This week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine had a lot to tackle. Probably one of the show’s fastest-paced episodes ever, it surprised us with a beloved foe returning and a weirdly delicious friendship intriguing us. Plus, it featured the return of the Official Rosa Díaz Theme Song.
You guessed it: the Pontiac Bandit was back!
And we were thrilled.
But what could’ve been a nicely rounded episode that followed in the spring premiere’s well-crafted footsteps ended up being a little less than what “Safe House” delighted us with.
“IT’S A LAYERED RELATIONSHIP”
“The Negotiation” starts with a cold open directly linked to the episode’s overall plot, which tells us immediately there’s going to be a lot of storytelling going on and we cannot waste a second. It sets us up, essentially, for Jake’s wet dream: there’s a hostage situation and the kidnapper has asked to negotiate specifically with him. In true Brooklyn Nine-Nine style, Jake is over the moon about the assignment, screaming and beaming with joy. But when he gets to the crime scene, his wildest dreams are crushed —or so he makes everyone try to believe— when he finds out the kidnapper is none other than Doug Judy, our favorite recurring criminal.
The Pontiac Bandit showing up on our screens is, quite frankly, always a cause for celebration. He’s the equivalent of a procedural’s overarching baddie, except, well, he’s too charming to be an actual bad guy. Sure, Judy is known for double-crossing Jake constantly, but their semi-dysfunctional, kinda-strange-but-charming-nonetheless friendship is, more often than not, directly linked with the episode’s quality. Basically, if Doug Judy is in the episode, it’s automatically a funny one.
This episode wasn’t an exception. Albeit the other storylines were not as strong, Craig Robinson and Andy Samberg manage to single-handedly steal the show and save the episode. Together, Jake and Judy are thrust into yet another one of Judy’s messes, and the episode takes on the already classic structure every Pontiac Bandit episode takes: Jake and Judy meet under hilarious and surprising circumstances, they team up to help out Judy in exchange for his promise to turn himself in by the end of it, and then he ultimately “betrays” Jake for a life of crime. But this relationship —this, dare I say it, friendship— has evolved so much over the course of five years, that the audience even feels betrayed when Doug Judy admits he won’t be able to come to Jake and Amy’s wedding. Sure, a recording of him singing is wonderful, and his wedding gift is a nice touch. Not to mention how funny yet heartfelt that conversation between them about the nuptials was.
But seriously, if he doesn’t show up at some point during Jake and Amy’s wedding, I’ll be sincerely disappointed.
Despite the episode following its usual structure —which, by the way, is perfectly summarized by Rosa’s bedtime story about the frog and the scorpion— it managed to keep us entertained and excited. Although, as always, the drug-lord storyline was nothing but a McGuffin to keep Jake and Judy together, the real brilliance of it was their strange partnership. Not only did it gift us with great jokes in incredibly witty comedic timing, it also allowed the writers to indulge themselves in a lighthearted take on an actual serious situation, something that Brooklyn Nine-Nine has mastered since the pilot.
Seriously, they shouldn’t have been having that much fun while negotiating an actually-not-really-dangerous hostage situation.
But I will defend the karaoke scenes to my dying breath.
Brownie points to the frustrated hostage negotiator who definitely needs to look up the word “advice.” A nice callback to The Princess Bride, if you ask me.
“SPREADSHEET, SPREADSHEET. CRIME, CRIME.”
Despite how hilariously well-written Jake “naive little frog” Peralta and Doug Judy’s storyline was, the rest of the episode lacked brilliance in comparison. The remaining two storylines were obvious and under-used. Understandable, since they couldn’t overshadow Doug Judy’s storyline, but they could’ve been a little bit more cleverly written.
On one hand, Amy and Gina team up with self-dubbed Chef Charles to help him with his new food truck, which Amy had invested in. Seriously, thanks for the reminder because I’d honestly forgotten they’d even had a fight about that. And as hilarious as it was to see Boyle’s “crazy nana” side appear, rivaling even Amy’s craziest of moments, the storyline was under-explored. I was on board with a Nine-Nine take on Kitchen Nightmares, but it would’ve worked much better if we had seen more of it or different sides to it. Regardless, props to Joe Lo Truglio for his insane performance. I bought it.
— Brooklyn Nine-Nine (@Brooklyn99FOX) March 26, 2018
On the other hand, Holt and Terry trying to give Hitchcock a makeover so that he’d ace the interview seemed too cheesy of a storyline. Too obvious, even, at times. Even Andre Braugher’s as always near-perfect performance wasn’t enough to save it. The ‘scrappy cop pulls it together and cleans up to make his boss look good’ has been done too many times, and while Nine-Nine had to pull it off at some point, perhaps they could’ve done so differently. It was, however, a good call to play the card now, when it could be overlooked because of the strong A-storyline. It did, however, impact the overall quality of the episode. The scenes weren’t as funny, and the jokes were, honestly, a little too preschool level. Thankfully, Hitchcock’s change wasn’t permanent.
The episode’s ending makes up for the closure of the remaining storylines, however. The writers brought back Judy in a comical pre-recorded message to Jake for our favorite cop to discover that Judy hadn’t completely betrayed him. Samberg played Jake’s reaction with such deep emotion in what would’ve otherwise been simply another gag, that it practically gave their friendship a whole new dimension. And just in case it got too sappy, the final beat was yet another karaoke song. A pretty great final scene.
So yes, maybe this episode wasn’t as laughter-filled as the spring premiere, but that was a hard episode to top. While the premiere was round, with all its storylines written equally as funny, “The Negotiation” had a solid storyline that had to carry the weight of the other ones. But it happens, especially when the primary plot line is part of the show’s mythology. All in all, a more than apt return for the Pontiac Bandit.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sundays at 8:30/7:30c on FOX.