Andre Braugher (left), Ken Marino, Andy Samberg

“The Overmining” is a Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode that begins with the highest of expectations, as its cold open is a candidate for greatest non-Holt-based cold open in the series’ history. The necessary appreciation of national treasure Dianne Wiest, prolonged stone faces between Andy Samberg and (a ready to break at any moment) Joe Lo Truglio, the beaming smile that threatens to slip out of Boyle as he waits for Jake to react with more than silence at his “big old Dianne Wiest infection.” It’s all perfect even before Boyle bursts out a “like yeast!” explanation, and then the episode cuts to the opening credits. It’s simple, and it’s simply brilliant, but it’s also a lot for the rest of the episode to live up to.

The rest of “The Overmining” goes for simple too, but it unfortunately ends up going forth in a way that leaves far too much open-ended. Instead of causing the question of “don’t you people have jobs,” it becomes one of how competent any of them really are at their jobs. And that’s not a question one asks often during Brooklyn Nine-Nine, because they are all obviously very good at their jobs. When it comes to the night shift, these episodes have worked with the argument that everyone is more than a little on edge; but with Gina reaching peak insubordination, Jake and Holt having to juggle over-familiarity (that’s never really addressed here) in a plot with a character who shouldn’t even be a cop, and, well, a foot massage plot, “on edge” doesn’t quite explain it as much as them being over their responsibilities does.

So it’s very good that Brooklyn Nine-Nine ends this episode by getting out of the night shift, because intentionally or not, “The Overmining” reveals that the show just might have run out of steam when it comes to that concept. It‘s basically an episode born out of a question of how much milk (not to be confused with “foot milk”) can be squeezed from this night shift concept, and as it turns out, it’s not much—at least not the way the show is tackling it. There’s an aimlessness that clouds this episode, despite each plot featuring their own varying degrees of actual work-based plots. But while Boyle/Rosa’s plot ultimately relies on their job essentially being an obligation (which isn’t usually how Brooklyn Nine-Nine treats it), the Holt/Jake and Gina/Amy/Terry plots involve a large amount of incompetence and unprofessionalism (even when it’s not from the main characters themselves). That’s not usually the case on a show where its characters are often shown to be exceptional at their jobs.

Except for Ken Marino’s C.J., as his sole character trait is how bad he is at his job. Only this episode gets to a point of him also being bad at functioning as a human being. Outside of making sweet hooks for songs, that is. The introduction of the character explained how he failed upwards, mostly because he was a super nice guy who approached things in a chill way; but this week’s episode goes too hard when it comes to how much of an anti-Holt he is. The saving grace is that it only affects one of the episode’s plots, but the episode’s other two plots are still marred by a decision to really over-exaggerate the characters before they get to the finish. And now that the night shift’s ending, none of it will even matter.

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Ken Marino is a talented actor who can pull off lovable dolt extremely well, and Captain C.J. is at times like a more well-meaning Mark Orlando, which is easy to love. Technically, the character is funny and the situations surrounding him and this story are funny. But they’re also so broad for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, especially since the show’s not quite at the late season caricature, Flanderization stages and certainly not in a place of typical first season underdevelopment. While a character like The Vulture gets by on being an incompetent douche but also a ladder-climbing one, even though that is frustrating for these characters, it’s also extremely understandable and believable. Nothing about C.J. is believable, and the fact that this is the only time he’s been seen since “Coral Palms Pt. 3” only hurts. The end to the plot, which puts C.J. in a position to fail, implies that the guy somehow wouldn’t have been in plenty of other situations to fail. In fact, the entire C.J. character implies the NYPD is grossly incompetent, which is a far more pessimistic approach from the same show that addressed how their version of the NYPD were aware of their image problems and actively trying to fix them.

And while Jake and Holt being sucked into this plot makes it quite clear how much better they are at their jobs than C.J., it also makes it apparent just how overly-familiar the two have gotten with each other. Yet the episode doesn’t address it at all. Jake and Holt are the straight men to C.J., even with Jake’s attempts to undermine and then “overmine” the fool, but the thing that really sticks out is how much—even with their differing opinions on how to approach this—there is absolutely no conflict between the two characters. Obviously Jake and Holt have reached a more personal relationship, especially after all that went down in Coral Palms, but to think Holt wouldn’t shut down Jake’s “ya boring” jabs at him, perhaps Holt really has gotten soft. Because it’s one thing if they’re the type of stressed out outbursts all of these characters have had as a result of the night shift, but Jake’s repeated “ya boring”s cross the line of professionalism, and somehow there’s no fight in Holt when it comes to that.

Instead, the fight and pushback comes from the Gina/Amy/Terry plot, so let’s break that down to its major beats:

  • Gina refuses to follow through with a pretty major initiative among the NYPD, to the point where she actively attempts to disrupt it.
  • Terry spends his night battling against Gina to get her to listen, feeling like a failure (as he also failed the Lieutenant’s exam).
  • Supposedly, this was all Gina’s plan to get back Terry’s confidence, despite the fact she could never have assumed he’d go with a shirtless Hitchcock to win.

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And while Amy is a part of the plot, her attempt to get Gina to concede is one failed bit that apparently bears no contribution to the finished product, other than the amusing runner about “diaper[ing] up.” The NYPD’s green initiative probably won’t be mentioned again past this episode, but there’s something especially unflattering about the way Gina actively fights against it, to the point of setting herself on fire. It’s the type of behavior that an early season Gina would pull, the type of thing that made her such a hit or miss character before any type of character development, not the behavior of her character four seasons in.

Also, it’s hard to believe Gina would ever actively attempt to teach Amy to kiss; she’d certainly assume that Amy wants that, but she would also shut her down immediately.

Even if you say “it’s the night shift!” to explain characters acting out-of-character here, it doesn’t really strengthen the episode. If there’s an intent, and even if it’s carried out successfully, the episode itself has to really knock it out of a park. Instead, this episode ends a promising arc with a big question about just how good the characters would be even in their element. And sure, it’s easy to buy Boyle having second thoughts about doing his job because of a magic foot massage parlor, but the entire magic foot massage parlor plot is a weak one as it is. There are the lowest of stakes ever here, even in a plot with a money laundering scheme.

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And there are so many good lines and line deliveries in this episode (and physical bits like Rosa throwing her water in Boyle’s face), that it’s a shame the episode as a whole doesn’t live up to those standards. Brooklyn Nine-Nine adding one of its rare but effective criminal bust scenes in this episode doesn’t even change how low stakes it all feels. It’s especially disappointing it doesn’t live up to the cold open’s standards, but as I already pointed out, that was always going to be extremely difficult.

A winning “Nine-Nine!” chant at the end doesn’t even really feel like a win, considering how difficult it apparently was for them to oust an absolute idiot in the first place.

Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: C.J. was in the police academy for nine years. You’ve basically got your next Quantico (aka Quan2co) right there, only in webisode form.
  • Gina: “Not to brag, but I was name-checked in my kindergarten teacher’s suicide note.”
  • Terry: “Oh my god.”
  • Jake: “Why are you helping this guy, sir? His favorite expression is: ‘that’s gonna leave a mark.’ And he doesn’t even use it right.”
  • Holt: “So, what’s the plan, son?”
    Jake: “Well, dad…“ Of all the over-familiarity in this plot, this is the moment I think is most interesting, as neither Holt reacts to it nor does Jake try to address it. We know that Holt is everyone’s dad, but I’m surprised this isn’t treated like in school when you call your teacher “mom.” Also, Holt calling Jake “son” outside of an emotional context is a built off-kilter as well. The night shift is a mess.
  • C.J.: “You know, I actually did DJ my sister’s wedding. It did not turn out well. Apparently there’s such a thing as too much Smash Mouth.” Alias season one would disagree, but Rachel Bloom would definitely agree.
  • Terry: “You’re not going to beat me, Gina. This is my last stand.”
    Gina: “My whole life is last stands!”
  • Holt: “Was this whole thing even worth it?”

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