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“Hitchcock & Scully” isn’t all about Hitchcock and Scully, but it’s a no-brainer that it is and will live on to be the most memorable part of this episode. That would be the case even if it weren’t for the episode title, honestly. Terry, Rosa, and Amy’s “upstairs vs. downstairs” people plot is a footnote—a funny one, but still, a footnote—that will be remembered occasionally down the line, and the same goes for Gina’s “controversial” barely-15 minutes of fame. (“The real question is: What are police?”) Holt’s battle against Commissioner Kelly (Phil Reeves) is also obviously just at a simmer here. But six seasons in, Brooklyn Nine-Nine now has “The One With Hitchcock & Scully’s Origin Story,” which explains so much while also… Well, chicken wings really explain literally everything. And finally, Wing Slutz—yes, with a “z,” not an “s”—gets the respect it deserves.

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From the cold open, the episode is instantly a strange success story for two absolutely bizarre supporting characters. Just the smooth jazz cue of an old school cop show—or more specifically, of a Lethal Weapon riff, as Lethal Weapon represents the height of smooth jazz music cues alongside organized crime—sets the scene of “New York City, 1986” even more than the words on the screen do. But an even stranger part of its success is the casting choice of Alan Ritchson as Young Scully and Wyatt Nash as Young Hitchcock. Even if this was a dud of an episode, the casting is such a major triumph, especially when you consider just how hard of an undertaking it had to be to get actors who could both pull off the “stud” depiction of these present-day characters (who are anything but studs) while still realistically—in terms of physical look, physicality, and general delivery—have them pass for the younger versions of these weirdos the audience knows.

Alan Ritchson, especially, is an actor whose career I could probably write an entire fascinating book about—starting at American Idol—and Scully is now the latest fascinating entry in that history. (I assume this isn’t an attempt at a weird form of Aquaman synergy… even though it could be.) Before this episode, there was no scenario in which I would’ve considered him a good casting choice for Young Scully, and yet, he pulls it off tremendously here. And in this somewhat unsettling casting coup, it’s still worth noting that Joel McKinnon Miller and Dirk Blocker carry this A-plot and episode with their characters’ particular mash-up brand of sketchiness and heroism.

In fact, the plot is only somewhat dragged down by the more grounded story it simultaneously tries to tell for Jake and Boyle within it. The interesting thing about “Hitchcock & Scully” is that it actually confronts and addresses its weakest components, but they’re still very much a part of the episode. So Jake and Boyle’s issue over Jake being “suspicious of everyone” isn’t necessarily a bad idea for a plot, but six seasons in, it’s also one that has a very solid basis. (Although, under the assumption the show is still easing its way into things for new viewers, that’s not exactly a known component of the series.) Because if we’re being honest, even given Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s general optimism, why shouldn’t Jake see the worst in everyone? Or at least be quick to be suspicious? Assuming the audience is supposed to remember these things: Jake was wrongfully imprisoned because of a dirty cop and the system he’s part of failing him (and Rosa) and he has a Scientology-esque cult watching his and his new wife’s (and Boyle’s) every move for the rest of his life.

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Those are the extreme examples—less extreme would be Doug Judy constantly betraying him, despite their best friendship—but it doesn’t help here that Boyle’s naivete when it comes to Dragomir (who surprisingly ends up only being 34 years old) is absurd, even for him. It’s the type of plot point I’d usually call out even more as poor writing, but Lang Fisher’s script having Jake eventually point out that Boyle’s “heart might just be an idiot” saves it. The bigger problem here is really that Dragomir is such a scam artist compared to Hitchcock and Scully, who, at worst, would be considered the dumbest corrupt cops of all time; so Boyle’s comparison of the two issues is an apples-to-oranges situation.

In terms of just goofy fun, the upstairs vs. downstairs plot is a very half-baked one at that, but it’s saved by the fact that’s clearly the entire point. That’s apparent from the moment Amy has her offscreen chat with her squad, that actually ends up being an offscreen plan for subterfuge. The whole plot is really Terry (especially) and Rosa teasing Amy—over something that is rightfully frustrating to them—and Amy going overboard in her retaliation about the microwave thing. (One could argue that getting a widow to sign a contract about a microwave was Terry and Rosa going overboard first, but: 1. Rosa was stone-cold enough to treat it like a normal thing normal people do. 2. The downstairs people were truly disgusting on a level that even Hitchcock and Scully haven’t reached.)

The plot also places the perfect bow on top of it when Jake note just how divorced his stuff and the whole A-plot is from it. I mentioned last week that “little things” like having Gina pop into Terry/Rosa’s plot while also having her own thing with Boyle is something that really works for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and this episode even does a similar thing with Holt and Amy coming to save the day in A-plot. So the acknowledgment of the lack of real crossover at the very end is the perfect way to wrap it all up. However, the less intentional aspect of the upstairs vs. downstairs plot being half-baked is the fact that the “downstairs people” (the uniformed officers/Amy’s subordinates) have yet to be fully introduced or worked into Brooklyn Nine-Nine, if they ever will. We got Drew Tarver as an Amy Jr. in one episode last season, but thanks to The Other Two—which hopefully lasts many seasons—there probably won’t be a follow-up to that.

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But even with their nameless, faceless existences, one of the largest accomplishments of the episode, is the visual component of the overcrowded bullpen and the claustrophobic feel. (Cortney Carrillo directed this episode, and the tightness of the shots in the Terry/Rosa/Amy scenes also contributes to this.) It’s to the point where Holt’s office—four walls and all—feels more like an open space as a result. The moment of Jake and Rosa passing each other as they walk on desks is a fun moment, but the intense amount of passive-aggressive—to the point it’s all just aggressive—signs in the kitchen area is the MVP of this part of the episode. It gets the job done almost more than the actual plot itself.

Just from these first two episodes of season six, Brooklyn Nine-Nine appears to be hitting the jokes per minute ratio even harder than before. It’s technically a small change since the transition from FOX to NBC didn’t necessarily have to change much of anything about the show, but it’s noticeable in how it really fills in the gaps even for weaker plots. I mean, it can’t just be a matter of me missing the show that has made me dedicate my entire Stray Observations section to quotes from the episode. And these quotes also reveal Andy Samberg’s transformation into somewhat of a straight man in this show, while even Jake’s wife is a crazy person in this episode. (She might be the crazy person, considering her obsession leads to a microwave blowing up. Melissa Fumero is arguably the unsung hero of this series, by the way.)

For any of the weaknesses on the plot or narrative level, Brooklyn Nine-Nine has clearly decided to step up its game in terms of dialogue and jokes, which is a fair trade in its own way. The Holt plot, especially, relies on these moments to pick it up, whether it’s Holt and Gina just saying “Gina Linetti spaghetti confetti” or Amy and Terry bowing at Holt on their way out of his office. These first two episodes haven’t gone too far out of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s comfort zone and haven’t tried anything too big—Hitchcock and Scully’s origin story is truly the smallest possible version of a big story, to be perfectly honest—and as such, they’ve made for a welcome return to the Nine-Nine.

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Stray observations

  • Rosa: “I’ve said ‘excuse me’ more times this morning than I have in my entire life. Twice!”
  • Congratulations, Brooklyn Nine-Nine for what I believe is the first Matisyahu reference of 2019.
  • Hitchcock: “And take out your two best detectives.”
    Holt: “You’re not my two best detectives.”
    Scully: “Oh, that’s such a relief. I feel so much safer now.”
    Jake: “Good lord.”
  • Amy (re: “downstairs people”): “That’s a little offensive.”
    Terry (clearly messing with her): “Don’t get it twisted: It’s just where you came from. Some of my best friends are downstairs people.”
    Amy: “I think you know exactly what that sounds like, you upstairs people.”
    Rosa: “Thank you for that nice compliment.”
    Amy: “It wasn’t a nice compliment and you know it! I said it with a tone.”
    Terry: “Classic downstairs person.”
  • Gina: “Gina Jargon. A world-renowned linguistics system that worked pretty well for Ellen Musk.”
    Amy: “Elon Musk.”
    Gina: “Ellen Musk.”
    Holt: “Season one winner of VH1’s Queen Bitch.”
  • Jake: “I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but—”
    Boyle: “Meow!”
    Jake: “No, that is not what I was gonna say, but, honestly? Yeah—meow. No offense, guys, but what the hell happened to you?”
    Scully: “Are you body-shaming us?”
    Jake: “No, I’m personality-shaming you. You were so alert and cool and job-doing.”
  • Hitchcock: “It was the ‘80s.”
    Scully: “Police weren’t perfect then like they are today.” I hope every episode this season has at least one moment of a character misunderstanding how police are viewed in the present day.
  • Young Scully: “Anyone have a trashcan? ‘Cause ‘Flat Top’ and ‘The Freak’ are bringing in some garbage.”
    Jake: “You guys had badass entrance lines, and people cheered? What. Happened? Where’d it all go wrong?”
    Scully: “Some things aren’t for us to know.”
  • Hitchcock: “I’m not just poor, son: I’m destitute.”
  • Gina: “Come on, you’ve got to pace it up. You need to smile more. Energize the eyes. Gesticulate.”
    Holt: “You’re describing the behavior of a crazy person.”
    Gina: “Am I? Because right now, you can’t take your eyes off me.”
  • Hitchcock: “If this van’s a-rocking, my ex-wife’s a-locking. Me. Out of the house.”
    Jake: “Catchy.”
  • Hitchcock (re: Boyle): “Why is the little one so mad?”
    Jake: “He’s going through something.”
  • Phil Reeves is brilliant casting for Commissioner John Kelly, the right amount of sleazy dinosaur (and snake) for Andre Braugher’s Holt to have to try to figure out how to outmaneuver. He’s the exact opposite of Holt, with his double speak and his faux charm, and—in a way meant to be interpreted as praise to both Phil Reeves and Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s casting—I wanted to slap him in the face from the very moment I saw him onscreen in this episode. By the time he starts hissing, he actually manages to outcreep Hitchcock.
  • Jake: “Thank god. My wife and my dad are here. I mean, Captain Dad. I mean, I know who my dad is—it’s you. Hi, Amy.” Alright, maybe Jake hasn’t completely become the series’ straight man.
  • Holt: “I do give a hoot. I give a hoot about all of you.”
    Rosa: “Are we gonna keep saying ‘hoot’? Is this forever?”
    Jake: “I pray not.” I basically had the exact reaction as Rosa, but it can continue if it keeps being addressed.
  • Terry: “No, Amy—we’re all upstairs people now.”
    Amy (very emotional): “Thanks, Terry.”
    Jake: “Okay. I clearly missed a whole thing there.”
  • There have been a lot of great music cues in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but “Take My Breath Away” over the very upsetting—and sexual—Wing Slutz transformation scene is up there. And remember when Jake worried that going to Wing Slutz with Hitchcock and Scully would actually turn him into them? This origin story suggests that actually would have been the case.

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