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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “The Bet”

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Well, look at that, Brooklyn Nine-Nine fans. Who woulda thunk that you would have hitched your early-adapting star to the critical darling of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, with both Andy Samberg and the show itself taking home mini-worlds at this Sunday’s Golden Globe awards. The wins were a surprise, especially considering the show won for airing a mere 12 episodes (presumably fewer seen by the HFPA), whereas its opponents had years to build up arcs and storylines. (Full disclosure: I believe the Golden Globes, like most award shows, are nothing more than marketing tools and fashion shows, and have little bearing on, y’know, actual quality.) You have to figure (or at least hope) that “The Bet” will land a few new pairs of eyeballs intrigued by the out-of-nowhere Golden Globes domination. So, it’s a good thing that Brooklyn Nine-Nine came back with an episode that was both sweet and funny, combining some of the best aspects of the show into one entry.

Look, I was totally willing to hate “The Bet,” a callback to the pilot where it was revealed that Peralta and Santiago are embroiled in a year-long competition to see who could make the most felony arrests in one year. If Santiago wins, she gets his beater car. If Peralta wins, he gets a date. It was one of the few aspects of the pilot that truly irked me, forcing a romantic relationship into a script that didn’t really call for one. How many will-they-or-won’t-theys born from the bickering couples of screwballs comedies, fully formed for television by Sam and Diane must we endure as an audience? I was relieved when the bet had largely been forgotten save for a quick mention or a few moments of unguarded flirting between Santiago and Peralta. There was a nice meta quality to Hitchcock forgetting what the bet was all about in the first place. Wait, what bet? Of course, that bet.

But you know what? I totally fell for it. Call it sentimental, call it sappy, but “The Bet” was an excellent way to pick up a forgotten plot thread and propel an interpersonal storyline forward. While the prospect of a Peralta-Santiago relationship is still not something high on my list for directions I would like to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine head in, “The Bet” is a (tiny) indication that I may not hate the development as much as I thought I would, in part because there was never supposed to be any seriousness on Peralta’s part, despite his latent intentions later revealed by Boyle. His entire idea was to make Santiago’s night the date from hell. That fits into Peralta’s characterization of being office obnoxious dude, but it also swipes some of the saccharineness off the top that could have really killed any notion that I would be pro-Peralta and Santiago hooking up. The date’s abject awfulness escalates, until Peralta and Santiago are called away on a bust where Andy Samberg and Melissa Fumero’s easy chemistry takes over. Their chemistry is paramount. As I said, it has been hinted at, and those casual drop-ins into their less argumentative side over the season have patiently eased this relationship forward.

The main reason “The Bet” worked, though, was not due to Peralta's romantic leanings that, to reiterate, I’m still not entirely sure I’m on board for. Instead, it was all because of Charles’ truth bombs. As much as I enjoyed Holt walking around with two dogs under his arms as if he did not fully understand the concept of the Puppy Bowl last week, I wrote that the subplots felt disjointed, only coming together with one gag at the very end. But Boyle’s lack of filter, brought on by painkillers after he’s literally upstaged by equine Sergeant Peanut Butter, brought every other action—including Peralta and Santiago’s horrible-turned-sweet evening—into the same fold. “The Bet” felt like it all took place in one world, opposed to the sitcom variation where two to three precipitating events occur within a certain timeframe, and apparently nothing happens during the summer. From Peralta and Santiago’s date to Holt’s amazing interactions with Terry’s wife, Sharon (Merrin Dungey), every story interacted and worked in a way that reminded me of when Parks and Recreation was firing on all cylinders. It particularly worked well for Holt’s constant Sharon-related screw ups (“What else do I not know? You cooking meth? You breaking bad? How many cell phones do you have?”). It’s not often, but I love it when Holt has to go on the defensive, rather than constantly act as the stoic all-knowing boss, especially because he tries so hard to remedy his mistakes and continues to dig himself deeper and deeper into the mess he’s created. As if Andre Braugher needed to continually convince of me of his greatness, but remaining consistently deadpan while still scrambling to save his own ass proved my theory that he should have been the guy picking up the award on Sunday night, not Samberg. (I don’t think I’ve laughed harder at this series than Holt pretending to get a text message so he could leave the conversation, a la Boyle in the elevator.)

What really got me, what took this episode from good to great, is how the the Boyle-Diaz interaction was handled at the end of the episode. Like Santiago and Peralta’s will-they-or-won’t-they, Boyle’s unrequited love for Diaz was certainly not one of my favorite aspects of the show at its outset. But, like the Santiago and Peralta date and even Holt’s interactions with Terry and his wife, “The Bet” changed the dynamic of their relationship. In Boyle’s case, it was with only one perfect line. Rather than Diaz constantly acting as rejecter, Boyle finally got to gain a bit of the upper hand when he looks at her and explains why she doesn’t have to be nice to him anymore. Boyle didn’t take the Freestyle Killer's bullet specifically for Diaz: “I did what every good cop would do,” he says. “And when you finally god out with me, and you will, it’ll be because of things only Charles Boyle would do.”


Stray observations: