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Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Beach House”

Illustration for article titled Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Beach House”
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Welcome back, everybody! Welcome back, Brooklyn Nine-Nine! It doesn’t feel like that much time has passed, but hopefully we can all agree to never let it happen again until it’s time for the second season to end. Then we can all throw out all of our “stay cools” and “have a nice summers” the way childhood taught us to.

Speaking in terms of the greater plot, “Beach House” is an “inconsequential” episode of the season. Much like “Stakeout” felt off as a winter break episode (apparently “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” was originally supposed to be the last episode of 2014), “Beach House” feels kind of like an anticlimactic return to the story. It’s not an episode that screams (or even really says) “Hey, did you miss us?” and that’s not typically what one expects with the return of a show from any type of hiatus.


However, while the episode may not make a clear statement for the season moving forward or a grand declaration of the show’s return, it still manages to be one that subtly shines a light on the ways in which Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s characters have changed and become more comfortable with each other. Of course, one of the first season’s strengths was how lived-in the show felt and how comfortable and familiar the character interactions were, but watching from the pilot to now, there’s also a clear, natural progression of the characters and their relationships with each other. If it’s possible to be proud of a television show and its characters, then Brooklyn Nine-Nine deserves that and then some.

Last season, Jake would never have been the character to be guilted into inviting Holt along on the group vacation. In fact, he would probably be leading the charge of “no bosses allowed,” perhaps even reaching a level of inappropriate tantrum-throwing. It would actually be such an Amy thing to do, especially with her inviting Holt to Thanksgiving last season (in the episode appropriately titled “Thanksgiving”). But now, it’s clear that the key to the Jake Peralta character is that he likes being liked. It’s not just the basic human quality of enjoying being liked—he likes being the coolest, most popular guy in the world, and in order to do that, he will often times go above and beyond. In his mind (and, in a lot of ways, in reality), he is the cool, gruff, always knows what to do cop, which is one of the biggest versions of Cool Guy possible. Jake isn’t just the lead character in Brooklyn Nine-Nine; he’s the Big Man On Campus (BMOC).

So in “Beach House,” it’s that need to be liked (as well as the fact that he’s also just a Good Guy, in addition to being the Cool Guy) that causes him to invite Holt to join in on “DOG Party ‘15” (“WOOF, WOOF, WOOF!”). In theory, the character could have just as easily invited Holt to a separate, later event, not necessarily this one all about joshing around with his peers. However, that wouldn’t lead to the same amount of shenanigans and it wouldn’t make Jake as much of a Good Guy. But bringing that theory into to play also highlights the main “problem” with the episode: Even with the success of this scenario’s gags, it all leads to the (still very fun to watch) plot point of having two parties, a real, fun one and a boring, Holt one. This is a plot that, much like the stakeout and “no-no list” in “Stakeout,” makes the show enter the realm of coming across as too much of a sitcom.

It’s always strange to chide a sitcom for being “too much of a sitcom,” but the reason that criticism gets thrown at certain plots or shows is because television has evolved so much in the past two or three decades that audiences expect more than the simple plots and structures that you can see coming a mile away. One of the marks of a good sitcom these days (not necessarily considering the dramatic comedy that is prominent in a cable setting) is the ability to take the more hammy, cliched aspects of sitcoms past (think any episode of Full House ever) and make it work within the context of the modern era. It’s the ability to improve upon the standard trope everyone has seen hundreds of time. While Holt being a buzzkill when the gang wants to party all the time is already a very obvious plot, the most “too much of a sitcom” moment of “Beach House” is Jake’s idea of having two parties. Friends was doing this back in 1996, and the basic concept of having character being two places at once is a tale as old as The Flintstones.


This also sticks out because this isn’t a typical episode of the show. Brooklyn Nine-Nine succeeds greatly when it’s a sharp workplace comedy, but given how important the friendships in this show are (and that’s really a staple of Schur and Goor’s work), an episode like “Beach House” is sometimes necessary. It’s for the best that episodes like this have no focus on the workplace aspect at all, because otherwise, it would feel like a strange situation shoe-horned in (and in this scenario, it would only make sense that Scully and Hitchcock would be the ones left behind—shudder the thought). Even with the more obvious sitcom tropes in this episode, it is still an especially good one for two relationships varying in “importance” to the show’s story: Boyle/Rosa and Gina/Amy.

Rosa is still interested in Nick Cannon’s Marcus Holt for some reason, and because of that, she enlists Boyle for a little Cyrano de Bergerac style help in texting. The plot itself is actually a little underwhelming—the anticipation of the plot once it begins is at an all-time high, but the actual action is again another example of the show hitting the standard sitcom button hard in this episode. But the highlight of the plot—which is not even addressed by the episode but really proof of how much work the show is doing—is the fact that at no point is there any weirdness (besides the inherent weirdness of Boyle texting Rosa’s boyfriend) between Boyle and Rosa about her new relationship. Gone are the days of the Boyle who pines after Rosa and who would most definitely be in agony over having to do something like this for her. Just earlier this season, there was still some lingering awkwardness in “Chocolate Milk,” but none of that is present here. Despite the fact that he is still peculiar as ever (again, he brings up the intimacy of washing a lover’s hair), this has been a fantastic season for Charles Boyle and one that has done a lot to remove any problems audiences may have had with his character last season. Hopefully the same can be said about the Gina character as well:

Gina: “It’s the pinnacle of the Santiago drunkenness scale. One drink: Amy’s a little spacey…Two drinks: Loud Amy…Three drinks: Amy Dancepants!…Four drink Amy is a bit of a pervert…And five drink Amy is weirdly confident…But I’ve never seen six drink Amy. Maybe she’s the one I could actually be friends with. AKA: My Sasquatch.”


Naturally, the Gina/Amy plot is a beacon of light. After all, I have done my best to chronicle the times Gina goes out of her way to tease Amy this season. “The Ballad Of Six Drink Amy” is one that closes out the trifecta of “too much of a sitcom” territory (maybe I’m doing it wrong, but that’s not how drinking works) but the difference in this case is that it’s the one plot out of the main three that makes the best use of its trope and its participants to also actively shows the evolution of these characters. The Boyle/Rosa plot obviously also shows such evolution, but comes across as more of a happy accident. Plus, the Gina/Amy plot it’s the perfect reason to take a character like Amy out of her comfort zone and another reason to consider Melissa Fumero the stealth MVP of Brooklyn Nine-Nine season two.

Wrapping this up, it’s important to note that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a show being “too much of a sitcom” once in awhile (or even all of the time). As long as the goal of making the audience laugh is achieved, that’s sometimes all you really need from a sitcom. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine has shown itself to be a series that can do so much more, and that’s where the need for it to be so much more comes from. Having the knowledge or at least faith that the show won’t simply rely on such tropes on a regular basis is part of what prevents “Beach House” from being a mess. (Also, it’s pretty darn funny.) This is a show with writers and a cast that work too hard to even allow it to be a mess. “Beach House” is fun, and you know what? Maybe that’s all that an episode needs to be right now coming off of hiatus.


Stray observations:

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Your initial thought may be something to do with Amy reviewing alcohol, but then you’d be ignoring two very important premises for webisodes. 1. An infomercial for Scully and Hitchcock’s “scheme.” 2. Gina teaching Greek Mythology. Speaking of…
  • Jake: “Ain’t no party like a Captain Holt party, ‘cause a Captain Holt party is a total surprise to everyone!” (Well at least it’s not mandatory. Or a Nick Cannon party. Seriously.)
  • Jake: “You guys are being a bunch of racist, homophobic, golf cops.”
  • Holt (to Amy, re: drinks): “You’re on vacation—who’s counting?”
    Gina (seductively whispers to Amy): “I AM.”
  • The tongue waggle after “I AM” is what makes it a classic.
  • Jake’s impression of Captain Holt needs to make an appearance more often. It’s not even accurate. It’s just necessary.
  • Amy mentions how Rosa’s got “them thangs,” and the pain of Happy Endings’ death stings even more.
  • By the way, pervert four drink Amy’s two moments both involve Rosa. I’m sure for some people, that makes up for the lack of Rosa in a bikini, so I figured I’d point that out.

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