New Girl "Fluffer" Review: The Jess and Nick Saga Takes an Interesting Turn

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New Girl S02E03: “Fluffer”

This week, New Girl referred to Nick as being Jess’s “fluffer” in the pornographic sense of the word: the person who keeps a porn star aroused between takes during filming. Through Winston, the writers made note of Nick’s role as the emotional support of every shallow relationship Jess has had. His duties extended beyond friendship requirements and straight into fluffing territory. Nick served every function of a boyfriend for Jess without actually reaping the sexual rewards of being her boyfriend.

But there's another, less X-rated, definition of fluffing. In public relations, “fluffing” refers to damage control, to spinning an embarrassing gaffe or unfavorable stance in order to present it in a positive light. Airing on the eve of the first presidential debate of the upcoming election, I’m sure New Girl did it on purpose. Nick didn’t take kindly to being called Jess’s fluffer and embarked on a campaign of his own to prove that their relationship was a positive one. Meanwhile, Winston channelled his inner Jimmy Carter by cheating on girlfriend Shelby in his mind. President Carter, of course, once admitted to committing adultery “in his heart” many times, and both he and Winston expressed remorse over their wandering eyes.

Schmidt made the most obvious political makeover, creating the persona of “Tug Romney,” son of Mitt, to gain access to an exclusive club in hopes of befriending Kanye West and raising his social capital. Meant to be a one-time thing, Schimdt had no choice but to take his disguise to the next level when the sexy lady president of a pro-Romney group hit on him. Schmidt’s anal-retentiveness worked in his favor and he sucked down Romney factoids with ease. It was the execution that ultimately screwed him over, as well as an uncontrollable bout of daddy issues.

As it turns out, Schmidt’s relationship with his own father is rocky at best. After his father left his mother, Schmidt and his mom became strangers in his father’s shiny new family and as Schmidt researched the Romney family in order to convincingly pass himself off as a son, his longing for a father figure flared up and kicked into overdrive. Politics aside, by all accounts, Mitt and Ann Romney are good parents and their family is tight-knit. It’s natural that Schmidt would find himself smitten with them for that reason alone, not to mention the fact that they’re wealthy and fashionable, too.

But Schmidt got so caught up in his fake reminiscence over a fishing trip with Papa Mitt that he let the details slip: specifically the part about the Romneys being Mormons and, contrary to what Schmidt waxed nostalgic over, there probably isn’t any beer on Romney family fishing trips. Oops.

It was a big oops, actually, in the presence of what basically amounted of a group of Romney fangirls. They immediately called Schmidt out on his slip-up and ultimately, through the magic of the internet, confirmed that there is no Tug Romney. Poor Schmidt. He didn’t get to hang out with Kanye and he didn’t get laid by the Romney fangirl. He DID get to snuggle with Cece’s boobs when she came over to comfort him, though. There’s hope for them yet! Maybe. I hope.

Jess’s shallow hook-up of the week was with Sam, the gent we met last week who is, according to Jess, “the kind that you bang,” not the kind that you have any kind of actual emotional relationship with. Besides, she has Nick for that. Nick and Jess went on “dates” and took trips to Ikea. Nick assembled her furniture and offered the emotional support that Jess wasn’t looking for in Sam and he was generally happy to do it until Winston pointed out that he had no reason to be happy about being a “fluffer.”

Logically, no, Nick didn’t have a reason to relish his role in Jess’s life. If we want to strip things down to their barest components, Jess essentially used Nick, but as she pointed out when he inevitably confronted her about it, she didn’t realize what she'd done. That’s not an excuse, but there IS a reasoning behind Nick and Jess and why they currently CAN’T be NickandJess.

At Winston’s encouragement, Nick stood up to Jess and refused to assemble her new Ikea dresser. He was sick of being the boyfriend without the boyfriend benefits. Startled, Jess asked him if he actually WANTED the benefits, which led to much bumbling and backtracking because Nick has the self-esteem of freaking Eeyore and I actually can’t help but wonder what would happen if he just ASKED Jess out like a functional human being.

Actually, based on Jess’s own examination of their relationship, there’s a good chance she would probably turn him down... for now. Jess didn’t realize that she was essentially using Nick as an emotional crutch. She always kept her relationships in neat little boxes: boyfriends in one box and friends in another. She never intended to mix their respective contents. Between Nick’s generally low opinion of himself and Jess’s quirky rationalizations, these two definitely have some work to do before they can actually WORK, but New Girl is treating their almost-romance with maturity and a level of realism that makes their continued separation welcome rather than infuriating.

For me, many sitcoms fall into the sort of trap that Jess currently lingers in. Relationships, especially those between the “golden couple”—like JD and Elliot on Scrubs and Leonard and Penny on The Big Bang Theory—have to be in neat little boxes just like the ones Jess referred to. JD and Elliot were either together or they were incapable of interacting with one another. Leonard and Penny are either together or they’re not speaking to each other for half the season. What we have with Jess and Nick is a refreshing rejection of that painfully annoying (and occasionally unwatchable) tradition. They exist in an amorphous place where they can be friends and constantly cross the line into boyfriend or girlfriend zone without actually claiming either of those titles. It’s a friend zone, but a friend zone with potential and now that they’ve realized—and embraced—it, the potential to give their formless situation a shape they approve of has only grown.



NOTES


– One-liner of the night: Nick’s “This place is fancy and I don’t know which fork to kill myself with.” Oh man, I’ve been there, bro. Start from the outside and work your way in. Yes, I take my fine dining cues from the dinner scene in Titanic.

– Loft Troll. I love it. I also loved the thermos full of white wine. A thermos full of booze, man, it takes me back.

– I liked Winston’s story this week! I especially liked how he wasn’t isolated in his own storyline and actually managed to have meaningful interactions with everyone else’s stories as well. More of this, yes?

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