We’re now a quarter of the way into season three, and I feel comfortable saying that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is having the biggest hot streak of episodes I think it’s had in its entire run. Tonight’s installment was a little paint-by-numbers in terms of character growth and lessons learned, but it still had … character growth and lessons learned, which hasn’t always been one of the show’s strong points when compared with its success at being a straight-up joke-delivery machine. It’s clear that the writing staff is just plain trying harder in terms of letting these characters evolve a little, and since it hasn’t compromised the humor quotient one bit, it’s definitely paying off.
The weakest of tonight’s plots was actually the A-plot, in which Jake and Boyle tried to relieve the mounting stress of Terry, who’s clearly been reaching a boiling point all season, with his toddler twins, pregnant wife, and upheaval at the station — not to mention the discontinuation of that mango yogurt — taking their toll. Of course, just like the last vacation Jake went on with his co-workers, things took a turn for the worse quickly, with the hapless Det. Lohank (the always welcome Matt Walsh) bringing his endlessly bad juju into the trio’s lives through the use of his truly terrible upstate cabin. Walsh only gets one scene, but he absolutely steals it: since last we saw him, Lohank’s wife (who had previously broken her back and was addicted to pain meds) has been cheating on him, traumatizing their son, and leading to the deaths of not one, but three service dogs in a well. The good news, as Jake notes: “He also has some great stories about his prostate cancer.”
What follows is a pretty clichéd city-boys-lose-their-way-in-the-wilderness plot, in which things go from daffy (no one can seem to use a fishing pole correctly) to dire (Jake forgot to pack food — completely implausible, by the way, as there’s no way Boyle would consent to a weekend away in which he wasn’t stage-managing the culinary offerings) to desperate (all three men pull an Andy Dwyer and end up spooning in a pit, though not by choice). The point of these shenanigans: Jake needs to learn to buck up and take some responsibility for his behavior, which apparently translates to climbing out of the pit in an all-night manic fit and getting covered in poison oak for his trouble. It’s not much of a lesson, and there’s not much atonement involved, unless you count getting to set off a crap ton of fireworks as atonement.
Things are a bit snappier back in the urine-soaked city, as the show runs with one of my favorite pairings — Amy and Gina — in what’s admittedly a pretty far-fetched plot: heretofore un-entrepreneur-like Amy wants to sell her childhood invention, a shoulder flashlight, to the department. I liked that the writers skipped the formalities of having Amy realize that she needs Gina’s pizzazz and just cut straight to the humor of the two of them attempting to merge their styles into a coherent whole. (Even though the ShoulderNova was doomed to fail, because apparently no one has the right to remain well-lit.) Gina’s attempt to bring about some closure by saying that a young proto-Amy in her building took a shine to the device is a bit shoehorned-in, but there was such great comedic interplay here that I don’t mind too much that it ended with a whimper.
The real gem of the episode, though, is the Holt and Rosa plot, in which both characters are forced to come to terms with the fact that Rosa’s relationship with Holt’s nephew, Marcus, isn’t working out. Watching these two borderline sociopaths (in the opinion of Kevin Cozner) attempt to plumb the depths of human emotion is inherently hilarious, starting with their agreement that a middle-of-the-night text is the best means of ending a relationship (provided you end “We’re done” with the requisite “Good-bye”), and only getting funnier once Holt tries to bring the amicable-breakup advice of the internet into a role-play. “That makes me feel sad. I am sad.” “Your sadness is noted.”
It would have been easy for things to continue on that line, but I liked that the show took a different tack and showed that the precinct’s two most hardened cops are actually wellsprings of emotion. Watching Holt and Rosa cry together was simultaneously one of the funniest and most moving moments I can recall on the show — completely unexpected, but totally earned. Rosa’s admission that getting married scares her, but letting what might be her only chance at love get away scares her even more, was a genuinely real character moment in a show that doesn’t often brook them, and her and Holt’s tears were perfectly undercut by their self-congratulation at achieving something resembling empathy. “Thank you for acknowledging my feelings.” “Thank you for acknowledging mine.” “We’re both great at this!” If “this” means perfectly playing an emotional moment without sacrificing humor, then yes, Stephanie Beatriz and Andre Braugher, you are.
- Line of the episode, and one that you’ll likely hear stolen in the future: “We just have to turn this debacle into a straight-up bacle.”
- Terry does not love paperwork.
- Massive cringe of recognition for Gina’s latest sick Amy burn: “This clip and I went all around the world together: the Shire, Sweet Valley High, Terabithia …” “But never to a friend’s house, huh?”
- Andre Braugher, you can read URLs at me all day. I would also like for you to be Siri and my GPS, if possible.
- Charles may know how to get Jake to eat his fiber, but even he isn’t immune to laying into him every once in a while. “This time I think you’re only 99 percent right.”
- I know they can’t because of Veep, but God, I wish they had Matt Walsh on more often. “[Sinkhole season] has been going on for 20 years now … it’s kinda like a Game of Thrones winter.”
“The Chinese know how to make a terrible Scotch.” Wonder how those Rwandan cigars were, though?