Last night, Once Upon a Time, Revenge and Brooklyn Nine-Nine came back to our TV screens, and finally, it feels like fall. Those are my Sunday night shows (until next week when Bob’s Burgers returns — should I recap that show? I only discovered it this summer but it’s practically flawless, so I’m considering it) but I don’t feel qualified to cover the first two, mostly because I don’t take them seriously enough to pay close attention. It’d be like if your grandmother was recapping Revenge for you: “And then the one with the pretty hair talked to the tall man who always wears colors, and both of them cried for some reason.” No one wants that.
I’m still not thrilled with Brooklyn’s move to Sunday nights, as they’re already chock full of other well-established shows (and football) on other channels, and I’m worried it’s misplaced in a mostly-animation lineup, but time and ratings will tell. Let’s hope for the best!
True story: I have the first season of Brooklyn loaded on my phone. I take my dog on walks and listen to that show instead of music because that’s just how I roll. I did this all summer. I never got tired of it. I’m still not tired of it. Needless to say, I had high expectations for this premiere, and I’m pleased to report that it did not disappoint. Not even a little.
**This post contains spoilers for episode 2.01 of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Undercover.”**
We open after a six-month time jump, where Jake’s still deeply undercover. He gets kissed by a bunch of old men, his hair is amazing, he’s got this affecting accent, and really, he seems to be in his element. Vice work can be wearing, and I know it’s only his first job, but Jake’s got the kind of personality that adapts really well depending on the situation, so I’ll be a little surprised if vice isn’t something he seriously considers at some point later on.
It turns out he’s orchestrated a bust on a big family wedding, and after he utters the code words (“dry meatballs”) a joint FBI-NYPD task force invades the wedding and arrests all of the criminals in attendance. Jeffords is the one who apprehends Jake and throws him into the surveillance van, and Jake, with his usual mix of genuine affection and snark, hugs Captain Holt and mutters, “I’ve missed us.” And credits!
Boyle is beside himself when Jake returns to the 99, and once again, Jake is adorably unrestrained when he talks about how much he missed everyone. Turns out he only missed three things in his absence: Terry chipped his tooth and had a lisp for a week, Santiago and Boyle wore the same outfit to work one day, and headphones were banned from the office due to “the Gina incident.” They’re all accompanied by flashbacks which are hilarious and make me really glad this show never abandoned the flashback format. Jake recaps his absence in twelve seconds, sans flashback: “Fixed a boxing match, smoked a whole cigar without vomiting, was once in a room with ten guys named Sal, and missed you all so very much!”
But things are tense at the precinct for a number of reasons, and Jake addresses one of them head on when he asks Amy for a private word. He fakes her out at first: “I have to ask, did you arrest a perp named Joe Uterus?” It breaks the tension wonderfully as Amy fills him in on Joe Uterus, but then Jake gets down to business and brings up the thing he said to her at the end of last season, about liking her. She quickly tells him she’s still with Teddy, “romantic stylez,” and Jake immediately retreats and covers his ass juvenile-stylez by saying that he didn’t mean any of it, he was just nervous about going undercover. It seems to break Amy’s heart a little bit, but she also seems to know he’s lying. There’s no way she didn’t spend those entire six months thinking about that night.
Meanwhile, the other source of tension at the precinct comes directly from Holt, who is putting his detectives through constant drills. This consists of making Terry wear a dry-erase board around his neck describing a citizen in need of assistance. The examples are hilarious.
“Unattended backpack” was my personal favorite because it was just Terry sitting there all curled up, defiantly hissing “tick tick tick!” at the squad. Sometimes I think they misuse his potential for physical humor, choosing to have him Hulk-out and destroy Lego buildings or princess castles, when he’s actually really funny in this context. This humongous guy is curled up next to a trash can at the back of a room, that’s hilarious to me.
These drills have already passed Rosa’s admittedly small threshold of patience, and after Amy successfully solves the case of the Confused Old Woman only to be immediately presented with a 7-year-old boy, she snaps as well. They ask the captain why he keeps running these drills — even Terry doesn’t know why — and Holt gives them the ol’ because-I-said-so.
Rosa and Amy try to comfort the 7-year-old, but Rosa tells Sarge to drop the act when Holt’s not around.
Terry: “You can drop your butt!”
Rosa: “YOU CAN DROP YOUR BUTT!”
Terry wrecks the Lego stables they were building, and Rosa decides to get him a bouncy castle as a giant middle finger to Holt, who is practically snarling when he finds them and deflates the bouncy castle.
Holt demands an apology, but Terry defends his actions, saying the squad is stressed out because they don’t know why they’re doing the drills. It turns out there’s going to be a new NYPD commissioner, which means they’ll be under a microscope. He’s not getting any information from his superiors, and it’s had Holt very stressed out, to the point that his husband hasn’t seen him smile in weeks. Terry points out that his squad feels the same way he does since they don’t know what’s going on, either.
The last source of tension is the secret between Gina and Boyle, the one I constantly forget: they slept together at the end of last season. Boyle’s not exactly a vault of secrets — remember last season when he gave away Babylon to Scully and Hitchcock after only a minute of questioning? — but he doesn’t want to tell this one because, “I don’t want to be known as the office slut!” But he admits that he tells Jake everything, so really, it’s just a matter of time. This prompts Gina to go ahead and accept her new social status; she sits with Scully and Hitchcock at lunch, and she dons a naked molerat sweater (“God’s disgusting mistake!”) because that is her spirit animal now.
Unfortunately, Jake finds out that one of the mafiosos, Freddy, got away during the sting, and Freddy’s one of the worst guys: “Extortion, terrible breath, murder! … I put ‘terrible breath’ too high on that list.” He impulsively decides to go back undercover (see? Cut out for vice work) to try to smoke Freddy out, but Holt doesn’t think they’ll trust Jake. But Jake disagrees. “Me and those guys went through some pretty intense stuff.” Cut to Jake and three other guys singing, yep, Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” at karaoke. “Once you Joel together, you’re bonded for life.”
Both Holt and the FBI agent advise Jake to let this go, and Holt adds, “Sometimes things are just out of your control.” But Jake can’t handle that, because he’s on a bit of a spiral. He spent six months working on this case, and in the meantime, deep down, he probably thought Amy was waiting for him. Coming back and seeing that she’s still with Teddy and that Jake spent those six months lonely and missing her (and everyone else), it makes him feel like he’s losing control. He glances back at Amy, then tells Holt, “Not good enough.” He latches onto the one thing he thinks he can control: detaining Freddy Bad Breath.
He enlists Boyle’s help with going back undercover, but Boyle has important questions first: “When you were undercover, did you have a mafia best friend?” Jake says he did a bunch of jobs with a guy named Derek, but his detached tone is lost on Boyle, who can’t hide his jealousy. They plan a ruse to find out where Freddy’s hiding, and it involves Boyle punching Jake in the face, which Boyle is hesitant to do. Jake tells him to just imagine he’s someone Boyle hates, and Boyle growls, “Derek!” and it’s one of the cuter friendship moments they’ve ever had.
Jake successfully gets an address for where Freddy might be hanging out, but Boyle freaks out and punches him and knees him in the balls. He ends up at one of Freddy’s girlfriend’s apartments, played by Jenny Slate, who holds Jake at gunpoint. Boyle busts in like a badass and defuses the situation, and after some questioning, Bianca tells them that Freddy’s heading to catch a flight to Barbados. Jake gets to the airport an hour too late; Freddy’s gone.
He’s dejected, and there’s something about a maggot drawer that seriously grossed me out, and Boyle tries to pep him up by saying “You did everything you could. Sometimes there’s stuff you just can’t control.” Jake likes this new forthright version of Boyle, who insists that Jake should be proud, and that they should go get a drink, “Because there’s a surprise party, and it’s my job to get you to the bar!” Whoops.
At the bar, Jake demands Holt give him a speech, and it’s a sweet thing:
“Your six month absence was noted. Drinks are on me. There’s a two drink maximum per person. It is non-transferable. Your guests will pay their own tab. Valet parking is not included. Tomorrow’s briefing will be fifteen minutes earlier than usual. And I’m very proud of you, Peralta. We missed you.”
Aww. That was so emotional. (I’m imagining that same speech delivered by Craig from Parks and Rec and now I can’t stop laughing.)
Jake brings Amy a drink that is champagne, 30-year-old scotch, top shelf tequila, and olive juice. “Captain set a two-drink max, but he did not set a price limit. Smart!” It’s gross. It sounds gross and it is gross.
Heartened by Boyle’s boldness and sage advice that some things are out of his control, Jake confesses that he lied earlier about his feelings. He meant every word he said that night. It gets Amy upset, because what does he expect her to say to that? And he says, “I don’t wanna hold anything back.” Amy accepts this gracefully, so long as they’re clear that “I’m with someone and nothing’s going to happen.” Jake waits a beat, then says, “I’m with someone, nothing’s going to happen, name of your sex tape.”
This sets up an interesting dynamic of having Jake’s feelings out there and Amy’s still repressed. I’m curious how they’re going to play this one out. Ideally, they’ll just fall back into their normal rhythm for a while, and we’ll get glimpses of Jake’s longing looks, but he won’t be pushy or tease Amy about Teddy. I so want this show to get this right, because they seemed to learn from their Boyle/Diaz near-debacle and backed off of that, so they seem to have their finger on the pulse.
Speaking of Boyle, he tells Gina that he didn’t spill their secret to Jake because he didn’t want to hurt her feelings, “because I’m terrified of you and what you’ll do to me!” She’s touched by that, and they clink glasses and say, “Sounds like our nightmare is finally over.”
Cut to them waking up in bed together again. Wacky! And a good change of pace for both characters.