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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Illustration for article titled On iBrooklyn Nine-Nine/i (like in iJohn Wick/i), you don’t mess with a man’s dog
Graphic: Jordin Althaus (NBC)
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After bringing in Cheddar the dog for last week’s Halloween Heist, Brooklyn Nine-Nine decided to double down on everyone’s love of a certain chonky pup with “Ransom.” Obviously, the idea that someone would be monstrous enough to kidnap Holt and Kevin’s ham-loving corgi like this is certainly a twisted one to come from the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers’ room. But it’s also an idea that makes for a very engaging A-plot. Such is the power of Holt and Kevin’s “fluffy boy.”

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From the moment Cheddar’s kidnapping is announced—right after Jake reveals that he’s still having trouble defeating Wario—everything about this plot delivers. Even before Jake has (or really, gets) to do his undercover transformation into Kevin, “Ransom” has a winning plot on its hands just by virtue of getting to play with what it means for Holt and Kevin to be emotional over beloved Cheddar. For Holt, it means going full cowboy cop meets John Wick (or “John Wicks”—I’ve heard it both ways) to get back his fluffy boy, grenades and all. For Kevin, it means getting overly sentimental every time he sees any little thing (like a security camera) that could somehow remind him of Cheddar, as well as becoming overly-prepared to never lose Cheddar again. Both reactions are valid, as Cheddar is a national treasure and should be treated as such, and Nick Perdue and Beau Rawlins script (both writers’ first writing credit) makes sure to have them become frantic without seeming out of character.

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Understandably, Andre Braugher’s praise is sung with every episode of anything, but I’d like to also heap some praise on to Marc Evan Jackson. Together, Braugher and Jackson make Holt and Kevin the perfect dry pair. But they also both bring something different to the table in that dryness, neither one stepping on the other’s toes in terms of comedic delivery. It’s one thing to be able to play off Braugher with a different energy altogether—like in the case of Andy Samberg—but it’s another to have to somewhat match him in tone without simply providing a poor facsimile of his performance. The latter is what Jackson excels at, while Braugher excels at saying “sumbitch.” (Yes, all three men said it, but he said it best.)

Once the episode gets into Jake becoming Kevin territory—complete with a montage for this Pygmalion riff—it doesn’t throw Holt and Kevin’s emotional states to the wayside, but it does allow for Samberg to get more involved in the wackiness of the plot. Up until that point, he’s as much of the straight man to these two as he possibly can be. Jake’s initial Kevin impression being a generic “fancy man” (well, more like a fancy Santa Claus) accent is very Jake, but the fact that he’s able to pull it off in the end is just a small reminder (since the amount of police work in this season is low) that he’s good at what he does. As is Samberg, of course, even when the fake beard notably isn’t. It’s all “cool cool cool cool.” “Indeed indeed indeed indeed.”

With the A-plot as strong as it is, the subplots were most likely always going to pale in comparison. In this case, both of these subplots are pretty much your standard sitcom fare: the ol’ “keep your hand on this thing” endurance competition and friends getting into the family recipe business together. With the former, the episode takes a prominent sitcom plot of the ‘90s and early ‘00s and turns the typical psychological warfare that comes with it into a story about a boring guy just being blissfully unaware of how boring he is (and also friendship). In the case of the latter, the most refreshing aspect of the plot is that there isn’t a beat where the two argue about how to proceed with Boyle’s family bone broth and their business partnership (and also friendship). Terry does tweak the broth recipe without Boyle’s knowledge, but that ends up being in service of the exploding jar bit, not to provide actual conflict.

In fact, the former is the subplot with more material, as the latter breezes past any and all illusion of conflict. Even Boyle’s ill-advised (and kind of confusing) $11,000 domain name investment is promptly solved and undone with one offscreen deal made by Terry. The former, instead, has slightly more to offer because of its conflict, with the return of Amy’s boring ex-boyfriend Teddy (Kyle Bornheimer) as Rosa’s aggressively boring competition in the SNOOG stroller endurance competition. Both subplots are very simplistic, but there aren’t any missteps with either, and both contribute to a surprisingly wholesome episode of television where ransom and grenades are on the menu. The Sleuth Sisters and the Workplace Bone Buds really hold it down in these subplots, even though they really should’ve been informed about Cheddar kidnapping. All hands on deck, etc.

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“Ransom” isn’t a non-stop action episode, but it provides set-up for it to veer into that territory. Once it does, it so clearly excels there too. It obviously goes with more comedic beats to tell the kidnapping story—not going full 1996’s Ransom—but once it reaches the episode-ending climax, it unleashes the type of cool action ending and fight scene that Brooklyn Nine-Nine just doesn’t usually go for. In an episode where Holt is packing grenades and punching through walls—for comedy’s sake—it only makes sense that the actual confrontation between Holt and the kidnapper would bring some heat. And it delivers on that expectation tremendously. (Which was surely quite the feat for episode director Rebecca Asher to pull off, considering how different it was from something like another slow-motion Cheddar shot.)

And for the episode to end with the revelation that Holt’s life was possibly the inspiration for Passenger 57, Rush Hour, and/or Lethal Weapon—that was a beautiful bow on top of the gift that was finding Cheddar the dog.

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Stray observations

  • Jake: “There were so many emails!” This week, we go with a cold open fully detached from the rest of the episode’s plot, and Hitchcock and Scully end up coming to work when the building is being fumigated. Whoops.
  • Jake: “It just doesn’t seem like he should be that fast for how big he is. God, I hate Wario.” I love that the Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers just decided after “Trying” that Jake’s issues when it comes to playing against Wario (a known cheater) should be his great struggle of the season. Sure, he’s got a baby on the way… but if he can’t beat Wario, can he even be a good father?
  • Jake: “You both look so upset. Oh no, did they stop funding the arts?”
    Kevin: “They did. But that doesn’t matter anymore—nothing does. Cheddar has been kidnapped.”
    Holt: “Someone took our fluffy boy.”
  • Holt: “In kidnappings, the first 48 hours are the most crucial.”
    Jake: “Right. And in dog years, that’s only seven hours.”
    Kevin: “Why would you say that?! This is why everyone prefers that dog to you.”
    Jake: “Everyone?” Yes.
  • Amy (singing and dork dancing): “I said / Who’s that momma lookin’ so cool? / I’m that momma lookin’ so cool?
  • Amy: “All the best strollers are from Scandinavia—where they don’t hate people for having children.”
    Rosa: “I saw Midsommar. Those people have their own problems.”
  • Jake: “Sir, remember: We need two minutes for the trace.”
    Holt: “Two minutes. Understood.”
    Jake: “So just keep him talking, and stay calm.”
    Holt: “Peralta, I’m in complete control.”
    Kidnapper (on phone): “Hello.”
    Holt (on phone): “Shut your damn mouth, I’m the one talking here.”
    Kidnapper (on phone): “Then this is over.” Click.
  • Jake: “I mean, I can’t believe I’m actually gonna say this, but now is not the time to go all John Wick.”
    Holt: “Who’s that? A friend of yours?”
    Jake: “Pfft. I wish. But he’s not a real person. He’s a movie assassin that goes nuts when somebody messes with his dog.”
    Holt: “Then call me John Wicks, because I’m about to go nuts.”
  • Holt: “Interesting. You know what else is interesting?”
    Jake: “Hmm?”
    Holt: “Grenades.”
  • Kevin: “Cheddar loved security cameras.”
    Jake: “How is that possible?”
  • Gloria at TypTopTykes: “I am so sorry, but pregnant women aren’t allowed to compete. Not after what happened last year.” The long pause that follows is a good pause.
  • Holt: “That’s weird. It’s sunny outside.”
    Jake: “Why is that weird?”
    Holt: “Because a [bleep] storm is about to rain down on that punk.”
    Jake: “Oh my god. I fell for it and I loved it.”
  • Rosa: “It’s fine, I can handle boring: We’re friends.” At this point, Teddy is really more a series of boring, weird quirks (Pilsners, proposing to Amy) than an actual character… and yet, his ability to break even Rosa had me reacting, out loud, to her disqualification with a “noooo.” (Almost the same way as Amy said it when Teddy proposed to her, actually.) It was a good night for Stephanie Beatriz, both for her performance as broken brain Rosa and her Zoom call interstitials throughout the Thursday night comedy block with Superstore’s Lauren Ash.
  • In addition to Brooklyn Nine-Nine not going for Boyle and Terry arguing over the best way to approach their bone broth business, it also avoided telling a story where Boyle’s family broth ended up actually being a stolen recipe. Look, I’ve seen the “Screech’s Spaghetti Sauce” episode of Saved By The Bell way too many times, okay?
  • Terry: “Charles! It’s called ‘WorkplaceBoneBuds.com!’”
    Boyle: “All I hear is friendship and broth.”
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Contributor, The A.V. Club. Despite her mother's wishes, LaToya Ferguson is a writer living in Los Angeles. If you want to talk The WB's image campaigns circa 1999-2003, LaToya's your girl.

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