It's always bittersweet when a show returns to the status quo after a big arc, and to its credit, Brooklyn Nine-Nine leans right into that feeling in this week's cold open. Jake, still hobbling around with a cane after Amy was forced to cap him in the foot, has held on to one Florida souvenir: his frosted tips. (Amy: "I feel like I'm kissing Vanilla Ice." Jake: "There was a time you would have jumped at that chance!") He's hell-bent on keeping them, at least until he sees Boyle sporting the same look and recognizes how bad it really is. Jake is not a frosted tips kind of guy, and B99 is not a Florida show. But I'm confident they will both continue to make the most of their home bases.
This episode is definitely a strong start. The punishment of being moved to the night shift is a twist that affects all of the characters in the same place, which gives it a little more punch than last season, when just Holt and Gina were exiled. And the conflicts that arise feel genuine — there's a lot of backed-up plot from last season, and it comes out in appropriate ways, given this new pressure on nearly everyone's personal lives.
First of all, there's still the unresolved disappearance of Adrian Pimento, who's now been gone for three weeks after the arrest of Figgis. Rosa is supposed to meet him on a specific park bench, which she keeps sneaking off to in the middle of shifts. Of course, this irritates Amy, who's left with a pile of paperwork that doesn't even bring the same joy as it does on the day shift. As always, Stephanie Beatriz is masterful at sneaking in moments of vulnerability for Rosa: She convincingly sheds a tear in anxiety in one scene, and delivers a perfectly dry, "That wasn't even me crying in the bathroom, that was someone with the same boots, but now she's gone" a scene later.
I'll be interested to see what the show does with Jason Mantzoukas once he inevitably returns. Given that Pimento and Rosa remain engaged, I doubt he's going anywhere, but my guess is that there isn't enough budget to bring him on as a regular with such an already overstuffed cast. But Pimento is so intense (and so tied to the work that the other characters do) that it'll be weird to have him as an occasional guest star like Genevieve or Kevin.
Another move I appreciated was the flip in attitudes between Holt and Terry. In previous seasons, Terry would have been trying to buck everyone up while Holt sulked, but reversing that dynamic brings out fun new aspects of their characters, from Holt trying to throw a party that bumps John Philip Sousa ("the Skrillex of his day … I tried to make this fun, I even learned what Skrillex was") to kindhearted Terry unloading bursts of what his wife calls "Night Sassy" on his co-workers.
The most interesting and affecting work is saved for Jake and Boyle, which puts an interesting twist on their relationship. The show can sometimes lean a little too hard on Boyle being a desperate friend and Jake not needing him as much, and so it was nice to be reminded that they really are an interconnected duo, with Jake feeling neglected as Boyle declines to bust cases so he can spend more time with his new adopted son Nikolas (the nuances of whose name are apparently invisible to us non-Latvians).
The scene in which Jake tries to keep up a "yay, you have a kid!" facade while repeatedly insulting Boyle's priorities will definitely feel all too real to anyone whose friends have suddenly blown them off for new parenthood (a.k.a. many, many people). And I thought it was a nice touch of world-building that the key advice for Jake came from Matt Walsh's Det. Lohank, who pops up unexpectedly, regenerated by the day shift and sporting cooler clothes. Jake doesn't often get moments of emotional vulnerability on the show, and hitting the wall with the night shift, his nagging injury, losing the perp, and losing Boyle is surprisingly affecting.
All this, and I have yet to mention the brief New Girl crossover (clunkily underlined by an actual crossover vehicle), which, sadly, is the weakest part of the episode. The one-scene appearance by Zooey Deschanel's Jess is an out-of-place plot drag, since the car crash is never actually resolved. And I was really bummed that B99 viewers only got one member of the main cast — and that it wasn't absolute bright light of humanity Jake Johnson — while New Girl viewers will get Jake, Holt, Boyle, and Gina. But I'll let Kathryn VanArendonk take it from here. Suffice it to say that the presence of New Girl's writers upped B99's already excellent joke game, as you'll see in the bullet points below.
- I loved the mini-plot of Gina's newfound Australian Twitter fame, which produced a ton of good lines. "I'm in the middle of a feud with the 'That's not a knife' guy from Crocodile Dundee. He's being a real bitch."
- Charles, always on the nickname tip, suggests that he and Jake go by the Midnight Men or the Dark Stallions, both of which sound like male escort services. They eventually settle on the Night Boys (I guess Style Boyz was taken). Theme song: Lionel Richie's "All Night Long," which quickly gets as stale as "Stake Me Out Tonight."
- The most moving thing about Holt's attempt at a party is all the printed black-and-white signs around the room that just say "PARTY" on them.
- Jake compares working overnight to Twilight: [Dracula voice] "I am Robert Pattinson, I vant to turn into a bat … I've never seen the movies."
- We finally met Nikolas! He's very cute, but I was kind of hoping he'd still have an Eastern European accent, which is probably too much to expect of a child actor. I hope he enjoys his new toy garbage truck.
- Andre Braugher: bringing pure gravity and power to the line "The night shift stinks. Stinks like a butt."
- Jess Day has made Jake Peralta realize the grammatical error inherent to "Empire State of Mind." Now that's a teacher.