It all starts off simply enough. It always does. A three hour delay on motorcade duty and Holt and Terry out for a meeting means a free police precinct. Of course, that means the cops could use that to do paper work or perhaps work on some drills, but why do that, when they can play the Jimmy Jab Games? What follows is a series of ridiculous challenges that somehow all began because of former president of Iran, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Jake Peralta’s inability to say big words.
Just typing all of that is a reminder that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a strange show that can somehow get away with it. That right there is the sign of a good, if not highly bizarre, comedy. The Jimmy Jab Games is the type of convoluted, nonsensical competition that would have fit right in on The Office or Happy Endings, two shows that Brooklyn Nine-Nine bears a good amount of resemblance to (in its own original way, of course) on more than one occasion.
The competition is absolute nonsense, from the month old Chinese food eating competition to the terrible undercover personas to the “surprise twist.” All for a terrible rolling chair that is somehow the best in the entire precinct—which is a nice reminder that they really do need a lot more than just $1200.
However, if there’s one thing that weighs it all down, it’s not the fact that there are still so many people in the precinct actually doing work, people who must hate Peralta and the gang with the fire of a thousand flaming bagels; it’s that Peralta isn’t over Amy, and the show needs the audience to realize that Peralta isn’t over Amy on a regular basis. Peralta’s side-competition with Diaz is all about getting her friend Katie’s phone number so he can ask her out (and be super gentlemanly toward her, because even though Peralta is a goof, he is still a great guy), but even a blind person can see that he’s not over Amy. That is, according to Diaz and the show.
It’s a shame, because the interactions between Peralta and Amy in this episode are absolutely great.
Peralta: “Pregnant? Nice. Means you had sex.”
Amy: “Damn right, I did. And I forgot my birth control.”
They high five, it’s beautiful, and the sheer joy of the friendship of this episode never actually ends. It’s a nice return to the characters’ competitive streak with each other, while also keeping in mind that these two are very close. What works about all of this is that they’re the interactions of two people who know each other inside and out, two friends who get each other better than anyone. So of course that’s also a red flag: In television, such friendliness means underlying romantic feelings. No one ever really gets over feelings and moves on, no matter what the characters say.
Peralta needs to move on, and at the risk of sounding dismissive of the show’s potential with this storyline, the show could stand to move on from this as well.
There’s nothing wrong with Peralta’s comical put downs on Amy, but having the two of them both be in on a joke for once is so refreshing that it shouldn’t solely be a result of him having a crush on her. Why must the laughter have conditions? To take Diaz’s words and flip them around, this situation isn’t unenjoyable, but it is frustrating.
The act of coupling in a series, especially a workplace or hangout sitcom (two lines with Brooklyn Nine-Nine straddles with ease), is a necessary evil, one that can either really help a show or ultimately hurt the show. With Brooklyn Nine-Nine being the result of the comedy school of The Office and Parks & Recreation, this kind of thing could eventually take over the show. So far this season—and even during the first season, with the seeds of Peralta/Amy being planted—with Peralta’s feelings for Amy looming over, it hasn’t hurt the show. But the writers are clearly getting into the mindframe that any interaction between them is based on said feelings, and that’s where it gets tricky. Peralta and Amy are no longer interacting solely in the way of partners, competitors, and friends. They (at this point, Peralta specifically) are interacting in the way of people who have romantic feelings toward each other, and that can only work (successfully) for so long.
On a less pessimistic note, giving the show the benefit of the doubt when it comes to how they’ll eventually proceed with these two isn’t in competition with being cautious about how their interactions with each other are now wrapped up in these “feelings.” It’s just that there is another pairing whose feelings for each other are far more interesting: Holt and Wuntch.
The antagonistic back and forth between Captain Holt and Deputy Chief Wuntch continues this week, with Terry trying to make sense of their rivalry that really only makes sense to them.
“She doesn’t care about the community. She only cares about defeating me. This is war, Sergeant. The war on Wuntch.”
Yes, Holt has named it. Holt and Wuntch the type of people who use basketball analogies without having a real knowledge of basketball (although, a three-point dunk would be rather impressive, one would imagine), and somehow, that’s enough to make their rivalry an ultimate highlight. Much credit should be given to Braugher and Sedgwick, as two actors essentially playing two of the most robotic humans possible while still managing to be full of personality. It’s not just the way the say things, but the way they react. For example, Wuntch’s reaction to Holt’s exclamation that his glorious mustache was “era appropriate” is absolutely priceless:
One day Kyra Sedgwick will leave Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and that day will need to be classified as an official day of mourning.
Meanwhile, Terry can’t even sit right, either “leaning back like a matinee goer,” or with his “hands folded in [his lap] like a pervert”—all signs of of weakness, as everyone knows.
“I have no idea who’s winning,” Terry injects. We all win, Terry. We all win. While the Peralta/Holt relationship has its own type of antagonism twist in with the type of mentor/mentee relationship of an Eric Matthews (pre-lobotomy) and Mr. Feeny, seeing Holt go toe-to-toe with someone who is closer to his equal—yet actually his superior, despite his behavior toward her—is simply delightful. This right here is the type of thing that shows that the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers ultimately know what they’re doing, even if they do fall into certain genre traps.
The pleasantly unexpected highlight of the episode, however, is the Boyle/Hitchcock subplot. It’s another Boyle plot rooted his his secret bone bros relationship with Gina, but the greatness comes from it becoming an accelerated, mini-Can’t Buy Me Love/Love Don’t Cost A Thing (cue Community joke) situation, with Hitchcock using the damning evidence of Gina/Boyle (not that he knows that’s what it is) to blackmail Boyle into making him look cool in the eyes of the precinct. Of course, being Hitchcock, “cool” means not being the butt of a joke for one moment in time…which is rather sad when you think about it too much. Luckily, the show doesn’t want the audience to think about it too much and instead has Hitchcock become the monster that his predecessors, Patrick Dempsey and Nick Cannon, became. The most disappointing part of this “arc” isn’t that it’s so short—it’s that it ends before Hitchcock can get his Cool Guy earring for his new role as Peralta’s best friend.
Also, I can only assume this scene happened offscreen.
“The Jimmy Jab Games” isn’t a revolutionary episode of television. But it is consistently funny, and sometimes it’s important to remember that “funny” is the true end goal of sitcoms. (It has something to do with what the “com” in sitcom means, I think.) Even with the Peralta/Amy situation in full effect, it never actually slows down the episode as much as it draws attention to the show’s possible flaw. It does allow for more Peralta/Diaz interaction, which has always been welcome, especially in a post “Pontiac Bandit” world.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: pregnant Amy and/or pregnant Peralta. “Dumb baby. People are right: They ruin everything.”
- Some more insight into my stance on certain relationships on this and other sitcoms: I’m the girl who never enjoyed Jim/Pam on The Office and don’t really care about Ben/Leslie on Parks & Recreation. Some may say I am without heart, but I can’t hear them over the sounds of my not caring about their opinions.
- Gina’s countdown technique involves ending with the last names of famous Marks (“On your Mark… Get set…”): Wahlberg, Ruffalo, Paul Gosselaar (technically his first name includes the Paul, since it’s a hyphenate). The final challenge? “On your mark… Get Seth… Rogen!”
- For those of you who only thought there was only one right way to make paella, it turns out there are 10 ways to make paella. Thanks, Boyle.
- “Get out there and spread my legs?” Careful, Peralta. Boyle has a real wet mouth.
- It’s so strange—yet somehow so appropriate—that people in the precinct actually buy into Peralta’s alpha male, coolest guy in the room schtick. Actually, the only people who really buy it, other than Peralta himself, are Boyle and Hitchcock (and maybe Scully), so never mind. Completely appropriate.
- “AHHH YOU’RE BURNING MY SKIN!” I may have rewound a couple of times when Peralta said that during the fire extinguisher “surprise twist.”
- Terry may be the Ross head in the precinct, but Peralta letting Amy win is so Ross from “The One With All The Poker.”
- “I once gave my aunt a jay-walking ticket and things really deteriorated between us.” Oh, Amy. Amy, Amy, Amy. If only her aunt could see her now, victory dance and all.
- Gina’s little “Who cares?” song and dance is how I plan on handling way too many situations from now on.
- “Hello, Deputy Chief Wuntch. You’ve aged.” Technically, he’s just stating a basic fact, and that’s what makes it even funnier.
- “You want to hear the funniest thing ever? I also split an infinitive and she didn’t notice.” That is the funniest thing ever, Captain Holt.