Brooklyn Nine-Nine has the healthiest relationships on television right now. Actually, it has the healthiest relationships in the history of television, ever. It’s probably due to the fact that its genre —a comedy— allows them to bypass the drama and the unhappiness that, specifically, romantic relationships rely on to keep the episodes coming. But other comedies have relied on the angst before, so the show’s capacity to create beautiful relationships is thanks to, essentially, the writers.
This week’s episode, titled “The Puzzle Master,” was a testament to their capabilities, and yet another reason why the show should absolutely be renewed. Forever.
In its central storyline, Jake finds a perfect case to solve with Amy in honor of the fact that she is soon going to become a sergeant: a serial arsonist who is causing fires in relation to the answers of Amy’s favorite crossword puzzle. But things take a turn for the worse when they bring in the puzzle creator, played by none other than Melissa Fumero’s husband David Fumero, to help with the case, and Jake starts to get jealous of how close he and Amy seem to be.
On any other show, the jealousy storyline could’ve been dramatized exponentially. It could’ve caused a longer arc involving unsaid things, underlying bad blood, and television’s most overused technique: miscommunication.
But this is Brooklyn Nine-Nine.
This isn’t any other show.
JOHNNY AND DORA
This season has given us so many great episodes where Jake and Amy take center stage, that, at this point, its hard to pinpoint which is the best one. “HalloVeen” will remain a classic one, an iconic one, for the ages, but “The Venue” had Amy and Jake working together against the Vulture, and that’s always a great recurring plot the viewers look forward to. “The Puzzle Master” ranks among these. Granted, last night’s episode promised to gift us with their partnership one more time —perhaps for the last time, as detectives at least— and then delivered something slightly different. But man, was it worth it.
The last time we saw Jake properly jealous of someone else’s interest in Amy was way back in the season two episode “Det. Dave Majors”, before the two lovebirds had even gotten together. We had just seen Jake struggle with his budding feelings for Amy for two long, arduous and hilarious seasons, and things seemed to be going his way after Amy’s breakup with Teddy. But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. Amy’s possible interest in Detective Majors forced Jake to confront the fact that he wasn’t over her, and it eventually lead “America’s Dream Couple” to admit their feelings and actually attempt a relationship several episodes later.
Look at where we are. Look at where we started.
This episode had much of the same elements “Det. Dave Majors” had. It had a solid case, and most importantly, it had a ‘competitor’ that actually seemed capable of stealing Amy’s affections. Vin Stermley is intelligent, handsome, wears a tank top under a jacket, has a great body, is a great puzzle creator, and, also, have I mentioned, has a great body. And as if things weren’t bad enough, he’s played by Melissa Fumero’s real-life husband David Fumero. Listen, if anyone is going to have more chemistry with her than Andy Samberg has, that person is definitely going to be her husband. There is no bigger competition.
It’s remarkable, really. The Fumeros have undeniably chemistry even though their relationship on the show is not necessarily written with romantic or sexual tension —they’re just equally witty and dorky in their love of puzzles. And yet, with two scenes, we are reminded that despite the fact that Fumero himself could possibly be interested in Amy, Jake is still the person meant for her. With just two scenes —okay, one really— we are reminded that these two characters are made for each other no matter who or what gets in their way.
It should be said, however, that Vin doesn’t actually get in their way. Most of our possible animosity towards him comes from Jake’s partially Boyle-fueled psychotic jealousy. But, actually, it’s impossible to hate Vin. He is a standard Nice Guy. He does nothing wrong. He never actually pursues Amy, and is 100% cooperative with the investigation. He doesn’t even end up being the bad guy. He’s a solid character, which actually provides the audience with a removed point of view from wherein we actually understand that Jake is blinded by jealousy. A jealousy he, by the way, actively tries to avoid.
“It’s an ugly feeling,” he keeps repeating to himself.
Except Jake fails to understand that we are also made to feel ugly feelings. We are allowed to. No matter how hard he tries to believe in Amy, to believe in their relationship, he can’t help but feel jealous. And it stems from his deep-rooted insecurity. We see it clearly when they share that much needed and predictable scene where he actually confesses to Amy that he was jealous. We waited for that moment, we knew the episode would culminate in that one very healthy scene between two people in a caring, loving relationship. And when the scene ultimately comes we are ready for it, we are ready for Jake to admit that deep down he still doesn’t quite believe in himself. It’s not Amy he doesn’t trust, it’s not their relationship he doubts, it’s himself. He still believes Amy is going to wake up one day and realize she doesn’t want to be with him, that he doesn’t deserve her. And quite frankly, maybe he doesn’t. Amy Santiago is a beautiful character.
But so is Jake Peralta. And if there is one person in the world that comes even close to deserving Amy Santiago it is most definitely him.
So when Jake voices his concern, we ache for him. We are pained by the realization that his parent’s marriage affected him in so many more ways than we already know. That his fear of not being enough is always there, menacing, despite how hard he tries to act like he is the Best Detective Slash Genius. But it also reinforces why Amy and him are perfect for each other. Because she is capable of soothing him instantly, of reassuring him that he is just as intelligent as she is, that she loves him for it and that no amount of V-shaped muscles is ever going to make her change her mind about it.
I am not going to be able to keep it together at their wedding, people.
But here’s the trick to how the writer’s are able to construct this magnificently healthy relationship: these two characters are constantly in awe of each other. They are each other’s biggest fans, biggest supporters. Even when they don’t believe in each other, the other person does. Actually, especially then.
Their support is mimicked in the first and last scenes of the episode. “The Puzzle Master” starts off with Amy receiving the news of her passing her sergeant’s exam, and no one is prouder of her than Jake. He immediately believes she passed the exam, he knows for a fact that she’s going to be a sergeant. It’s a wonderful callback to yet another example of an episode proving how healthy this relationship is, last season’s “Chasing Amy”, where Jake supported Amy’s decision to aim for a better job despite that meaning that she was going to end up being his boss, or getting transferred.
“That’s my future wife!” Jake claims, and the joy and pride in his eyes while Amy does her geeky dance —which Jake knew was coming, by the way— mimics Amy’s reassuring words for him at the end of the episode in the most wonderful way.
Seriously, there is no way I am keeping it together during their wedding.
So, in the end, we might not have gotten the Jake and Amy partnership we were sort of promised in the beginning of the episode. The audience echoes Jake’s words when he tells Amy that he’s disappointed she ended up spending more time with Vin than with him during their last case together as detectives. But ultimately, that doesn’t matter much. Because we still get to see how deeply these characters feel for each other, how much they care and how willing they are to sacrifice —if that’s even the right word— things for each other.
And honestly, that’s what we signed up for anyway.
Despite how much the Jake and Amy storyline took over, the episode still had strong secondary storylines to support it. Which, actually, is one of the reasons the writers are allowed to avoid the rough sailing between Jake and Amy: the cast —the squad— works so well together no matter what the combination, that they don’t need to fill in episodes with romantic obstacles.
Most notably, and despite how much we loved to see exactly how pure Terry is, Holt’s storyline was the best addition to the episode, as it often is. Holt and Gina storylines are always a cause for celebration, one of those rare partnerships that should not make sense on paper, but absolutely work on screen. This time, Gina was determined to help Holt beat his competition for the commissioner job, but the storyline ended up being so much more important than we could’ve imagined at the beginning.
Sure, the storyline starts with a near-perfect jab at straight white men in positions of power and their Fox News anchor wives who all look exactly the same and that should’ve clued us in as to what was waiting for us. But then the episode turned towards what Brooklyn Nine-Nine does best: actively criticizing and calling out American politics and society with no remorse. Holt ends up running against a female captain who he later finds out has no actual chance of winning because the jury is biased. And instead of using this knowledge to beat her, to become a part of that status quo spiral by which women are still undermined, he calls out the unfairness of the situation, risking his own chance at the position.
Holt, a gay black man, is ruining the slim chance he has in order to help a woman out. In order to fight for a better, more fair situation not only at the NYPD, but in society in general.
We already knew Captain Holt was a good guy. But now we know for sure that he is the role model absolutely everyone should follow. Especially men in positions of power.
So if there is anything you have to take away from this episode it is three things. One: Captain Raymond Holt should be your one and only lord and savior. Two: David Fumero gives Will Shortz a run for his money as a puzzle master. And three: if FOX does not renew Brooklyn Nine-Nine, I think we are allowed to riot.
Also, I am most definitely not keeping it together during Jake and Amy’s wedding.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine airs Sundays at 8.30/7.30c on FOX.