Last week, Brooklyn Nine-Nine went out of its way to frame its titular precinct as a teeming breeding ground for friendship. This week, “The Jimmy Jab Games” reminds us that not everyone in the Nine-Nine is so lucky, with a subplot revolving around Boyle, Hitchcock, and unexpected evidence of the former’s steamy affair with Gina. The episode also picks up where Holt’s rivalry with Madeline Wuntch left off in “Chocolate Milk”, which is an utter delight, as well as a crushing disappointment. Wuntch? Again? So soon? How can Kyra Sedgwick already be done with her fantastically deadpan guest stint on the show?
Maybe Dan Goor and Michael Schur just dropped the ball. Maybe they didn’t know what else to do with the character beyond two episodes worth of stiff intellectual bickering with Andre Braugher. Either way, it sort of feels like we’re being unjustly punished, a sensation made all the worse for lack of a reason why. Not that this brings “The Jimmy Jab Games” down all that much, particularly given that the final barbs traded between Wuntch and Holt brew more than a few moments worth savoring (chief among them, Terry Crews pointing out that they both suck at sports metaphors). More importantly, their standoff gives the rest of the season forward momentum, while promising bigger things in Diaz’s future, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine certainly won’t suffer from expanding Stephanie Beatriz’s role.
So what holds “The Jimmy Jab Games” back? A dearth of confidence, in terms of the trust it puts in its audience, and in terms of Jake’s own self assurance. Look, it’s not like we didn’t know the series wouldn’t keep coming back to his feelings for Santiago. When it premiered at the end of September, “Undercover” set up their relationship, plus the inevitable complications brought on by Jake’s inability to properly express himself to her. Giving credit where due, Brooklyn Nine-Nine carefully built toward said inevitability, and in just an hour (with a change of running time, too). Everybody knew Jake still carried a torch for Santiago. Everyone knew that at one point or another, he’d start pining for her, to one of his friends.
But just as Wuntch’s exit from the show feels premature, so, too, does Jake’s realization that he still likes Amy. Even more problematic than the fact that he says it, though, is how he says it. He confesses his sentiment to Diaz as clumsily as possible, twice, and in a way that undercuts Amy’s victory in the games (which, admittedly, are 100% pointless to everyone other than Jake); it’s as though the writers have forgotten that we already know he’s sweet on Santiago, or that his coworkers have already put two and two together. Sure, it’s well and good for him to arrive at the same conclusion himself, but the moment is as inelegant as possible. It’s kind of deflating.
Fortunately, “The Jimmy Jab Games” finds plenty of opportunity to make up for its cathartic lapses with hijinks. It is amazing that anybody manages to get anything done in the 99th, but that’s nothing new to us; slightly less familiar is the notion of stakes, at least not the sort of stakes that require the prank wars, and this general lackadaisical approach to work might need to come to an end. (Did anyone else wish that the end of the episode didn’t just gloss over Holt’s and Terry’s reactions to the fire extinguisher explosion in the middle of the office? No? Okay.) Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t a dramatic cop show, of course, so it’s allowed a bit of leeway as far as it concerns reality, but we’re back on track with the through line about Holt’s attempts to whip his crew, and his legacy, into shape. Too bad that won’t involve Sedgwick from here on out, but it’s heartening to see the show commit to its arc all around.
Let’s just wait and see if “Halloween II” can step it up in terms of narrative economy and ridiculous capers.
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. You can follow him on Twitter. Currently, he has given up on shaving.