The challenge for Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always been striking a balance between crime and comedy. When the show takes crime too seriously, we’re stuck with the weird, jokeless action interludes that have never been the show’s strong suit. When it treats things too humorously, though, we’re left wondering why these supposedly talented Brooklyn cops always deal with kooky, out-of-left-field cases. It’s not surprising that the show often takes the easiest way out by sticking to workplace-oriented story lines, with no perps at all.
What I find interesting about this week’s B99 is that it follows the same basic premise as the one before it — a hostage situation — but spins it in a completely different direction. Whereas the hostage-taking bad guys in the Die Hard department store were legitimate, armed threats, the hostage in this case is Boyle’s frozen sperm, and the threat is (relatively) humorous: Boyle’s shrewish ex-wife Eleanor will flush it unless he convinces a 90-year-old priest to drop his lawsuit against her. For a cop comedy, the show has always been oddly unwilling to make its criminals funny — perhaps to avoid paying for too many guest stars — so I tend to relish the few episodes where that does happen, like Craig Robinson’s Pontiac Bandit or Chris Parnell’s nutjob, coke-addicted attorney.
It helps that, like Robinson and Parnell, Kathryn Hahn is an eternal guest-star ringer, and she makes the most of vamping around with Charles’s sperm cups, threatening to destroy them at the slightest provocation. (Weirdly touching: the little moment when she pats her frizzled hair after Boyle offers to trade his own hostage, their formerly shared hairdresser, Abigail.) I also thought Charles would ultimately get his million tiny Boyles back — even after Eleanor “shot a hostage” by dumping one of the two cups down the garbage disposal — so I found the ending to be pretty unique: Jake, whose biological dad is kind of a jerk (“I had to learn to shave from watching Home Alone“), manages to convince Boyle that biology isn’t destiny, and that he’ll make a great dad either way.
Instead of leaving things on that inspiring and very modern note, though, the episode concludes with an insanely strange plot twist in the final minute: Jake’s swinging airline-pilot pops turns out to be an option on Charles and Genevieve’s sperm-donor version of Tinder, and Charles, being Jake’s ultimate hero-worshipper, wants to sign him up. Considering the weird thing with his and Gina’s parents, this wouldn’t be the first time Boyle gets wrapped up in a weird incestuous family situation, but I don’t know if I can deal with an extended plotline in which Mary-Lynn Rajskub gives birth to Andy Samberg’s half-brother — or even worse, Andy Samberg finds out he has dozens of heretofore unknown siblings, like that awful Vince Vaughn movie. (Also, Bradley Whitford is 56, which seems a bit over-the-hill for such a gig, but what do I know about sperm donors?)
Meanwhile, Terry, who is a father to three children and his entire precinct, gets a surprisingly hoary B-plot with Amy, whose desire to have him write a recommendation for a mentorship program gets derailed when she accidentally breaks his nose during a self-defense course (and then splashes hot tea on him while trying to help out). The “every interaction between us is cursed” plot is a tired one, and there’s no real tension about the letter, since Terry is too much of a dad-cop to ever actually take out his frustration on someone he cares about. Terry’s suggestion that Amy become a mentor, rather than a mentee, also seems a bit repetitive of the show’s previous episode, when Holt pushes Terry to move forward in his career.
I’m also concerned that B99 may be teetering on the edge of getting too self-congratulatory about Gina, who has very few laugh lines in this episode (an admitted rarity) compared to the hefty dose of trumpeting she gets from both herself and others. Gina is unquestionably the show’s most larger-than-life character, but despite her nuttiness, Chelsea Peretti has always played her as having a slightly downbeat, saner side. There’s usually a bit of cunning underneath her bizarre antics.
I kept expecting that Gina would deliver her usual masterstroke in questioning the perp who turned out to be her high-school classmate and former make-out buddy. With this plotline, though, I’m not sure exactly what the point is supposed to be: Is Gina bad at questioning criminals? (Duh, she’s not actually a cop.) Is Gina self-absorbed? (As if this needs to be asked.) Everyone thinks Gina is crazy, and that can sometimes be a bonding experience? (Again, this isn’t new information.) Maybe the writers got sick of letting Gina win all the time. Gina would probably say they’re just being jealous.
- The cold open, in which Holt avoids a potential altercation with a breakdancer by dancing himself, is amazing. I love that they didn’t reveal Holt had some sort of secret breakdancing talent, and instead just let Andre Braugher dance like a totally stiff goofball. “Situation defused. Dancing over.”
- Also, Holt threatening Rosa’s perp with the realities of the municipal-court system (and its exceedingly poor website) is great. Has there ever been a more insinuating reading of the line, “No, because they’re overwhelmed, because Debra … is on maternity leave.”
- Charles on his supersized sperm donation: “The guy going in after me was like, ‘Whoa, nice.’” Jake: “Wow, he sounds like a gross dude!”
- Charles on his sperm, again: “I heard them scream!” (Jake: “That was you.”) “I am them and they are me!”
- Gina, asking the important questions: “Who on the lacrosse team was into me, and which one of them has aged the best?”