As Genevieve Valentine wrote in her review of last week’s episode: “When Brooklyn Nine-Nine is on its game, it’s one of television’s warmest half-hours.” That episode, “The Venue,” was perhaps an overly cutesy examination of Jake and Amy’s preparation for their impending nuptials, one that didn’t quite land at the level of Brooklyn Nine-Nine “on its game.” On the other hand, this week’s “Two Turkeys” is more on par with that higher level, which isn’t always easy for a show to do when its main directive is to simply do a “holiday episode.” Still, “Two Turkeys” gets it done in more ways than just Thanksgiving jokes. It’s also a more realistic (for these characters) look at the baggage Jake and Amy each be bringing into their marriage, as it’s the one where their parents will meet each other before officially becoming family.

For a Thanksgiving episode, “Two Turkeys” is at just the right amount of emotional level without reaching schmaltzy territory. This is key in the A-plot, as it reveals something really important about the Peralta and Santiago parental units: As many personality differences as they all have, at no point is their love of Jake and Amy (and their relationship) in question. Competition becomes all that matters to Roger (Bradley Whitford) and Victor (Jimmy Smits), but none of this competition leads to anything that suggests they don’t support this union. Given the clashing of personalities with the Peralta/Santiago parents, it’s perfectly rational to believe at least one of them will bring up the topic of Jake and Amy possibly not getting married. The fact that they don’t? That’s a big deal for Victor after “Mr. Santiago,” but Jake has so very clearly proven he’s in it for the long haul with Amy that you can understand her father finally coming around. As for Roger, even as this episode continues to confirm just how bad of a father he was, it also shows how he is trying. In his own weird, pantsless way. A lot of that trying also comes in the form of competition, but it’s still better than nothing. And considering everything we know about Roger Peralta—and everything we learn about him just here—that’s literally all you can ask from him.

Instead, “Two Turkeys” takes the more mature and less obvious route in its storytelling with regards to this chaotic Thanksgiving. It also helps that Jake and Amy honestly knew what they were getting into before this Thanksgiving, and it technically ends up going the way they expected it to in the first place. Only, they couldn’t have assumed Jake’s dad would lose his thumb or that Jake would end up having a bunch of half-siblings he never knew about. (Though the latter is really something he should have expected.) Speaking again of the lack of schmaltziness, even when the episode gets to Victor giving Jake the pep talk about being part of a big family and then the “weird but good dad hug,” it’s not exactly part of a sappy end to the episode—because of all the chaos that led to it. As far as Jake and Amy go, they should just be happy that Jake’s proposal went perfectly, because they’re in for a lifetime of this nonsense.

Besides not devolving into an obvious relationship mess, this A-plot also allows its collection of funny special guest stars to be just that: funny. Jimmy Smits drunkenly scatting (then suggesting Cuban rum), Katey Sagal drunkenly muttering (then just passing out), Bradley Whitford drunkenly telling Amy she is now his daughter. Then there’s Bertila Damas as Camila Santiago, who is the one relatively unknown quantity in this family situation but ends up being an instant highlight in her brand of passive aggression. Amy is really like her father, but maybe the part of her that wiped “controlling” off the whiteboard (during the “PARENTS-GIVING” briefing) while hugging Jake is the part of her that’s like her mother. Of course, in all of their attempts to prevent their parents from being who they really are, Jake and Amy also ignore just how much they are their parents’ children. And when Jake and Amy get into a ‘your family is more embarrassing than my family’ competition, it’s cut short by said embarrassing families’ comparing sexual prowess in front of them.

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As Jake and Amy have their own Thanksgiving crises to handle, they don’t have the rest of the Nine-Nine to have their backs. Instead, the rest of the squad has dedicated their time to a Thanksgiving mystery, with Andre Braugher treating us all to the deliciousness that is The Closer, Starring Raymond Holt. Holt literally turns his office into a crime scene for this, so you know it’s going to be good. So much of what Andre Braugher does on this show is difficult to truly express in words, as his performances truly speak for themselves. But it’s still worth writing what this particular plot does for the characters that play off Holt here.

While the actual prison saga wasn’t the best of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, moments like Jake realizing he needs to be on desk duty longer and Rosa becoming closer with her family progressively makes the prison story choice feel more ‘worth it.’ The actual execution of the plot may not have been perfect, but Brooklyn Nine-Nine can’t seem to go wrong when it addresses Jake and Rosa’s states of mind after the fact. On a fundamental character level, the thought of Rosa “seeing the new Minions musical on Broadway” and wearing matching shirts with her family is amusing, but it’s also surprisingly affecting when hit with the reason she’s doing this.

Terry and Boyle’s true alibis here are far less poignant—their excuses essentially boil down to being stressed out parents—but not everything needs to have the same weight as ‘Jake and Rosa were in prison, so things aren’t quite the same as they once were.’ Still, they get the nicknames of “Mr. Fib” and “The Milk Man,” respectively, so it’s also worth it. It’s also really, really worth it to see Holt go full interrogator on the squad, even though his questioning ends up being directed toward the wrong person/people. The inclusion of Hitchcock and Scully as Holt’s Law & Order-esque sidekicks really rounds out the plot, as they use their insane knowledge of food—and not much else—to solve the case of Holt’s missing pie. It’s a lightweight plot, but the heaviness with which Holt (and Hitchcock and Scully) treats it elevates it. There is also a lot more to unpack in terms of all of Rosa, Terry, and Boyle’s family situations here, but this is obviously not the time for that.

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“Two Turkeys” isn’t necessarily a classic episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine. It’s on the cusp, kind of like Tommy Gobbler is on the cusp of being a breakout Thanksgiving character for Boyle. But it’s very funny, both as a holiday episode and as another episode building toward the Jake/Amy wedding. It’s certainly the type of episode that makes you and yours want to say “Feliz Thanksgiving.” So, Feliz Thanksgiving, everyone. May none of your relatives cut off their thumbs, unless they really deserve it.


Stray observations

  • This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: I’ve already said it. The Closer, Starring Raymond Holt.
  • “Tommy Gobbler” is back, and— Oh no, Boyle’s tail. Sad Gobble Gobble.
  • As a person who watched all of Sons Of Anarchy—and has plenty of frustrated opinions I should probably just set up a Patreon for—I got a kick out of the Sons Of Anarchy reunion I hadn’t even thought of when it came to Katey Sagal’s Karen and Jimmy Smits’ Victor meeting for the first time. I also hadn’t thought of the West Wing reunion with Smits and Bradley Whitford, so Brooklyn Nine-Nine casting was really playing the long game on this one. Also, because I just learned what Cane was about, I’m also considering Victor’s rum to be in reference to that. Everything is a reference, always.
  • Yes, it is passive aggressive to bring another turkey to Thanksgiving, “just in case.” But I 100% see where the Santiagos were coming from. They just did it in the worst way possible; there was a smugness from them from moment one. The alcohol seriously saved the day.
  • Oh, Jake. The “golf” excuse. Also, “adult Clue.” Eww.
  • Boyle thinks his son is a “basic bitch” because he’s not really a child who has as eccentric Boyle family tastes. I personally think it means the kid has a chance of not getting bullied as he gets older. Still, I wonder what Genevieve, Nikolaj’s mother, thinks of Nikolaj’s picky eating. I’m not making her up, I swear.
  • Jake: “Don’t call me ‘bro,’ I’m your son.”
    Roger: “Okay, dude.”
    Jake: “Dude is not an improvement.”
  • Boyle: “So you think I became a cop, just so I could steal your pie?”
    Holt: “Your words. Not mine.”
  • Rosa: “You dipsticked my bike?”
    Holt: “That’s not all I dipsticked.”
  • Holt (to Kevin): “I should’ve known you were lying. There’s nothing better than a basic scone.”
  • Jake (to Amy): “All dip is just mayo!” Usually this would be where I go, “Oh, Jake,” but his parents were around to keep explaining everything about him this time.
  • Jake’s comment about not having to wash hand towels is some classic Nick Miller territory, and even here... Oh, Jake.

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