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

Brooklyn Nine-Nine: “Sabotage”

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It would have been hard to beat—or even match—last week’s stellar episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, which was a perfect balance of funny and emotional and worked toward the season’s long-term mission of developing Jake Peralta into so much more than a charming idiot. “Sabotage” doesn’t necessarily work against or pedal backwards from any of that, but it certainly doesn’t continue the careful character work that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has accomplished lately.

The A plot begins with Jake suggesting someone is sabotaging him after a week of bad luck ends with him failing his drug test. Holt temporarily suspends Jake and assigns Amy and Rosa to investigate. The saboteur turns out to be Geoffrey Hoytsman (Chris Parnell), Sophia’s coked-out boss who blames Jake for ruining his life. Parnell is great as the world’s most ineffective abductor, but having Hoytsman drive all of the episode’s suspense never really pays off. Hoytsman worked as a one-off character in “The Defense Rests,” but there just aren’t any stakes to him being Jake’s opponent here.

Everything from Jake’s fight with Amy and Rosa to their sudden reconnection just feels clunky, almost like the writers wrote in conflict for the sake of conflict instead of finding a more convincing way to isolate Jake from his peers and convey Jake’s persistent trust issues. Technically, there is an emotional throughline that connects all of this to last week’s “Captain Peralta.” Jake apologizes to Amy and Rosa and remarks that he probably just has trouble believing people have his back because of his shitty relationship with his dad. It’s nice to see Brooklyn Nine-Nine doesn’t have short-term memory loss when it comes to its characters central vulnerabilities, but the way Jake says it here seems tenuous or at the very least a little hamfisted.

Even the Terry/Holt/Gina plot feels pretty phoned in, mainly because it doesn’t really tell us anything new or interesting about any of the character or their relationships to one another. We already know Gina—despite her hardened attitude which so often resembles the core message of Big Sean’s “IDFWU”—cares what others think, especially when it comes to Captain Holt. Again, Terry lying to Gina and Holt breaking her heart with the truth all just feels like conflict for the sake of conflict instead of something rooted in real emotional stakes.

Hitchcock and Scully are, in fact, the only characters developed at all by “Sabotage.” Who would have ever expected that? In a police precinct where no one ever seems to be doing their jobs, Hitchcock and Scully are always even more useless than their peers. But as Boyle learns here, most of it is an act. They like sitting around and doing nothing even though they’re capable of closing cases. They even hint at a past of successful doing real investigative work. That’s just not what they want anymore. So if anything, “Sabotage” at least gives some answers about why Hitchcock and Scully are the way they are, even if those questions weren’t exactly pressing. When Hitchcock and Scully are the most dimensional part of an episode, something just isn’t quite right.

A lot of my issues with “Sabotage” would be forgivable if the episode were exceptionally funny, but it’s not. There are some great lines, and the way Gina speaks about dancing will always be hilarious, as will the lengths to which Terry goes to be a good dad. But “Sabotage” just doesn’t really bring it on the comedy front. But overall, the episode could have used some more punching up. Just like the particular plot points of the episode, the jokes just aren’t quite up to par with the past handful of episodes. “Sabotage” isn’t necessarily a misstep, and it doesn’t make any errors that could have lasting effects moving forward, but the episode doesn’t really play to any of the show’s strengths.


Stray observations:

  • Shout out to LaToya Ferguson for letting me fill in on her beat tonight. And shout out to me for making this review a little more cogent than I once threatened to.
  • And I’ll also carry on her webisodes tradition…This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: Rosa punching various men in the face.
  • When she briefly throws away her dancing dreams, Gina decides to sell her smoke machine, glitter machine, and castanets. I understand Gina Linetti on a spiritual level.
  • I do love that the way Rosa and Amy were able to figure out who had Jake was because of all the selfies he took all day. I feel like this will do wonders for my Selfies Change Lives campaign that I just now decided to launch.
  • For an episode that sure talks about Gina dancing a lot, I am very disappointed that we didn’t get to see Gina dancing at all. It has been too long.