“Coral Palms Pt. 1” was a risky episode for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to return with, even though Andy Samberg and Andre Braugher were more than up to the task of handling it all by themselves. The Brooklyn Nine-Nine ensemble had no chance to shine, even though the show did with its own creativity. As I’ve mentioned before, Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s strength as a “workplace comedy” also comes from its ability to take a typical sitcom plot and make it feel like its own little Brooklyn Nine-Nine thing. So while “Coral Palms Pt. 1” was a more experimental approach to that, “Coral Palms Pt. 2” is even better at showing what Brooklyn Nine-Nine can do with its own twist on things.

That’s what the Nine-Nine plot is all about this week, as this is the second season in a row where the precinct has started with a new Captain. Here, Ken Marino’s Captain Jason Stentley (who prefers to be called “C.J.”) is no Captain Dozerman, and thankfully, he’s also no Vulture. It’s a nice parallel after last week’s season premiere to see the precinct answer to a new boss who’s also wholly incompetent, only here, the lack of qualification on C.J.’s part isn’t as detrimental to the squad’s mental or emotional state as Frank’s Fun Zone was to Holt.

Except for in the case of Amy, as C.J.’s laid back (and very unqualified) nature is the one thing that could possibly have her question an authority figure. However, unlike the tyrannical Dozerman or the skeezy Vulture, what C.J. lacks in qualification or even competence, he more than makes up for in his desire to allow the Nine-Nine to continue on as the well-oiled machine it already is. With C.J., everyone but Amy is able to get their ideal work environments; the conveniences the Nine-Nine ask for are simply things they want in order to do their jobs better. Because as much as a wall around Rosa’s desk area, a treadmill desk for Boyle, and a yogurt fridge for Terry are personal conveniences, they don’t prevent any of them from actually getting their work done. And arguably, Gina’s assistant (and assistant’s assistant) are simply for personal reasons, but at the same time, it’s still just continuing the “work” Gina was already doing.

C.J. is certainly no Captain Holt, as Amy makes abundantly clear in her crusade, but the episode is smart to not have the precinct quickly devolve with the weight of that reality and how much they take advantage of him. However, when Amy points to Holt as the one who made the Nine-Nine as good as it currently is, it does feel a bit like she’s selling herself and the team short—though, that’s somewhat understandable as six months have passed without the man.

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Luckily, while “Coral Palms Pt. 1” worked to put the pieces in motion for the return of Jake and Holt, “Coral Palms Pt. 2” actually has motion on that front and as the second act in this trilogy. There’s definitely more forward momentum in this episode, both because of the focus on both parts of the show and because the hiding is officially over. (Intentionally, because of the viral video, but also unintentionally, because of Figgis kidnapping Marshal Haas.) Jake and Holt, buying guns and doing prison breaks in Florida is still ridiculous, but it’s farther away from the culture shock of the premiere and more in line with tried and true Brooklyn Nine-Nine.

“Coral Palms” as a whole is a broad return to the series, and while we have yet to see if that will be the case for the rest of the season, it’s acceptable in this bubble. That just doesn’t extend to the Florida-isms that allow Jake to buy a bunch of guns without an ID or everything about the Sheriff’s department—that also applies to things like Marshal Haas’ young lover, C.J.’s entire existence, or the walls around Rosa’s desk, complete with a doorbell. This entire episode is absolutely absurd, from top to bottom. But as the dynamic of Brooklyn Nine-Nine intentionally remains off, it’s much more acceptable for the surreal broadness that comes from both sides of things. That doesn’t always work for the show, as it’s easy for that type of broadness to cause characters to act out of character or even annoyingly. “Coral Palms Pt. 2” doesn’t ever reach that level, as much as it easily could, especially on the Nine-Nine’s end.

And it’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s emotional center that allows it to have all of this absurdity and still make actual, genuine moments work out in the end. Amy frantically wants to get rid of C.J., even writing a complaint letter and making sure everyone knows how upset she is with them for selling out pretty quickly—and that stress ends with the aforementioned discussion about Holt’s role in the precinct. Plus, getting through that emotional hurdle inadvertently prevents the crew from going to Florida to help out Holt and Jake, providing another obstacle in the process. And despite the constant stream of Florida jokes, that has yet to keep Jake and Holt from sharing honest emotional moments either. Super cop Jake Peralta being the one who explains why it’s not “embarrassing” to ask for help from people who care about you is a nice character beat. It’s a nice character beat that comes with frosted tips, but it’s still a nice character beat.

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Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Considering C.J. is basically Mark Orlando with a gun and a badge, is it a cop-out to just say more episodes of Burning Love? If so, then let’s just remake Prison Break with Jake, Holt, and the boys. Tito is “great at smoking meth.” Tito’s great at other meth-based things. There’s something to work with there.
  • Speaking of C.J., was he even a cop before he got the position? Because I feel like his story doesn’t exactly suggest that he was.
  • The power walking continues, as does “Greg’s” love of the heaviest of boobs. Greg, you dog.
  • Who else found themselves shouting “shut up, Garry/Larry/Jerry” at their screens during the Sheriff’s (Jim O’Heir) scenes? Be honest. It was a bold choice to make him as aggressively unlikable (though nonthreatening) as he is here, and after Jake’s call-out of Ace Ventura’s mild transphobia last week, it’s kind of amazing to see him and Holt take the Sheriff down by using the guy’s homophobia against him.
  • Jake being self-aware about his and Holt’s heel turn during their jail break is also a really nice touch. The Florida look may not be good for him, but he’s really getting to shine as a character in these episodes.
  • Who wore falling off the treadmill better: Boyle or Harrison?

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