Andy Samberg (left), Joe Lo Truglio (Photo: John P Fleenor/Fox)
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Last week’s episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine ended the “Coral Palms” trilogy, officially presenting the characters and audience with a new obstacle in the Nine-Nine’s way: the night shift. But at the same time, the big selling point for this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been the crossover event with New Girl, which doesn’t exactly jive well when it comes to actually moving the plot forward. It’s a gimmick episode, and after Black-ish’s Disney World advertisement of a season premiere, that type of network synergy can obviously go more wrong than right. See also: Fox’s own Bones/Sleepy Hollow crossover, which I’m still not certain actually happened. (It did. It really did.)

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But then something funny happens: The show doesn’t allow the crossover gimmick to stop it from being a “real” episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Even with the crossover beat—and really, it’s just a beat—“The Night Shift” is actually the most typical episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s fourth season so far, which is quite the pleasant return to form for the season. In-show, three weeks (because Brooklyn Nine-Nine loves to get back to normal) have passed since the Nine-Nine caught Jimmy “The Butcher” Figgis,” Holt is back in the Captain’s chair (we will remember you, C.J.), and Jake is ready to get back into Super Cop mode; but the night shift punishment still stands, and Jake has to deal with all the changes that have happened in six months, which isn’t really his jam.

The night shift premise is one that inherently lends itself to absurdity. Obviously, there’s the classic Childrens Hospital episode but also:

So to return to these characters, technically back in the status quo, the night shift status technically puts a wrench in those plans of normalcy. The Nine-Nine being on edge because of the new assignment is a way to bring the show back to the land of familiarity without being too familiar. It allows things like Terry being sassy, Amy—who does still remain her laser-light focus—being crabby, Gina essentially becoming Australian, and Holt having to be the one to boost spirits. Four seasons in, these are all characters who have full lives outside of the Nine-Nine and can’t afford to have that ruined by this schedule. Well, except for Gina, as this night shift actually helps her achieve her best self, social media-wise. But the point remains.

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However, all of that allows Holt’s version of being the hype man for the precinct to be spectacularly Holt-like, right down to the “after work hang,” which is basically the sequel to this:

Within the upside-down world of the night shift, Amy/Rosa and Jake/Boyle (aka the Night Boys/z) also manage to be off in their own little worlds this week. Amy/Rosa is a pretty easy plot to unpack, as much as the episode stretches it out: Rosa obviously misses Adrian Pimento. They got engaged to be married once the Figgis threat died down, and after last week’s episode, that threat has officially died down. (Again, how was that even a threat, people?) Even four seasons in, it’s still weird to witness Rosa in her times of real emotion, but it’s understandable here. She was promised her “happy” ending and for whatever reason, that’s not happening right. The combination of that and the stressful night shift is the type of thing that’s bound to make her hit her breaking point, and the show manages to mix the always welcome Amy/Rosa dynamic in (of Rosa trying to get away from Amy) with some genuine emotion. After all, Jake and Holt weren’t the only ones separated from their loved ones in all of this.

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Jake obviously would be eager to get back to work, which is why he comes back with a cane and a week earlier than suggested, but understandably, six months away from the Nine-Nine means things have changed. Brooklyn Nine-Nine has spent a good portion of the past two episodes pointing out Boyle’s newfound, intense attachment to his son Nikolaj, but Jake—absent or not—would have no reason to think that he falls any lower on the love scale when it comes to his friendship with Boyle. Jake’s reunion with Amy was awkward, but that wasn’t the case with Boyle, so why should he expect anything different? The thing about “The Night Shift” and its approach to this storyline is how it shows how much Jake has grown over the seasons; the Jake of the first three seasons is not exactly the version of Jake that exists here, and they would react much poorly. The same is true of Jake also accepting the fact that the day shift will take over his and Boyle’s case. It’s growth without drawing too much attention to to that, and it makes sense.

So where does New Girl come into all this? Well, Jess (Zooey Deschanel) aids Jake in a high speed chase of the perp-of-the-week. That’s it. It’s honestly underwhelming—though not exactly disappointing—given the network promotion, but it’s also done in a way where it doesn’t truly interfere with the flow of the episode. It feels like a crossover in name only, but when the alternative is shoehorned-in characters and plots, there’s no question which tactic is the better one. Luckily, “The Night Shift” is a very funny episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with or without the crossover. Looking back though, the very random inclusion of Jess Day will feel like just that—very random. Until then: Nine-Nine!

(Please say “Nine-Nine” back. For Jake.)

Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Detective Stevie Schillens and New Girl’s Coach in a Sister Sister-type situation. They were separated at birth, and now they’re brothers for life! Jackée also stars, and I’m sure we could find use for Matt Walsh and Neil Campbell as their Brooklyn Nine-Nine characters. These webisodes are getting out of control.
  • Say goodbye to Jake’s frosted tips. It’s an intervention that’s very deserving of the cold open spot, especially when it comes to the Intervention-style music it plays as Jake gives his speech about loving the tips. And when it comes to the reveal that Boyle also frosted his tips. If only those had stayed…
  • What kind of a dummy smokes cigarettes at a crime scene? I know the case wasn’t that important, but that’s still such a dumb thing to do.
  • How do you pronounce “Nikolaj”?
  • Gina not realizing that Crocodile Dundee is Crocodile Dundee is the most delightfully Gina moment of the episode, by far.
  • “All. Night. Long.”
  • Without spoiling too much for the New Girl episode, I will say that episode actually feels a lot more like a true crossover of both shows, and if you’re hoping for a little more Nine-Nine tonight, you won’t be disappointed on that side of things. Emily L. Stephens will guide you through that one though.

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