“Gray Star Mutual” is the Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode to come after the one-two punch of a corporate conspiracy set on destroying Jake’s (and Boyle’s!) life and Jake’s long-lost half-sister. So in a way, it makes sense for it to be a chill, cool down episode. But when you consider that this is also an episode with arson, Amy shopping for a wedding dress, and Captain Raymond Holt on Twitter, there’s definitely an expectation for something bigger. Unfortunately, while those are all solid jumping off points, in execution, they’re all mostly just that. There are set-ups for some really great plots in this episode, but for one reason or another, they don’t get to live up to that greatness.
Pimento: “I bet you haven’t thought of me once since I dumped Rosa.”
Jake: “Did you dump her?”
From the comments, I know quite a few of you weren’t fans of Adrian Pimento, and I imagine this episode didn’t change anything about that. As someone who mostly liked the character (and Jason Mantzoukas’ presence on the show), even I’d argue that Pimento had a fairly decent send-off back in “Kicks”—I truly hadn’t thought of him once since Rosa dumped him—and this episode undercuts that. Especially since Pimento’s saving grace as a character was his relationship with Rosa and how they somehow got each other, a concept that’s absent in this episode. Instead, we’re hitting peak wildcard Adrian Pimento all of a sudden. At least we get official confirmation that Pimento won’t crash the Jake/Amy wedding (in the form of his best character bit in this episode): There’s a Lady Gaga concert that night.
It doesn’t help that Pimento’s return is just for the purpose of writing out a storyline that now makes little sense for existing in the first place. The Boyle food truck plot probably won’t be remembered as one of the greats in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, especially as its conclusion technically means all of Amy’s fears about it were absolutely right in the first place. (Plus, we’re coming off a plot where Jake and Amy just lost $10,000, so the timing of another financial issue as the wedding gets closer is… a choice.) The food truck has been a very small part of the show, and it’s not like the food truck-specific plots have been the highlights of episodes they’ve been in—even though it was worth it to see Boyle berate Gina for once in their lives. But it was nice to see Boyle find an outlet for his food passion, one he wouldn’t have had otherwise. Until now, as the end of this story leaves us with the knowledge that Boyle spent the entire time in absolute misery. “You’re always bragging about how much Boyles love to give up,” Jake tells Boyle early on, and it’s true. But giving up here makes the food truck story feel like such a waste for the Boyle character, especially since it was at least something for him to do other than obsess over Nikolaj (which got old fast) or talk about his invisible partner (since Mary Lynn Rajskub hasn’t been on the show since “Captain Latvia”).
Also, as an episode which has some genuine Jake and Boyle friendship beats—as opposed to them both just trying to get out of a Scientology-like pyramid scheme—to kick things off, Pimento’s presence quickly derails that to the point that Jake and Boyle are just working in service of his character. (Seriously, Jake getting a glimpse at the Mad Max-esque world of food trucks before it all goes to hell is a nice takeaway from this episode and its cold open.) Clearing Boyle’s name and getting the insurance money eventually becomes somewhat secondary to making sure Pimento remains their friend. And while friendship is an important part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, a friendship with Pimento isn’t exactly on the top of that priority list.
The Amy/Rosa story at least gives us a friendship story where the friends themselves are the key participants. It also gives a reason for said friends to wear fancy dresses while kicking ass. That’s really the dream. And that’s actually what keeps this storyline (and episode as a whole) working as well as it does, because Rosa’s encouragement for Amy to keep being her dope self is honestly pretty awesome. We’ve seen Rosa come to accept the more archetypically feminine parts of herself as the show has gone on, so it makes sense for her to encourage Amy to do the same thing. And it of course leads to a pretty awesome chase and fight sequence for Amy.
But Brooklyn Nine-Nine still needs to actually settle into how the difference in the series and crew dynamic will be with Amy as a new sergeant. Because of that, Amy’s issues and fears about doing “girly” stuff in front of other cops—while perfectly understandable—don’t quite land as well as they could. After all, it’s not like we really know Amy’s new subordinates. (Even with their introduction in “NutriBoom,” the only one we “know” is the Amy proxy of Drew Tarver’s Gary). Especially not enough to figure out whether Amy’s really having all that much trouble getting respect from them or not. In fact, that’s one of the downsides of Brooklyn Nine-Nine being so insular when it comes to the actual cops at the precinct: When we see Amy and Rosa bring in the bodega perp, the only reading anyone can really get off the nameless extras is that they’re naturally weirded out by Hitchcock and Scully. Amy gets the pep talk and the confidence boost she deserves from Rosa, but it’s for a problem the audience really has no idea exists. Other than the very real life concept of being a woman in a male-dominated field, having to work “twice as hard”—but that doesn’t just allow the episode to get away with not showing any signs of this in the magical world of the Nine-Nine. If anything, it could stand to be the A-plot in this episode, both to get more time and to lessen the Pimento of it all.
As for the Holt/social media story, like the Amy story in a way, it works as one of the necessary moments in reminding the audience that the character is currently in the process of a major milestone. There’s seemingly so much that can be mined from the idea of reluctant Holt finally giving into the social media age, but oddly, the episode doesn’t actually do much. However, it does swing for the fences with the one instance of Holt actually getting his social media on… only for Twitter to assume he’s a bot.
There are multiple beats in this episode, but they feel like just that—beats. Necessary ones. We go from scene, to scene, to scene. Sometimes with laughs that land more than others, but “Gray Star Mutual” feels like it just wants to get everything over with. There are good lines—see the Stray Observations—but Brooklyn Nine-Nine can do better. We all know it. It can make an entire episode of great, memorable moments.
The reason I call this episode safe is because it takes what should be these big moments in these characters’ lives and finds a way to make them less memorable than they arguably should be. Boyle’s food truck burns down, but that’s fine, because it was already ruining his life anyway. Holt isn’t the good with social media in the 21st century, but that’s fine, because at least he’s not embarrassing himself on social media in the 21st century. Amy is afraid her femininity will prevent her from being taken seriously as a supervisor, but—and we’re five seasons in now, so that’s an issue that probably didn’t just appear—it doesn’t. And we never actually see any hint of that fact happening at all in this episode. There are big moments in this episode, but the only truly memorable one—and for good reason, as it’s pretty badass—is wedding dress-clad Amy taking down a perp.
Which leaves just one question: Even though it was an emergency, Is Amy going to have to buy that wedding dress anyway, after all the damage she caused?
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: A Cheddar photo shoot series is all I need.
- Jake: “That was the most stressful thing I’ve ever gone through. And I was wrongfully imprisoned last year.”
- Jake: “I’ve started saving $200 a month just by buying John Wick instead of renting it every two nights.”
- Boyle: “The only way out of this hole is to keep digging.”
Jake: “That’s not how holes work. Title of your sex tape.”
- Rosa: “Aww, you’re looking at wedding dresses. That one’s dope.” An early highlight in this storyline is just the general assumption that Rosa might be teasing Amy, only to immediately realize, oh no—she genuinely means that “aww.”
- Jake: “This is insane. Charles loved this truck. It’s his baby. There’s no way he’d burn it down.”
Pimento: “The world is a messed up place, Jake. People kill their babies. Babies kill their parents. It’s the circle of life.”
Jake: “That was clearly a triangle.”
Pimento: “Okay, fine. Busted.”
- Boyle: “Adrian, this is us.”
Jake: “Not the TV show.”
Boyle: “We are your friends.”
Jake: “Not the movie.”
Boyle: “You gotta have faith.”
Jake: “Not the song. Are you doing this on purpose?”
Boyle: “The third one, yes.”
- Holt: “What’s going on here? Why is Cheddar here? And why is he in swim trunks?”
Gina: “Because the little sailor outfit wouldn’t fit his tush.”
- Holt: “Please. Cheddar wears little booties in the snow or Cheddar wears nothing.” This is 110% a line that relies on Andre Braugher’s delivery.
- The best friendship moment in this episode is actually one that doesn’t happen: the fact that Boyle and Jake don’t mention that Rosa came out as bisexual. Even though Pimento is Rosa’s ex, it’s no one’s business but hers to let him know that one.
- Between the Addams Family Rap in “The Box” and this episode’s callback to forensic rock star Dr. Yee, “Return To Skyfire” continues to prove its worth outside of the actual episode.
- I’ve got to say, I disagree with Jake: When it comes to The Monkees’ memorability, Nesmith is the one I’d say people forget, not Tork. But this is also because Nesmith is the only one who didn’t show up in Boy Meets World. Tork was one of Topanga’s three dads!
- I’ll admit, when Rosa told the store to hit the music, I was hoping we’d get a wedding dress montage. Sadly, we did not. I think if we had, we also would’ve gotten another New Girl crossover, with Winston reliving his previous dress shopping montage. But sure, Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” is fine.
- Gina: “What’s your handle? I’ll be your first follower.”
Holt: “It’s @5261796d6e6420486f6c74. It spells ‘Raymond Holt’ in hexadecimal code. Clever, right?” Actually, it spells “Raymnd Holt.”
- Holt: “Oh, look at that—an alert. I’m probably trending already. What? My account has been deactivated?”
Gina: “Twitter thinks you’re a bot.”
Holt: “Why? I’m a human! I’m a human male!”
- Jake: “No, no, no, I’ve got it: Summer of ‘91, at a screening of Robin Hood: Prince Of Thieves.”
Pimento: “Well done. It was Bryan Adams’ soundtrack and Kevin Costner’s flawless British accent that put us in the mood to get gross.”
- Holt: “Apparently one of the candidates for Commissioner tweeted a picture of the water main break and accidentally included a link to his favorite pornographic website.”
Gina: “Amateur move. You should never copy and paste if you’re a perv.”
- Rosa: “Why do you two know so much about wedding dresses?”
Hitchcock: “They’re the only thing you can look at around here—WITH SAFE SEARCH ON!”
- While there’s a vague lesson to be learned about social media in professional life and how promotions aren’t always a meritocracy, it’s also worth noting: In wanting to take the reins and set up Holt’s social media presence, for the first time in a long time (if ever), Gina actually ends up doing her job as his assistant.