In certain cultures, beginning an episode of television with one of its characters suddenly sporting a Pacey Witter goatee is a good omen. (The exception is of course in Dawson’s Creek itself.) That’s the case for the cold open of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s “Captain Peralta,” as Boyle debuts a terrifying bit of facial hair (named Bianca) and sadly thinks it’s the coolest thing in the world. It’s not, and the Nine-Nine nips it in the bud as soon as they possibly can. But because the cold open is not just a fluke, this actually ends up being a pretty interesting episode for Boyle in general—all thanks to his best friend and brother from another mother, Jake.
As one could easily infer from the episode title, “Captain Peralta” is a Jake-centric episode, although it’s not a “Jake Takes Over The Precinct For A Day” episode;” we’ve already had that. Instead, the episode introduces Jake’s absentee father, Roger Peralta (Bradley Whitford), a regional airline pilot and sort of the dark side of where Jake’s Jake-ness could lead to. Roger’s a totally cool guy who has cool stories, plays by his own rules (within pilot reason), beds all the women he wants, and has zero emotional attachment to anyone, especially his son. However, even with that last part, Jake still wants the man’s acceptance and acknowledgment that he’s proud of him, which is why Jake helps his dad with a drug-smuggling case being made against him.
The saving grace of Roger, other than being played by Bradley Whitford, is that he’s actually being honest about not being a drug smuggler on top of all of his other indiscretions. That doesn’t stop him from being a terrible father and a pretty bad guy (with girlfriends and “side-pieces” up and down the Eastern seaboard), but it makes him less of a larger-than-life villain—even though Jake has spent his life finding his dad larger-than-life—and just a flawed guy. Adding drug smuggler to his list of problems would be too much.
Jake is becoming an adult in a lot of ways this season, and as such, it was only a matter of time before he really had to face the paternal elephant in the room. It’s actually pretty amazing that Jake ends up essentially kicking Roger out of his life officially by the end of the episode. A lot of time in television, especially in sitcoms, there’s the belief that, no matter how much a parent can screw up (we’re not talking worst-of-the-worst here, except maybe in the case of a Dexter situation), all that matters is the fact that he or she is a parent, and for that, slack must be cut.
An example would be in the case of How I Met Your Mother—no, not Ted—when Lily’s father Mickey (played by Chris Elliott) shows up out of nowhere. Lily is rightfully upset with him for how terrible of a father (if not downright an insane person) he is/was, yet she is treated as in the wrong for her feelings about that, simply because he’s her parent. It all ends with her accepting him into her and her new family’s life, even though the only one who has had to change in this scenario is her, for choosing to hold a grudge against her father in the first place.
It would be so easy for this episode of television to end the Jake/Roger storyline at the bar, with Jake accepting his father has failed him and not confronting him about it at all. It’s the easy, standard-sitcom way to approach things. Instead, he tells the man, face-to-face, that he’s a “pretty crappy dad,” and he doesn’t need or want him in his life. It’s one of the more honest, real moments of the series. And it’s great.
I’ve mentioned it a few times, especially with regards to the Jake/Sophia stuff, but this season’s undercurrent of Jake sadness has really gone a long way to make the character more likable, more enjoyable and, I think to people who aren’t big fans of Andy Samberg’s shtick, less grating. Andy Samberg knocks the confrontation with Roger at the end of the episode out of the park and then keeps on trucking as he steals the pilot hat. Samberg doesn’t get enough credit for acting chops as a whole on this show, but perhaps it’s because he makes it (even if it’s not someone’s particular cup of tea) all look pretty easy (sort of like I pointed out with Chelsea Peretti a few episodes back).
Boyle being around to be the cricket on Jake’s shoulder, telling him how Roger is a bad father, is behavior that can be taken one of two ways: a) Boyle is a great friend who’s looking out for his best friend, or b) Boyle is twisting the knife a little bit more into his best friend, who’s already had years of buried resentment for his father. “Stakeout,” of course, was the episode this season that showed what Jake and Boyle would look like on opposite sides of the fence, but the give-and-take here is of a different breed; this isn’t just arguing over Die Hard movies and “Stake Me Out Tonight.” This is an argument about things Jake isn’t even willing to admit out loud yet. Boyle is clearly coming from a place of love when he takes his barbs at Jake’s dad, but really, it’s not what Jake wants or necessarily needs to hear—he’s able to figure out himself and really has always known about it. Boyle may come across as fragile at times, but he can be just as in-your-face as the rest of his colleagues.
Also, it’s a pretty funny plot, if for no other reasons than slow motion and “Spirit In The Sky.”
“There are 12 men on an island. 11 weigh exactly the same amount, but one of them is slightly lighter or heavier. You must figure out which. The island has no escapes, but there is a see-saw. The exciting catch? You can only use it three times.”
“Captain Peralta” really is a funny episode, and a large part of that straight up humor—with less gravitas, at least—is the B-plot: Captain Holt’s impossible brain teaser. While Jake, Boyle, and Scully are technically off on police duty in Montreal, everyone else (even Hitchcock!) is dedicated to solving that puzzle, both for pride and for “two tickets to this Sunday’s Beyoncé Knowles’ rock music concert.” After a bit of condescension from Amy on her and Terry’s behalf, it becomes Amy/Terry versus Rosa/Gina. It also becomes a reason for Rosa and Gina to pick on Amy “#NERDFAIL” Santiago and imply that Holt cheated his way to the top (in Gina’s mind, at least), and it’s just so ridiculously fun to watch. I’ve given the show some flack before for having whole plots where all of the regulars in the precinct are not doing work, but at least this is a plot that can be spun as somewhat integral to the detectives’ work. After all, it is a plot that requires them all to use their deductive reasoning skills.
None of them can do it—not even Holt, after 20 years—but they still try really hard.
With the brain teaser ending up being Holt’s shining example of being a failure in his mentor’s eyes, it’s actually a nice way to tie everything in this episode together. Whether they admit it or not, the characters on this show strive so much for acceptance from others that they’ll go out of their way in just about every possible opportunity, Beyoncé tickets or not. Just like with Holt and his mentor, the true reward is to finally make someone proud. That’s what Jake is trying to do with his dad (even though Boyle is there to point out that there’s no reason to try to make that man proud) until he realizes he doesn’t need to do that. Boyle is proud of him. And most importantly, Captain Holt—his true father figure—is proud of him.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Brain Teasers With The Nine-Nine. Or Spike Masters & Wanda Cohen: CoPilots. (Like co-pilots, but they’re also cops.)
- I feel like Roger Peralta and Doug Judy would get along famously. That’s just my belief.
- Thanks to Rosa, we now know that Marcus—a human person—loves Beyoncé. He’s totally a fully-formed character.
- Gina: “Everybody loves Beyoncé.”
Terry: “My girls were conceived to ‘Bootylicious’. Don’t tell my wife I told you that.”
- Jake: “Wasps. Those are’t even real.”
- Gina: “Beyoncé’s my spiritual twin. Those tickets are my birthright.”
- Amy: “Remember when I took that Sudoku cruise? I never even went on deck.”
- Boyle: “The case of why he came to town? I solved it. Because he wanted to take advantage of his son.”
- Rosa: “You use the see-saw to press down on their necks until fatty confesses.”
Holt: “And disturbing.”
- Jake: “Got dem wiiiings.”
- Andre Braugher delivering the “teeter-totter of taunts” speech kicked me right back into “Andre Braugher for every award” mode. Excellent.