Brooklyn Nine-Nine Recap: Flat-Top Terry and the Kitten Canoes

Andy Samberg as Jake, Terry Crews as Terry. Photo: John P Fleenor/FOX
Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Episode Title
Terry Kitties
Editor’s Rating

Terry Jeffords is a man with a lot of obligations. If he's not trying to be a good sergeant and bring order to the chaotic precinct, then he's busy trying to be a good husband and father to his three young kids. That's why it was nice to get a Terry-centric episode this week (with Jake in tow, of course) that has nothing to do with any of his current woes. Instead, "Terry Kitties" tackles a stubborn part of his past.

As we're shown through flashback, back in the mid-'90s, Terry's first detective gig was in the Six-Five, and he also had a sweet flat-top haircut. (He also hadn't gotten fat yet, though I'm sure the stress from this incident didn't help.) Hazed by fellow detectives, namely Matt Besser's Detective Holderton, for failing to solve his first case, Terry tried to crack a string of burglaries conducted by a former acrobat ("Circus trash! It has to be him!"), only to bust in on the perp and find out he was in a wheelchair from an accident two years prior. To make matters worse, he freaked out, then tried to claim the guy's cat was an accomplice.

Flash-forward to the future, when Terry receives the delivery of an adorable kitten, apparently a frequent (and awfully expensive, TBH) gesture of disdain on behalf of his former precinct. So Jake, who solves cold cases with an ease and frequency second only to that woman on Cold Case, decides to help him crack it and get his former co-workers off his back.

B99 has done this plot line in various configurations, most recently in the Holt-and-Jake pairing that left them both with the mumps. But this might be one of the better uses of it, for a few reasons. The first is that the stakes are lower: The case doesn't need to be solved for any reason other than appeasing Terry's ego, and the show proceeds accordingly, making lots of jokes about how solving a cold case like this wouldn't actually be easy at all. (After finding out the first seven robbery victims they need to re-interview are all dead, Terry and Jake break out into an excited chant of "Number eight, still alive!") It makes the whole case feel like a genuinely comical incident that happens to have a solution, instead of a procedural with awkward jokes.

The second reason the plot line works is that Terry Crews, who's been in the news of late for his anti-porn crusade, is just delightful here, and it's nice to see him get to play out a scenario that's not his usual tone poem on the theme "exasperated." I think the show often underestimates Crews's ability to do subtle work, in part because he's so good and so game to play things really broad and do the crazy stuff, but he handles it all so nicely in this episode. I wouldn't be averse to seeing him get those emotional "real talk" moments that Holt and Rosa, in particular, seem to rack up.

The third reason is kittens. I assume the show is trying to use cute animals to drum up some interest, like Cheddar the corgi, and I'm sure that will feel like pandering to some people. Personally, however, I am not immune to the lure of kittens, especially when they are given on-brand Die Hard names. (I call dibs on Nakatomi.)

Over in subplot land, B99 digs up another pretty hoary classic (Pimento becomes Boyle's temporary and indefinite roommate, and is terrible) and fuses it with another (Charles trying to prove to Pimento that he's the "alpha" in the relationship so he can kick him out of his apartment). The results are predictably tedious: Charles's spinelessness is inherent to his personality (Gina describes his spirit animal as "a caterpillar that's been stepped on"), and while batshit crazy might be Jason Mantzoukas's brand, it's spiritually exhausting to watch him hold every character on the show at knife-, gun-, or in this case, salad fork-point. Most of the action between the two is telegraphed at the station after the fact, making things even worse, and trying to tidy things up by asserting that Boyle was the alpha all along for getting Gina to stand up for him is just … not accurate.

Slightly better: The Holt/Amy/Rosa plot, in which they sign up to take a bomb-defusing class. I'm glad that Amy's whole teacher's-pet love affair with Holt has been toned down of late to make her more of a generalized competitive nerd, and while this plot wasn't earthshakingly great, I appreciated the touches of outright weirdness in it. Amy crafting obtuse cross-stitch insults only to receive Rosa's repeated rejoinders of "You suck" is terrific, as is revealing that Holt's high-and-mighty stance conceals his own competitiveness. And I kind of loved that weird moment at the end, when Amy told the other two what she would do in their precision driving class in the darkest tone possible: "I'm gonna run you off the road into a wall. I'm gonna kill you." There is nothing I want more than for this show to get really weird with Amy. Maybe Pimento's behavior is rubbing off.

Other Notes:

  • I don't know whether it was meant to be a subtle commentary on police militarization or was just completely ignorant, but the cold open of everyone in the precinct immediately trying to translate Holt's good mood into buying a tank (two tanks!) did not sit right with me.  
  • On the upside, Terry finally kind of stands up to Gina for constantly objectifying him: "An HR person to remind everyone about workplace boundaries" was at the top of his wish list.
  • Gina's final blow to Pimento is also pretty great: "I worked at a sunglass kiosk at the mall for four years, so not only have I been through hell, I was assistant manager there."
  • A tiny, subtle moment I loved: Scully and Hitchcock thinking they were doing a mug clink and a high five, respectively, and clinking mug and palm instead.
  • In other semi-B99-related news, what did y'all think of the Popstar trailer? I thought it was … weirdly free of laughs.
  • Jake stays up all night trying to solve Terry's case. His only conclusion: "There is so much crime in New York. No one should live here." Probably accurate?