Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine finally analyzes Jake Peralta’s need for therapy

Illustration for article titled Brooklyn Nine-Nine finally analyzes Jake Peralta’s need for therapy
Graphic: Vivian Zink (NBC)

Jake Peralta’s need for therapy is something Brooklyn Nine-Nine has acknowledged for years. The why’s have always been clear (especially regarding his parents, in addition to the traumas endured as part of the Nine-Nine), but it’s also always been a matter of when—if at all—Jake will get the help he needs. While Jake has matured in a lot of ways since the series’ start, he still maintains a bold, upfront refusal to partake in therapy; he’s seemingly content to bring up his issues from time to time as proof that he knows where his problems lie, so he can clearly control them. That thinking allowed him to calls therapy a “scam” in “The Tattler” earlier this season, noting, “Why learn to grow when you can fix the past? This is exactly why I don’t need therapy.” There was pushback from Gina when he said that, but that was nothing new based on the way Jake’s always talked about this sort of thing.


Brooklyn Nine-Nine itself has never been as anti-therapy as Jake though. This week’s episode, “The Therapist,” proves early on that it believes taking care of one’s mental health is, in fact, healthy, as Terry (or “Tearful Terry,” as Jake calls him) and Boyle (“Kooky Charles,” a worse nickname) openly admit they’re in therapy. The only other character saying anything negative about the concept is Hitchcock. But really, Jake’s problem is more with therapists as a people than whatever Hitchcock is laying down.

“The Therapist” is on to something when it focuses on the concept that Jake’s issues with therapists all come from what he’s seen of them in pop culture. Jake’s ideas of what a hero cop is were informed by pop culture as well, but through experience, he was able to shape those ideas into more realistic expectations. (And he’s still learning as the show goes on.) So the idea that Jake never got the chance to do the same with therapy (due to a lack of experience) explains why he’d vehemently believe that all therapists are “Hannibals” who sleep with their patients. (David Paymer’s Dr. Tate even ends up being a Hannibal who slept with his patients. And killed them.) But then the episode goes with the idea that Jake does have some firsthand knowledge, as little as it is, and that was the true source of his issues with therapy. It’s basically a eureka moment for something longtime viewers already know—that Jake blames himself for his parents’ divorce, despite it not being his fault—from plenty of Jake’s Freudian slips, which probably shouldn’t have required an evil therapist for Jake to finally acknowledge.

But hey, Jake is finally down to work on his mental health, so that’s a win.

As for the actual story and the case-of-the-week, “The Therapist” gets a lot of mileage out of Jake’s ridiculous beliefs about therapists, but there’s not much else fueling it. Not even noting the obvious Law & Order Rule casting choice of David Paymer, this is another episode that highlights (perhaps unintentionally, on a larger scale) just how poorly the Jake/Boyle friendship translates into partnership lately. While their team-ups don’t tend to rely on Boyle’s hero worship of Jake driving the cases, they’ve instead ended up focusing on Boyle betting on the wrong theory, usually to teach the otherwise outgoing Jake a life lesson about being too closed off in a certain way. (This was also the case in “Hitchcock & Scully,” which at least didn’t have Hitchcock and Scully end up as dirty cops.) While Jake is ridiculous in his judgment of therapists, the Dr. Tate/bathroom clue is Procedural 101 (not even just New York City Living 101), and anyone paying attention to this episode can clock that moment as proof even before Jake does. Honestly, except for the scenes with Jake/Dr. Moore (Anna Khaja)/amazingly bad accent (and impression) work and the final bad guy reveal, this entire plot runs on Jake’s therapist tropes. They’re funny—albeit childish during a dark case, a point that’s also addressed—but the plot is lacking.

While the A-plot is about Jake’s fear of therapy and opening himself up in that way, the episode’s other plots also go the touchy-feely route. The B-plot sees Rosa refuse to introduce Captain Holt to her girlfriend Jocelyn (Cameron Esposito) and Holt then try to prove that he can stop being judgmental for once, while the C-plot sees Terry so consumed over his fear over being mocked and judged by his peers that… he has a full-on meltdown and has to be bailed out by Scully.

Alan Sepinwall noted in his review that this episode’s return to the three-act structure from the two-act structure it’s been working with more this season marks a return to plot rushing. His argument is that the two-act structure allows things to breathe more. I personally think the two-act structure hurts in how it can cram a bunch of characters into a B-plot, not allowing them to have their own story. In fact, I often feel like Brooklyn Nine-Nine is missing a certain something—not just a third plot—when it goes that route. Where we agree is that this episode seems to “pay lip service” to the fact that Peralta has a lot of trauma to process—like the prison arc, which this episode mentions—so that it can move on and finally check that dangling aspect of the show off the list. Now Jake will be “fixed,” so the idea that Jake very much needs therapy won’t keep coming up.


While Sepinwall also argues the A-plot suffers for the return to the three-act structure, I’d argue the C-plot suffers even more. Like the A-plot, there’s a very obvious end game—Terry doth protest too much, in an especially unhealthy way, despite the therapy thread—but that doesn’t automatically hurt a story. But the story is just Amy and Terry going back and forth saying, “this is your embarrassing thing”/”no, it’s not,” in a way that reads more like a leftover Gina/Terry plot than it does a genuine Amy plot. (Speaking of Amy plots, Amy’s sergeant status still hasn’t evolved much past wearing a uniform, has it?) And while Amy is the antagonist in this plot, she’s also robbed of having the emotional moment at the end with Terry, as that happens for Scully when he kind of teaches Terry a lesson in not being concerned with what others think.

Ultimately, this plot confirms this squad is a little too close to each other: Terry’s overcompensating in calling Sharon to confirm to Amy he’s good at sex is embarrassing (at the very least) and inappropriate even before he ends up on speakerphone.


Interestingly enough, it’s the B-plot that has the most strength in terms of both the narrative and the emotional beats. And it’s also the funniest of the bunch, trying comedically different beats from its first scene, with the flashback to “mere seconds ago” (“What a stupid thing to say.”) and Holt’s loving phone call to Kevin about rice. Both of the moments go outside the box and don’t just fall into the broad comedy of the other two plots, and that’s the case for the whole plot. Rosa hiring an actress/drug dealer named Sheena (Fran Gillespie) to play her girlfriend Jocelyn is 100% a Rosa move, especially considering how little Rosa wants the squad to know about her real personal life. But also a 100% Rosa (and 100% Nine-Nine) move is her ultimately being worried that Holt won’t like her new girlfriend, because as we all know, Holt is everyone’s dad. What Dad Holt thinks matters, even to a person made of stone like Rosa.

The strength of B-plot really pulls “The Therapist” up, as does the humor of the A-plot, despite its narrative weakness as a whole. The C-plot makes the argument for a two-act structure instead of three... but at the same time, it features a poster that says, “LOST SEX BOOK | Delivered by accident to Sergeant Jeffords, who doesn’t need it.” That makes it somewhat worth it.


Stray observations

  • Thank you to Allison Shoemaker for filling in for me last week, taking on the Nikolaj-related duties. Jake got a dude deported, y’all. That was a… choice.
  • The episode’s cold open, is very goofy and old school Brooklyn Nine-Nine, in the best way. And the alliterations! It’s a really hot start to this episode.
  • Jake: “I’ve seen movies. They all turn into super sophisticated Chianti-loving cannibals.”
  • Jake: “First of all, people with mental illness are much more likely to be the victim than the perpetrator.” Congratulations to Jake for overhearing Amy listening to NPR. But this is also another solid point Boyle ignores, in addition to Tate’s DNA (along with Boyle and Jake’s) at the scene of the crime. While the C-plot provides the chance this really isn’t Terry’s box—at one point during Amy’s gloating, it almost seems like it’ll be revealed as Jake’s box—the A-plot is extremely straightforward with what the deal is. And the deal is that Boyle needs to follow clues better.
  • All of this said, the bit about Jake learning to text without looking, only for that to end up saving his ass, only for that to not exactly be the skill he thinks it is (his text to Boyle ended up being random characters to Amy, who forwarded the text to Boyle, who then tracked Jake’s phone) is perfect.
  • In theory, why couldn’t Jake just tell Dr. Moore that he was waiting out a potential perp? Character-wise, he had no reason to lie to her about his identity. Honestly, I just hope the real Garrett got the help he needs, assuming it wasn’t just a prank based on Split.
  • Holt’s reaction to “Jocelyn” being an actor, after doing so well by not judging her for being a cosmetologist, continues Holt’s feud against the acting profession. Remember: Acting is just professional lying.
  • The real Jocelyn’s introduction sees Holt enjoy a joke. Looks like there are going to be many rice nights in the future…
  • Terry: “Oh, I don’t compensate. I procreate. Three kids!”
    Amy: “Okay. Weird brag.”
  • While it may have been for Terry’s cover, Scully is apparently still with Cindy Shatz, and she considers him “a selfish lover.” Holt is right: Scully and Hitchcock do “lead colorful lives.”
  • I feel like they could’ve gone with it really being Scully’s book and protein—though, in him taking the fall, the episode doesn’t answer why “his” package was addressed to a sergeant—but Terry ultimately confiding in Amy that he’s not as secure as he wanted her to think. Especially since Terry reveals to Scully that while there are no problems at home, he’s taking preventative measures.
  • It remains to be seen if Boyle will ever get over his “subconsciously sexual” speech patterns, but it’s not looking good.

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.