Stephanie Beatriz (left), Craig Robinson, Andy Samberg
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If you’ll allow me to be frank for a moment, I’d like to say that I am a big fan of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. I think it’s a very funny show, with a pitch perfect cast (yes, even Samberg), and there’s been never an episode that I genuinely dislike. This season, I find myself having to reconcile the fact that I’m a fan with the fact that I have to watch the show show critically. I’ve had to point out where I think the show fails or at least falters, but that luckily hasn’t interfered with my enjoyment of the show as a whole. But sometimes I do wonder if my own biases as a fan of the show get ahead of my criticism.

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Given their grades, do I honestly think the past three episodes (including this week’s) of this show are the best of the series, the ones I could call my favorites? Yes. And no. “USPIS” is a divisive episode (and while technically successful, I’m not sure if it fits as a favorite for me), but I can see arguments for both “The Road Trip” and “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” (especially the former) being on that high of a level. Given the season just by itself (since I did not review the first season), to me, these really have been the show at its strongest, working with the ensemble and the romance aspects without being too underwhelming and overwhelming in either regard, respectively. These episodes also put the police work front and center, reminding the audience that while this is a workplace comedy, it’s not one that has to take place exclusively in the office (which, in this case, is the precinct). The episodes feature a seemingly easy balancing act that the show has really had trouble with this season. As a fan, I wish I could say every episode this season has that, but I can’t.

Now that all of that is out of the way, it’s time for an episode-related non-sequitor: While drugged up Rosa was something beautiful, nothing will ever be able to beat “genuinely happy at her own success, smile that could light up a room” Rosa. I shed a tear at that short moment, and nothing that will or has happened on this show can ever take that away from me or any of us. “How do people do this with their faces,” Rosa asks, and that is perhaps the most complicated question to answer. Imagine doing that for 20-plus minutes while watching the show that you are on, Rosa. After the initial shock of there apparently being a weekly situational comedy-based documentary about your life, you too would find yourself in a constant state of smiles.

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See what this moment has done to me? Nothing makes sense anymore, and yet everything makes sense now. “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” (and Brooklyn Nine-Nine as a whole) is the gift that keeps on giving.

As one can gather from the episode title, “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” marks the return of the Pontiac Bandit himself, Doug Judy (Craig Robinson). Much like in the original episode, season one’s “Pontiac Bandit,” Jake and Rosa are on the case; however this time, everyone’s favorite drug, Giggle Pig, is part of the equation. Meanwhile, Boyle and Gina work on a reverse Parent Trap situation, and Amy (despite Terry’s constant advice) finds a loophole to Captain Holt’s no-gift policy and ends up finding a mistake in one of his most high profile cases.

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Also, Hitchcock finds a way to cut himself horribly, without the benefit of masking tape to make it all better.

“The Pontiac Bandit Returns” finally provides this season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine with a sequel episode that works just as well, if not better, than the original, while also adding a little something new to the equation. The question in this episode isn’t whether or not the Doug Judy the Pontiac Bandit is going to escape again but how he’s going to do it. It also features the pleasant surprise by having Doug honestly help Rosa (and Jake) with apprehending the leader of the Giggle Pig ring. Actually, “surprise” may the wrong word choice, because for as much as I point out how unprofessional the team can be in the precinct, they are all very capable detectives, especially Jake and Rosa. To take it a step further, as much as I love Amy and her dreams of professional ladder-climbing, Rosa’s movement through the ranks is the overarching storyline that’s really got me intrigued. I see it as being a more enjoyable version of watching Office Ben Sherman’s evolution on Southland.

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Unlike the original Pontiac Bandit episode, this time around, Jake is the reluctant one while Rosa is the one with faith in Doug’s ability to help them nail Tito Ruiz, the leader of the Giggle Pig ring. It’s another instance of Jake not being able to let things go (something he was supposed to have learned to get over in the premiere, but since that was about Amy, that doesn’t count) and getting too obsessed, to the point where he’s unable to even give proper Miranda rights on the first try:

Jake (to Ruiz): “You have the right to remain Doug Judy. Anything you Doug or Judy can be used against you in a Doug of Judy. Sorry, I’m preoccupied by someone who will remain nameless. I’ll start over.”

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Jake, of course, has all the reason to almost take this situation personal: Not only was he looking for the Pontiac Bandit for eight years as of the original episode, but after basically bonding with Doug, he got the wool pulled over his eyes and had to start from the very beginning. Doug actually redeems himself with his intel in this episode, and he is almost able to charm Jake into forgiving him, but again, he gets away.

By the way, it makes sense that Doug always has an associate that will help him escape in the most elaborate way, because he is one charming man. This time around, he makes Rosa being nice to him part of the stipulations of his deal to help out on the case, and it honestly goes beyond just obligatory niceties:

Doug (whispering): “Let’s make out.”

Rosa (whispering): “Not yet.”

Even Jake, who goes as far as to investigate lobsters and blow dryers to make sure they’re not part of Doug’s ultimate escape plan, can’t help but involuntarily dance when Doug croons “Reunited” or take pleasure in the joys of wearing hotel robes while jumping on to a king-sized bed with the criminal. In fact, the latter is almost as good as the “Mama Said Knock You Out” white suit scene from “Pontiac Bandit,” especially with Rosa’s eye roll, but it’s not quite at the level.

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“The Pontiac Bandit Returns” also serves as a reminder that Craig Robinson isn’t just good for those Dodge Dart commercials. He and Samberg’s give and take in this episode (“PB & J ride again!”) is the type of natural chemistry you just can’t fake or teach. Those two “culinary Magellans” will go down as one of the best duos in history, mark my plentiful words.

As much as I would like to talk about the A-plot for an even more extended period of time, other great things did happen in this episode. Even with their limited time, Joe Lo Truglio and Chelsea Peretti absolutely shine here. It’s not just with the storyline itself—which already deserves praise solely based on how great Boyle and Gina’s new, post-bone bros relationship interactions are—but in their acting choices. The “fun Christmas four-way” double date at the bar is a brilliant scene, with Peretti’s visible disgust and Lo Truglio’s look of just being very, very upset all before their parents (the returning Sandra Bernhard and Stephen Root, respectively) even drop the cohabitation bomb.

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Then, Peretti’s dead-faced expression as Gina processes the news by leaving and stealing a bottle of wine says more than any verbal joke can. While Brooklyn Nine-Nine is often praised for the revelatory performances of Andre Braugher (not really known for his comedic performances) and Melissa Fumero (not really known outside of soap operas), it’s easy to kind of take the “funny people” (Samberg, Lo Truglio, Peretti, and Crews) of the cast for granted, because that’s what they do on a regular basis. I understand that Peretti’s schtick, especially, doesn’t work for everyone, but it’s still important to at least acknowledge that she’s not just relying on being a funny person on a funny show (as a stand-up comedian above all else)—just like her cast mates, she is putting in the actual acting work.

And even though they’re relegated to the C-plot in this episode, Amy, Terry, and Holt still work like they’re front and center here. Amy finding another “loophole” to Holt’s policy about no one giving him Christmas gifts (her first attempt nearly traumatized her), and Terry tries to get through to her about how she is, well, a crazy person. After getting rid of his fear of the field in the first season, Terry has often been more of a straight man and sounding board to all the crazies that he works with, and that also involves lending a supportive hand. Having him be straight up judgmental (in a funny way, not a nagging way) and sarcastic toward Amy during this entire plot is such a joy to watch.

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It would be easy to just throw Gina into that role, as it is the one she takes pride in, but when Terry gives Amy a hard time for the “very bad idea” that is her collage (and her love of collages in the first place), it goes back to the whole “friend friend” versus “work friend” distinction that came up back in “Chocolate Milk.” It’s actually reminiscent of big brother type of teasing, especially when Amy finds out that infallible Holt made a mistake on one of his biggest cases, the case of the Brooklyn Broiler, and Terry gives her a hard time for Amy-ing all of this up. The emotional beat comes when Holt takes Amy’s willingness to call him out on his mistake—as opposed to the typical, brown-nosing—and treats that as the greatest gift of all.

Then, little sister Amy does a little “suck it”-type dance to show Terry that she was right all along. That’s the true meaning of Christmas.

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Stray observations:

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: All I can think of is something with Andy Samberg, Eva Longoria, Craig Robinson, Stephanie Beatriz, and friendship. You figure it out.
  • As I mentioned in last week’s SOs, “Pontiac Bandit” is my favorite episode of the first season. Right now, “The Road Trip” and “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” are battling for supremacy in this season.
  • Gina (understand life’s struggles): “Oh Charles, I can’t take that. It’s clearly not cash, and I don’t have time in my life to return things.”
  • Flashback Holt: “You flamed out. Dirtbag.”
  • Holt: “That dirtbag flamed out ages ago.”
  • Jake’s french kiss technique is to “jam it in there, then move around wildly.” Sometimes I feel really bad for Sophia, you guys.
  • We saw “bewonderment,” “disbe-loving-it,” and Boyle’s personal favorite, “sparkle surprise.” I honestly wonder how many more of those faces Chelsea Peretti did.
  • Doug: “We doin’ it on the DL.”
    Rosa: “He’s an amazing lover. I’m pregnant.”
  • Jake (as Dante Thunderstone): “Blat! Blat! Blat!”
  • Jake’s Dante Thunderstone coat makes him look like he’s in a nu metal band whose music video just made it into the top 10 on TRL. By the way, how much time do you think Jake spends just on undercover identities alone. Do you think he has a journal of all these ideas?
  • Amy: “Oooh! More work! I know that sounded sarcastic, b—”
    Terry: “Nobody thought that.”
    Holt: “Not for a moment”
  • More Work: name of Amy’s sex tape? Did I do this right?
  • Doug: “Anyway, tell Rosa she loves me!”

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