Tuesday, April 11, 2017

REVIEW: 'Brooklyn Nine-Nine' - Amy's Ex-Boyfriend Returns to Evaluate the Precinct in 'The Audit'

FOX's Brooklyn Nine-Nine - Episode 4.13 "The Audit"

With the crime rate lowered, Brooklyn will be shutting down one of its precincts - permanently. The Nine-Nine is confident they will be evaluated fairly, until the official auditor turns out to be Amy's ex-boyfriend, Teddy. The whole squad then must band together to try to save the precinct.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine has been on a hiatus for the last few months. The show ended on a major cliffhanger with Gina being hit by a bus. It was a tense way to leave things. It was also a random act of violence that was startling and strange. It didn't seem likely that Gina would die because of this accident. This doesn't seem like a show that would kill off one of its main characters. Yes, it's a workplace comedy where the characters are detectives and solve crimes like murder. But that just seems like a dark twist that this show couldn't handle well. It's had plenty of life-or-death stakes in the past. It's good at handling more serious things. This twist would have been a little much though. And yet, this season has been on a creative hot streak. This may be the strongest season of the show yet. It returns with "The Audit" which knows that it needs to address Gina's fate immediately. Just because it's a serious issue though, doesn't mean the show shies away from doing one of its signature cold opens. This episode opens with Gina returning to work. She survived being hit by a bus. She's trying to prove that she can still do everything she used to do despite having a ridiculous amount of metal headwear to keep her body aligned together. That's a fantastic visual that more than likely helps cover up Chelsea Peretti's real-life pregnancy as well.

All of the cliffhanger drama is sorted out in the cold open. After that, the show quickly moves forward with its next story. That's an appropriate approach to storytelling. It shouldn't linger too much on Gina being hit by a bus and surviving. She's dealing with a recovery and that's good for a couple of jokes. But it's also nice for the show to be telling different stories that fit into the theme and humor of the series as well. Plus, it seems like the show is gearing up for a new serialized story. The third season ended with a big ongoing story involving Pimento and the mob. It culminated in Jake and Holt going into witness protection and needing to fight their way back to their loved ones in New York. It was a fine story filled with a number of terrific moments. But it also showed that sometimes this show is simply better when it's more episodic. It allows the episodes to be more loose and fun with the character pairings. So, it's definitely curious that the show is starting a new arc that may lead to the precinct shutting down for good. It's a celebration that crime is down in Brooklyn. But that comes with a serious threat to the foundation of the show. One that will more than likely play out at some point this season. But right now, it's just a lot of characters worrying about their futures which is a good use of all of them.

Plus, all of the stories of this episode are in service to this new threat. Holt presents them with the reality of their situation. The precinct is going to be audited to determine if it should be the one to close down in Brooklyn. So, the entire precinct is trying to do their best to make the precinct come across well. It's hilarious to watch as all of them are freaking out. The visual of most of the squad except Hitchcock and Scully jammed into a supply closet is great. It's where Amy and Jake retreat to once they learn that Amy's ex-boyfriend, Teddy, is the auditor evaluating the precinct and joining them on their stakeout later. Meanwhile, everyone else worries that an expensive printer that doesn't work and a serious rat infestation will doom the precinct. Yes, the precinct has always had its problems. But the characters have always been able to overcome those shortcomings because they are so skilled at solving crimes. But here, they worry that any perception of a problem could destroy everything that they care about. They've fought so hard to stay together as a precinct and work the day shift. They've managed to get back to that only for it to now come under threat once more. It could feel repetitive but it still manages to surprise and amuse the audience as well.

Meanwhile, guest stars on this show have struggled to stand out in episodes that feature three stories. That's simply because this ensemble cast is so great that the addition of one more voice can make things a little more chaotic. Plus, it means they don't get as much screentime as they probably deserve. And yet, it's fascinating to see Kyle Bornheimer return as Teddy. That wasn't a character who needed to return. He dated Amy in Season 2 but things ended when she and Jake got together. The repercussions of that are still being felt especially now that Teddy has returned. Jake and Amy have been stable as a couple for a long time. Perhaps they've been too stable. The fight that they fake here is based on issues they've dealt with many times already. And yet, it's not a genuine fight - even though Jake does start to worry that Amy only agrees with the last thing he said. They are simply doing whatever it takes to impress Teddy so that he writes a good review for the precinct. Of course, things get more complicate when they complain about him when he leaves the room but his phone was still recording. It would have been amusing to see if Teddy planned that to know if Amy and Jake really changed their opinions of him. Of course, that's not what happened. But what did was equally funny and great.

Jake and Amy go to a jazz brunch with Teddy and his new girlfriend. That's just a hilarious premise for a story. It's not an environment that either one of them would enjoy. But it's also Teddy believing he's less boring now because he attends jazz brunch and takes vacations to San Diego. Those jokes are really specific and really great. It's not surprising at all that Jake and Amy's plan doesn't work out in the end. They destroy the recording but Teddy still learns the truth. It's just all building up to the moment where Teddy confesses that he still loves Amy and wants to be with her. She found him attractive and sweet at one point in time. But now, she can't get over how boring he is. No matter how hard he tries, he will always be boring. Of course, this is also the millionth time the show has had to explain why Amy and Jake work as a couple. Everyone continues to be so befuddled by it that it needs Amy pointing out why she loves Jake despite him being so different from her. But it all works in the end too. Teddy recuses himself from this audit. He does so because of the personal history and feelings he has with Amy. That sets the stage for a different character to come in to perform this task. It seemingly gives the precinct a blank slate to impress the individual in charge. But that's simply not the case either. Instead, it's now an ex of Terry's who shows up and holds a grudge against him as well. So, the precinct's problems are far from over.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Audit" was written by Carly Hallam Tosh and directed by Beth McCarthy-Miller.
  • Of the two subplots, the Rosa-Boyle one is more interesting and funny. It just features so many completely random bits with Boyle. You'd think a show constantly torturing one character would get old after awhile. And yet, it's still great and funny that Holt wanted him to stay trapped in the ceiling for an entire weekend and that Boyle was attacked by a bunch of rats high on cocaine from the 1980s.
  • Terry and Gina fixing an expensive Japanese printer largely just shows how Gina has to do things differently now but believes she is stronger than ever. It's also amusing that Terry only knows how to ask for a bigger door in Japanese. But in the end, the printer is fixed until Boyle comes crashing down on top of it.
  • Gina suffering from short-term memory loss because of the accident could be a fun recurring joke. It's only important once in this episode. But it's also great that's she able to get whatever she wants now. That's power that could easily go to her head. At least, Holt uses it for good to help get the precinct cleaned up.
  • This is the third Mike Schur series that Jama Williamson has appeared in. She played Wendy, Tom's wife, on Parks and Recreation and was a co-worker of Michael's on The Good Place. Here, she's Teddy's new girlfriend who is still there when he decides to profess his love to Amy.
  • Who is your second favorite Die Hard villain? Is it William Atherton like Jake (and possibly Amy) believes? Or is it someone else?