Given the massive episode orders they must fill, network sitcom writers are often tempted to subdivide their stories into neat A-, B-, and C-plots that don't relate thematically or dovetail together. That's why it's nice to see an occasional episode like "The 9-8" to come in and shake things up.
The premise is a simple one: A busted pipe floods a neighboring precinct's office, so all the cops from both precincts have to share the Nine-Nine's tiny space. Thanks to strong writing and performances, including a great use of guest star Damon Wayans Jr., the pieces fit together nicely. It's frankly impressive how much ground this episode covers in just 22 minutes, and how many strong jokes it's able to get in.
Wayans, who departed B99's time-slot partner New Girl for the second time at the end of last season, proved himself to be a sitcom natural back in his Happy Endings days. And unlike many of B99's guest stars, he immediately kicks right into the show's manic energy. Though he's now at a different precinct, Wayans's Stevie "Chillin'" Schilleins was Jake Peralta's partner during his first years on the force; they worked as beat cops and nicknamed themselves "the Beatsy Boys." (That joke becomes an opportunity to pay extended tribute to the Beastie Boys, with some cut scenes that evoke "Sabotage" and a back-and-forth rap between Samberg and Wayans in the car.)
Of course, one person isn't feeling the bro-love: Charles, who sees his best-friend status potentially under attack by Stevie's arrival. (Boyle: "He's tall, he's funny, he can pull off an earring!" Jake: "He doesn't have an earring." Boyle: "But we both know he'd look good in one!") Nothing is more important to Boyle than being besties with Jake, so this makes for a nicely motivated plotline, particularly when it becomes clear that Boyle's methodical approach to police work conflicts strongly with Stevie's "raid first, ask questions later" style.
Though it was obvious that Boyle would prevail in both the friend battle and the procedural conflict, I found it interesting that B99 chose to have him win the latter fight early on, setting up the larger story that Stevie is a dirty cop who's planted drugs at a suspect's apartment. It seems a little over-the-top for Charles to only win Jake's affections because his rival is an outright criminal, and it doesn't help that B99 is unwilling to play that revelation for even a moment of dramatic tension. (It seems like it would be pretty crushing, given that police work is pretty much the only thing Jake takes seriously.) Instead, we get a silly slap-fight in a supply closet and a weird group sing-along to Toni Braxton in a cop car at the end, when Stevie should presumably be in jail. At least it's a funny Toni Braxton sing-along.
As for the rest of the precinct, they split into two plots (Rosa, Amy, and Terry versus their new desk mates, and Holt trying to be a good host to his boorish counterpart), but they dovetail about a third of the way in, creating a nice, manic energy while also playing into each character's pet peeves. Amy is wildly allergic to her desk mate's "service dog" (whose job, inexplicably, is to help with foot pain); laconic Rosa has to suffer the indignity of a chatty co-worker; meticulous Holt has a messy, inconsiderate squatter in his office; and poor Terry can't seem to go five minutes without getting something stolen. ("They came for my yogurt. And not just any yogurt. Full-fat Greek with a touch of honey. That's a once-a-week treat!")
I particularly like how the episode climaxes by weaving in Jake's revelation about Stevie into an all-out melee, which allows each of the characters to wage war on his or her own terms. (That includes Boyle being attacked by a desk mate who he thought was a pretty nice guy, and Gina staying out of the fray entirely, except when she intervenes to encourage Terry to remove his shirt.) And of course, Holt breaking the radiator to put an end to the squatting is pretty choice. Splitting characters up may be a necessary evil to make a show that's as jam-packed as B99, but this episode proves that the show can also bring them together without sacrificing comedy — and arguably, improving it.
- The cold open with the mystery suitcase was totally ridiculous. We really never get to find out what's inside! There must have been a better sequence of events to concoct here, even if the goal was getting Andy Samberg in an orange spray tan and a jean jacket.
- Rosa's pet peeve about her chatty desk mate is one of my biggest ones, period: "She likes to look up recipes online and go, 'Who's got the time?'"
- Some gloriously bad fake sideburns on Joe Lo Truglio in that flashback to his beat-cop days.
- Boyle knows slang, or at least Jake-related slang. In his precinct, "We say noice, not swert."
- Terry, on the other hand, does not know slang: "Don't worry, sir, we will be cordial af … as Frasier. Love that show."
- Joe Mande nailed a one-line cameo in the bar as the guy Boyle arrested the month before: "Hi Detective Boyle!" "Hi, Isaac."
- Stevie shares Jake's penchant for ridiculous movie dialogue to go with each arrest: "I'll have a martini, with a twist. The twist is you're under arrest." "None for me, because I'm driving … you to jail."
- On the same note, Jake's taglines for the Beatsy Boys' reunion tour were equally cheesy and glorious: "Boys Will Always Be Boys. No … Some Boys Never Change. No … Boyz II Men Back II Boyz. No … Boyzzz!"