After wrapping up last season with a three-episode arc, Brooklyn Nine-Nine certainly gets ambition points for diving into another one to kick off season four. As the middle installment of this trilogy, “Coral Palms Pt. 2” suffers slightly from having to move around so many pieces (and it definitely loses a few bouts with the Exposition Fairy). Still, it’s a funny episode that divides its time nicely between “Greg” and “Larry” in Florida and the rest of the Nine-Nine back in New York.
Now that we’re in the show’s fourth year, it’s clear the writers are comfortable enough with these characters that they can not only keep them humming in weird scenarios like Florida, but also throw a flotilla of guest stars at them without disrupting the flow. That’s a new development, considering that B99 previously took on one big guest star at a time, with very mixed results. For every memorable Craig Robinson or Ed Helms, there was an underbaked turn from an otherwise talented actor like Chris Parnell or Nick Offerman. Here, however, Ken Marino, Jim O’Heir (a.k.a. Parks and Recreation’s put-upon Jerry Gergich), and especially Maya Rudolph all make funny appearances that accentuate the main cast.
From my perspective, the decision to truly integrate Jason Mantzoukas’s Adrian Pimento in the end of season three gave B99 a new facility with juggling its big cast. Not everyone may get a lot of screen time in every episode — Charles, Terry, and Rosa were a bit back-burnered here, for example — but they’ll eventually get their turn in the rotation. The show hasn’t acknowledged that dynamic in the past.
It doesn’t hurt that B99’s central comic pairing of Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher is even more fun when they’re on equal turf. Jake and Holt have teamed up together on many missions before, but removing the “boss/employee” part of the equation infuses the show with some of the anarchic glee of its Halloween episodes. Unquestionably, the most fun scene in “Coral Palms Pt. 2” is Jake and Holt’s low-rent Great Escape prison break, in which they use a glass-eyed perp, a serial urinator, and a meth head to bust out of the county jail, only to succeed via the greatest trump card of all: taking advantage of someone’s homophobia. (As a Florida native who’s had to deal with her share of local homophobes, I can’t deny how satisfying the aftermath of that incredibly stilted Jake-Holt smooch was, and I doubt I’m anywhere near as ecstatic as the corner of the Internet that writes slash fiction about them.)
Back in the Nine-Nine, everyone but diligent Amy is delighted by Marino’s incompetent new sergeant, since they can use him to get what they want. It’s more predictable and slow-moving than the Florida plot, but certainly enlivened by Marino’s presence. (It’s pretty impressive how well Marino can play both an anxious mess like Party Down’s Ron Donald and an irrepressibly goofy idiot like this C.J. character.) The tropes may have been familiar — Rosa wants to get away from everyone, Gina wants to abuse every last scrap of power, Terry just wants some yogurt — but there are smart little touches everywhere, from Gina hiring an assistant to help manage her compendium of Amy burns to Scully and Hitchcock finding Marino’s character deeply relatable. And while the successful setup of encouraging Marino to be less of a doormat (“My door’s always open, except when it’s closed. But you can open it when it’s closed”) somewhat beggars belief, it does provide a nice roadblock for getting the precinct down to the Sunshine State.
Two episodes in, the Florida plot has been really good for getting B99 outside its comfort zone. The result is a looser, equally funny vibe. After next week, when everybody is back in New York, I’ll probably always wish the show could take itself on the road and shake things up more often. Brooklyn Nine-Nine: Vice, anyone?
- I really can’t overstate this: The scene where Maya Rudolph contemplates cheating on her husband is absolutely hilarious. “My entire body is on fire. He’s Cuban.”
- I’m counting down the hours until we get to meet Charles’s new adopted son, Nikolas. “He’s 4 years old, he’s from Latvia, he calls me ‘comrade,’ and I love him so much.”
- Speaking of kids, congrats to Melissa Fumero on her baby boy! It’s nice to see her play scenes without being hidden behind various stuff again.
- Gina’s assistant, Emily, really stocked up on quality Amy burns. “Why so sad, did you just find out American Girl doesn’t make clothes in adult sizes?” and “What did one graphing calculator say to the other? [beat] Why does this sad lady own two of us?” are both all-time greats.
- The show could have gone even harder on Jake and Holt being able to buy a stockpile of guns without a scrap of ID, but for a one-line commentary, it’s hard to beat a classic Andy Samberg “Cool, cool cool cool cool cool” followed by a quiet “ … our country is broken.”
- Forcing perps to play the Newlywed Game is absolutely ingenious. No wonder Sheriff Jerry thinks so highly of himself.
- New motto for the NYPD: “We caught the Son of Sam, Ice T plays us on TV, we keep the Tonys safe!”