“Game Night” (Grade: A)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine understandably treated its 99th episode like most shows treat their 100th episode. So in theory, the 100th episode would just be another episode of the series. Nothing more, nothing less. But that doesn’t take into account that even a “regular” episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine can be special. And that’s exactly what “Game Night” is. Comparing it to the episode’s namesake, while the 100th episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine has perhaps been treated as low-key as a typical game night, it ends up being just as poignant as the episode’s own closing game night.

While “99” was the right episode for Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s celebratory purposes, the “Game Night” also lives up to the standard expectations of 100th episode quality. It’s not as reliant on intentional callbacks and references, but it still perfectly captures the spirit of Brooklyn Nine-Nine from top-to-bottom. It’s also the first episode in a long time to feature the whole squad—with the return of Gina Linetti—providing some dynamics that have been missing. (I’m talking about her antagonism toward Amy, of course.)

The cold open is the sole Christmas moment in these two episodes, and it’s one that reminds us all that Jake Peralta is an excellent detective, the best in the precinct, even. Not just the way the Halloween Heist does—because everyone’s thinking five steps ahead of each other at that point—and not just because he keeps saying it. Yes, he’s also a goober, and that’s what gets him kicked out of Secret Santa; but he’s a goober with great deductive reasoning skills. He’s also a goober with a massive amount of empathy and just excellent friend skills, as this episode reminds us.

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The key talking point of “Game Night” will no doubt be its role as a follow-up to Rosa coming out as bisexual in “99.” Of course the squad accepts Rosa for who she is and doesn’t make a fuss about her sexuality outside of the one minute she gives them to ask her questions. (And Rosa is smart for not letting Hitchcock ask anything, because he’s Hitchcock.) But it’s Jake she goes to specifically for help, both to make sure things are actually cool with the squad and to ask how she should spring the news to her parents (Danny Trejo and Olga Merediz). These two scenes at the precinct are a perfect early display of just how much the Nine-Nine truly is a supportive, cohesive unit, without them just saying they are. This plot has plenty of recognizable beats, but at no point do any of them feel forced. It’s all just an honest story—while appropriately funny or sad when it needs to be. That even extends to the “fake dating” part of the plot, which is really more of a fake-out than anything; it’s pretty much a blip in the plot before Rosa comes out to her parents. It’s a blip that’s worth it for Jake’s Rosa song, but a blip nonetheless.

This is understandably a special episode to Stephanie Beatriz, and it’s worth acknowledging just how good she is in it. Because Rosa is such a closed off character, it’s easy to assume she can’t have (or Beatriz can’t handle) the show’s more emotional moments. But that’s absolutely not the case, whether she’s speaking her truth to her parents or just confiding in Jake. And at no point does any of it come across as a Very Special Episode. The moment when Rosa’s mother can see literally every possibility in Rosa’s “wedding” drawing during Pictionary besides a wedding (because it’s two women) is a mix of cringe comedy and genuine frustration, and it’s one of many moments in this plot where it’s almost like watching it all unfold in slow motion. There’s a presumption of how this story will all go when Rosa first says her parents are traditional, and moments like her parents being relieved she’s a mistress (as opposed to gay) or telling her she’ll end up with a man check those boxes. But it doesn’t make them happening any easier. In fact, even though Rosa at least gets her father to try to understand her side of things by the end of this episode, Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t sugarcoat it and doesn’t make any of this easy.

Jake and Rosa are absolutely right when they say Rosa’s parents neither understanding nor accepting her “sucks.” But while Jake is there for Rosa every awkward step of the way this episode, Holt’s pep talk to her at the end is just as affecting and important. Because while Jake is a great ally, Holt is someone who has the type of comparable experience that Jake just won’t ever have, as good of an actor as he is.

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Obviously, the rest of the episode is lightweight compared to what Rosa has going on, but that doesn’t mean the rest of the squad doesn’t get to shine. The squad’s feud with the new cyber crimes unit is a solid story that gives every character involved a chance to shine in their inability to get Devin (Paul Scheer, almost going full NTSF:SD:SUV:: in his performance) to give them back their internet. It also brings back Gina for the 100th episode in a way that makes sense for the character and the show. Just when Gina thinks she’s out, they pull her back in. (In this particular case, pulling her back in involves blackmail files and a graceful exit set to “I Will Remember You.”) 

Sure, the squad could’ve asked Rosa to help if she had any spare time, but then she might have just stabbed Devin. The resolution is essentially to defeat a bully with a bully, and while that’s a simple one, it’s kind of needed in an episode where the A-plot is far from simple.

“The Favor” (Grade: B+)

The second half of this midseason finale circles back to that little problem the Nine-Nine currently has in the form of crime boss Seamus Murphy (Paul Adelstein). Obviously, there’s the problem in terms of Holt possibly compromising himself for this man’s “favor,” but there’s also that problem that tends to come with Brooklyn Nine-Nine and its stakes. Specifically, its elevation of stakes, which is the type of things that takes characters going from deep undercover to Witness Protection to wrongful imprisonment. Brooklyn Nine-Nine loves to top itself, and while we’re not at the end of the season yet, the Seamus Murphy storyline is a result of that last example of the series trying to top itself. “The Favor” is still an impressive episode though, specifically in how it takes Holt’s moral compass and refusal to use “loopholes” into account without sacrificing the story quality of the the fix (temporary as it ends up being) for the Seamus Murphy problem.

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This episode also takes the excitement of an Amy/Rosa “kick-ass assignment” team-up and turns it into a mash-up of bureaucracy and, well, more bureaucracy. Rosa surely isn’t the only one who gets excited as soon as Amy approaches her for the assignment, but of course it is so very Amy for her idea of “kick-ass” to involve filing forms. “99,” “Game Night,” and “The Favor” have all managed to give the audience these Amy moments that are so specifically Amy without repeating the same jokes over and over again, and they’ve made for excellent reminders of just how versatile the character and Melissa Fumero are. It takes a special show to make a couple of kick-ass detectives jumping through hoops to file paperwork as entertaining and funny as it is, but we already know Brooklyn Nine-Nine is special. How else can you explain Rosa believing we all live in The Matrix?

As for the “Fredo” plot of the episode with Jake, Boyle, Holt, and Kyle Murphy (Mike Mitchell), if the Amy/Rosa plot weren’t proof enough of how much broader this episode is is than “Game Night,” then this one definitely is. Even before the actual introduction of Kyle, the initial planning with Boyle framing every Godfather relationship through their connection to Diane Keaton is a terrific introduction to the Fredo (“Diane Keaton’s brother-in-law”) principle. As is Mike Mitchell’s way, Kyle is such a dunce that everything about him is either really funny or really obnoxious, depending on your perspective. And again, praising the actual competency of the Nine-Nine, the fact that Jake and Boyle are able to literally plan for Kyle’s screw ups—despite their inability to “idiot proof” bottles—helps things out. Kyle could easily just be a fool that makes things harder for the Nine-Nine (see: the finding the Rolls=Royce scene), but the fact that he is ultimately such a good pawn (which ends up getting him on Seamus’ hit list) makes it work.

The Gina/Terry “working parents” plot is honestly the weakest of both episodes, but that’s mostly because it doesn’t have too much to it. The plot does however provide some pretty choice Dave Coulier zingers, which surprisingly never go out of style. Neither does Scully and Hitchcock’s pettiness, which causes them to tattle on Gina simply because she took over their napping room. Also, Terry gets to say this once in a lifetime line: “Pumping hard? Or hardly pumping, Gina?”

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When Seamus Murphy was introduced, I mentioned that Brooklyn Nine-Nine would have to work hard to sell Paul Adelstein as scary in the role. While “The Favor” does its best to finally show us that he’s a scary, dangerous man, it’s one of those moments of Brooklyn Nine-Nine escalation where you can’t really get that invested. Because while Kyle can be the biggest Fredo that ever Fredo’d, the opposite is kind of true for Seamus: He can’t be the most intimidating mob moss, because there’s a line for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. The existence of the Seamus character itself can lead to solid performances from Andre Braugher and the possibility of fun Nine-Nine plans to get out of this bind, but the actual character unfortunately doesn’t give back that much. Seeing Holt and the Nine-Nine get out of the initial Seamus Murphy predicament ended up working out, so let’s see how they get out of this one. “Nine-Nine!” etc.


Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Honestly, now all I want is a shot-for-shot remake of Saved By The Bell (including The College Years and movies but not Miss Bliss or The New Class) starring the Brooklyn Nine-Nine cast. Those wouldn’t be webisodes though, they’d be full-on primetime.
  • Respect to Rosa for going with Lisa Turtle as her Saved By The Bell crush instead of the obvious Kelly Kapowski. Or… Tori. Though it’s also on point for Jake to immediately call her out for not saying Kelly Kapowski.
  • Holt: “Shall we draw the names again and leave Jake out?”
    Everyone: “Yes!”
    Jake: “Nooo! Sherlock wants a present!”
  • Scully: “Do you know Anne Heche?”
    Rosa: “I do.”
  • Holt: “This is going considerably better than when I came out to my colleagues. They were not, as the kids say, awake.”
    Jake: “Do you mean ‘woke’?”
    Holt: “I did mean ‘woke,’ but it’s grammatically incoherent.”
  • Holt: “Yes, yes, babies are adorable. They’re like we are but so much smaller.” Also, Gina had a girl, they did name it Enigma, and they call her “Iggy” for short. Aww.
  • According to Boyle, “the international language of friendship” is pork. Agree or disagree?
  • Terry: “Was that a wink?”
    Amy: “You tell me.”
    Terry: “I honestly don’t know, but you’re all we got.” But for real, even Lucille Bluth would judge Amy’s wink. It’s great. As is her winking her contact lens into the back of her eye. I know that struggle, sister.
  • Gina: “You know, in another lifetime, you and I would’ve made a hot ass couple.”
    Rosa: “Agreed.”
  • Holt: “This isn’t one of your movie plans, is it?”
    Jake: “First of all, if we had developed a Minority Report-style pre-crime division like I suggested, we wouldn’t be in this Seamus mess.” I know I mentioned NTSF:SD:SUV:: with regards to Paul Scheer in “Game Night,” but Jake’s Minority Report idea also had me writing “TELL ME YOUR FUTURE THOUGHTS” in my notes.
  • Rosa: “Never met anyone who cares so much about stupid bureaucracy.”
    Amy: “Bureaucracy’s not stupid. It’s elegant. It’s a beautiful puzzle waiting to be cracked. Every rule, every form has its purpose. It all fits together. And when the puzzle is solved and you take a step back and see the big picture, it’s like staring into the face of God.”
    Rosa: “Hey. We moved up a spot.
    Old woman: “You seem like a real nerd.” The swelling music during Amy’s speech is the real treat.
  • Gina: “Terry, juggling isn’t hard. That’s why the salary for jugglers is so low. Name one rich juggler.”
    Terry: “Doesn’t Dave Coulier juggle?”
    Gina: “If you’re reaching for Coulier then you’ve already lost the argument, Ter-Bear.”
  • Gina: “You know, I don’t even think Dave Coulier juggles.”
    Terry: “I Googled it. He doesn’t.”
    Gina: “Man. What a trip.”
  • Kyle (rapping): “Rap, rap / Spittin’ rhymes / Kissin’ shorties / On the lips / Have no fear / Mr. Rap is here …”
    Holt: “I wish he would turn the radio down.”
    Jake: “You think that’s the radio? That sounds like professional music to you?”
    Holt: “All music after Mahler sounds exactly like that.” Coincidentally, this exchange tracks with both Holt’s thoughts on Barbra Streisand/rock music and Jake’s (dope) Addams Family song.
  • Jake: “That truck is as empty as Jackson Browne’s running surface. [off everyone’s confusion] Empty? ‘Running On Empty?’ He sings that song.”
    Terry: “Running surface?”
    Jake: “Okay, so Terry didn’t like it. Charles?”
    Boyle: “Don’t make me do this, Jake.” What a great, terrible Mike Detective-esque line from Jake.
  • Holt telling Jake he’s proud of him is Jake’s “tear trigger,” but mine apparently is Holt giving Rosa a pep talk at game night.

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