If you want to short-circuit my critical faculties, you couldn’t do better than some really intense sexual tension combined with an adorable dog, which is precisely what “Cheddar” offers. The titular pooch is Holt and Kevin Cozner’s Corgi, who runs away within minutes after Jake and Amy are assigned to care for him (and for Holt’s house) while Holt visits Kevin in Paris. With that said, it’s a pretty low-stakes outing by B99 standards: Lest we worry about Cheddar being in any actual danger on the wild streets of New York City, a series of delightful smash cuts arrives regularly to inform us that he is having the time of his life trotting around playgrounds and licking up discarded ice-cream cones.
That means all the tension in “Cheddar” is human-related, and understandably so: Amy, who likes big binders and cannot lie, is terrified that she’s disobeyed Holt’s compendium of instructions, while Charles, temporarily blinded by a LASIK operation, is hell-bent on proving that he can overcome his extremely short-lived disability. Meanwhile, Jake, for some reason, seems to think Cheddar is some kind of Corgi criminal mastermind. He also describes him repeatedly as “slippery,” because, well, I guess Corgis are kind of snakelike, if you think about it.
The best stuff in the episode, though, comes from the pairing of Rosa with Jason Mantzoukas, back for week two as recently resurfaced undercover cop Adrian Pimento. As mentioned last week, Rosa is absurdly attracted to him because of a longstanding thing for creepy men, and Mantzoukas and Stephanie Beatriz do a great job of translating boiling sexual tension into uncomfortable comedy, mainly through the use of office supplies. She signs a form on his chest while he blows the ink dry; he gets away with hole-punching too many pieces of paper at once, thanks to some kind of unique pelvic thrust technique.
But when Rosa, not one for subtlety, asks when they’re going to actually act on their flirtation, Pimento quite literally runs in the other direction. (Her reaction is amazing, and classic Rosa: after telling Holt that she’s okay, she immediately begins staple-gunning a light pole to death with a “Lost Dog” flier.) Turns out Pimento is gun-shy about relationships ever since his boss in the Mob killed his girlfriend, and Terry, though disgusted by Pimento and Rosa’s weird flirtation, tries to convince him to give it a shot. In a great takeoff on advice-giving scenes with commitment-phobes, Pimento pretty much immediately agrees with Terry that he deserves happiness despite what he’s done. “Wow, I never looked at it that way, that changes everything.” –“I never finished my point.” –“No, Sarge, you said it all.” By the end of the episode, he and Rosa have agreed to go for a drink, which is Rosa-code for “immediately and furiously make out against a car.”
Meanwhile, the rest of the squad continues to hunt down Cheddar, while Gina picks up Holt at the airport, then tries to drag out his arrival at home by systematically destroying the car she’s picked him up in, which belongs to Jake. There are some solid blind-Boyle pratfalls, including his belief that he’s found Cheddar when he’s actually cuddling with a possum, and a goofy extended Sideshow Bob-with-rake-style joke in which Jake tries to unlock his car to let Holt in, only to have to repeatedly say “Try now,” because Gina’s stripped its wiring and it no longer works. It’s all a bit goofy and scattershot, but the cast manages to turn on the charm and hold the various gags together.
A bonus round of interesting emotional arcs, however, comes at episode’s end, when Holt is reunited with Cheddar, whom Jake correctly intuited is missing Kevin and has run off to their favorite park for walks. There, Holt confesses that his willingness to cancel his trip to Paris wasn’t just because of the minor fire caused by Boyle’s sweatpants getting too close to a space heater, but because his and Kevin’s relationship is undergoing some serious strain from being long-distance, and he’s worried that if their fights translate to in-person contact, they might end up breaking up his marriage. It’s a nice scene that’s beautifully played, as always, by Andre Braugher, and it even gives Jake a moment to be genuine and support Holt (before undermining himself by patting himself on the back for doing so, of course). “Man, that was weird, I said multiple real things consecutively,” says Jake. “Felt weird, but good. You proud of me?” Amy’s (correct) response is “You’re ruining it,” but in terms of the show as a whole, a little real talk is the opposite of ruining the fun.
- Scully, for one, isn’t creeped out by Rosa and Pimento’s relationship. “Loosen up. Summer of love, baby!” Terry: “It’s March, man, shut up.”
- Were Jake to have gotten rich from his late, Manhattan-real-estate-owning uncle, Rosa wants a Ducati Monster 821. (They cost about $11K, which is chump change for a rich person, right?)
- Speaking of vehicles, since when did Jake buy a car again after selling off his Mustang? Granted, it’s a real beater of a Honda Civic, but considering he could barely afford a mattress earlier this season, I’m surprised he ever managed to get wheels again.
- With the mattress thing resolved, we get another peek into the tension of the Jake–Amy relationship. Amy: “Are you finally growing a mustache?” Jake: “No, you know I can’t do that and it’s cruel of you to continue bringing it up.”
- The trouble with losing Boyle, according to Jake: “He’s so pocket-sized. He could be hidden anywhere!”
- Jake: “Captain, what are you doing here? Thought you took the day off to pack? Or did you finally realize that it only takes one minute to pack?” Holt: “Not if you care about your possessions and what the world sees when they look at you.”
- And, of course, the single best moment of the episode: the flashback to Jake playing hacky-sack in the park, crying “Ugh, I boofed it!” It’s all the funnier because there is literally no way this isn’t exactly what Andy Samberg was doing all the time as a high school student in Berkeley in the mid-’90s.