Brooklyn Nine-Nine has gotten plenty of mileage out of Craig Robinson’s annual guest appearances as Doug Judy, a.k.a. the Pontiac Bandit, the criminal frenemy of Jake Peralta who’s either one step ahead of him or genuinely trying to reform. The comedic chemistry between Robinson and Andy Samberg was evident in their first episode together, so, naturally, Judy returned every year to foil Jake’s efforts to take him down with bromantic gestures. In classic sitcom fashion, these episodes became more high-concept with each successive year as Judy became more of a buddy and less of a nemesis. Robinson and Samberg share a simpatico energy (not to mention similar musical prowess), so even as their episodes became more predictable or outlandish, their exchanges tended to ground their adventures in a buoyant sensibility. Goofy banter goes a long way.
“PB & J,” the last Jake and Judy adventure, sends the character off on a good note in an episode that follows the formula to a T. Judy has been arrested on an outstanding warrant for grand theft auto and is being sent to South Woods prison for a five-year stint. Jake takes the opportunity to pull a Last Detail-esque stunt and give him a series of “sexy-ass surprises” on the road trip to prison. Obviously, Judy remains one step of Jake and takes his act of friendship as an opportunity to escape, which he openly admits to him before the end of the first act break. In the vein of classic heist films, many misdirects and twists ensue, to the point where Jake plays the audience surrogate by being unable to trust the veracity of anything that’s happening. If Judy can reprogram the numbers in his phone and redirect his GPS while investing genuine interest in Jake’s road-trip playlist, then can he pull one over on Holt or the back-up sent to protect him? Not really, but Judy’s mental chess games are still strong enough to fool Jake because he’s blinded by friendship.
The scenes of Jake and Judy just hanging out together are obvious episode standouts. Their impromptu freestyle about sandals brings Samberg’s Lonely Island-honed skills to the table and the Who Knows Moe?: Friend or Foe?: Are You Fo’ Real or Just Fo’ Show? game (“A little wordy,” Jake grumbles) works on a one-liner level. There’s a relaxed feeling to these scenes that helps smooth out the overly twisty narrative. Even as the plot kicks into high gear, the focus stays squarely on Jake and Judy playing mind games or trading jokes, including when both are threatened with violence by the incompetent Craigslist goons that Doug’s sister, Trudy Judy (Nicole Byer), hired to help them escape.
The only thing on the line is Jake and Judy’s friendship, which has always been in jeopardy for the obvious reasons. Jake can’t help but trust Judy even though it’s in his nature to evade capture and Judy can’t help but trust Jake even though he knows it’s his job to bring him down. “I should have never become friends with a cop. I mean, how did I expect this to end?” Judy remarks right before he’s taken to prison. But because they remain “PB&J,” Jake does something out of character: he slips a pen into his pocket, which is exactly what Judy needs to “Mindfreak” himself out of prison. Jake retains plausible deniability even when Judy calls him from Amsterdam to thank him and uphold their friendship, but it’s possible that Jake’s ironclad, binaristic morality has started to falter. After all, friendship can drive a man do crazy things.
While “PB & J” was a relatively light affair, “The Setup” features Brooklyn Nine-Nine using classic sitcom plotting—three dovetailed storylines that contain “wacky” hijinks—with updated political awareness. When Jake excitedly tries to “work a Speed” after a bomb is found on a bus (not the MTA, but a Marvelous Mrs. Maisel tour bus), his efforts are quickly when the FBI takes over what appears to be an open-and-shut case. Convinced that there’s more to the crime, Jake investigates the bomb site and arrests a civilian snooping around the area. Unfortunately, the FBI already arrested the bomber, and the innocent man plans to sue Jake for unlawful arrest. Jake suspects he’s been set up by patrolman union President O’Sullivan (John McGinley) and enlists Rosa and Amy to help prove his case.
If this were a Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode from a few years ago, Jake’s suspicions would likely be correct. Either there would be more to the bomber’s plan, or the innocent man would have been part of an internal conspiracy to target him. Instead, Jake’s determination blinds him to the obvious truth: the crime was exactly what it looked like, and his determination led him to harass, arrest, and later, intimidate a regular citizen whose only offense was fearing the police. O’Sullivan, being the corrupt, reactionary goon that he is, successfully crafts a settlement deal for the obvious bullshit reason: cops are forced make split-second, life-or-death decisions and they can’t do their job effectively if they think that they’re going to be tarred and feathered if they make a mistake. Except this wasn’t a split-second, life-or-death decision. This was Jake wanting to “work a Speed” and taking it way too far.
It’s important to emphasize that “The Setup” rightfully privileges goofy comedy over morality lessons, at least until the end. Amy and Rosa’s foolish plan to get O’Sullivan drunk so he can admit that he was trying to blackmail Jake allows Stephanie Beatriz and Melissa Fumero to play drunk in a standard “switcheroo” storyline. In order to divide the booze consumption between them, Amy and Rosa keep taking turns drinking with O’Sullivan, but the plan falls apart because, well, his tolerance is superhuman. He eventually tells them that his blackmail efforts amounted to sabotaging the unit’s snacks, mainly Scully’s candy supply from Boyle and Terry’s respective school drives. He would never set up one of his own because, after all, he lives to get cops out of trouble lest they be accountable for their actions.
When it’s time for Holt to deliver his straightforward speech, it lands precisely because “The Setup” spent most of its runtime in a softer register, even though it concerns the show’s protagonist committing an unlawful act. Rosa and Amy are drunk! Boyle and Terry are at war over candy! It all feels like a low-stakes Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode. But when it becomes clear that Jake could conceivably not suffer any consequences despite being clearly in the wrong, Holt reads O’Sullivan the riot act. If Jake doesn’t face suspension, he would be contributing to an environment of distrust and fear that pervades the city. If the cops are above the law, then the law is meaningless. Obviously, O’Sullivan doesn’t care and plans to go forward, but the speech gets through to Jake, who admits to wrongdoing and receives his five-month suspension. But even after doing the right thing, Holt doesn’t exactly let Jake off the hook. It took an innocent man to lose his job for Jake to realize his mistake. Goofballs aren’t infallible and there are consequences to wanting to make a movie come to life.
- Jake’s least favorite word? “Buttress.” “It just makes me picture a mattress with a butt!”
- Doug’s least favorite thing? Meringue, because it looks much better than it tastes. “It’s a trick food!”
- Other things we learn about Jake: 1. He’s addicted to a realistic pizza parlor simulator game on his phone where you can earn “pizza points” to get access to better toppings, but no way to actually win; 2. He’s stealing inspirational quotes from Instagram ads for travel bidets; 3. He believes there’s “too much tension” between Zayn Malik and the rest of One Direction for him to become the primary realtor for the group.
- “You know how active the Dutch mafia is in Jersey.”
- “David Duke Marzipan?!”