It has been far too long since Brooklyn Nine-Nine has graced our television screens. The first part of this season featured the Nine-Nine crew working hard to get back to the status quo—to get back to what they consider “normal”—and they achieved that, more or less. But that return to normalcy appears to be short-lived, because the Nine-Nine is once again in peril. Actually, when you put that way, the status quo for the Nine-Nine might just be the challenges it faces from forces beyond their control. Dozerman’s intense management, The Vulture’s poor management, Wuntch’s vendetta against Holt, C.J.’s ineptitude, witness protection. These challenges are absolutely part of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s creative make-up. So what better way for the show to come back from a break than with a threat from a familiar (followed by a not-so-familiar) face?
I can’t imagine anyone clamoring for the return of Amy’s ex-boyfriend Teddy, especially given his designation as “the most boring man alive,” but it is always nice to see Kyle Bornheimer pop up on a television show. Of course, this episode couples that likability factor with the fact that Teddy truly is absurdly dull… and also ridiculously tone deaf. The scene where he declares his love for and proposes to Amy in front of his girlfriend Rachel (Jama Williamson) is delightfully insensitive. It’s also just par for the course this very wacky episode.
That wackiness is technically good for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in terms of it being an episode that has the show make a hot return and also possibly grabbing the attention of new viewers. It’s flashy, even though it’s not exactly an episode that’s most indicative of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s ability as a television show and sitcom. I’ve written before that a relatively chill return episode for a show can end up coming across as a weak entry point, especially if the episode or episodes that come next turn up the volume. So there’s at least comfort in the realization that this episode doesn’t take things easy.
But still, the episode is very broad, which is always a risky choice for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Immature hijinks from Jake and Amy (with an “of course he was still recording” plot), wacky Japanese copiers for Terry, and coked-up rats for Boyle: That’s this episode in a nutshell, which is really just as weird in practice as it is on paper.
The B- and C-plots in this episode (Terry and the copier, Boyle and the rats) are barely even plots in the first place, as the true episode story is all in the A-plot with Jake, Amy, and Teddy. At the same time, what we do get is still very funny business, and it’s probably for the best that they aren’t full plots. The joke of Ken Marino’s C.J. getting the precinct a very expensive copier—that they have no idea how to use, because it’s all in Japanese—is a good one-and-done, but a full plot about that would be stretching it. Story-wise, the most important aspect of these plots is that the Nine-Nine appears efficient once Teddy returns from his time with Jake and Amy. (Really, the most important aspect of all is that Gina’s new body accessory makes her the most important character of them all.) What we ultimately have is a bunch of funny, over-the-top comedic beats that happen in between the actual plot of episode. Sometimes Brooklyn Nine-Nine can fumble with this type of disjointed structure, but as a return from a pretty long hiatus, the show picked the right time to go with this type of nonsense. Killer coked-up rats can’t work in just any episode. Neither can wolf urine.
And it all sort of makes sense in the end, because even though this is a frantic 20-plus minutes of television, it’s actually set-up for the next episode(s). So Brooklyn Nine-Nine takes this return episode and makes sure the audience will remember to tune in for the next episode.
As for the meat of the episode, Teddy’s return as the one in charge of the Nine-Nine’s (and the 22 other precincts’) audit is an understandable twist and a crimp in the Nine-Nine’s happy bubble, because it’s a nice reminder these characters have made some enemies—even unintentionally—in order to keep their strong bonds intact. But even before all the recording shenanigans in the episode, I found myself wondering why no one at the Nine-Nine tried to have Teddy recuse himself from this case. Then the episode goes for that resolution at the end, meaning the 20 or so minutes before it were all basically a waste of the characters’ time. A funny waste of the characters’ time, but still, something’s not quite right here.
We’ll see next week why the same won’t be done for the newly introduced Veronica (Kimberly Hebert Gregory), given her past relationship with and threat to Terry.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine is “just a sitcom,” but a lot of the series’ conflicts with authority figures come with far more difficult struggles when it comes to their eventual resolutions. Holt’s feud with Wuntch was a combination of them bringing out the worst in each other and a game of career chess; it was very personal, but it was never easy. Dozerman was an efficiency freak—without the casual side or even general human decency of someone like Holt—who the Nine-Nine only got out of serving because he died. The Vulture is—as his nickname states—a career vulture who succeeds off the backs of other cops’ hard work. The C.J. situation was all about an idiot who failed upwards and was probably going to get them all killed had he stayed on. And even that arc caused some questions about Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s approach to stories moving forward, because he was really dumb.
These conflicts were much more legitimate than the almost insulting “bitter break-up” trope introduced by Teddy’s and Veronica’s presence. And now we’re supposed to buy that the Nine-Nine is in going to be in peril because of these characters’ varying levels of emotional control. The B- and C-plots show that the Nine-Nine actually does have problems like the $21,000 copier and rat infestation, but in a show where there’s already very little belief that the Nine-Nine won’t come out on top, this audit situation (which has the major consequence of one precinct being completely shut down) lacks true conflict. And this lack of conflict will apparently last more than one episode.
Basically, making the auditors unhappy exes leads to a threat that’s less believable than the idea that Brooklyn Nine-Nine was actually killing Gina off with the bus accident. Because Hitchcock is absolutely right on that front: “Gina Linetti is back, baby!” So is Brooklyn Nine-Nine, though hopefully it doesn’t get too caught up in the wackiness. A statement return is one thing, but the possibility of this becoming the norm is another. Optimism is typically the key when it comes to all thing Brooklyn Nine-Nine though, so I’m sure it will rise from these over-the-top ashes like a phoenix.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Jazz Brunch With Teddy & Rachel. It would obviously have to take place before their break-up and during a jazz brunch Jake and Amy don’t ruin. Adult coloring books at jazz brunch is some form of hell, I just know it. “She’s doing jazz about brunch!”
- I’m still surprised people actually thought Brooklyn Nine-Nine was going to kill Gina off the show, essentially forgetting what this show is. Speaking of, one of the earliest Brooklyn Nine-Nine moments that made me realize it was the show for me was Gina’s interpretive dance to Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful.” Her dance in this episode’s cold open, to prove that she’s still as capable as she once was, is another perfect moment. The pained screams she makes as she dances are absolutely beautiful. (You can also see her trying to scratch her head because of the halo in one of the evidence room scenes. She truly is an angel, and I hope she gets her “revenge on all New York City buses.”)
- Kimberly Hebert Gregory is fantastic on Vice Principals, so even though she’s here to destroy Terry and the Nine-Nine, I’m still excited to see her.
- Gina: “Yeah, I mean I was legally dead for two full minutes. And I met God.”
Rosa: “Tight. What does she look like?”
Gina: “Ethnically ambiguous.”
- Holt: “Because—”
Boyle: “They’re America’s dream couple.”
Holt: “You need to calm down. We’re in a workplace.”
- Amy: “Because he is boring. His favorite app on his phone is Contacts.” Honestly, this particular tidbit sounds like an interest Amy would share with Teddy. At the very least, her favorite app must either be her calendar or a list-based app. People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones, Santiago.
- Holt: “I’ve never been more proud of you for anything in your life.”
Terry: “I’ve solved a lot of cases for you.”
Holt: “And yet crime has continued.”
- Terry: “My copier!”
Holt: “My precinct!”
Rosa: “Charles!” Rosa gets points for being the only one to care about Boyle’s well-being, but she then throws them all away to blame him for being too weak to let the coked-up rats kill him.
- Teddy: “Hey guys! It’s Teddy from jazz brunch.” This episode is ridiculous, but I can’t deny the amount of great lines in this over-the-top world.