Joel McKinnon Miller as Scully, Jason Mantzoukas as Adrian, Andy Samberg as Jake, Terry Crews as Terry.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has always been a goofy show, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a madcap one. Even though it has a large cast and usually distributes three plots across each episode, things somehow manage to move at a relatively comfortable comic pace. This episode, though, is ten pounds of the show in a five-pound bag: Relentlessly paced, spanning a ton of locations, with a wild third-act twist that all but careens into a setup for the season’s final plotline. It’s fun to see the show turned up to 11, but it’s also a little confusing, and it comes at the sacrifice of its typically more inventive verbal humor. All in all, the jokes are weaker than average this go-round.
The breakneck pace and weird tonal shifts of “Paranoia” are, in some ways, of a piece with the headspace of Adrian Pimento (returning guest star Jason Mantzoukas), who’s still not winning any gold stars for mental stability after a lengthy undercover stint with the mob. Although he’s held a gun or knife to pretty much everyone in the precinct, he seems to have quickly progressed with Rosa, who had the hots for him from the jump but also considered him “creepy” (a mere three episodes ago, she ranked him alongside the Vulture and “the evil gremlin from Gremlins“). Two minutes into the cold open, they’re engaged, by way of the ultimate tough-guy proposal: chasing a perp. (Rosa: “You follow, I’ll cut him off in the alley.” Pimento: “Wait, you wanna get married?” Rosa: “Yup.”)
The impromptu engagement isn’t exactly out of character for Rosa — after all, she dragged her feet with nice-guy Marcus while knowing he wasn’t what she wanted, so she probably has a pretty good sense these days of what she does want. But considering how unhinged Pimento’s proven himself to be, it’s a bit odd that only Terry seems opposed to their rush to the altar. This engagement should have planning-oriented Amy in hives (and maybe questioning her relationship with Jake, which has been unmentioned for a while now). Holt’s wise counsel is also out of the picture, since he doesn’t make an appearance until episode’s last scene, a rare move for the show.
In any case, everything mentioned above probably would’ve been sufficient plot for one episode, but things quickly careen in another direction: Rosa wants to get married in a week, and though she has an obvious disinterest in wedding frippery, she does want a bachelorette party. So the squad divides along gender lines to throw last-minute bachelor and bachelorette shindigs for the pair — excepting Boyle, who’s asked to be a maid of honor, and naturally loves it. (“It would be an honor! Oh my gosh, that’s why they call it that.”)
Rosa’s bachelorette is the more easygoing and amusing of the two, and seems to have been laid out with the goal of using up extra set money in the budget. (Across the board, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a B99 episode use this many sets.) Unable to plan one perfect bachelorette, Amy, Gina, and Charles end up trying on all three of their ideas in one night, each of which is surprisingly fitting: Gina ropes them into a paintball war with her 13-year-old nephew and his friends; Amy hosts a Newlywed Game–style quiz show/drinking game that quickly gets sloppy because no one knows a damn thing about the very private Rosa; and Charles concocts the best plan of all — letting Rosa and co. play demolition crew in a failed restaurant. (“I’ve been dreaming about this since I was a little girl,” she says, hefting a sledgehammer.)
The jokes in these scenes are lightweight at best, but it’s clear the actors are having an absolute ton of fun, especially in the demolition scenes — there’s a great moment where Gina smashes plate after plate into a wall while Charles sits beneath her, calmly munching on leftovers. By the end of the night, everyone’s drinking beer and cramming in junk food while Rosa unironically opines on how full her heart feels, and how happy she is to marry Adrian. This scene is out of left field, but thanks to the nuance Stephanie Beatriz consistently brings to the character, it definitely earned the “awwwwws” it got at my house. And Gina drunkenly ran off to Puerto Rico with a drugstore cashier, so that’s nice.
Things get messier on the boys’ side of the equation, as the party bus assembled by Jake, Terry, Scully, and Hitchcock quickly gets hijacked by Pimento, who’s convinced someone is following them and wants to kill him. Terry is incredulous, but it turns out the killer is real (and played by Max Silvestri, longtime comedy partner of B99 writer Gabe Liedman). The surprisingly forthright hit man tells them that he’s been sent to kill Pimento, take a cell-phone snap, and then make an exchange for the money, so the bachelor party sets out to fake Pimento’s death with a bunch of ketchup and SpaghettiOs.
At the meet, a ski-masked Jake (carrying a veal tongue in lieu of Pimento’s actual tongue, as suggested to him by Boyle) encounters the equally ski-masked guy who ordered the killing, and claims Pimento’s old mob boss placed the order. But Pimento, hiding in the party bus, doesn’t recognize the car or the guy, and when they tail, they learn that he actually works for the FBI. At this point, things get confusing: Is the FBI guy a mole working for the mob, or is this some kind of larger conspiracy? Would an FBI agent really be fooled by a veal tongue and some SpaghettiOs?
In any case, Pimento sees his faked death as a chance to make a run for it, and tells Jake to say good-bye to Rosa for him. Jake tries to break the news the next day by taking her on a walk, but is saved from having to do the dirty work by a disguised Pimento, who’s realized (while burning off his fingerprints in a gas-station bathroom) that he needs to say farewell himself. He and Rosa have an emotional, romantic embrace, in which Pimento vows to return for Rosa, and Rosa vows to find the FBI agent and kill him. The episode ends with the reappearance of Holt, exhorting the precinct to do the undercover work of digging up the FBI agent, which will presumably comprise the final three episodes.
All that plot in 22 minutes! It was kind of exhausting. I appreciate that the show wanted to add some oomph to what’s essentially a table-setter, but “Paranoia” could easily have been split into two or three episodes. Of course, rushing into season-ending plots is a B99 tradition at this point, so I’m interested to see where things go from here.
- First of all, congrats to B99 for its renewal, which officially arrived this week. Even though it’s a season and change from hitting the 100-episode syndication mark, which probably helped its chances, the renewal wasn’t necessarily a sure thing, as the show’s audience nosedived 22 percent from last year. It probably wouldn’t have survived in an earlier era, but that kind of decline is all too common in network TV these days.
- The ratings do appear to have affected its season order: This season will end before May sweeps, for the first time ever. That’s not a huge vote of confidence for a show that ran after the Super Bowl a mere two years ago. (The season finale airs April 19.)
- Okay, on to the jokes! Everything at Amy’s Rosa-themed quiz show is pretty much gold, including Gina’s reaction when she unveils the prize of a question-mark crown. “I’ll take ‘Lonely Arts & Crafts’ for $800.”
- Later in the game, everyone tries to guess Rosa’s favorite soup, but it turns out she’s never had it. Gina: “Don’t bother, they all suck!” On the upside, Rosa can totally do a handstand, even if it comes at the expense of Amy’s spoon collection.
- Max Silvestri doesn’t get a ton of lines, but he does a great deadpan when Pimento suggests wetting his crotch for the murder photo: “Everybody who gets shot pees themselves.” Jake is incredulous, but the hit man insists: “Actually, he’s right. Every single time.”
- Told that the bachelorette party is classy and doesn’t involve looking at boobs, horndog Hitchcock wears a hat featuring 3-D ones. (He also inadvertently cuts himself, a lot.)
- Jake: “[Pimento]’s getting saner by the minute! In another month he’ll just be Frasier.” Terry: “Don’t use Frasier’s name in vain.” At this point, it’s safe to say Terry loves Frasier almost as much as Terry loves yogurt.