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I suppose we all knew it would come to this: Brooklyn Nine-Nine had to do a Die Hard episode eventually. The first season would have been too early—the characters weren’t as developed yet. The second season could have possibly tried—especially with Jake and Sophia’s mutual love for John McClane—but “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” was born from a need to strike while the iron was hot for sequel territory. So now we’re left with the third time being the charm in “Yippie Kayak.” And it really is the charm, as there’s probably no way that Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s Die Hard episode could have been any more beautiful than it is here. In fact, “Yippie Kayak” makes it clear that more Christmas episodes should deal with the three Fs: friendship, family, and flame throwers. Especially when those Fs are all blended together so well.

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The Jake/Gina/Boyle plot is the biggest indicator of this, as it’s one with the three best friends of the show. Of course there’s the life-long friendship of Jake and Gina, as well as the fact that there Gina and Boyle used to be “bone bros.” But the core of it all, especially in this episode, is Jake and Boyle. Their friendship is largely one of hero worship, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine has also made it clear over the years that it’s one of ultimate trust and respect. Jake thinks Boyle is weird, but Boyle is weird, and he would take a bullet for him. Boyle thinks Jake is the perfect man, but Jake is far from perfect, and he would also take a bullet for him. If someone outside their sphere were to point out the weirdness of Boyle or the imperfection of Jake, these men would defend the other without a question. (Of course, this is an ultimate characteristic of a lot of the character dynamics in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but there is a difference when it comes to these two best friends.)

So while Jake can often be too “cool guy” for the nerdier Boyle, it would never read as honest if Jake just forgot about Boyle’s gift in any other circumstance than the one in this episode (committing to a perfect gift for Amy, which is something he might have done even if they weren’t a couple). Jake giving up his John McClane moment to protect Boyle is the ultimate show of that friendship, so it’s not a cloying emotional beat when it comes to Boyle calling that his Christmas present.

Plus, it’s all absolutely hilarious. Even if it weren’t, it would at least be worth it for another fantastic music cue from Brooklyn Nine-Nine—the montage of Boyle and Jake slowly and quietly procuring household “weapons” (and mannequin arms), set to Onyx’s “Slam”—and the pay-off to Gina’s new-found flamethrower obsession.

Then there’s the Rosa/Holt/Amy plot, which is based off of a conflict that’s solely in Amy’s head. After causing a cold open bomb threat with her present for Captain Holt, Amy finds herself trying to reconnect with the Polar Swim. When Amy brings up Rosa and Holt thinking she’s a “wimp” for the second time, Rosa points out—truthfully—that they never called her a wimp in the first place. In fact, Amy’s the only one who says that word during this episode. It would actually be very easy for the show to go the route of Rosa and/or Holt sort of goading Amy into doing the Polar Swim because of how weak she can be in these type of situations, but they’re actually fairly supportive throughout. It’s an interesting counterpoint to the A-plot, where Jake has never been more hyped to have this high octane adventure, while Amy simply wants to get it over with, if at all. Melissa Fumero knocks it out of the park, combining Amy’s typical awkwardness and need to win with her absolute displeasure over jumping into freezing cold water. It’s the type of thing that gets Amy to lash out at Holt (“Ahh, welcome to the frozen sea—” “Shut your dumb poem mouth!”), so no wonder she wants to become drunk Amy here; and it’s only a little disappointing that she doesn’t.

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Plus, with the knowledge that Jake and Boyle would take bullets for each other and Gina would brandish a flamethrower for them, we now also know that Amy would run into “the frozen sea” for Jake. That’s the true meaning of Christmas.

Then there’s the Terry plot, which is in motion from the moment Terry gives everyone in the precinct the very specific instructions not to call him while he’s on vacation. In fact, his instructions are right up there with cops talking about it being their last day on the job: The writing is on the wall. Interestingly enough, if Brooklyn Nine-Nine wanted to actually follow through with Terry on vacation, it could. Terry is a character who plays off so well off of the other characters, but is also such a rich and interestingly-written in his outside, personal life, that he doesn’t feel meandering when he’s the lone series regular in a plot. That’s actually the case for Holt too, so maybe it’s a part of being in a position of leadership in the Nine-Nine.

But as he does become a part of this main plot, the audience is treated to something even better than Terry Does The Holidays: We instead get Terry Takes The Vulture, and it’s so worth it. When The Vulture was in charge of the Nine-Nine, Terry was very much the good soldier, despite how big of an idiot the precinct had in charge. He’d do his work and fall in line with his Captain. Here, he has no such reason to do more of the same, especially at the expense of Jake, Gina, Boyle, and the hostages. While The Vulture is in a position of power here, there’s definitely more of a level-playing field, and even The Vulture knows it; in another life (like the one where Terry is a model), maybe The Vulture and Terry could bro out together. But straight-laced Terry and imbecile Vulture is a match-up for the ages, with Terry eventually asserting his physical power over the guy. It’s worth Terry getting suspended, and it’s definitely worth Captain Holt pushing Terry toward the eventual track to Captain.

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Though, interestingly enough, it’s another example of a Brooklyn Nine-Nine character who’s not Amy being groomed for bigger things.

Season three has been a bit uneven so far, but it’s also been a season that is willing to commit so much to extravagant gimmicks, like the action movie that plays in Jake’s mind at all times. So it really does make this the right season to pull the trigger on the Die Hard homage. The fact that it doesn’t go perfectly, however, is what prevents it from being cheesy gimmick episode (especially as a Christmas episode)and keeps it at a high level for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The episode is at the top of its game from moment one. Hopefully 2016 keeps that going for this season.

Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Let’s just get that Terry photo, y’all.
  • I’ll be honest, I honestly have no idea what insults Zeke was throwing at Terry. I consider myself an expert on marble mouths, but Zeke had me stumped. One thing I do know: “You don’t even have a job, Zeke!”
  • “Seven robbers. Two cops. And one Gina.” Jake got as close as he ever will to have a real life Die Hard situation, but at least he got to name thugs “Klaus,” “Günter,” and “Jurgen” (aka “Matt). “That’ll teach you to have a dumb, normal name!”
  • I am, however, upset we didn’t get to see Jake in the “BABY GIRL” tank top.
  • The Vulture: “And I want my lesbian neighbors to be way hotter than they are, but we can’t always get what we want.”
  • “Yippie Kayak Other Buckets!” I don’t know, I think Boyle is right on this one.
  • Boyle: “What’s a brother got to do to get a wet one?”
    Jake: “Don’t say that.”
  • Gina: “It worked! The flame thrower worked!”

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