The follow-up episode to “HalloVeen” was bound to face some added pressure, but “Bad Beat” is luckily up for the task. It’s not as mind-blowing or frantic as “HalloVeen,” but it’s another fulfilling episode in its own right. It’s also another episode that fully utilizes every available cast member—even Dirk Blocker and Joel McKinnon Miller—as best as it possibly can, which is always a positive for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. And Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a show that knows how to use its positives.
While the cold open of “Bad Beat” serves as direct follow-up to the Jake/Amy engagement, the rest of the episode is very much business as usual. Literally even, as all three of this week’s plots are about these characters being hard at work; it basically offers up a balance after “HalloVeen’s” intense focus on the shenanigans of the Halloween Heist. But here we have the Jake/Terry/Holt trio on a high profile case, Rosa/Hitchcock/Scully in a fight for laziness while technically hard at work on precinct paperwork, and Boyle/Amy’s outside business venture in the form of a food truck.
Speaking of that outside business venture, it’s worth mentioning what a good sign it is that the Boyle/Amy relationship (at least in this episode) isn’t going to change as a result of Jake and Amy’s engagement. It would be so easy and even expected—given Boyle’s usual humorous Jake-related barbs at Amy—for Boyle’s frustration with Amy to lead to that type of thing, even though he’s made clear he’s happy for his friends. Instead, this plot serves as a reminder that Amy and Boyle are characters who have their own individual and independent drives outside of their relationships with Jake. As for the plot itself, of course Boyle would see the upside in purchasing a “Murder Truck” for his and Amy’s food truck. That’s not all that surprising, and despite Amy’s protestation, he does have a point about the cheapness. Even truer (and appropriately Boyle) is that he would want lean into said Murder Truck aesthetic, with his sample menu featuring the tagline “Serving Killer Food” and the design of a chalk line photo from an actual crime scene. Amy’s cautious nature also rings true, and the same goes for her reveal to Boyle that she ate all the meatballs he made (and the follow-up sickness that comes from jumping for joy after that).
The Rosa/Hitchcock/Scully plot also makes great use of its time, even as the most inconsequential plot of the episode. Don’t let that “inconsequential” description fool you though, because it’s plot that could truly stand on its own. It’s also a brief reprieve from Hitchcock and Scully’s roles as Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s voices of disgust, as a harmless concept like the Butt-lympics is one of their more innocent and even aware moments in a while. (Especially when Hitchcock has been hitting the creep button a lot this season and we’ve already had an episode where the prospect of becoming like Hitchcock and Scully was treated as a nightmare situation.) It’s a simple story, with Rosa being sent in to help Hitchcock and Scully file some paperwork only to immediately get sucked into the competitive nature of even sitting down; because as we all know, the Nine-Nine are a competitive bunch. They’re also a weird little family, a point that’s best illustrated in the moment Rosa and the boys go get their hot dogs. It’s probably the 32-hour delirium that’s responsible for it, but the look that’s on Rosa’s face while she, Hitchcock, and Scully are in the elevator and on their chairs is a beautiful moment of sheer joy, one that somehow transcends any and all things Rosa has ever called “dope.” This plot makes for a humorous and strangely beautiful short story, out of nowhere. But it’s delightful while it lasts. Plus, it really is nice to get away from Hitchcock (especially) and Scully’s dirtbag classification, even if it’s just for an episode. Harmless couch potatoes who get the job done and have fun at the same time? That’s certainly nothing to judge, and Rosa is justified in her end tag response to Amy about just that.
As for the A-plot for this episode, that focuses on an unexpected aspect of a character: Captain Holt’s gambling addiction. We actually learned all the way back in season two (in “USPIS”) that Captain Holt had a gambling addiction (specifically to horse races or “the ponies” as he prefers to call them), so this episode isn’t just making up a vice out of thin air. Also relevant to this particular episode is another piece of Holt-specific information we learned back in season two (in “Jake And Sophia”): that success in anything even gambling adjacent (like guessing why Amy’s late to work) results in Holt letting out a hearty “HOT DAMN!” It was amazing just the one time back then, but to watch him make undercover Jake (and even surveillance Terry) say that while gambling—and also say it himself while gambling—makes it even more amazing. Because Holt is amazing.
From the moment the episode reminds the audience that Holt has a gambling addiction, the rest of the episode (in terms of structure) is fairly predictable. That we don’t get a ‘90s sitcom hustling scene out of all this standard structure is a bit of a disappointment, but I suppose there’s always next episode. Of course, even a fairly predictable episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine can work with the right touches and the right complementary subplots, which is absolutely what this episode does. Here, the right touches come both in the form of the strength of Andre Braugher’s scattered performance (which is truly atypical for Holt) and Andy Samberg and Terry Crews’ roles as the anchors trying to keep Holt from ruining everything for himself.
Jake plays more of a straight man in this episode, but even that role reversal still allows him moments like his constant need to elaborate on the pathetic backstory Holt gave his undercover character or even the Robert Palmer quip he directs at Holt. While the “actual” bad guy of this episode ends up holding Holt hostage, the importance of this plot relies on the character interactions leading up to and even during that. There are some times when a bad guy being such a non-factor can hurt an episode, but in this case, it’s both understandable and even a little welcome. For the former point, that’s based on the early backstory about the character basically being a shut-in; but for the latter, Valdano is enough of a standard crime boss guy (without any humor attached to him) that he’s got no use other than plot and weird nickname points. Plus, when you have scenes like a desperate for wi-fi Holt on the roof of the precinct, it’s clear there’s only need for focus on one antagonist in this episode.
“Bad Beat” does take a bit of a PSA stance toward addiction at times—particularly when it comes to Holt and his problems, because Terry’s stories of his past addiction are mostly for sad comedy purposes—which feels strange for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. Holt even drops the old “I can stop whenever I want” line, and the episode ends with him openly asking Jake and Terry to take him to a Gamblers Anonymous meeting. (Those aren’t bad things, but they’re very basic, for lack of a better word.) But at the same time, this is an issue Holt has mentioned having before. This episode just makes the past introduction of that addiction more than just a passing joke and gives some realness to it. As does the fact that Holt’s not even that good at gambling; he’s really just good at math, which is why he succeeds at poker instead of betting on “lame little Jayla.” So now we know how Brooklyn Nine-Nine makes serious addiction funny. Good to know.
- This week in webisodes Brooklyn Nine-Nine needs: The Adventures Of Terry Bond & Terry Q. Yes, Terry plays both roles.
- Boyle: “BM: Best Man. It’s a common abbreviation.”
Rosa: “No one but you has ever used it.” By the end of the cold open, we learn that to be false. No one but Boyle and Jake has ever used it.
- Boyle: “Yes! Yes! A million times yes! In your face, Terry!”
Terry: “What?! I’m holding a sparkler for you. I organized a lot of this.”
Boyle: “Well you can stick that sparkler up your butt! I’m a best man!”
- A noice touch: From a scene featuring Jake’s fake cover story about going to meet Darryl Strawberry to a scene featuring the real sounds of Daryl Hall’s voice. From Darryl to Daryl.
- Jake: “That’s right, his nickname is longer than his actual name. Why’s that, Terry?”
Terry: “‘Cause he’s a dick.” Dan “Daniel” Valdano really doesn’t have all that much to do in this episode but I appreciate the writers at least making a good early impression with the “Daniel” nickname.
- Flashback Holt: “I’d like to bet $20,000. On Yabba. Dabba. Doo.”
Present Day Holt: “Sadly, Yabba Dabba Doo stumbled and had to be put down in front of all of us.”
Jake: “Oh. That’s fun.”
- Holt: “I’m in complete control. Now Terry, come over here and dangle me off the edge of this building.”
- Holt: “You’re fired. No one works here anymore.”
- Jake: “You might as well face it, you’re addicted to math. Robert Palmer. Come on, Sarge. Let’s go.”
- A sample of “all the upbeat music” on Boyle’s computer: “Toxic” (Britney Spears), “Party In The USA” (Miley Cyrus), and “Swish Swish Bish” (Katy Perry). The way Joe Lo Truglio says “Swish Swish Bish” is perfection.
- “Whoops they didn’t check for poopers this time.” — a note I actually wrote, thanks to this show
- Jake: “It was the ‘shouldnt’ve’ that finally tipped me off. I’ve never heard you use a double contraction before.”
Holt: “And you never will again.”