We’ve known for a long time that Jake Peralta comes preloaded with a whole host of daddy issues, which is why it’s interesting that the show has waited this long to bring on his actual dad. Turns out there’s added reason for Peralta’s classic-car-driving, Die Hard–watching attempts at being macho: Peralta pére is an airline pilot. And while he may only work a regional route from Albany to Quebec, Roger Peralta definitely lives up to the hard-partying, womanizing stereotype — he didn’t even keep his son’s number when he switched phones, but he has no problem finding time to cheat on his girlfriend with a couple of different side pieces. But as played by the always-fantastic Bradley Whitford, the character has just the slightest edges of both Peralta’s dude-bro easygoingness (he always keeps his snowboard with him, “in case I get a chance to carve”) and his puppy-dog vulnerability. Unlike a lot of deadbeat dads on TV, you can see why he still has his appeal.
Despite his many bumbles and blind spots, there is one thing Boyle knows well, and that’s what a good (if weird) father-son relationship actually is. (He was just doing a butt-bumping secret handshake at his dad’s wedding last week, after all.) So it’s fun to see him actually be the moral compass of this episode, reminding Jake that his dad isn’t actually a good guy. The actual plot surrounding Roger, in which Peralta, Boyle, and Scully travel to Quebec and discover that one of Captain Peralta’s hookup buddies has framed him for smuggling drugs, is relatively thin and largely shown offscreen; frankly, I assumed that Roger would be found guilty, but I can understand the desire not to completely torpedo the character in case they want to bring Whitford back in the future.
Instead, he disappoints Peralta with the quotidian but far more devastating sin of not showing up to the precinct’s celebratory case-solving party. As a result, Peralta confronts him at his hotel, and clearly the Whitford magic is rubbing off, because Andy Samberg delivers some of his best, quietest, most serious work in the show’s entire run, admitting that he finally sees Roger for what he is: “a regional airline pilot whose landings are bumpy as hell, and a pretty selfish guy who genuinely doesn’t care about being a dad.” It’s a remarkably pure, emotional moment, and a rare one for the show. And while the tension is broken by Jake stealing his dad’s pilot’s hat and strolling down the hall in slo-mo to “Spirit in the Sky,” there’s another touching little button at the episode’s close, when Holt tells Peralta he’s proud of him. We’ve always known where that relationship had its roots, but it’s still touching to be reminded that Peralta does have a good dad (of a sort) in his life.
That dad, of course, spends the episode tormenting his other children with a challenging brain-teaser, using Beyoncé tickets as the lure. (It also offered a real “this is me” moment for me when Rosa reread the first sentence and Gina immediately slumped on the couch whining “I’m so bored, I cannot do it.”) Some light Googling shows that this is probably not a real brain-teaser, but just in case you want to spend your nights tossing and turning like Holt, here it is in its entirety: “There are 12 men on an island. Eleven weigh exactly the same amount, but one of them is slightly lighter or heavier. You must figure out which. The island has no escapes, but there is a seesaw. The exciting catch? You can only use it three times.” (I got a headache just retranscribing that, so I won’t be making any attempts.)
But while the brain-teaser might be a practical annoyance, it adds a daffy charm to the B-plot, as each of the characters use their own negligible “skills” to try to achieve a solution. Rosa suggests using the seesaw to “press down on their necks until Fatty confesses,” while eager-beaver Amy works out a complicated answer that is so entirely wrong that Holt cuts her off after the first sentence. But this is a show where good detective work is sometimes done in the weirdest places, and having Gina crack the case from Holt’s disappointed expression in her snapshot of Amy being crushed feels exactly right. Those Beyoncé tickets may have been her birthright, but she still earned them.
• Listen, I’ll confess to liking beards so much that I decided to try out an online dating site based around them, but I didn’t think Boyle’s goatee looked that bad! Also, a little hypocritical to give him crap when Terry also has a goatee (although Terry can obviously get away with just about anything, including bingeing on a box of doughnut holes).
• Hitchcock continues to be the greatest creep of all time. On smuggled Canadian erection medication: “I don’t need it … but I love it.”
• Left to conceptualize the brain-teaser island of her dreams, Gina goes straight for “a land of Tyreses.”
• Wouldn’t it be amazing if the Hungarian “Happy Birthday” song was actually “Your age mountain, add sausage, sausage”?
• Peralta and Boyle’s undercover stage names are always great. This time around: Capt. Spike Masters, and co-pilot Wanda Cohen. (My favorite is still Boyle’s faux-longshoreman from earlier in the season, Twink Tucker.)
• Anytime the show gives Andre Braugher an opening for a soaring, quasi-Shakespearean monologue, I lose my mind with joy. “Those islanders and their pathetic seesaw, they haunt me in my sleep and mock me in my dreams, riding up and down on a teeter-totter of taunts.” (Perfect punctuation by Gina: “Cool. So … who gets the Beyoncé tickets?”)