Boyle and Peralta’s ride-or-die friendship is one of the bedrocks of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so it makes sense that the show would eventually find a way to test it. But it turns out that turning these best bros against each other is not only kinda sad, it’s also not that funny. The duo’s eight-day stakeout was a thoroughly unsurprising arc that hit all the major beats — early confidence, initial cracks, all-out war, eventually becoming besties again — with such dull regularity that it hardly seems a story worth telling.
Part of the problem is that we as an audience know that Peralta and Boyle aren’t just a little quirky, they’re deeply, deeply flawed people; Charles can be meticulous and dweeby to the point of pain, while Peralta is a sophomoric, sometimes-kinda-gross class clown. They may not know (or may just overlook) each other’s flaws, but we as an audience know that they’re not gonna change, and once they start fighting, the whole exercise ends up conveying the queasy claustrophobia of the situation more than any genuine laughs. It’s an uncomfortable, bickering-old-marrieds vibe that makes the whole affair start to feel as tired as Charles’ repeated cell-phone recordings of “Stake Me Out Tonight,” and like Peralta, I started feeling like I couldn’t remember the original lyrics — or why I love these characters.
“Stakeout” is all about people being who they’re not, most literally conveyed through a halfhearted B-plot in which Terry’s homemade children’s book ends up making Gina and Amy queasily examine their own flaws (and try to act more like each other). Watching Amy try to avoid being pushover superhero Cricket (complete with “pantsuit of armor”) is fairly funny — I particularly liked it when she threw her entire coffee pot in the trash after Terry tried to cut in line for a cup. But even in the hands of the hysterical Chelsea Peretti, Gina trying to be nicer than coldhearted Junebug is inherently pretty dull, with only the reward of her eventual conclusion that it’s a dumb idea. (“I’m not a stone-cold bitch. I’m a magical, beautiful presence.”)
While the other characters pretend (and fail) to be other people, the show tries to take a different tack with Rosa, the one character who does actually pretend to be something she’s not on a daily basis. But we get so little face time with her and Holt’s handsome young nephew (played appealingly, yet completely laugh-free, by Nick Cannon) that we barely get to see her facade crack, other than a completely awkward, once again pretty predictable encounter with Holt and Kevin Cozner at the breakfast table. (Turns out their monogrammed pajamas extend all the way into the robe department.) I’m all for, basically disgustingly for, giving Rosa a romantic arc to show a little bit of her vulnerability, but the combination of one of B99’s patented quirkless love interests (see also: Eva Longoria) and the leaden awkwardness with Holt ended up making me really glad about the duo’s conclusion on the subject: “Let’s never talk about anything.” “Done.”
As it turns out, Holt is actually the one member of the precinct entirely comfortable in his own absurd skin, as he ably proves in the cold-open. Advised to turn the other cheek (Peralta: “Which I recently learned is about faces, not butts”) when it comes to getting an award from Wuntch for the successful Gigglepig task force, he manages to keep a straight face for all of two seconds before dropping his “Wuntch time is over” zinger. “Boom, did it! Had it both ways! No regrets.” A show with characters this flawed may occasionally need to make time for regrets, but that’s no guarantee that it’ll be as funny as watching them be who they are.
- I paused the show a bunch of times to take down some of the more interesting “No”s from Peralta and Boyle’s massive wall of restrictions. Some of Jake’s for Charles: no gasps while reading; NO BATHS; no finger-quotes, no eyelash wishes; no talking about ortolans.
- And some of Charles’s for Jake: no talking about your dumb car; no using jerky as a toothbrush; no comparing yourself to Idris Elba (favorable or not); no Kwazy Cupcakes (!); NO OVERSALTING (underlined three times).
- Hitchcock is apparently still in the market for a new, non-Scully bestie. “What do you want to do tonight? Go to a strip club? Have dinner with my wife?” “Are those separate options, or does she live at the strip club?” “You wanna know, you gotta go.”
- Watching Charles increasingly screw up dunking a mini-basketball was great. “I think I’m getting better!”
- “Scone Zone!” “I’m a muffin guy.” “BOOOOOOO!”
- “If you can hear Garfield saying it, it’s glib” should probably be the dictionary definition of glib. Someone call the OED.