjoyable to boot. Pop culture doesn’t celebrate young conservatives too often, which is why Schmidt’s Gruyere-eating, “Merlot is the whore of the vineyard” ways feel so novel and funny. It helps that actor Max Greenfield has the looks, good humor and commitment to sweeten the role. 

Schmidt drops the ball after waxing poetic about drinking beer with his dad Mitt. (The Romneys are obviously Mormon and sober.) The Republican girls turn on him, and Schmidt slinks home, defeated, even sending Cece a desperate text message citing his “Taylor Swift-like range of emotions.” Cece has a heart-to-heart with her ex after Schmidt confesses that his dad left his family when he was eight. On top of that, Schmidt’s dad remarried, and his mom moved in with another women. (Well, that explains the Taylor Swift-like range of emotions!) This is all a further attempt to flesh out Schmidt’s character, giving him emotional depth and a complicated history, but it feels a bit tacked on and artificial, lacking the emotional impact (for me, anyway) of last season’s “Control.” Still, it gives Schmidt and Cece a reason to bond and embrace, so there’s that. 

Winston Speaks His Mind 

Shelby and Winston haven’t slept together in three weeks, and he’s now “cheating on her” by fantasizing about other women. It makes sense; their relationship isn’t really working for me, either. Winston’s a hit with the one-liners, but when New Girl writers try to give him

a substantial story-line of his own, it’s hard to get into. Shelby’s pretty and kind, but there’s not a lot of sizzle between the two characters, as the writers acknowledge this week. 

Instead of fueling his own fire, Winston becomes a catalyst for his roommates’ plots. It’s Winston who dubs Schmidt a Romney and then pretends to be his bodyguard at the club. It’s also Winston who refreshingly calls it like he sees it regarding Nick and Jess. 

After Nick agrees to go shopping at IKEA with Jess (who needs a new dresser after breaking hers during wild sex with Sam), Winston speaks his mind: “You, my friend, have become her fluffer.” He tells Nick that he’s essentially a boyfriend without the benefits. Pretty much. 

How (500) Days of Summer is the concept of an IKEA date? I can just imagine Nick and Jess flopping on cheaply-made beds and pretending to watch Idol on brightly colored couches.   

Nick buys into the whole “fluffer” concept and shares his frustration, but first, of course, he has to define “fluffer” for Jess (and probably some of the New Girl audience): “In pornography! It’s the person who keeps the actor motivated, aroused, you know?” Nick elaborates and explains that he is Jess’ emotional fluffer. The two discuss the nature of their friendship, admitting to moments of attraction, and the convo eventually escalates into a screaming match that mainly functions to illustrate their passion. (By comparison, Winston and Shelby have a limp-noodle “fight” that wouldn’t inspire a shush from a librarian.) By now, it seems pretty clear that this whole episode is basically fluffing Jess-and-Nick shippers for the obvious romance that’s to come. Their love seems inevitable, but now just isn’t the right time. Jess needs to get the Sams out of her system first.  

Winston advises Nick not to build Jess’ new IKEA dresser, but of course, Nick does it anyway, claiming that IKEA furniture construction is like high-stakes Legos for him. The two talk out their feelings yet again, admitting that their friendship is messy. Then Nick gives Jess a totally platonic mix tape. (Sure.) Clearly, their romantic potential is far from finished.

Sarah Watson
Contributing Writer

(Image courtesy of FOX)



Contributing Writer, BuddyTV