This week’s back-to-back episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine work together a lot better than last week’s pair; and while that might not really sound like a big deal, it’s something that can absolutely improve the general sense of continuous episode quality. Sure, come streaming and home video time, the back-to-back nature of these episodes isn’t going to come into play in the same way—especially since they’re not actually two-parters—so it’s not exactly necessary for these episodes to feel connected at all. But a little episode synergy and the bare minimum of continuity (even just tonal) never hurt a show, and the pairing of this week’s “Your Honor” and “The Slaughterhouse” work better because of that.

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“Your Honor” is the stronger episode as a whole, with the introduction of Holt’s federal judge mother Laverne (L. Scott Caldwell), the transformation of the Nine-Nine’s break room (another necessary Nine-Nine upgrade), and the Amy/Gina team-up all providing constant laughs. Jake is possibly at his most “Jake” in this episode, but with Holt’s relationship with his mother working as the most important part of the plot, this episode shows that is understands how to make Jake’s Jake-ness work in that context. Holt and his mother’s emotionally (yet amusingly) stunted relationship, as well as Holt’s own weird relationship with Jake, drives this episode while the actual case isn’t all that much to care about. (Her secret boyfriend is obvious from the second he shows up, though it leads to the unexpected reaction of Holt walking out of his car… in traffic.) While it’s somewhat disappointing Amy ruins her own chance to be the one in charge of this case, her involvement obviously wouldn’t have had the same or similar beats as Jake’s belief that he has befriended Laverne Holt (which do surprisingly end up being true—like mother, like son) or even possibly even in pointing out the weird relationship between Holt/Mama Holt. Amy’s approach would be just as interesting, but Jake’s inclusion in this plot is the right choice for the episode.

The Amy/Gina plot, on the other hand, is the “weakest” of this strong episode. While it essentially sticks the landing with Amy’s awkward “Tire Slashers” prank show excuse to a stranger (prize: $27… and a dime!), it suffers from not actually having Amy’s obsession with Gina and the tire come from a tangential relation to Amy’s earlier “jam on” fail with Holt. Amy’s explanation about the lesson she learned as a teenager is a decent one, but it still just feels hollow, especially as a lesson she apparently just now thinks Gina should learn. Four seasons in, after plenty of episodes with Gina doing all she can to do the least amount of work and ultimately prove it’s not for lack of ability. It’s nice to have the return of Gina’s Amy-based snark back in this and the next episode though, and it makes sense for an episode with the polar opposite friendship of Jake/Holt also featuring the polar opposite friendship (in a different way) of Amy/Gina.

Meanwhile, the pride Terry, Rosa, and Boyle all have over their break room renovation skills is adorably infectious, especially once they decide to pose for it for absolutely no reason. For Rosa, it doesn’t even come across as “out of character,” as the episode addresses how it plays to her previously mentioned Nancy Meyers-loving sensibilities (specifically The Holiday, which is quite understandable). Just the very idea of her having an artistic side on top of everything else is also great characterization to have moving forward to a Rosa-heavy episode in “The Slaughterhouse.” Though, if we’re being honest, a Nancy Meyers film would never have a kitchen that looks anything like the Nine-Nine’s renovated break room. But that’s more on the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers and crew than it is the characters. Scully and Hitchcock’s work as the voices of reason in this episode is also a convenient bridge to “The Slaughterhouse,” where they are anything but.

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This episode even pulls a rare Brooklyn Nine-Nine move by having the events of the cold open come back in the tag, with the broken interrogation door handle. You know—the door handle Terry, Rosa, and Boyle probably should have spent time working on instead of the break room, considering the urgency. Between this and the constant reminds of Jake versus water in “The Slaughterhouse,” this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s manage to reclaim an episodic connection to the cold open that is usually either minuscule (like a minor mention or visual connection that happens in the first scene after it) or nonexistent. And both episodes’ reminders of Rosa’s deep love of Nancy Meyers’ films connect these two back-to-back episodes in a way that was very much missing in last week’s episodes.

In fact, “The Slaughterhouse” connects itself to one of last week’s episodes in following up on the newly formed relationship between Scully and the Cindy “She Scully” Shatz (a name that requires some childish giggling)—specifically Hitchcock’s reaction to the relationship. While the episode doesn’t quite address how Hitchcock completely feels about Cindy, it does go into how Scully lies about spending time with Cindy, making Hitchcock’s side of the argument initially have some merit other than jealous, co-dependent buddy. Of course, everything about the Scully and Hitchcock plot in this episode is anything but one of merit or anything resembling maturity, whether they call each other “cuck[s]” or angrily bathe in ranch dressing as a show of… What the guys are exactly trying to prove to each other in this episode is quite confusing, but after recent episodes of Scully and Hitchcock not being at their full weirdness, this episode is a fun take. Plus, Boyle and Terry teaming up over their parental (“daddy”) approach to this issue is a nice story for the two of them—because they’re both on equal footing for once, as much as they possibly can be—and Gina having the solution to the problem again shows the value of the character to the Nine-Nine. Of course neither Boyle nor Terry (or anyone else) would think to treat Scully and Hitchcock like animals, especially given their roles as parents. Gina Linetti really is the glue that holds all these people together.

The same can be said for a little good old-fashioned professional competition, though Rosa and Jake take their competition to join Lieutenant Melanie Hawkins’ (Gina Gershon) task force a little more personally that that. (Note that Holt’s biggest problem with Jake in “Your Honor” is his tendency to get too personal, despite his obvious professional talent.) It’s somewhat classic Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in that the chance of either Rosa or Jake becoming permanent fixtures in the task force is never really an option—that would mean not being in the Nine-Nine—but Rosa’s eventual point of wanting to finally work for a “badass woman” instead of men sneaks up on you. It’s one of those little bouts of realism the show hits at times when it comes to these characters’ career. Of course, Terry and Holt are great people and bosses, but it makes sense Rosa would want to work for a great female boss at least once in her life. Plus, she and Hawkins have a lot in common, even if it’s not their feelings on Die Hard or on being corrupt. The shenanigans between Rosa and Jake are ridiculous but never too mean-spirited… Let’s be honest, the caffeine sabotage is probably the least unhealthy thing about Jake anyway.

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In fact, Rosa’s ability to spike everything Jake could possibly put in his mouth is basically the second coming of Gina’s “YOU JUST DRANK CEMENT!” prank from a few episodes ago, and as over-the-top as it is, it’s the expected unexpected nature of it all—because while it’s easy to imagine Rosa poisoning people, it’s also pretty childish—that really makes it work. It is unbelievable that Amy just now realized Jake doesn’t drink water, but as the framing device for Jake’s bathroom issues and general misery, it’s acceptable. These episodes stretch the bounds of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s credibility in a way, but the good thing is that they do so with successful results on the humor front.

Again, Amy isn’t given that big of a plot, but the story of Holt trying to get her to vent when she’s frustrated with him is amusing enough for what it is. This episode is very much driven by the other plots though, and considering how this plot all begins with a missing pen, it is somewhat disappointing it doesn’t escalate to an even bigger level. Still, she calls Holt “stupid” at one point, and you only get one chance at that.

Also, I don’t want to say Brooklyn Nine-Nine so much telegraphs its dirty cop reveal with Hawkins… But general sitcom and television tropes do. Besides the unlimited supply of leather jacket ensembles in The Slaughterhouse, the general grizzled “super cop” concept lends itself to revealing an untrustworthy character. Brooklyn Nine-Nine already subverted that particular expectation in “Det. Dave Majors,” so it was overdue with Lieutenant Hawkins, unfortunately. Still, the contrast of the bright and cheery Nine-Nine world with the grittiness of The Slaughterhouse and all its nameless team members work for this episode, and Jake and Rosa make perfect sense as the two detectives with the biggest aspirations to enter this world (going into the end of the season). We know Amy wants to move up in her career, but the show has never shown task forces to be her style. And all I can really imagine in a version of this story with Jake/Boyle is Boyle stressing out about possibly losing his best friend to the task force. That’s probably the best thing about both of these episodes: While they have plots that could lead to variations of the chosen pairings, there’s obviously a reason why the show chose the ones they did. Keep making good choices, Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

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Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: This is a no-brainer. It’s got to be Terry, Rosa, and Boyle’s renovation series. Cops who also feng shui? That’s a license to print money, baby.
  • Holt: “There will be no Underoos.”
  • Jake: “Wait, this isn’t your bedroom.”
    Holt: “Yes, it’s a regular room.”
  • Rosa: “It’s beautiful. Are we better at this than our regular jobs?”
    Terry: “Unquestionably.”
  • Boyle: “It looks like a Swedish airport. Everybody’s gonna love it.” It also looks like a set from Spice World. I absolutely loved it.
  • Gina: “Can’t school Gina. Gina schools you.”
  • Holt: “Cowabunga, mother.” If it’s at all possible, I’d love to see a scene chronicling just how Holt sees his entire Nine-Nine inner circle. Obviously, “cowabunga” is how he sees Jake, but how does he see… Boyle?
  • Rosa: “She is so cool. She’s been buried alive three times. I’ve only been buried alive once.”
  • Jake: “I swear, I would rather drink ginger ale, Rosa. Honestly. Ginger ale!”

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