The squad is invited to a Homeland Security terrorist training simulation.
Photo: Eddy Chen/FOX
Windbreaker City is densely populated in this week’s episode, in which our heroic precinct leverages their Tactical Village victory into a spot in the big leagues, taking on the ATF, U.S. Marshals, ICE, Homeland Security, and the FBI in a training exercise. Of course, it wouldn’t be a tangle with authority without Jake finding a way to piss off said authority, in this case, Nick Kroll (playing a version of himself, something fairly unusual for his guest stints).
The Nine-Nine quickly gets relegated to the role of hostages, of course, and the ever–Die Hard–conscious Peralta decides they’d be better off playing Francis Gruber (brother to Hans, somehow also related to Jeremy Irons) and Company by rising up against both their “terrorist” captors and the agencies playing the good guys.
For a show that once had action-comedy aspirations but has pretty much gone full workplace comedy at this point (not a bad thing, by any means), this episode is a bit of a throwback. It locks into the loose Midnight Run vibe the show’s earliest episodes tried and failed to nail by taking away any actual stakes (like, you know, legitimate perps and dead bodies). The shoot-’em-up was actually just an elaborate paintball fight, and as any Community fan can tell you, those tend to work out well. And there were plenty of call-outs to earlier episodes, from cigarette-loving Amy’s apparent switch to e-cigs to Terry’s lingering insecurity about his former-fatty status.
But whereas season-one Peralta would have just flipped the script to show up some perceived enemy, this latest round of breaking the rules actually came with some emotional import: In a rare moment of thematic transition for the show, Jake hasn’t developed total amnesia about his recent dumping at the hands of Eva Longoria’s Sophia. More important, he can’t stop checking his phone for a response to a text, a concern that certainly cuts to the quick of my deeply millennial heart.* Since he’d rather not take a bubble bath or dance in a mall fountain, his co-workers are nice enough to prevent him from spending his day trying to “smell the air around [Sophia’s] hair.” In short, a way more interesting motive than the usual round of no-fucks-given, all-prides-wounded Peralta, considering that we’re going to go down that path regardless.
Unfortunately for Holt and Gina, all of the fun is happening outside of the office, where the pair get stuck with a leaden B-plot in which Gina administers a psych test for her community-college class. (I find it hard to believe that verbally administering an online survey to some random person counts as collegiate homework, but whatever, this is television.) Holt is obviously a perfectionist, but the show makes the much slyer move of having him ace the test — only to land in the exact same category as Gina, the leadership-oriented I9C3G6.
Obviously, getting the same results as Gina in a psychology exam is very worrisome indeed, but the resolution feels like a crumbling distraction from the more interesting main story, with Holt challenging Gina to a chocolate-chip-cookies-versus-blondies test to prove that she got her answers wrong. (Also, maybe I’m crazy here, but isn’t there a solid difference between the two in that blondies usually have nuts, whereas chocolate-chip cookies usually don’t?) In the end, Gina gets more work dumped on her, and the whole “I’m a leader, you’re a leader” resolution feels kind of pat. Holt is definitely in for some shake-ups in the next episode or two, however, as things are getting pretty serious between Rosa and Marcus — down to inviting him to meet her parents. (“I’m a badass, not an anarchist.”) Maybe all this lovey-doviness will rub off on Amy, because Jake certainly isn’t getting anywhere by hoping that Sophia will turn to look at him one last time as she heads down the hall.
- All hail the return of the Amy Santiago’s Sex Tape gag! Today’s selections: “I Hope It Doesn’t Get Too Sexual,” and “What Is Taking So Long?”
- Is this the first time this season that the show has done a cold-open that plays an actual role in the main plot? I feel like they usually tend to do the pre-credits sequence as a one-off, but Jake’s heartbreak was the through line of the episode.
- Charles wears his dead poodle Molly’s dog tag around his neck because “you always remember your first.” Unfortunately, Jake seems to think pretty much everyone will be seeing her in hell, mostly because it “sounds cooler than heaven.”
- Amy’s recurring power-pose TED Talk gag is trying way, way too hard. Four references to a random piece of pop science that a lot of viewers have probably never heard of was far too many.
- “So when did you decide that you wanted to be a butt?” “Law school. Just wanted you to know that I went to law school.” “Yeah, at Butt University!”
- Gina, like so many of us, is still mad that Kate Winslet left Leo to drown in Titanic. “There was plenty of room on that door!”
- Everyone at Holt’s country club thinks he’s tenacious, probably because he’s been suing them for discrimination for the past decade.
* Seriously, Chris, what the fuck?