Brooklyn Nine-Nine is crushing November sweeps so far, and it hasn’t even enlisted the help of the cast of The Lion King musical yet. A big part of this is because the show’s not allowing ratings grabs to get in the way of giving all of its main characters the focus they need, which has actually been a bit of a problem so far this season. [UPDATE: Though “The Swedes” has all the markings of a sweeps episode—big-name guest stars, those squash sequences—it aired outside of the latest Nielsen sweeps period, which ended on November 25.] “The Swedes” isn’t as flashy or as tightly-packed of an episode as “Ava,” but it still manages to keep each characters’ plot as interesting and funny as possible. It also sets something in the Nine-Nine on fire. And it does all of it while working with some character dynamics that it either hasn’t recently or by adding some flavor to some newly established dynamics.
“The Swedes” makes sure to bring constant jokes and waste no time, right from the moment the cold open rewards us all with a new vending machine in the Nine-Nine break room (“Snacky Chan”). Of course, then it rips said vending machine right away from us and the detectives (“Snacky Chan!”); but it’s good because it sets the tone for the rest of the episode, which features a chase scene, competitive Terry and Amy, and super competitive Boyle.
Last season, Jake had an issue with the way Terry perceived their friendship, or lack thereof, but now he’s the man’s godhusband and the godfather to his newborn daughter. The Jake/Rosa plot in this episode is actually a lot like that, but Rosa is obviously a tougher nut to crack than Terry. Despite how often the show has background moments where Rosa’s amused by Jake, she’s still Rosa. Jake assumes that everyone he chooses to spend his life with is his friend, and he and Rosa are friends… but that doesn’t mean she’s going to share her feelings or general life happenings with him. So it makes sense that Rosa hasn’t told Jake or anyone else (besides Holt, obviously) that she and Marcus broke up a month ago or even that she’s already seeing another new guy. Two get into a two-way street conversation, it’s definitely not as though Jake asked before this episode, even though he’s probably shared plenty about his relationship with Amy.
It’s always very easy to assume that most characters on this show are on the same level of friendship (at the very least, they’re all “friend friends” and not just “work friends”), but it’s simply more honest for that not to be the case, at least not at first. Jake and Gina have been friends since childhood; Jake and Boyle are best friends; Jake and Amy are a couple; Jake is now Terry’s godhusband. But Jake and Rosa—despite him constantly going to her for advice and her sometimes letting out a smirk or laugh at one of his jokes or Jake-isms—isn’t as easy to define. Even now, with the happy resolution of Rosa admitting they are friends in this episode, there’s not much more of a qualifier to that. It’s real, unlike the Swedes who are very much broad strokes instead of characters. That’s really all they need to be, and works for the comedy of it all. Because even though the episode makes it clear that the Swedes may have a more honest and healthy relationship as partners and friends in a lot of ways, they’re very unhealthy in even more ways. Jake and Rosa don’t need to be all up in each other’s business to be friends, that’s for sure.
The past few episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine have shown another non-friendship recently, in the very awkward relationship between Boyle and Holt. Whether it’s Holt double parking in Boyle’s spot or Holt not allowing Boyle to be thankful for things, it’s definitely been a strange situation to witness. What makes it stand out even more is the fact that we also know Holt’s relationships with pretty much every character besides Boyle (not counting Scully and Hitchcock) and vice versa, and those relationships are all pretty rich. This relationship is the exception. This episode doesn’t suddenly open up a whole new world of Holt and Boyle possibilities, but it does address the fact that Boyle is (understandably) very self-conscious when it comes to the captain, and it colors a lot of his interactions with the man, which tend to lead to Holt treating him the way he does.
Only, here, Holt wants Boyle, and he wants the Boyle that doesn’t feel self-conscious (instead of playing into it). It’s easy to forget, given how subservient he can be at times, but Boyle’s intensity is something that makes him an expert at certain things, not just something that makes him a weird guy. The flashback to Boyle saying that Jake should put a baby in Amy is an interesting example: It’s very, very strange, but if he has that type of intensity for something like his friends’ six month anniversary, it makes sense that he should able to translate said intensity into win-lose situations. “Petty Holt” encouraging it also makes sense, given his need to win, and it actually gives a new version of “Petty Holt” when it comes to Holt/Boyle situations, the version that doesn’t just assert his power over Boyle.
It’s really a bit disappointing that the jewel heist case isn’t as cool as a jewel heist case should be, but Jake and Rosa’s curmudgeonly behavior and weak competition with the Swedes at least make up for it. As for the Swedes themselves, the pair is plenty weird on their own, but the show definitely walks the line of the joke simply being that funny accents are in fact funny. Maybe it’s because of the fact that the case doesn’t require them to be Swedish, except for the bit that solves the case; it’s very much a plot that simply relies on a pair of cops who are completely different from Jake and Rosa, so it could easily be a pair of nice Midwesterners and they could still find a way to call them jerks. As I mentioned before, the Swedes are very broad, so it ultimately doesn’t matter too much. They alternate between being sarcastic and snobbish jerks to being genuinely oblivious within single scenes, but that can also be hand-waved by the fact that they really are a couple of hand-holding weirdos.
Jake is right when he says that “they are awful, for sure,” and Anders Holm and Riki Lindhome—who could possibly have been cast based on similar surnames—are good in these roles that are just on the edge of being a waste of both of them (kind of like Bill Hader as Dozerman). Honestly, it’s a bit disappointing that the rest of the characters don’t get to interact with the Swedes… unless that means there’s the possibility of a Tyler Durden situation with the plot somewhere down the line. (Sadly, it probably doesn’t.) Those jerks.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: I just need to see Amy and Terry’s entire dance performance. All 60 minutes of it. After that, if webisodes are really what we need, then a team-up between the Swedes and Garret Dillahunt’s Dave Majors should be on the agenda.
- As for the Gina/Amy/Terry plot, it’s very good for what it is, especially since it features try-hards Amy and Terry attempting to turn a disinterested Gina into a mini-version of themselves. Also, I’d almost forgotten that Gina was in school, but luckily the writers didn’t—if they had, we’d never have gotten Amy’s “fun” mnemonic device and Gina’s very true moment of not knowing who Neil deGrasse Tyson is (“Who dis?”).
- Even if it hadn’t just been announced that Chelsea Peretti and Jordan Peele are engaged, I still would have preferred for his haunting version of Neil deGrasse Tyson to show up as Terry’s gym buddy. Gina wouldn’t have known the difference.
- Gina: “Because I thought it would be cool, just me sitting around, naming moons left and right, like Zorp. Bong. Dingo, Et Cetera. That would be one of the names: Et Cetera.”
- Amy may have blown her chance with Hitchcock on Earth, but maybe they can be together on one of Gina’s moons. I hear Et Cetera is nice this time of year.
- Rosa: “The hot blond guy from True Blood?” Rosa is really focused on what’s important in this episode.
- Rosa’s new boyfriend Tom works at a library? Maybe Rosa is setting herself up for failure by dating these boring guys. (Did we ever learn Marcus’ job? Did we care?)
- Six months for Amy and Jake already? Imagine all of the names of sex tapes and fun mnemonic devices in these six months!
- Holt: “I need you to…unleash the beast.” Imagine this line with the delivery you’ve come to expect from Andre Braugher.
- The Swedes really managed to live up to the reputation of their predecessor, Friday Night Lights’ The Swede. Jerks.