Terry Crews joined the NFL in 1991, retired in 1997, kicked off his acting career the same year, and has since spent just shy of two decades building a name for himself as a tough guy and a musclebound comic force. Take a gander at his filmography and you’ll say “mission accomplished” on both counts without hesitation. Crews is good. He is even great when occasion demands, which tends to be more often than not. But in this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine he has managed to outdo himself on both brawny and comedic grounds. Move over, Idiocracy, because “Terry Kitties” has just outshone you as the centerpiece of Crews’ highlight reel.
This is why Vladimir Zworykin and Philo Farnsworth invented television: so that one day, we could watch Crews be a dick to kittens for twenty minutes, give or take. Not just kittens, adorable kittens; little puff balls who squeak in the same register as laser sound effects queued on an electronic keyboard. (If you are one of those eagerly awaiting Key and Peele’s Keanu, “Terry Kitties” is going to be your jam.) Terry, it seems, receives a widdle kitty cat every year as a prank from his former colleagues at the 6-5 precinct, a reminder of his first big bust, which ended in humiliation and catastrophe. (No pun intended. But pun totally intended.) Even Sergeant Jeffords is vulnerable to social needling, it seems, and as much as he tries to brush off the jape, he can’t. Enter Jake Peralta, stage right, to save the day and help Terry overcome his old bullies.
Jake and Terry always team well together, but “Terry Kitties” rushes right through any potential development to their friendship, a’la season two’s uneven “Chocolate Milk” or this season’s “Ava,” in service to making a clowder of cat jokes. In fairness, this is not the worst decision Brooklyn Nine-Nine could make, and it is not the worst way for anybody to spend a half hour of their time. Everything and anything cat-centric here is gut-busting in impact. Terry cusses out the first cat and the other two that eventually come into his possession, as he and Jake bungled a fresh attempt at investigating the initially bungled case anew; he threatens to grind them up, even, and while that thought is horrifying, it’s also hysterical. (Jake’s reassuring responses to each of Terry’s escalating intimidations are just frosting on the cake here.)
So there’s not much here aside from Internet cat humor spun into narrative, but that’s fine. “Terry Kitties” works as a slice of silly, which sometimes is all that Brooklyn Nine-Nine aspires to be. Missed opportunity to have Jake and Terry further bond? Probably. Terry cites some old father issues he has, which is like catnip (again, pun unintended and intended) to Jake; there’s a chance for the series to loop back around to the progress made in “Karen Peralta” and connect these characters further on deep emotional levels. That may sound opposite to what Brooklyn Nine-Nine is all about, but never forget that the show hinges on the relationships between its characters. Any moment that can be seized on to expand those relationships, should be. In that regard, “Terry Kitties” is a rare instance of the ball being dropped, but so it goes.
The A-plot entertains, as do the B and C-plots, so not all is lost. Holt, back from a rejuvenating trip to France to see Kevin, takes a bomb-defusing test with Rosa and Amy, which lets each of them engage their competitive side. (If you think Amy has scary thoughts about dealing with her dog allergies, wait until you see her at her cutthroat peak.) Boyle, meanwhile, takes the time to get to know Adrian, who invites himself to crash on Boyle’s couch after getting kicked out of his apartment. There are shades of old Brooklyn Nine-Nine episodes in both of these threads; this isn’t the first time that Rosa has butted heads with Amy, and this isn’t the first time that Boyle has used his weak, outer veneer to bend people to his will. (See: “The Cruise.”)
Is it a bad sign that Brooklyn Nine-Nine is starting to repeat itself? Probably not, least of all since “Terry Kitties” remains a funny if hurried package all around, and besides, the recurred elements here have the effect of placing Holt and Boyle in a whole new light. Holt is capable of letting his competitive tendencies get the better of him; Boyle may be craftier than we’ve given him credit for in the past. Both of them, though, pale next to Crews, who of late has been a background fixture for Brooklyn Nine-Nine. “Terry Kitties,” for obvious reasons, reasserts why he’s such a necessary component of what makes the show enduring and great.
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing about film for the web since 2009, and has been contributing to Paste Magazine since 2013. He also writes for Screen Rant and Movie Mezzanine, and Birth.Movies.Death. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.