Hey now! The gang’s back together, though only in the context of sharing screen time in a 20 minute episode. Good enough, though, right? If last week’s “Coral Palms, Pt. 1” felt like a tonic for its pinpoint focus on Larry Jake and Mr. Fart Holt, then this week’s “Coral Palms, Pt. 2” is equally revitalizing just for showing us the rest of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s cast, even if the story still revolves around a precinct divided by geography and by greed. Citing the series’ ensemble as one of its greatest strengths is, at this point, an exercise in pointing out the obvious: The Earth is round, the sky is blue, Donald Trump’s hair sucks, Tom Brady is the son of God, and the acting on Brooklyn Nine-Nine is uniformly superb.
You read Paste Magazine for sharp insights delivered with wit and style, and not because you like to be told things that you, your friends, and your cool grandmother already know over and over again, and yet this fundamental fact must be repeated, always and forever. Bereft of its collected troupe, Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a much lesser show, save for rare instances such as “Coral Palms, Pt. 1,” which has a very good reason for its slimmed down perspective built right into its plot. It helps that Samberg and Braugher work together more often and more substantively than any other two-person duo in the show’s hierarchy. The foundation of their rapport is rock solid, which is why the big kiss in “Coral Palms, Pt. 2” works as well as it does: Locking lips feels like a natural culmination of their mentor/teacher-cum-Felix/Oscar dynamic.
Of course, the Jake-Holt Smooch is a ploy with no romantic connotations, and the joke itself is not even a little bit about sexuality. But could Brooklyn Nine-Nine get away so cleanly with that image in an alternate timeline where Samberg and Braugher don’t share such incredible chemistry with each other? Maybe. Maybe not. Maybe it doesn’t even matter, because the moment slays and is played just long enough to avoid tipping the scales of comedic balance toward “problematic” measurements. The show makes a big deal of the kiss until it doesn’t, and once that happens, Holt and Jake don’t make a big deal about it, either, and if they don’t, then we don’t need to. Right? Right. Or, hey, whatever: It’s funny. (Especially Holt’s parting one-liner at the end of the scene.) Move on with your life.
So what leads our two witness protected heroes into an unexpected embrace? They’re in jail, but only because they bought too many guns plus a literal bucket of bullets as part of their prep for taking on Jimmy Figgis themselves. (“Our country is broken,” Jake coughs under his breath as he and Holt arm up at a local shop with an ease that’s best described as “tragi-comic.”) Also: Holt runs a stop sign, thus drawing the attention of the law (played by the great Jim O’Heir, of Parks and Recreation fame), and ultimately earning the duo a one-way ticket to the clink. Florida might be a backwards ass garbage state where police interrogations are conducted through a version of The Newlywed Game, but you have to admire the tricky elegance of their questioning methods. They work, after all, don’t they? (Note that use of The Newlywed Game helps set up the eventual kiss, too.)
There’s more going on here, of course, which most savvy viewers will figure out as soon as O’Heir walks into frame. (You don’t hire a guy of his magnanimous, lovable nature for a role like this unless you have a good reason, after all.) Suffice to say that Holt’s and Jake’s kiss is part of a ploy to spring themselves from their holding cell, and that the aftermath of their scheme leaves them in a worse position for dealing with Figgis than they were in before. And if that’s not bad enough, the rest of the 99 is stuck back in New York City, unable to hoof it to Florida to aid their friends because their new boss, Captain StentleyCaptain Jason C.J. (Ken Marino), won’t let them. It isn’t that C.J. is a bad guy: He’s a good guy, too good a guy, an incompetent oaf who shouldn’t be allowed near a Captain’s desk. The trouble is that, well, you’ll just have to ask Santiago, who is too much of a goodie-goodie for her own, uh, good. (Or anyone else’s.)
As the rest of the team takes advantage of C.J.’s qualities as a pleaser—he just wants to give them all whatever they want, whether it’s a treadmill desk for Boyle, a (blood) yogurt fridge for Terry, an assistant (Esther Povitsky) for Gina, or four walls for Rosa’s cubicle (which is only the second most Rosa-ish request she could have made after “grenade launcher”)—Santiago unsurprisingly fumes. Melissa Fumero is a terrific straight woman, all seething discontent as her co-workers all indulge themselves at the expense of their jobs. No one misses a beat; nobody gives off the sense that months have passed since season three ended. Everyone picks up right where they left off. There’s comfort in the routine, though “Coral Palms, Pt. 2” sees each member of Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s cast building off of their characters’ established quirks and personas. Rosa’s as acerbic as ever, but in even fewer words. Gina’s burns have never been more blistering. Terry has never been more covetous of his yogurt.
The effect is half-normalizing: Holt and Jake are still trapped in Florida with Figgis hot on their trail, but at least they, and their friends, are all on the same page, even if they aren’t in the same zip code. This is Brooklyn Nine-Nine as it should be.
Boston-based critic Andy Crump has been writing about film online since 2009, and has been contributing to Paste Magazine since 2013. He writes additional words for Movie Mezzanine, The Playlist, and Birth. Movies. Death., and is a member of the Online Film Critics Society and the Boston Online Film Critics Association. You can follow him on Twitter and find his collected writing at his personal blog. He is composed of roughly 65% craft beer.