‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ 5×16 & 5×17 Review: I Want It That Way

By

Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s double episode seemed to open a whole lot of storylines for a show that’s still waiting for a season 6 renewal. On one hand, “NutriBoom” seemed to set up a pretty established big baddie that low-key threatened Jake and Amy’s security. And on the other, “DFW” introduced us to none other than Jake’s half sister Kate, who is kind of crazy and unstable. And, knowing that there are still around five episodes left in this season, it seems awfully ambitious.

It was a good move on FOX’s part to air both episodes together. However, it looked like a weird play in the beginning, since usually the only time two episodes are aired on the same day is when those episodes are two-parters. But it was a smart choice, because despite the tone of the episodes being similar, “DFW” was actually funnier than “NutriBoom.”

BOOM BOOM!

Jake accidentally murders a pigeon, Amy Santiago is now a Sergeant, and an evil woman in charge of a gigantic pyramid scheme is now threatening our favorite couple. All in all, it’s a great deal of things to handle in a twenty minute episode. So, fair enough, the episode was allowed to be slightly less funny. But Brooklyn’s fifth season has been steadily funny throughout, and this second half of the season has been specially hilarious, so it did stand out as one of those lesser episodes that every once in a while every show is allowed to have.

While Amy struggles to lead her new squad as a Sergeant, Jake and Charles set up to retrieve the money Jake invested in a pyramid scheme and get caught up in a larger conspiracy than they had originally imagined.

Source: Tumblr.

Jake and Charles partnership-centered episodes are always a hoot. Their slightly dysfunctional yet incredibly caring friendship has given us golden moments and iconic, very meme-able, scenes. Boyle’s undying devotion for Jake is both the perfect source for comedy and the most heart-warming moments, despite how weird and uncomfortable Boyle’s actions can —and undoubtedly will— get. Episodes that partner them together in an A storyline are some of the best this show has given us, but this one fell a little flat. It was most likely due to the fact that Charles —for plot related reasons— wasn’t allowed to be Charles and had to, instead, pretend to be his lookalike, who had forced both of them into the scheme in the first place.

Charles is a terrific character. It’s hard to build someone who, on paper, is pretty much incredibly annoying in every possible way, to actually be charming. But thanks to the writers and Joe Lo Truglio’s always on-point performance, he comes off as both hilarious and sweet. That’s what’s wonderful about Charles, his unashamed choice to be himself, always. And when you pair that personality with Jake’s, and add up the devoted and true friendship they’ve built over the years, it’s magic. So of course constraining Charles in someone else’s personality, someone else’s character, takes the magic from it all. Sure, we did get initial and ending scenes where Charles was simply himself, but exploiting that throughout the episode is what makes it go from okay to really great. And it looks like the writers didn’t take that path this time.

Kudos, however, to the writers and the actors for making us watch one of the most uncomfortably intimate scenes of television comedic history, probably. I never want to see Charles give anyone a front neck massage with full eye contact ever again in my life, and judging by Charles’ amusingly traumatized look right after, I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.

But after all, what really stood out from Jake and Charles’ storyline in this episode was the pyramid scheme side of it all. While it was wise to bring it back instead of leaving it as yet another joke in this season’s Halloween episode, it was hard to imagine it would take on this dimension. To open and close that storyline in one episode seemed like the way the writers were going to go, but the last scene seemed way too ominous for us to simply ignore. Someone is watching Jake and Amy, someone is determined to intimidate them and make their life a living hell, and with their wedding somewhere in the very near future, it’s hard not to think about a possible life-threatening interruption à la Brooklyn Nine-Nine season finales.

The other half of the first part of this week’s episodes was focused on Amy’s first day as a Sergeant. Although learning the way the squad used to deal with “an Amy” was humorous, I couldn’t help but feel the characters were having a little too much fun poking at Amy’s flaws. Thankfully, Captain Holt, as always, was there to save the day and the episode by admitting that despite Santiago’s strong personality and often annoying persistence, she was an indispensable squad member that should be listened to.

And here’s where the doubts emerge. Amy is now a Sergeant, and no one could possibly be prouder of her. She needed a character-developing storyline that was not centered around Jake, and her evolving in her career seemed like the correct way to go. It was. It most definitely was. Amy Santiago has always been too good for her job. She’s always been destined to become more. And now, she’s finally taking the first steps towards that goal.

Source: Tumblr.

But it undoubtedly changes the show’s dynamic, if only slightly. Amy being in charge of her own squad means she won’t be around the bullpen as much anymore. It also means she no longer shares a desk with Jake. Which immediately begs the question: who is Jake’s new desk buddy? Who could possibly take up that space that seemed to be intimately reserved for she who would later become the love of his life? It feels almost like a betrayal to him, to her, and to the audience, to sit someone else down in that seat.

It also begs the question as to how the squad is going to work now. Sure, the show has accustomed us to see different character pairings that all work fine, but there’s only so many excuses the writers can come up with to have Amy still around the squad when she has her own squad to attend to. And the audience still wants to see Amy’s progress in her new position, but having her banter off with other characters we are not as familiar with won’t be nearly half as funny. This episode started to prove that idea.

But if there’s one thing to highlight about Amy’s story this week it is her failing constantly on her first day at the job. It was funny, but more than that, it was natural and it was human. Thanks to her ex-squad buddies —see? Already this sounds weird—, she feels like she absolutely cannot fail, like she has the weight of the world on her shoulders. Everyone tries to be supportive, but they end up making her doubt herself and her water-pouring capabilities. So to watch her not be perfect, to watch her make mistake after mistake and not know how to handle a situation was refreshingly natural. It made us understand that she still has a lot of things to learn, and that she is in no way perfect. And it’s reassuring to see such a strong character fail and be okay with that.

Which reinforces the previous point. There’s a need to see how Amy evolves, how she grows, how she becomes a better Sergeant, but there’s also a need to see her working and hanging  out with the squad. It’s going to be a challenge for the writers, so we’ll have to wait and see how —and if— they’re able to pull it off.

MY BROTHER KNOWS EVERYTHING!

Let’s be honest, this episode had the all-time best Brooklyn Nine-Nine cold open ever, and that’s a bold statement for a show that once wrote a cold open where Charles affirmed he had had sex with a sixty-year-old woman in his twenties. But watching a line of suspects sing —incredibly well, I might add— Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” while Jake momentarily forgets that he’s looking for someone’s murderer and gives the song his all is very, very hard to top. It is equal parts absurd and purely Nine-Nine. And honestly, no matter how many times you watch it, it will make you tear up with laughter.

And so the cold open, as it often happens, was the perfect indicator that “DFW” was going to be amusingly hysterical. And thus, it was the perfect counterpart to the previous episode.

I’ll give you this one, FOX. Smart move.

Jake finally meets his half-sister Kate, but things don’t go quite as he expects them to when he finds out Kate is pretty much an incredibly crazy mess. Meanwhile, Terry struggles with the fact that he can’t do yoga, and Gina tries to set a newly single Rosa up on a date.

We have to deal with the elephant in the room first. Kate is a mess. She is psychotic, crazy, her life is all kinds of terrible and she is undoubtedly not the person Jake Peralta was expecting. But Nassim Pedrad is incredibly funny, and watching her and Andy Samberg reunite on screen after SNL —like others have done before her— was great. They played off each other well, and despite  the characters never having met before and the initial evident uncomfortableness between them, it was a rewarding dynamic we wanted to see more of.

Source: Tumblr.

Not only did it force Jake to confront his past yet again, it also allowed him to take on a new role: that of a big brother. And, not that we’re surprised, but it’s a role he plays incredibly well. Him standing up to Kate’s ex-boyfriend was nothing short of precious, and the way he ultimately had to confront yet another of his father issues and accept Kate’s mess of a life was yet another step in his character development.

That, and watching him and Amy interact in their domestic space was pure shipper bliss. Did anyone else notice Amy was about to drink an orange soda? Relationship development, I tell you.

And their magnets are arranged in a line. Seriously, someone take this perfectly healthy and well-rounded relationship away from me before I start sobbing.

Kate provided some very classic Brooklyn humor, complete with surreal hookups —she really had sex with a human statue, and a silver-painted one at that—, and unapologetic fully-herself behavior. The Nine-Nine has always been the place for characters to be unapologetically themselves, with their flaws being accepted and loved and their quirks being celebrated. Kate wasn’t going to be any less. Although she is arguably one of the crazier characters we’ve met on this show, she was never forced to change or to “behave” or to become “normal”. Jake and Amy struggled with her and had a hard time handling her, but that’s what they do with each other, and that’s what the entire squad is best at: accepting everyone and loving them in spite —and because of— their flaws.

So yes, when Jake followed Kate to the airport and said goodbye to her we were hoping to hear a wedding invitation. Her introduction was too solid, and their promise to stay in touch was too juicy for Nassim Pedrad to simply be a guest star in one episode. Bring her back for the wedding! Have her cause some funny havoc!

Also, this may be the perfect time to argue in favor of Amy’s brothers being at the wedding —if there is one indeed. At least one of them. Maybe Tony, given that we heard about his amazing body this week. Maybe one of them is played by the multi-talented national treasure that is Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Give it to us, Brooklyn Nine-Nine writers. Give the people what they deserve. We deserve Lin-Manuel Miranda as one of Amy Santiago’s brothers and we will not give up until we get it.

Source: Tumblr.

The rest of the episode was almost as good as Jake and Kate’s story, although I hoped Holt, Charles and Terry’s storyline would’ve revolved around the fact that Captain Raymond Holt does yoga instead of gifting us with Terry Crews’ physical comedy when Terry gets hurt trying to prove that he can, in fact, do yoga.

Spoiler alert: he cannot.

But the real prize of the episode beside Kate was Rosa’s storyline. Once again, Brooklyn Nine-Nine proves why it deserves to stay on the air: its treatment and inclusion of LGBT characters is indisputably one of its strongest suits, and something much needed in contemporary television.

Gina tries to set Rosa up with someone after she finds out her and Becky broke up, and the two characters are thrown into what we’re used to being a set-up plot line. Except we’re used to it happening in a heterosexual context, and this time the person being set up is a bisexual latina woman. There’s a lot of space there for mistreatment of the character and of the way the story is going to play out, but, as always, Brooklyn gets it right. The story is treated with the same normality we’re accustomed to, and in the end, the way Rosa ends up —be design, unbeknownst to her— going on a date with a bartender is sweet, charming and “aww”-worthy.

A+ for Gina for being a great wing-woman and for that amazing Holt soundboard.

Also, as a side note, did Joe Lo Truglio really pick up Terry Crews?

Wow.

Nine-Nine! 

Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sundays at 8.30/7.30c on FOX. 

We also recommend