Tuesday, January 26, 2016

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Jake & Amy's Vacation is Interrupted by the Pontiac Bandit in 'The Cruise'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 3.13 "The Cruise"

Jake and Amy are excited to go on their first real vacation together, but Amy's perfectly planned cruise ship itinerary is thwarted when they discover an old adversary is on board with them. Gina and Terry help Holt survive a visit from his sister, Debbie. Charles and Rosa vie for the same apartment.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine may be hitting the point of diminishing returns when it comes to Craig Robinson's Doug Judy aka the Pontiac Bandit. His first episode was a rousing success that showed just how clever and funny the show could be. His second almost a year later was equally as great while showing how the show had evolved. And yet, it's his third time on the show and it's starting to feel like the same thing happening over and over again. All three episodes follow the same structure where Jake tries not to fall into the charms of Judy, only to fail which leads to Judy being able to escape. He's a master criminal who could easily be Jake's best friend. They understand each other even though their are each other's biggest nemesis. That has been a compelling place to find humor. But in "The Cruise," it largely just feels like familiar territory that the show has mined before. It's not even an episode fully committed to the return of the Pontiac Bandit. Jake and Amy bond with Judy on a cruise but there are two other stories happening in this episode as well. So ultimately, it just feels a little overcrowded and underdeveloped - though it still has a number of very amusing moments.

The return of Doug Judy takes away from the focus of what was being set up as a new Jake-Amy romance story. It has been awhile since an episode has explicitly dealt with their relationship in one of the main stories. It's been somewhat difficult to tell whether or not their coupling this season has been all that good because it really hasn't had consistent momentum. It doesn't need to have an impact on every episode. In fact, this season has been quite good in not letting this romance take over or change the show. But it's still hard to track just how real and genuine this relationship is. That makes a moment where Amy tells Jake that she loves him - and he says it too - feel a little cold because the show really hasn't gone all that deep with their relationship. This episode really isn't about the two of them either. That makes it so strange that this is the episode where they say "I love you" for the first time. That's a huge milestone for them as a couple. It signals that the show is heading somewhere big with them this season. It's just odd seeing it play out in an episode that doesn't really showcase all that well how they makes each other a better person.

There is some aspects of Jake and Amy's relationship on display throughout "The Cruise." This is their first big vacation away from the job with each other. It shows just how serious things are getting between the two. However, there is some tension over the fact that Jake wants to lounge around in the room all day eating shrimp while Amy has meticulously planned a way to do most of the scheduled activities. It actually makes for some good humor - especially when the two realize they are surrounded by a bunch of elderly widowers (though the cruise is all ages). But they quickly get distracted by Doug Judy. He really doesn't complicate their plans or relationship all that much. Jake and Amy are able to spend all of their time with Judy while also having fun and being cops at the same time. Again, it's not a source of conflict that this is messing up Amy's plans. They are able to do all of it - Jake just needed several reasons to be as active as possible on this cruise.

But again, the resolution of this story feels very repetitive. Jake and Amy are able to catch the hitman who has come to kill Judy. While they are distracted in apprehending this man, Judy is able to escape. He even had his boat to get away from the cruise in. Why he didn't just leave in the first place is a question that the show really doesn't want the audience to ask. He would rather have fun with Jake again and get cruise goers in the mood one last time. It is fun watching as the trio blend into their surroundings and to hear Judy once again confess his love for Rosa in song. It's also great that Amy is really sexually attracted to Magnum, P.I. - a look Jake can never do due to his inability to grow a mustache. All of these amusing details work in this episode. But it still leads to that formulaic and tired ending where Judy escapes and hopes that Jake and Amy fall further in love. That definitely happens too. It just feels very rushed and without a whole lot of meaning.

Meanwhile, back at the precinct, Holt is dealing with a visit from his overly dramatic sister, Debbie, and Charles and Rosa are fighting over an apartment that just so happens to be their latest crime scene. Both stories have moments that really work well. The Charles and Rosa stuff is a bit more minor than the other stories. But it's fine to see the two of them square off like this - while also somehow being able to solve a crime too. Additionally, this new extension of the Holt family is quite amusing because Niecy Nash's Debbie is so different than Holt. That creates a fantastic comedic pairing between the two. Holt does his best to seem overly dramatic about his life as well and that's such a funny scene - especially with Terry and Gina busting in the room with these over-the-top added pressures for his job. But in the end, it was nice to see the siblings have a nice heart-to-heart about their lives. It also happens in a pillow and blanket fort in Holt's office - a visual Jake would have loved if he was at the precinct.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Cruise" was written by Tricia McAlpin and directed by Michael Spiller.
  • Another cold open that is immediately tied to the main story of the episode. That's a bummer. And it's mostly about Jake and Amy's different plans for this cruise too.
  • It also pains Jake that he has no authority while aboard the cruise ship. He's in international waters and can't arrest Doug Judy for all of his crimes over the years. It sets up a great joke with the Captain saying most of the crew are criminals running from capture. Plus, Jake still yells out NYPD when it's confirmed that someone is trying to kill Judy.
  • Charles tells Jake not to make any new best friends while on this cruise with Amy but he ends up spending most of his time with the Pontiac Bandit - who Charles has been jealous of before. I wonder if he'll ever find out about this?
  • It took Boyle saying "Suck off" several times before realizing just how inappropriate that may be to call his contest with Rosa. 
  • Debbie mentions that she might be staying in town for a couple of weeks. It could be fun to have her pop up every once in awhile in the future - especially with Kevin still in Paris.
  • Terry: "How does she feel about balloon animals?" Holt: "I'm sure she has a complicated relationship with them."
  • Holt: "You found me. Drinking seltzer in the shadows."