I’ve been trying to avoid too many comparisons to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s older sibling The Office, but no pass this time: “The Jimmy Jab Games” bears more than a few similarities to the “Office Olympics” episode from season two, written by none other than B99 co-creator Michael Schur. This is not necessarily a bad thing: I liked this episode for many of the same reasons I liked that one, namely that anything that can bring an ensemble together to goof off inevitably results in fun for the viewer. Some of my favorite B99 episodes so far have been the ones without any crimes involved (“The Party,” “Tactical Village”), just letting the cast play with each other. This is how you get Peralta lighting a bagel on fire as Scully, attired in a Viking hat and carrying a hockey stick, sings opera. Every episode of this show could consist of new Jimmy Jab events, and I probably wouldn’t get bored.
But while Brooklyn Nine-Nine is great at creating indelible comic moments, creating believable romantic pairings is not one of its strengths. I get that its predecessors got a lot of laughs out of a couple of different will-they-or-won’t-theys, but compared to Jim and Pam — hell, compared to Leslie Knope and Mark Brendanaquits — Santiago and Peralta are a goose egg. Their big romantic moment in this episode is Peralta gently suggesting to Santiago that she should try to limit her anxiety over doing well to being a cop and not seeming cool to her co-workers. Such a deeply formed psychological insight! Truly, it is written in the stars for these two.
Which is why Peralta fudging the Jimmy Jab Games so Santiago can win, then admitting to Diaz that he’s not over her, is utter nonsense. Hell, he invested more minutes into getting Rosa’s friend’s number in this episode than he has trying to get in Santiago’s pants in the entire series run. Guys, if you want to convince us that Peralta has a special soft-spot for Santiago, maybe spend more than three scenes total in the course of the series showing us that. If constantly bantering with and making fun of Santiago is what constitutes a crush in Peralta’s calculus, then I think I can safely assume he’s infatuated with the entire precinct. Frankly, I’d be just about as likely to buy Peralta being secretly in love with Holt. (Yet another upside of marriage equality going mainstream: This might actually be a conceivable plot for the sitcoms of 2024.)
As if that wasn’t enough ill-conceived romance for one show, Gina is continuing to have sex with Boyle. I was willing to suspend disbelief the first two times based on their being blackout drunk, and if Gina had shown any particular tenderness towards Charles — who has arguably the warmest heart in the whole cast and is the right type to crack her above-it-all attitude — I might buy this for a second. But even in private, she’s still just as insulting to him as she is to everyone else, perhaps even more so. (“Stop humming. And it does not turn me on when you bend over and back up into me.”) Considering Gina seems to have had no trouble pulling guys in the past (“Is anyone here named Mark?” remains one of my favorite gags from the show’s early days), it’s utterly perplexing that she’d continue keeping time with Boyle, all so that we can get a frankly pretty dull, hastily resolved plot about Hitchcock blackmailing Boyle over a tape that reveals their hookup status.
I get that these characters need to grow, but I’m not sure they need to grow in this way. If My Little Pony can win hearts focusing entirely on what it means to be a friend, why can’t Brooklyn Nine-Nine do the same? It doesn’t have to ignore relationships completely (I thought Boyle’s infatuation with Marilu Henner last season was delightful), but I’ve gotten more out of Terry realizing Peralta was more than a “work friend” or Diaz and Santiago bonding over being the only women in the office than I have out of literally any romantic combo the writers have thrown at me. With an ensemble this rich and well-developed, it feels like trying to make your Barbie doll and your brother’s Stretch Armstrong kiss.
Speaking of mismatched pairs, I was betting that Holt versus Wuntch round two wouldn’t arrive until later, but we got it now. (Kyra Sedgwick is supposedly only booked for two episodes, but it seems like we’ll have to see her again before season’s end to resolve this whole task-force thing.) Considering Sedgwick likely commanded a mint for this run, it seemed odd to consign her to just three scenes in the B plot. But I continue to find her a bit out of place anyway, so it didn’t bother me. Especially if it means revealing Holt’s secret grammar-Nazi status and his glee over splitting infinitives. Maybe correctly using semicolons will be the next Jimmy Jabs event.
- This show has now introduced a positive association with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad into my brain, and I’m not sure how to feel about that.
- I love how Gina gets about five times more physically into cheering than her co-workers. Those snapping jazz hands in the opening “JIMMY JABS!” chant were clearly perfected in rehearsals with Floorgasm.
- Peralta: “Three-hour delay without Holt or Terry? Do you have any idea what this means?” Boyle: “Makeovers!”
- Still not enough Diaz so far this season — she has yet to have a material plot of her own. I’m glad that she was chosen to lead the drug task-force at episode’s end because she’s wasted just being everyone’s confidante.
- Did you catch The New York Times Magazine’s great profile of Andre Braugher? Seriously, he’s so good that he could even sell that Wuntch rhyming with lunch joke — twice. “I know you were lying. That was mine.”