“Kicks” is the first episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s fifth season to really feel like Brooklyn Nine-Nine. That’s not all that surprising, and it’s not even just a matter of going back to the precinct from the penitentiary. It’s the characters, it’s their interactions, and it’s their goals as members of the Nine-Nine. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a funny show about a tight-knit bunch of great cops, people who truly want to serve and protect (both in their work and their lives) above all else. They have obstacles, of course—Brooklyn Nine-Nine could arguably still be funny without any true obstacles, but it would probably get stagnant pretty soon—but those obstacles don’t tend to define the series or the characters as a whole. The return to the precinct in “Kicks” presents an episode of the version of the show that has been missing and missed in these past few episodes, the version of the show that the audience needed to be reminded still exists. Especially given how long the series has been going, since it’s about to hit the coveted 100th (and the reportedly special 99th) episode.

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It helps that, even in the aftermath of some pretty dark stuff, “Kicks” is a fairly typical episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s not trying to do anything new or different, structurally-speaking; and after a handful of episodes that have been all about something new and different, that’s both alright and welcome. But it’s also making sure to frame that within the context of what these characters have just been through. That return to the status quo could be considered a negative for a lot of other shows, but for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, it’s like comfort food. Funny comfort food that helps these characters get through some very serious trauma.

In the case of Jake Peralta, that comfort food concept is also taken literally in this week’s cold open. The cold open is the earliest sign that maybe everything is going to be alright for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Despite the Kazaam-esque junk food (and Passover/Thanksgiving) spread known as “Freedom Feast 2017,” the cold open’s reminder of just how unhealthy Jake is somehow ends up being a rather touching return to the Nine-Nine. Sure, there’s the the whole thing where Jake has been thinking about non-prison food more than he has Amy—though, we all know Jake multi-tasked in prison by simply making a wall Amy out of mashed potatoes—but the point is that Jake’s first order of business and normalcy is to have a feast with his loved ones. Freedom Feast 2017 is ridiculous but necessary, which makes it the perfect opening to an episode all about Jake and Rosa’s return to normalcy post-prison.

Speaking of that return to normalcy, the biggest upgrade in said return is the concept of Rosa with a real plot. Unlike Jake, Rosa’s plot this week isn’t directly about life after prison, but it is an important point to address as she moves forward from that life. She’s on desk duty (like Jake), and as she accepts that, she’s left to think about her relationship with Adrian Pimento... which unfortunately ends up having an expiration date. Pimento (like Jason Mantzoukas himself) is a character who is a lot to take, but even in this episode, Brooklyn Nine-Nine makes it clear that his wildcard nature is something Rosa is into. Even better, this episode introduces the idea that Pimento isn’t all just nonsense (despite what his Argentina and normal day experiences are like), as his “secret” is that he’s been learning Spanish to impress Rosa’s father. That’s a big step for their relationship, and removed from her time in prison—from Pimento originally running away to Argentina to run with her—Rosa is able to evaluate if Pimento is still what she wants. And he’s not.

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So of course Rosa realizes that through surveillance and Amy mocking, because that’s who Rosa is. The Rosa version of irrational looks a lot different from the rest of the Nine-Nine’s versions of irrational, especially as it leads to things like looking to (progressively more troubling as a stalker) Hitchcock as a viable resource and Terry/Amy as the voices of reason (depending on which side you think constitutes as reason). Though, the eventual reveal that Pimento took Rosa’s blood without her knowledge really makes this seem like a good choice.

Both of the episode’s plots feature strong Brooklyn Nine-Nine trios to carry them (Jake/Boyle/Holt, Rosa/Terry/Amy), and they let everyone get their time to shine. Holt gets to return to his overly literalness around Jake, Terry gets to relive his own past relationship trauma through Rosa, Rosa gets to cut things, and Amy gets to be called out for her Amy-ness, not just Boyle’s frustration with Jake being in prison. As for the return of the show’s true best friends, the best part about the Jake and Boyle partnership reconnection is just how much Jake is into reuniting on the field with his best friend (every one of their high fives is precious). In fact, the biggest pushback to any of Boyle’s behavior only comes in the form of Holt’s reaction to his and Jake’s “highly inappropriate” “loophole high five.” And Boyle answering his door naked in the middle of the night, but that one was obviously on Jake.

While the B-plot focuses more on the personal aftermath of life back on the outside, the A-plot focuses on the professional (and the mental in that as well). It also brings back the simple—but very necessary—concept of the crew of Nine-Nine being competent cops, making the standard case-of-the-week work within the context of Jake proving just that. While Rosa can accept desk duty right now, it’s no surprise Jake can’t. All he wants to do is bust some bad guys, and he can’t really do that in the office. Plus, the thought of turning into Hitchcock and Scully (who really want him to join them at Wing Sluts) is too scary for him, even if the chances of that happening are low. There’s also no chance Jake will actually get suspended, but the evaluation is still a compelling return case for him. And not just because of all the times Captain Holt squats.

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The story touch that Jake isn’t second guessing himself simply because he’s rusty but because he knows just how bad prison is (and doesn’t want to send an innocent person there) is the kind of thoughtful choice that’s expected of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s another layer to add to a guy who still very much wants to be John McClane, that super cop who sees everything in black and white. He can’t possibly see things that way after prison, and that’s a good takeaway for the character to have after the fact. And this realization is one of those optimistic, ideal world version of cop culture that Brooklyn Nine-Nine does so well. It’s one of those things that makes this such a hopeful show. This reaction from Jake and his conversation with Captain Holt is the kind of thing that makes the prison arc “worth it,” the kind of thing that reminds you why Brooklyn Nine-Nine is special, even as just some funny show.

“Kicks” is a reminder episode. It’s a light—even with Rosa’s broken relationship and Jake’s struggles—and necessary true return to Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s fifth season. Things aren’t quite back to normal for the Nine-Nine, and they’re still experiencing some changes and transitions. But Brooklyn Nine-Nine is definitely right back on track, and it’s good to feel the show’s sense of hope again. “Kicks” is also the type of episode you can start right at if you’ve never even seen the series before, which is pretty impressive five seasons into a show. To Brooklyn Nine-Nine! And to sex with Amy!


Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Finding Genevieve. In this webisode series, we delve deep into Boyle’s co-parent and significant other, Genevieve. Where is she? Where did she go? Does Nikolaj remember having a mother? These are the questions.
  • Little Wayne —> Lil’ Wayne —> Lillian Wayne. Fun fact: If you Google “Lillian Wayne,” the results are for “Lil’ Wayne.” Yes, it all checks out.
  • Holt: “You should not have told me. I never would’ve guessed it.”
    Boyle: “This is what I’ve missed.” Same, Boyle. Same.
  • Terry: “Or maybe it could be Pimento wasn’t cheating on you.”
    Rosa: “What?! You sound like a real Amy right now.”
    Amy: “Hey!”
    Terry: “I know, but a broken Amy can be right twice a day.”
    Amy: “Hey!!”
  • Steph Curry is Jake Peralta’s “personal lord and savior,” huh? I don’t know if I believe Jake is a Warriors guy. Then again, I believed Jake (and Boyle) could totally pull off his cool sneaker head look, and that did not happen at all.
  • I’ve realized after all these years that, as much as I love to quote the words of Captain Raymond Holt, I’ll never capture his voice as much as the comments do. So please, have at it. Especially everything having to do with Holt’s dead dad pencil.

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