Brooklyn Nine-Nine Recap: Jerk Rolodex

Photo: Eddy Chen/FOX
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Episode Title
Editor’s Rating

Call me crazy, but weren’t we just exonerating someone from false drug charges brought against him by a revenge-seeking ex last week? Sure, the person in jeopardy is Peralta, not his dad, and the ex is actually his ex-perp Geoffrey Hoytsman, but the plot similarities in “Sabotage” to last week’s “Captain Peralta” are awfully strong, and not in a hilarious or thematically relevant way. If anything, the surprising emotional maturity Jake showed in confronting his father last week has gone in the complete opposite direction, with him constantly harassing Amy and Rosa while they go about the business of exonerating him. This is chalked up late in the game to some father-related trust issues, but it’s a pretty throwaway one-line attempt at salvaging a wildly veering A-plot in an episode that feels weirdly overstuffed and strangely paced. 

It’s especially a shame because at face value, Peralta getting suspended is a great plot, one that could have actually lasted for more than one episode had it been played right. Sure, it’s the most obvious thing that could happen to a maverick cop — of which the show makes brilliant hay with Holt’s insistence that turning in Peralta’s gun and badge requires a number of tedious forms, a perfect example of the cop-show clichés that Brooklyn Nine-Nine was born to skewer. But the fact of the matter is that we’re rounding the corner on the close of season two, and the progress the show and Andy Samberg have made in transcending the impenetrable wall of man-child that was season-one Jake seems to be slipping away. The real humor, for me, would have been Jake’s disorganization, bad financial habits, and general lack of responsibility costing him the one thing he does take seriously: his job. Instead, the show takes the easy way out by absolving him of all responsibility and pinning even his most obvious missteps on Chris Parnell’s Hoytsman, who appears mid-episode in a completely out-of-left-field twist that feels less fun than forced.

When Parnell last appeared in “Defense Rests,” I complained that the show didn’t give him enough of a chance to let his freak flag fly, and that’s certainly not an issue here: From sniffing bath salts to creating cue cards so Peralta can cop to Hoytsman’s crimes, Parnell gets a full-on showcase for the unhinged-professional thing he does so well. (He also gets great line after great line. “Why would you keep my pee?” “I need belongings, Jake, to feel like a man!”) But while Parnell is certainly funny, he never feels like a credible threat, which is kind of a weird thing to feel about a character who’s a drug-addled lunatic with a loaded gun and nothing to lose. This is a sitcom, of course, and I’m not asking for “That’s My Dog” here, but it feels relevant: Just like Jake is one step forward, two steps back when it comes to progressing as an emotional entity, B99 seems to be one step forward, two steps back when it comes to actually engaging with an emotional tenor other than broad goofiness. Something that aspiring stand-up comedians learn early on is not to be afraid of just talking sometimes, even about something intensely painful; if you can be comfortable lingering in the silence between laughs, you’ll often get a much bigger reaction when you do drive the joke home. But in episodes like this one, I get the sense that B99 is afraid to lose the thread of joke delivery for even one beat, which can be antithetical to the hard and necessary work of building characters. Those trust issues could have been a lot more interesting, and a lot funnier, if the show had been willing to play it straight for a hot second and actually show Peralta sweating a little.

It doesn’t help that the subplots this week are also pretty tired: Gina gets her turn in the daddy-issues-with-Holt chair when he doesn’t show up to Dancy Reagan’s latest performance (and refuses to cover for Terry when he fibs and says he went), while Boyle, who should know a thing or two about weird personal habits not necessarily reflecting on one’s talent for police work, learns the lesson we’ve already seen other characters learn about him multiple times (including a mere three episodes ago!), with Hitchcock and Scully jumping into the role of not-actually-incompetents.

With just three episodes left in the season, I’m really scratching my head as to where this is all going. At least the Gigglepig story line offered an end-to-end form for the front half of this season, and the past two episodes’ digging into family matters provided some interesting emotional beats. But I’m pretty sure that seeing Peralta working at Maximum Goofball in this episode and then (presumably) having things heat up between him and Amy in the home stretch is going to give me whiplash. It looks like B99 is going to take at least a few weeks off between episodes for the rest of season two (the season finale isn’t until May 17, which means three episodes spread out over more than two months), so hopefully they’ll find a way to finish strong without remaining completely terrified of everyone’s emotions. 

Other notes:

  • Peralta’s Wednesday screw-up outfit was pretty amazing. “You never told us that Sinbad lived in your building.” “If Sinbad lived in my building, I would have a tattoo on my forehead that says Sinbad Lives in My Building.”
  • On that note, isn’t Peralta’s car running out of gas a major continuity error, considering that he sold it to pay off his debts to Terry? I’d assume he just got a new one, but( a) this is a man who once paid his power bill in Canadian pennies, and (b) this show is set in Brooklyn, why does anyone in it own a car.
  • Boyle knows only one cop worse than Scully and Hitchcock: “That bomb-sniffing dog that humps all the bombs.”
  • Holt will only lie for someone’s safety or if a child age 8 or younger asks him about Santa Claus. “I feed them some reassuring pap about the logical impossibility of proving a negative.”
  • Amy doesn’t like breaking rules, because nothing is made to be broken. Except for piñatas. And glow sticks. And karate boards. And spaghetti when you have a small pot.
  • Scully and Hitchcock’s greatest fear: “They’ll update our computers and we’ll lose Minesweeper.”
  • The writers clearly had a ball writing for Parnell in Full Parnell Mode. Some mottos for life from Geoffrey Hoytsman: “Kidnapping is 90 percent crafting!” “Ow! That’s my nose, that’s what I put the drugs in!” “I had friends, a wife, two beautiful children … out of three total, not a bad ratio!”