For Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s last couple of episodes, Jake and Amy have had the luxury of acting like a couple without needing to prove their couple bona fides. They’re an item, period. It’s true that “Halloween III” put a teensie bump in their road, but Jake’s paranoia over Amy’s allegiance in his prank campaign with Holt didn’t revolve solely on their relationship status. Holt, after all, shared in Jake’s distrust, and even when the writing circled around to deal with personal affairs, the story wasn’t about Jamy; it was about Jake and Holt, with Amy’s feelings playing only a small (if pivotal) role in their frivolity. The lovers’ tiff acted like so much window dressing.
In “The Mattress,” though, the development of Jamy stands front and center, with another Rosa/Terry subplot and a Boyle/Holt dust-up buttressing the episode’s primary arc. Normally, secondary and tertiary threads don’t have an impact on Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s main narrative; they exist outside of its scope instead as diversions, meaningful or otherwise, that enhance that narrative without being subsumed by it. That’s half true of “The Mattress.” Rosa grows as a character thanks to a well-intentioned, but bungled (but still ultimately successful) Terry intervention, and that growth occurs off in the margins. Holt, however, learns a valuable lesson from Gina after an incident with Boyle, which empowers him to offer equally valuable advice to Jake.
Boy does Jake need it. It’s traditional that in any romantic television pairing, one of the two involved parties has to take up the mantle of “oaf,” and in the partnering of Jamy, that clearly must be Jake. Amy has been crashing at his place (queue quippy innuendos from the audience and supporting cast alike), and she hasn’t gotten a lot of sleep, because Jake’s mattress keeps her up all night. He’s sleeping on a bed that, from the sounds of it, is composed mostly of lumps rather than cushioning, and Amy is trying her damnedest to catch up on sleep to bridge her snooze deficit. She’s also trying to convince Jake to buy a new mattress, which is sort of like leading a very stubborn horse to water. When they end up working a case together, promising Holt that their relationship won’t pose a problem to the investigation, they end up in a quarrel to the surprise of exactly no one.
Their altercation presents an opportunity for Holt to eat some humble pie and reveal a bit more about his relationship to Kevin Cozner. (Speaking of Kevin, there’s been a terrible lack of Marc Evan Jackson this season. Somebody remedy that, please and thanks.) While Jake and Amy argue about his manchild status (and also about Amy’s anxiety about telling her mom that she’s dating him), Holt gets into it with Boyle, who accidentally scratches Holt’s gorgeous vintage convertible, lovingly named Gertie, in the parking garage. It’s Boyle’s fault, but it’s also Holt’s; for all his anal retentive perfection, he can’t help but park across two spaces. It’s an important moment for the otherwise infallible Holt, who passes on his newly acquired wisdom to Jake, as Jake struggles over his feelings for Amy.
There’s a nice bit of reciprocal storytelling here that we don’t often get out of Brooklyn Nine-Nine; the only problem is that the interconnection between Holt’s and Jake’s respective plots just underscores the isolation of Rosa’s escapades with Terry. Would you believe that Rosa’s part of Big Brother Big Sister? She’s playing mentor to a young kid, Sam, who violates her trust in him through an off-screen shoplift. The subplot lets Rosa go full Rosa, unleashing her full fury on the lad, and as with Holt and Boyle, the situation gives her a chance to reflect on the kind of cop—and adult—that she wants to be. Terry gives her some gentle nudging on the way, and makes the mistake of pulling in her strict old ballet teacher (Robin Bartlett), but as it must on a half hour sitcom, the whole ordeal painlessly comes out in the wash. (Classic Rosa lines and a couple of great third-person remarks from Terry make it all worthwhile.)
Baby steps: That’s what we’re seeing here. They’re good baby steps, though, whether it’s Gina sticking up for Boyle and putting Holt in his place, Rosa going easy on Sam, or Jake finally buying a new mattress despite the sticker shock. (That slow-mo sequence where Andy Samberg and Melissa Fumero go trampolining in the mattress store is kind of golden, too.) And, maybe more importantly, there’s the introduction of Taxi, a new street drug and potentially a new throughline for Brooklyn Nine-Nine to follow. Maybe “The Mattress” will prove minor in the long run, but in the meantime, watching the characters evolve one argument at a time proves to be a real pleasure—as it always does.
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing online about film since 2009, and has contributed to Paste Magazine since 2013. He also writes for Screen Rant, Movie Mezzanine, and Birth.Movies.Death. You can follow him on Twitter. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.