Stephanie Beatriz (left), Joe Lo Truglio
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The friendships in Brooklyn Nine-Nine have become so necessary to the show’s DNA that it’s legitimately upsetting if any of the characters are at odds. That’s why it was such a gut-punch when Terry said he and Jake were just “work friends.” It’s why Jake unintentionally letting Rosa down hurts so much. And sure, Gina constantly mocks Amy, but there’s a playful antagonism in that which falls more on the side of friend than enemy. (Think of it like the study group on Community teasing Britta, when no one else can.) So when two best friends really start arguing, it’s another reminder of how emotionally-invested an audience can get in a goofy comedy about goofy cops.

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Luckily, there’s no chance of this friendship—Jake and Boyle’s—not being repaired by the end of the episode, but that doesn’t make the image of them yelling about how much they can’t stand each other sting any less (no matter how funny it still is, baby). “Stakeout” goes with the simple sitcom premise of why you shouldn’t always be “roommates” with your best friend, and as usual, it cranks that premise to eleven.

But before I get into the meat of the episode, I need to mention the cold open. Thanks to Rosa’s task force getting Giggle Pig off the streets, she, Jake, and Holt receive commendations from Deputy Chief Wuntch for their work. Holt spent the night before working on zings for the occasion, settling on the “perfect line”: “Wuntch time is over!” Jake’s able to convince Holt to be the bigger person and “turn the other cheek,” to which Holt agrees.

This all leads to a moment that blows “HOT DAMN!” out of the water. If my reviews of Brookyln Nine-Nine do nothing else for you, I hope that they can at least convince you that Andre Braugher is a transcendent being sent to our planet as a beacon of joy, perfection, and other good things. He might actually be the real life Santa Claus. Holt decides to be the bigger person, only to strike after a beat with:

“WUNTCH TIME IS OVER! BOOM! DID IT! HA! HAD IT BOTH WAYS! NO REGRETS.”

In conclusion, it’s impossible to say all men were created equal when Andre Braugher exists.

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Moving on, the A-plot has Jake and Boyle volunteer for all eight days of a long-term stakeout of a Ukrainian mafia drop house. The two of them never fight, so Boyle dubs it a “stake-cation” and even comes up with a catchy theme song (“STAKE ME OUT TONIGHT / I DON’T WANT TO LET YOU GO ‘TIL WE CATCH THE GUY,” to the tune of “Take Me Home Tonight”).

It only takes two days before they start finding little annoying things about each other, and day three is when the “no-no list” (which may be one of the greatest ideas to come out of Brooklyn Nine-Nine) comes into the play and completely breaks the friendship down. Boyle says no to Jake talking about any of the Die Hards, Jake says no to Boyle rhyming, Boyle says no to Jake beat-boxing, Jake says no to Sister Act. It’s all cool. “Coolcoolcoolcool.” The “no-no list” becomes something akin to Carrie Mathison’s terrorist wall from Homeland, only harder to truly decipher. By the sixth day, “no more talking” becomes a part of the list.

It’s a clashing of personalities that would happen no matter what the pairing, but in the case of Jake and Boyle (even knowing where the storyline has to go), it’s the type of thing that the audience just hopes they can work through. The fact that it doesn’t get resolved during the actual stakeout is actually a bit of surprise, because the episode is almost over at that point. In fact, the plot is only resolved in the episode tag. Plus, Boyle points out something that makes a lot of sense but is still so shocking: Jake’s annoying habits are something he normally notices and just ignores on a regular basis. The blind hero worship he usually has for his best friend isn’t so blind. It’s a moment that means, Boyle and Jake’s relationship can be on more equal footing, even though it occurs as they are essentially breaking up.

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Meanwhile, the B-plot focuses on Amy and Gina’s reaction to Terry’s precinct-inspired picture book for his twins’ birthday, Junebug & Cricket: Adventure Girls. The plot is slightly reminiscent of the Better Off Ted episode where Phil as the lemur in Linda’s children’s book, with the various characters in the book serving as stand-ins for Terry’s co-workers: Gina is Junebug, Amy is Cricket (with her “pantsuit of armor”), Tiny Squirrel is Charles, The Walrus is Captain Holt, and The Hippo With Heads On Both Ends is Hitchcock and Scully. However, Amy and Gina take the comparison too literally, freaking out about their less than flattering depictions; they’ve been written as a “pushover” and a “stone cold bitch,” respectively, and decide to change themselves to change Terry’s perception of them. In doing so, Amy becomes a very forced bully, and Gina becomes what appears to be her idea of a nice person.

While the A-plot is characters becoming annoyed with each other’s ticks, the B-plot is characters themselves actively trying to stop those supposed ticks. Because the A-plot takes up so much (deserved) time, there isn’t much dedicated to the B-plot. But what the episode does show is solid, with poor Terry completely out of the loop about why Amy and Gina are acting the way they are—especially the randomly aggressive Amy—apparently the only one realizing that any of this is happening. While there is a reasonable amount of time dedicated to this, it’s another instance of the show always leaving the audience wanting more—a subplot that could more than take the spotlight in this or any other sitcom. In fact, this is a subplot that could gain even more mileage out of the other people in Terry’s story behaving atypically; just imagine if the subplot had taken a front seat in this episode, the way that the lockdown had in “Lockdown.”

The Rosa C-plot, on the other hand, is so relegated to the background that the casting of Nick Cannon becomes more a question of why, in the sense of “stunt casting.” This is the beginning of a multi-episode arc for Nick Cannon, but while every major recurring guest star so far made an impression from the very beginning of their arcs (even Sandra Bernhard and Stephen Root, who were introduced briefly, much like Cannon), there is absolutely nothing that sticks out about the Marcus character so far. As a matter of fact, it’s a testament to how good Brooklyn Nine-Nine is becoming at character and world-building that it can just use Kyra Sedgwick in the opening of this episode and then be done with her. I went into this episode with the impression that Marcus would have a defined personality (The Hollywood Reporter describes the character as “Holt’s charming and educated nephew,” which really says nothing) but got none of that.

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However, that’s still not enough to bring down Holt or Rosa, as their outwardly emotionally-stunted selves attempt to navigate the strange new territory of her dating his nephew (who lives with him). Holt’s initial approach—after he makes it clear that he is not “a third grade girl with pigtails passing love notes”—is to narrate the situation:

“Detective Diaz. Detective Rosa Diaz is in my breakfast nook…Wow. Detective Rosa Diaz has left. Hmm.”

Neither he nor Rosa know how to react like “real” people in such situations, which is the saving grace of this plot in the episode. So Rosa has a love interest in Holt’s nephew, and that’s that.

Rosa: “Let’s never talk about it.”

Holt: “Let’s never talk about anything.”

Rosa: “Done.”

The strangest part of this episode, however, given its winter finale status is that it doesn’t go back to the Jake/Amy well to close out the year. I recently spoke to Aarthi Devanathan of the Back In The Field podcast, and she asked if I have the same problems with Amy pining over Jake as I do with Jake pining over of Amy (and everyone saying that he does). I don’t, but that’s because my problem there is that we haven’t seen that at all on Amy’s part. Andy Samberg is obviously the “Star” of the series, but the show should be able to give the potential love interest’s (who is also a series regular) perspective. Instead, Amy is just the “potential love interest.” “Stakeout” doesn’t touch any of this at all, despite spending a good portion of the first half of the season making it clear that Jake/Amy is inevitable in some form. Knowing that this is the winter finale, it would make sense for the episode to end on that note.

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In fact, “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” makes more sense as such (even with the same lack of romance) as a short-term finale because of how it wraps the Giggle Pig storyline. Instead, this is simply a typical (which is by no means an insult) Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode to end the year. Still, “Stakeout” is a highly funny episode that maintains the second season’s hot streak right now. It’s a nice note to end on despite the lower stakes, because it has the two thing Brooklyn Nine-Nine really needs: friendship and Holt one-upping Wuntch.

Stray observations:

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Junebug & Cricket: Adventure Girls or The Evolution Of The “No-No List”
  • This week in Gina loves to mock Amy: Besides the “pantsuit of armor” exchange (“Look how masculine the clothes are.”), there’s also the moment when Gina gives Amy crap for taking the last danish, steals it out of her hand, starts eating it, and Amy apologizes for it. It’s beautiful.
  • “Oh, he should be psyched. That’s a very up-and-coming mafia.” That’s a great Jake line, because of course Jake would know about that sort of thing. Continuity.
  • It’s been so long since I’ve intentionally watched something involving Nick Cannon,* and he’s such a non-entity in this episode that my only notes about him are a reference to Chappelle’s Show and a comment on how I forgot what his voice sounded like.
  • Amy (to Terry, before dumping the coffee pot into the garbage): “You can scoot your ass back in line! My coffee needs are just as important as yours!”
  • Gina: “Amy, we need to be the change we want to see in the elevator!”
  • Boyle: “That’s glib. No being glib. It’s on the list.”
    Jake: “So sick of the list. I don’t even know what glib means.”
    Boyle: “Ask yourself this: Is it something you can hear Garfield saying? If so, it’s glib.”
    Jake: “So what? You just want me to just be Garfield’s owner, Jon Arbuckle? Think about what you’re saying. He’s spineless and bland.”
  • Jake: “Stop saying ‘baby’!”
    Boyle: “Charles Boyle calls people ‘baby’ when he gets angry!”
  • Jake (re: “Stake Me Out Tonight”): “I hate this song.”
    Boyle: “I stand by it.”
  • Boyle: “Are we friends again?”
    Jake: “No…We’re brothers.”
    Boyle: “God, that was terrifying! Don’t pause like that.”
  • How do you feel about a “scone zone?” I’ve got to say, I’m with Terry on that muffin lifestyle.
  • *I honestly just remembered that I have watched every episode of Real Husbands of Hollywood. Never mind.

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