The lazy, deskbound detective is a cop-show cliché that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has taken nearly to its breaking point with Hitchcock and Scully, the food-obsessed boneheads who serve as the precinct’s ongoing comic foils. That’s why the last episode centered around them doing actual police work, season two’s “Sabotage,” made the surprising case that they’re fully capable of being real cops, but 99 percent of the time, they’re just too over it to try.
“House Mouses” erases that hidden competence, though, sticking with the more tired story that the anything-but-dynamic duo can’t really handle themselves on a case at all. The fact that Hitchcock and Scully are doing any police work in the first place is, unsurprisingly, Jake’s fault, as he dumps a simple pot bust on them to try to pick up a celebrity case. He convinces them to take it on by arguing that Terry undervalues their accomplishments, which include catching a janitor stealing evidence by sleeping under their desks and suing the department to get everyone triple-ply toilet paper. But it turns out the case is bigger than Jake realizes, and Hitchcock gets kidnapped by drug dealers while trying to go undercover, which leads to the rest of the group getting pistol-whipped and captured as well.
Unfortunately, this episode’s only real argument is that Terry is right to undervalue Hitchcock and Scully. It’s a missed opportunity to learn a little bit more about what makes them tick. Their best trait is, unquestionably, their ride-or-die devotion to each other, but it comes off as more creepy than cute in this installment, considering that Hitchcock never wants Scully to be alone (aww), so he suggests he marry his wife if he dies (yuck) by becoming blood brothers via an existing open wound on his hand (what?).
Hitchcock and Scully are meant to be broad characters, but dropping a big dose of them instead of a small one means they need more subtlety and nuance than usual, which “House Mouses” doesn’t deliver. And though they save the day, they do it using sweat and the ability to climb stairs in an office chair while off-camera, which aren’t exactly traits that merit a ton of respect. The episode ends with the other characters congratulating themselves on finding a way to keep them deskbound again, which, while things needed to return to the status quo, kind of defeats the purpose of a once-a-season effort to flesh out minor characters.
Things go a bit better in the subplot department, as the “celebrity case” ends up being assigned to Boyle. The “celebrity” in question is a classical oboist, John William Weichselbraun, who is really only famous to Holt. (He’s played by SNL alum Brad Hall, a.k.a. Mr. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, in a fairly rare acting gig.) The plot itself couldn’t be more cookie-cutter: Weichselbraun, whose $40,000 oboe was stolen from his apartment, actually faked the robbery for insurance money, but Holt is initially far too starstruck to let Boyle suspect him. The plot serves as a nice flipside of the pair’s squash match from earlier this season, with Holt getting the chance to freak out and get a little weird while Boyle holds things down. It also acquaints us with the realities of poverty for classical musicians, who could apparently teach Hitchcock and Scully a thing or two about food-hoarding.
The other subplot — in which Gina, Amy, and Rosa band together to each embrace a personal fear — is so contrived that the episode acknowledges it outright multiple times. Still, it’s a lot of fun watching B99’s ladies, who rarely get to peel off on their own, goof around together. There’s some great business involving claustrophobic Amy getting shoved into a car trunk with only a juice box and a baby diaper for comfort, and Chelsea Peretti is, as usual, glorious at lampooning Gina’s on-brand fear of bland businessmen and everything they represent. (“A whole army of Brads and Chads trying to suck my soul and redeem it for frequent-flyer miles.”)
The cherry on top is Stephanie Beatriz perfectly walking the tough-vulnerable line with Rosa’s fear of giving blood. As she explains it, the phobia seems totally reasonable: “I don’t like being stabbed by someone so they can steal my blood. I’m crazy!” I particularly like how the episode cuts her off mid-scream to the blood-draw technician: “DON’T LOOK AT THEM LOOK AT ME DO YOUR JOB DRAIN MEEEEEE.”
- Charles has a weird thing for Dianne Wiest. Apparently, he finds her sensual.
- Peralta’s celebrity guesses: “Is it a Chris? Hemsworth, Evans, Pratt, Pine, Brown, Kross? [Gasps] Is it a non-Chris?” (He later adds Chris Rock to the tally, so I guess there really is a tidal wave in famous Chrises of late. He didn’t even get around to Martin or Christie.)
- Holt is such a devoted Weichselbrauniac that he considers the title of his oboe exercise book, Reed It & Weep, to be his “favorite joke of all time.”
- Hitchcock doesn’t understand death or taxes: “But if you get killed, what happens to all your debt? Loophole!” [Spins around in office chair.]
- Scully: “Just because I got my finger stuck in a glue trap once, I’m a mouse? I got the cheese out, by the way.”
- Terry’s undercover name is Black Fred. “Why Black Fred? There’s no other Fred!” “But they don’t know that!”