Though it was originally conceived as an action-comedy, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has definitely become more of a workplace sitcom since its early episodes, in part because it struggled to integrate its jokes with awkward, low-budget action sequences. That’s why it’s particularly impressive that “Bureau,” part two of a three-part season finale arc, manages to nail a credibly tense heist sequence without neglecting its sense of humor. The direction from Modern Family go-to Ryan Case, who helmed B99’s pilot but hasn’t been back since, definitely stands out for its crisper pace, and manages to give the show more of a procedural feel than it normally has, which melds nicely with the jokes.
As Holt recaps in the opening, case No. 225641441636324 (which comes from assigning a numerical value to each letter in the word “Pimento,” then squaring it) has hit a roadblock: With imprisoned Amy still unable to get useful information out of Maura Figgis, the precinct is struggling to figure out the identity of the FBI double agent with a scarred hand who ordered the hit on Adrian. So, in a bit of inspired casting, Holt calls in his old pal at the FBI, Bob Anderson, who’s played by Dennis Haysbert. As Haysbert and Andre Braugher have more than a few things in common, it’s not a surprise that Anderson is essentially just a second Holt (Jake: “Oh my God, there’s two of them!”), a prospect that’s just as fun as it sounds, because there is no such thing as too much of a good thing when it comes to Holt. (That, of course, doesn’t apply to Holt and Anderson themselves, who are such rule-following straight arrows that they consider it overkill to consume both chocolate and nuts in a single candy bar.)
Anderson immediately knows the identity of the double agent whom the cops have dubbed “ScarJo”: Special Agent Ryan Whealon (Jonathan Root). After sending Jake to confirm the ID in an ill-advised magazine-stand operation that leads him to read a title called Clown Boobies, Jake, Holt, and Rosa dispatch Anderson to get the FBI files on Whealon and Jimmy Figgis — but they’ve been digitally wiped. So the quartet plan a heist to get into the FBI building and snag the hard copy of the case file, with each assigned a key task. In Rosa’s case, that’s doing enough yoga to fit into the bottom of a mail cart (“It helps keep me centered. If you ask me about it again, I’ll hunt you down and rip your face off”), while Terry is dispatched to teach Jake to do his first pull-up, something he only manages to pull off by screaming a lot.
The best part, though, is that Holt has to learn about Sex and the City (which he initially thinks is two different shows) in order to chat up a TV-obsessed guard, which leads to an extended version of one of my favorite genres of B99 joke: Holt trying to make sense of pop culture. (Remember, this is a guy who thinks “The Bachelor is a television show” and “Andre Agassi is at it again” are good conversation starters.) I’m not a die-hard SATC fan by any means, but if you don’t think Andre Braugher describing himself as “such a Samantha” after making a double entendre and being shocked by Miranda choosing Steve over Blake Underwood is funny, then you have no soul.
In any case, the heist goes off swimmingly: Jake gets the case file, and Anderson saves the day by vouching for him and Holt after the guard gets suspicious about Jake’s pass. With the information in hand, they have enough to arrest Whealon (or, as Rosa would prefer, “groin-stomp” him), but they end up finding him shot on his living room floor, having apparently been burned by Figgis. Luckily, Whealon survives, and they’re confident they’ll be able to get him to testify against Figgis when he emerges from his coma.
Meanwhile, in prison in Texas, Amy and Charles are still struggling to get any useful info out of Maura, who’s accepted Amy into her gang but isn’t the most emotionally forthcoming person. Charles, who’s posing as a doctor, is particularly anxious because he and Genevieve, after not lucking out with fertility treatments, are waiting for an adoption to go through. Unfortunately, Maura mistakes Amy’s congratulatory hug about Charles becoming a dad for the two of them carrying on a relationship, and immediately insists on being given full access to the “sensitive” new prison OB-GYN and his bubble butt. (Charles: “Curse this perfect butt!”) It goes about as well as you’d imagine, with her more or less sexually assaulting him — only to lose her shit when Genevieve calls and informs Charles that the adoption has gone through.
Finding out that Charles is taken is enough to send Maura into an emotional tailspin, and she details all her failed relationships with her brother’s pals to Amy — which, apparently, includes Ryan Whealon. The bad news is that her list of exes also, apparently, includes Bob Anderson. As it turns out, Holt’s doppelgänger was actually a double agent all along, and “Bureau” ends with a credibly tense scene in which he’s apparently smothered Whealon in his hospital bed, and now has a gun trained on Holt. While Peralta would have mugged and grinned his way through such a situation, Braugher and Haysbert’s dramatic skills really make it pop.
The missing link in the episode, unfortunately, is the Gina and Terry plot, which gets way too much time for something that’s completely unrelated to the larger Pimento case. Basically, someone’s leaked the department’s arrest numbers, and Terry is hell-bent on smoking them out and punishing them. After rejecting the obvious choice — the idiocy of Scully and Hitchcock — Terry’s scrutiny turns to Gina, and in a bit of real talk that’s unusual for B99, accuses her of not taking her job seriously. (Gina: “We’re about to have our first fight, Terrence.”) Of course, Gina is actually one of the precinct’s better detectives, despite not actually being employed as one, and she quickly deduces that Terry was the source of the leak, via a #yogurtlife selfie in front of the whiteboard with the relevant stats. It’s a subplot that could have worked well in a more chopped-up episode, but in terms of supporting the larger plot of this arc, I wish a different choice had been made, even if it meant sidelining Terry and Gina to their personal-trainer and SATC coach duties.
And with that, we move toward the season finale with some genuine cliffhanger tension. Will Anderson shoot Holt? Will Pimento be vindicated? Will Amy get shanked in prison? Will Charles’s baby be cute, or the cutest? Tune in next week!
- It’s honestly tempting to just rattle off all the Holt and Anderson dialogue, but the written word really cannot convey the greatness of their deadpan deliveries. I was cackling when they took Jake’s pocket lint seriously as pawns to use on the blueprint map. Anderson: “My lint is round. My lint is approximately one centimeter in diameter. My lint is blue.” Holt: “My lint is oblong, my lint is about half a centimeter in length, my lint is also blue.”
- Or the bit where they just said, “Let’s break into the FBI!” at each other over and over again, in an apparent competition to see who was more sonorous.
- Or the bit where Anderson says Peralta didn’t consider Alan Greenspan when dubbing himself the “coolest guy ever,” and Holt responds, “Nice burn, Bob!”
- Today in Gina sexually harassing Terry: “Oh, Terry, sarcasm is not a good look on you. But you know what would be? A really tight henley.”
- Charles really wants to make his Jewish doctor character believable, down to the fact that his best friend is named not Jake Peralta, but Jakob Perelberg.
- They really went for it on the Sex and the City jokes. Gina: “So there’s Carrie, Miranda, Charlotte, and Samantha. But … New York City is really the fifth character.” Holt: “What about Steve? He seems nice.” Gina: “Oh, Steve is nothing. No one likes Steve.”