Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta, Jimmy Smits as Victor Santiago.
The idea of a Thanksgiving episode based on actual conflict around the Thanksgiving table has become somewhat passé in recent years. (Sitcom writers would prefer you save that problem for your own life.) Perhaps that’s why this is only Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s second Thanksgiving episode in four seasons. “Mr. Santiago” returns to Amy’s apartment — the scene of the last Thanksgiving episode — where it quickly finds ways to get the characters out of the traditional dinner confines, sending most of them out of the house altogether.
The main conflict centers on Amy’s visiting dad, Victor (Jimmy Smits), a retired cop who’s as anal-retentive as you might expect from a human that reared Amy. He has a preferred watchmaker, type of binder tab, and font (Garamond, though as Jake notes, the Santiagos all have a favorite font). For once in his life, Jake decides he needs to come correct and make a good impression, so he prepares a binder of oppo research that a seasoned political consultant would envy … only to be confronted by the fact that Victor has prepared a much nicer, leather-bound version of his own, in which he reckons with Jake’s many obvious failings. (Jake: “But look at this credit score! 100!” Victor: “Out of 850.” Jake: “No, really?”)
As Amy points out to both men, this is a petty dispute in a feminist era. She gets to choose whom she dates, and her dad can like it or lump it. With that issue tied up nicely, the episode pads things out by throwing in an old standby for the show — solving a cold case. Alas, that just makes the plot even more muddled, because there really isn’t enough time to get through the details of Victor’s 20-year-old case. The denouement in which they figure out the case together and make an arrest doesn’t even make it onscreen. I liked the fundamental premise of the two cops casing each other, but I think the added screen time of them demolishing another family’s Thanksgiving for questioning overly complicated the plotline.
Back at the apartment, Charles has taken his ardent foodie-ism to a new level by purchasing a live turkey, which he plans to take out with an ax in Amy’s bathtub. (Rosa, being extremely Rosa: “Why do you have an ax? Also, nice ax.”) The proceedings turn heated, with the normally callous Gina and Rosa teaming up to pardon the turkey, while Amy, Charles, and the rest try to turn it into dinner. From there, the ante keeps rising: Gina names the turkey after Charles’s son, while Amy promises that “the apartment will run red with the blood of Nikolaj.” It’s a fun, vicious idea, but it gets wasted in the final third, where the turkey turns on both parties and things shift into a more standard monster-in-the-house plotline. The cast is fun as always, but it might have been more entertaining if B99 had really let things get to their most heated point.
Thankfully, there is plenty to enjoy with the episode’s best plot, in which Pimento blows a loan from Holt on a bad bet on the National Dog Show. This is perfect for many reasons, starting with the fact that Holt is absolutely the type of person who would have ardent opinions on the National Dog Show: “A bold personality. We know what that’s code for, she’s a bitch.”
All the twists from there on are great: Pimento’s “bookie” turns out to be a college freshman who just helps him bet on the internet, and the pair threaten a bartender with broken bottles to turn off football and put on the dog show instead, leading an entire bar full of people to cheer for a wire fox terrier. It’s especially good news that Pimento nets $70,000 on the bet, considering that he lost his job on the force for disappearing for seven months. (Hope he and Rosa have fun in … Tampa?) It’s a sly way to keep things vague on when we’ll see Pimento next, but Jason Mantzoukas has been really, really funny in this extra-long guest arc, and he’ll certainly be missed.
- I love when B99 does office-contest cold opens, and this episode’s round of Holt impersonations was especially fantastic. In terms of actual impersonations, I think Stephanie Beatriz is the winner, but the kicker that Charles’s elated giggles were the correct response was also great.
- Charles dresses up like Dexter to dispatch the turkey, though he admits that he hasn’t ever actually seen the show. “The billboards gave me nightmares.” (Also a little hat tip to Smits, who starred in Dexter’s third season.)
- Can someone please start a petition for a webisode in which Holt tells us his thoughts on Lemonade? Worst tease ever.
- A nice father-daughter tie-in: Like Amy, Victor can’t seem to quit smoking cigarettes.
- Potential fodder for a future episode: Kevin’s parents hate Holt because “they’re huge homophobes who think that I made Kevin gay with my magic genitalia.” (Jake: “That’s super sad, but I do like hearing you say the word genitalia.”)
- Victor: “I don’t want my only daughter dating a screw-up!” Jake: “Well, I don’t want my only girlfriend daughtering a jerk-dad!”