After last week’s relatively joke-light, blisteringly over-plotted episode, I was worried that B99 was going to keep up that grueling pace for the entirety of this closing three-episode finale arc. But “Maximum Security” is a great installment of the show, keeping up some meaty plot mechanics without sacrificing the quirky, referential humor that makes it such a joy to watch.
As Holt reminds us in a bit of opening exposition, Adrian Pimento is still on the run, having faked his own death and deserted his engagement to Rosa after the Mob boss he worked for while undercover put a hit on him. Unfortunately, since Jimmy “The Butcher” Figgis has an FBI agent on the take, the precinct can’t just arrest him—and they also have no clue who the double agent might be, aside from the prominent scar that Jake saw on his hand. So they decide to take a two-pronged approach: embedding a member of the squad in women’s prison, where they hope she can cozy up to Figgis’s sister and learn more about his operation, and throwing a fake funeral for Pimento, in the hopes that the double agent will show up.
Neither of these strategies pack a whole lot of logic as investigative tactics (I’m not sure how a woman who’s been in prison in Texas for years would have up-to-the-minute intel on her brother’s illicit activities, or why someone who put a hit out on a cop would attend his funeral), but they both work pretty well as comic premises. The prison operation is centered around a somewhat obvious but still enjoyable plot line: Even though Rosa is the most logical candidate for an undercover stint in a women’s prison (Holt: “She’s terrifying.” Rosa: “Thank you, sir.”), she’s already a known quantity to Maura Figgis. So it’s up to nerdy Amy to convincingly simulate a penitentiary-hopping badass.
The opportunity is a breakout one both for Amy and for Melissa Fumero, who’s been increasingly trapped behind desks and tables as she enters the later months of her pregnancy. To keep her in close contact with her handlers, Jake and Boyle, the operation’s ruse is that she’s seven months pregnant, and they’re her OB-GYNs. (“I don’t know if it’s realistic,” she says in a winking moment as Andy Samberg fondles her “fake” belly.)
Unfortunately, while Amy takes to prison intimidation surprisingly well, contesting Maura for control of the prison’s contraband operation, Jake is the one who’s getting cold feet—he’s terrified Amy will get hurt, and keeps yanking her out of situations where she’s about to step to Maura, reminding her that prison isn’t High School Musical. (Or High School Musical 2. Or High School Musical 3: Senior Year.) His fear for her ends up being a nice way for the show to play into their romantic relationship, which has been as back-burnered for most of the season as their will-they-or-won’t-they arc was. In a particularly sweet scene, both of them admit to being more freaked-out than they thought they’d be about dating a fellow cop, each worrying that the other might be in real danger. Of course, this is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, so the conversation is had with hopeless romantic Charles in the background, getting increasingly frustrated as to why they won’t go to comfort each other. Needless to say, he’s over the moon about the pair’s nonexistent baby.
Slightly less successful, but still pretty funny, is the department’s attempt to create the rest of the frills around Pimento’s “death,” namely forging a death certificate and a case file — with Hitchcock as the “bloated” corpse — and throwing a fake funeral. The show’s already been to the goofing-off-at-a-funeral well this season, with the sendoff for Bill Hader’s extremely short-lived Capt. Dozerman, but the conceit of high-fiving people in order to find the double agent’s telltale scar is amusing, as is Rosa’s complete and utter failure at playing the role of grieving widow. (“Ugh, this church is so quiet.” Terry: “I think that’s pretty normal for a moment of silence.”)
Overall, I think this episode struck a great balance between holding onto the show’s typical pace and its style of humor while stepping things up in the plot department, giving everything more of a serialized vibe. It’s not the kind of thing a network sitcom can be reasonably expected to do week-to-week, but after mishandling its more substantial season-closer plots in seasons one and two by stuffing them into too few episodes, I’m liking the longer game the show is playing this go-round. High-fives for everyone! Even Holt “quite likes them now.”
- There were a ton of funny lines in this episode, particularly for Holt. For example, here are his no-fail topics for small talk at parties: “The Bachelor is a television show … Andre Agassi is at it again … I, too, avoid gluten.”
- Gina: “I feel like you could use air quotes.” Holt: “I could also wear short pants and drink from a jug that says ‘XXX.’”
- It was nice to see Aida Turturro (a.k.a. Janice from The Sopranos) as Maura — she’s awesome and I don’t think she gets a lot of roles these days. She’ll be back next week, too.
- Charles’s plan for the OB-GYN fakeout: He and Jake are twins, “like the Property Brothers, but for gynecology.” (I take it B99 has at least one Cronenberg fan on staff.)
- This is definitely one of those episodes where it’s a shame Gina isn’t a cop — she would have been running the prison by day three. However, she is surprisingly good at faking death certificates: “I grew up forging report cards. If people knew how smart I was, it would have been harder to control them.”
- My single favorite line, though, might have been Amy’s idea of a really good prison insult: “I’m gonna split you like a sundae with Grandpa, bitch.”