Amy Santiago is Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s unsung hero. Captain Holt’s been the season’s obvious perfectly enunciating standout. Gina has lines, and Chelsea Peretti’s line readings, that rocket her into the weird comedy stratosphere. Andy Samberg’s Jake has enthusiasm and star power, while Terry and Rosa are simply powerful (self-conscious and unselfconscious varieties respectively). And Boyle’s Brooklyn‘s bumbling Tom Bombadil—harmless and charming, but somehow essential.
Amy’s harder to quantify. She’s part accommodating romantic lead (see The Office‘s Pam Beesly), part ambitious zealot (see Parks and Recreation‘s Leslie Knope), part neurotic supporting character (see Girls‘ Shoshanna Shapiro). In a show of scene stealers, Melissa Fumero’s performance tends to the understated, but she has a way of holding everyone else together, playing up or down to fit the action at hand. She’s sweet enough to apologize for Scully when he promises the office a golden boat (“that’s not a thing”), but domineering enough to laugh at your inferior office supplies–as if Rosa could bribe her with a T150 button maker.
This week, Nine-Nine introduces Eva Longoria as knockout defense attorney Sophia Perez. Sophia’s smart, attractive, and, we’re told, good at ping-pong. We’re supposed to see her as a threat to a long-term romance arc between Jake and Amy. The show never brings up that possibility explicitly (though Eva Longoria has two more episodes left), but the comparison speaks to the way the show can underestimate its own strengths. Compared to Amy, Sophia’s a being from a flatter universe. She’s simplistic, Gone Girl-brand cool girl fantasy, flirting with Jake over hot wings and hooking up with him without asking about his job. It’s easy to see how someone who looks like the woman on an olive oil bottle (to quote Boyle) is appealing, but Nine-Nine forgets how much attention it’s given to its other characters. Sophia’s given few idiosyncrasies, and no glorious Wuntch-like one-liners.
To a certain extent, Sophia suffers from a plot that introduces her with mechanical inevitability. Jake is in the middle of a romantic dry spell. All his dates have been boring (his date with Diaz’s friend Katie, a blonde, less-emotional version of Diaz, was a dud). Terry tells him to up his game, stop telling stories from work, and show off his other interests. Jake ends up hitting it off with Sophia, who conveniently appears at the other end of the bar. After a quick conversation over hot wings, the two leave the bar to bone. The next day, Jake and Terry are in court to testify about a jewelry store break-in/diamond heist. The defense attorney’s been replaced. “Who’s the new sub-human piece of human garbage?” Jake asks. On cue, Sophia walks in.
The basic outlines of Jake and Sophia’s relationship make sense. Though Brooklyn Nine-Nine has a rather impressionistic approach to the legal system (“Stuff can do two things, right?” is a question that Sophia asks Jake on the stand), the defense attorney-police office rivalry makes sense and doubles as good plot fuel. Sophia immediately makes Jake’s job harder by invalidating a key witness. And she’s attractive, so he doesn’t want to seem like a fool. He enlists the help of the rest of the detectives and finds the burglar’s tools hidden in a dumbwaiter. Still, that’s not enough to get the perp in lock-up. The jury somehow votes not guilty.
Among the flurry of court proceedings, however, it was hard to figure out how to read Sophia. She’s both the ice-cold woman who tells Jake, mid-hookup, “let’s go over the events of tonight” and the more sympathetic character who points out that she’s just holding up one end of the legal system, “my job is to make you prove he did it.” Sophia’s an appealing mix of contradictions, but they don’t congeal into anything quite yet. Anyway, Terry points out that Sophia’s not boring (which, okay, I guess) and he convinces Jake to do what seemed like the obvious conclusion throughout the episode: Ask her out again. Jake shows up in her office building, and the two head off for a date.
While Jake and Terry spend the A-plot in predictable legal and romantic shenanigans, the B-plot swerves into predictable-but-fun Amy and Diaz-powered weirdness. Scully’s been the precinct’s union representative for as long as anyone can remember, but he’s terrible. Amy and Diaz complain to Holt, but the captain is management and he’s not about to intervene—”Now you’ve done it,” Holt says, at one point, totally fed up. “You’ve made me turn my chair.” To Amy’s protests, Diaz decides that Amy should replace Scully and starts making posters for her, which read “pick Amy, dummies.”
It’s clear from the beginning of the episode that Amy’s going to run for (and win) the union position, but “Jake and Sophia” does a good job of building off her anxieties. She likes power and control, but she could risk her career by siding against the management. She plans to tank her campaign (or rather, Rosa’s campaign for her) by pasting Scully’s face over hers on posters and personally insulting everyone during her speech: “Did you know that Hitchcock is technically a bastard?”
Luckily, Holt intervenes. He pulls Amy into his office for a secret pow wow (which she briefly mistakes for a haranguing), and reveals that before he was a captain, he was always in conflict with his superiors. A marginalized figure on the force, he had to take all the “black-gay cases—you know the weird stuff,” according to his boss. He’d respect Amy more if she took a stand against him. Amy takes Holt’s advice to heart (as she takes all advice) and decides to run. She wins in a landslide.
Gina and Boyle fill out “Jake and Sophia” with another story of forbidden romance, or, in their case, forbidden sex. Before they called off their relationship, the two booked a non-refundable sex romp in a hotel for the weekend and they both want the reservation to themselves. Each tries to cheat the other out of the hotel (the best ruse being Boyle’s attempt to convince Gina she landed a meeting with Beyoncé’s momager Tina Knowles), but they both end up stuck at work. Unfortunately, they both also give their reservations to their parents, who arrive at the romantic getaway and then decide to get romantic. It seems the fates of the Linettis and Boyles are ever to be intertwined.
Other open investigations:
–Boyle gives Gina some of the things she left at his apartment, including a “sounds of Ibiza” sleep CD and an empty bottle labeled “fire spirit.” “It’s not empty,” Gina corrects.
–Scully gets mad at Amy for running and tells her that he thought they were best friends. Amy and Hitchcock reply in unison, “what?”
–In the cold open, Amy is late for work for the first time ever. Terry guesses her alarm didn’t go off. Boyle says she’s taken in her sleep. Diaz suggests that she tucked herself into bed too tight and got stuck. Gina wonders if she fell into another dimension where she’s interesting. Holt joins the game and guesses that she’s probably in line at the bank. Jake insists she slipped through a subway grate and is having terrible sex with a mole man. Amy arrives, apologizes: “There was a problem at the bank.” Holt: “HOT DAMN!”
–Eva Longoria’s casting highlights Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s remarkable diversity, as the show adds a Latina character to a cast with two Latina series regulars. Longoria plays a bit of a stereotype (the Latina sexpot, a description that fits neither Diaz nor Amy), so this is both a step forward and a step back.
–Terry revealed more about his relationship with his wife this week. Notably, that they spent their first date talking about Meatloaf (the singer, not the food).
Amy: “Writing things down is nerdy? What do you do?”
Diaz: “Forget stuff, like a cool person.”
Sophia: “What, you think John Adams was just some idiot?”
Jake: “I think John Adams is a miniseries I didn’t watch because it looked like a book.”
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