It feels safe to say this three seasons in: The men and women of the Nine-Nine are very much set in their ways. Sure, there’s character growth, which is always a beautiful thing to see in the series. But they really don’t react well to change, temporary or otherwise. Working with outsiders either brings up intense awe or absolute disdain, with nothing in between, even though we’re all aware that working with someone as goofy as Jake Peralta, as anal as Amy Santiago, or as scary as Rosa Diaz isn’t exactly a walk in the park for outsiders. Fortunately, that realization doesn’t make it any less funny when the gang is taken out of their comfort zone, and “The 9-8” does just that. And it does it very well, with the help of the always funny Damon Wayans Jr. It’s just a shame that he ends up being a dirty cop, because as usual, Wayans steals the show (just like he steals Jake’s friendship from Boyle).

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Obviously, this season of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been a pretty good one for guest stars, but it’s a bit hard to argue that some guests haven’t been “wasted.” This isn’t necessarily new to the season though, as some of us are still reeling from Jenny Slate’s bit part at the beginning of season two. But while this is a show that has created mileage out of a slick criminal in Craig Robinson’s Doug Judy, there are also characters like Bill Hader’s Captain Dozerman, who just plain died, or Paul F. Tompkin’s boat captain, who was a boat captain. Since Brooklyn Nine-Nine has yet to just cast the same actor in a different role, a lot of these talented comedic actors unfortunately just end up being one and done, which is instantly disappointing. So given the way “The 9-8” ends, that might possibly be the case of Damon Wayans Jr.’s Stevie “Chillin’” Shillens—the Donkey Kong punch attempt basically cements that—and it’s rather unfortunate.

But even that can’t bring the episode down, because ultimately, the key is “talented comedic actor.” It’s difficult to be upset for long when that’s the case and on full display.

In “The Cruise,” I pointed out how much the Doug Judy/Jake Peralta saga eventually needs to have Boyle’s side of things, because when you have someone besides Boyle calling Jake his “best friend,” that’s simply something that eventually needs to be dealt with. Brooklyn Nine-Nine apparently also saw merit in such a story, as that’s what happens here in the “The 9-8.” Only in this instance, it’s not a friend love triangle between two cops and a criminal: It’s the age-old story of a cop, his current partner, and his first partner, complete with cool poses and impromptu raps.

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After last week’s deeply personal episode, this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine is all about work. It’s about friendship too, but it’s mostly about work, even though Gina called police work “a waste of time” last week. This is an episode that begins with precinct auction for a mystery item, and it ends with a partners sing-a-long to Toni Braxton’s forever jam “Unbreak My Heart,” and all of that is very much rooted in work at the Nine-Nine. The plot of the Nine-Eight officers making the Nine-Nine their temporary home instantly makes the monotony standard police work feel like a dream to our characters. It’s a heightened sitcom version to an honest “invasion” of space, and it’s one that works as it builds and it builds to absolute chaos.

And surprisingly, Jake is the one character who spends most of his time outside of that chaos, to a point where he comes off the most “normal” in this heightened world. There’s just something about the interplay between Jake and Stevie that hits a sweet spot that a lot of the over-the-top Jake stuff usually misses, with Jake’s “too cool for school” behavior actually coming across as cool. Part of that is the directing, which has always been good when it comes to the music cue spots but is especially great here. But a lot of it can also be chalked up to Wayans’ ability to elevate whatever and whomever he works with. (Even in something like Let’s Be Cops, which this episode really makes hard not to at least momentarily flash back to.) Plus, watching Andy Samberg and Damon Wayans Jr. rap together is just really funny and right.

It also helps that Boyle’s jealousy isn’t just something that’s in his head, because The Beatsie Boys are back, “slap slap boom” and all. Boyle has all the right in the world to be jealous. They forget him at the precinct at one point!

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Outside of that A-plot, it’s pretty amazing to see other characters act out in this situation, instead of being “accommodating” and “cordial AF” as first promised. Captain Holt uses this new, inconvenient situation to prove that he’s “easy-going,” which has never been a word to describe him, no matter how monotonous his speech patterns may be. Amy shows that she’s apparently a monster who hates cute dogs because of “made up reasons” like allergies. Rosa’s new deskmate Ellen is a chatty Cathy, and it’s obvious where that has to go. The entire episode is like a pressure cooker waiting to do whatever pressure cookers do, and once it does, it’s beautifully chaotic. If nothing else, watching an all out brawl occur between the Nine-Nine and the Nine-Eight makes it all worth it. It’s the perfect climax to an extremely funny episode, and that’s even before the boys finally sing “Unbreak My Heart.”

Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Boyle introducing Jake to classic Disney animated movies. Him not knowing the character names in The Lion King is just wrong. Runner up: Holt’s version of basketball.
  • Of course I must thank Genevieve Valentine for filling in for me last week. She is definitely more reliable than a certain cable/internet provider.
  • “No one alive today knows” the contents of “the suitcase of mystery,” and that’s the way it goes for the audience too. At least we get to see the aftermath of Jake giving Gina “full control of [his] hair and wardrobe.” Apparently that comes with a tan too. He ends up looking like a very tall Oompa Loompa, y’all. As for Rosa in high school…
  • Holt: “Alright, everyone. Enough morning chit chat. Television happened. Commutes were difficult. Boyle had a dream.”
    Boyle: “I laid a goose egg on this—”
    Holt: “That’s enough.”
  • Terry: “Don’t worry, sir. We will be cordial AF. As Frasier. Love that show.”
  • Stevie: “The Beatsie Boys reunion tour?”
    Jake: “Tagline: Boys will always be boys. No, wait: Some boys never change. No, wait: Boys to men, back to boys. No, wait: Boooooys.” But what about Boyz 2 Menorah?
  • At first I thought Paul was the Patrice of this episode, but as it turns out, I was wrong. Patrice would never attack her new partner.
  • Jake: “That’s how we do it in Brooklyn.” I really don’t know how to handle beat cop Jake.
  • “FRAUD DOG!” deserves its own t-shirt.
  • I got what Boyle was going for with “The Thoroughly Messed Up Millies.” I got it.

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