Shortly after New Girl premiered last year, an unexpected dynamic arose. While the show was about the friendship between four roommates, audience hope for a romance between Nick and Jess became overwhelming. According to series creator Elizabeth Meriwether, this was not planned, but it may be dealt with in the second season. I personally have hoped that this relationship wouldn’t happen, as one of the greatest aspects of New Girl is its ability is to play around with the usual sitcom tropes, such as the idea that a show’s main male and female characters must absolutely have a romantic relationship at some time in the series’ run. What’s great is that “Fluffer” deals with that dynamic in an unexpected way, all while giving Nick his best episode since series highlight “Injured.”
Much of the strength of Nick’s character is through the writing from J.J. Philbin, who also wrote “Injured.” I’ve had a strong dislike of Philbin’s writing for years, as I believed her involvement in two shows I enjoyed— The OC and Heroes—led to their downfalls. Seems like maybe I underestimated Philbin, as she is one of New Girl’s strongest writers, nailing the Nick character better than anyone. He’ll find the pessimistic side of everything. After finding a dollar in “Fluffer,” which he uses to buy pizza, he follows this with “one day closer to death!” This epitomizes the Nick creed: even in the good there is plenty of bad to be found.
It’s Nick’s viewpoint that leads the main story of “Fluffer,” as Jess realizes that she cannot have a sex-with-no-strings-attached relationship with Sam, and must go on a date before her trysts with Sam. The problem is, she doesn’t want to go on dates with Sam, so she convinces her three roommates to take her out prior. When Nick is the only one to show up, the two have a nice dinner of soup and white wine from a Thermos, before Jess leaves to hang out with Sam. After Nick goes to IKEA with Jess, Winston states that Nick is Jess’ fluffer—he’s the boyfriend without the rewards. This leads to a fantastic back-and-forth between Nick and Jess, where Nick believes he is a fluffer, while Jess sees their hanging out as just two good friends spending time with each other.
The reason why Schmidt and Winston missed the friend date is because Schmidt is supposedly continuing his quest to befriend Kanye West, this time by wearing a whale belt that Kanye once wore and going to a club he believes West to be at. He brings Winston along to let Kanye know he can have black friends. Sounds like time for another deposit into the Douchebag Jar. When the club won’t let them in, Schmidt pretends he is one of the Romney kids, Tuggb (the ‘b’ is silent.) Turns out Kanye isn’t there, but Cece is. Schmidt meets a lady who just happens to be a Romney supporter and tries to pull off his Romney, before getting called out on his lies by the girl and her Mitt-loving friends.
“Fluffer” also subtlety teaches more about its characters and hints at future plot possibilities, besides the chance of Nick and Jess getting together. We see more about the past of the overly self-confident Schmidt, while also learning that Winston is having relationship problems with girlfriend Shelby, as he is busy cheating on her with other girls in his mind.
But what makes “Fluffer” a great episode is how Nick and Jess navigate Jess being Nick’s girl friend and not Nick’s girlfriend, and how all four characters are evolving into more fully fleshed-out people. While last year we had a season that put Schmidt in the spotlight, making him the show’s breakout character, so far this season Nick is becoming the star. The way Philbin handles the dialogue here is beautiful, giving everyone at least a few moments of brilliance, especially Winston, who usually gets the short end of the stick but here gets some great lines that inform the plot. Regardless of what happens to Nick and Jess from here on out, if they end up together or not, New Girl makes me trust that how they handle it will be exciting and different from what we usually see from most typical sitcoms.