A quick disclaimer, I’ve never had any previous encounters with the United States Postal Inspection service. Despite the fact that Brooklyn Nine-Nine‘s presented the USPIS as a sort of email-hating Luddite dystopian ministry this week, I’m sure it’s actually full of wonderful people who do good work. Also, the history they provide on their website is charming, and their their Twitter account looks like a real resource for all your mail-protection interests. Basically, I’d like to make sure nothing bad happens to my mail in the future. Okay? Okay.
Anyway, the Nine-Nine universe expanded a little this week to include its own version of the USPIS, a terrible, self-satisfied organization that’s home to Jack Danger (Ed Helms, the king of playing terrible, self-satisfied characters). Danger’s name’s actually pronounced “dong-er,” and he turns out to be a near carbon copy of Helm’s character from The Office, Andy Bernard—if you replaced his love of Cornell with a love of snail mail (and of actual snails). While the Nine-Nine writers might have risked making actual postal workers go postal this week, “USPIS” took surprisingly few risks. Helms has easy, but not thrilling, chemistry with Andy Samberg, and the plot moved along with all the regularity of an insured piece of postage. Nothing too exciting. No major complaints.
Diaz pairs Jake up with Danger as part of the ongoing Giggle Pig investigation. On the hunt for dealers of the dangerous, but ridiculous-to-say-out-loud drug, the team’s picked up some mysterious keys, which have “USPS” written on them. They go to meet with Danger, who reveals that the key opens a discontinued type of mailbox you could find around Brooklyn. Also, he pulls rank on the police and reminds them that he’s a federal agent. They head off to the first mailbox, where they discover a stash of Giggle Pig wrapped in Renaissance Faire-type bags (it really is an adorable terrible drug) and see a dealer walking toward the drop site holding another bag. Danger tries to chase after the dealer, but falls over his extendable key chain (it’s as dorky as it sounds) and ends up literally holding Jake back. The dealer escapes.
As much as I enjoyed the time spent with Danger, “USPIS” gets most of its energy from the clash between Diaz and Jake. He’s mad that he has to work with Danger. She’s mad that he’s making her task force look bad. The plot’s an interesting look at how workplace friendships get twisted by shifts of power—they used to be equals, and now they have to recognize that they aren’t—but it moves too quickly to fully register. Jake barely has a chance to call Danger a “bohunkis” (“bohunkis means butt and I think you could have guessed that from context,” he explains) before Diaz ends the conversation and makes him go back to work.
This results in a predictable power tussle. Jake wants Danger to inspect former USPIS workers who might have access to the mailboxes. Danger insists on a stakeout. Jake gets fed up and prints out a list of employees from Danger’s computer and uses that to track down a dealer. He’s thrilled, until Diaz reveals that he and Boyle royally screwed up by abandoning Danger, taking restricted files from his computer, and licking a roll of antique stamps (Boyle owns up to the stamps: “I was curious about how old glue tasted—answer: like a horse lollipop.”) The USPIS is taking over the case, and Diaz’s task force isn’t getting any credit. The job means a lot to Diaz, but Jake hasn’t been taking it seriously. If he had actually followed her orders, she might be able to chalk up her first big win. “You think just because we’re friends you can do whatever you want?” Diaz asks, landing a painful line in an otherwise light episode.
Jake then sets about repairing his friendships with Danger and Diaz. Making things better with Danger is easy: Jake just pretends to be interested while he recites USPIS history. Danger gets as far as the 1810s before giving up and telling Jake that his team needs help on the case. But making things better with Diaz means owning up to a lot more. Jake stumbles through an apology to her outside of a Giggle Pig drop site (“so that’s what eternity feels like,” Diaz says afterward), but as with the other aspects of the Jake-Diaz plot, the resolution feels rushed. Diaz is in a position of authority now, and that’s going to make her friendships with everyone, including Jake, a lot more complicated in the future.
Speaking of everyone else in the precinct, they’re all tied up in the B plot this week helping Amy Santiago get over her smoking habit. She’s trying to hide it from her boyfriend Teddy—is it me or does their relationship seem more strained every week?—but she’s doing a terrible job managing the stress. At one point, she even snaps at Holt.
One by one, the other members of the precinct pitch their advice to Amy and reveal their own former vices along the way. Terry used to have a food addiction and solved it by dunking his head in water to reset his mind. Holt used to have a thing for the (race)ponies and solved it by becoming addicted to exercise. Gina used to be addicted to online shopping and claims to have solved her problems through meditation. None of these solutions work for Amy, though each scene provides some great little bits—the best being Gina’s meditation advice, second best being a flashback to Holt’s ’80s days at the races.
As with most plots built around Amy, the solution ends up being: to relax. Holt reveals that he, too, used to be a perfectionist, but he had to learn to accept his flaws. “That’s a concept you should become familiar with,” he adds, shocking Amy with his use of a dangling preposition.
But relaxation might be the answer that Brooklyn Nine-Nine should look to itself, because “USPIS” would be so much better if it didn’t try so hard—to introduce a whole new branch of government, while developing Diaz and Jake’s relationship, while running Amy through three different sets of advice. It’s as if the show doesn’t realize how much potential it has in its main cast and it feels the need to add more and more. But why add more? Why throw in Ed Helms—or even Eva Longoria?—when it means spending less time with the likes of Chelsea Peretti and Andre Braugher? Nine-Nine does best when it relaxes, and stumbles most when, like Amy, it takes on too much too quickly.
Andre Braugher, by the way, delivers the best line of the episode, as he saunters away from Amy’s desk, commenting on his dangling participle: “I’m just going to let it dangle, dangle, dangle.”
Other open investigations:
– The Giggle Pig bust in the tag showcased a surprisingly detailed action sequence for a 30-minute comedy. I’m not sure why Nine-Nine threw it in after the credits, but hopefully they’ll be some more gun-toting fun in the future (well, not for Jack Danger, who barely made it through the door before falling on his back).
– Hitchcock convinces everyone that they forgot about Scully’s birthday, collects money for him, and then jokes with Scully about how the “fake birthday thing worked.” It seems that Scully’s learned that no one in the precinct knows anything about him, which, I hope, is a product of last year’s wife or dog game.
– Just as Andy Bernard loves a cappella, Jack Danger loves marching band music. Specifically, he’s into “some bangin’ Sousa deep cuts.”
– Speaking of guest stars, where is Eva Longoria?
– Boyle tries to explain a fax machine: “Imagine a letter had unprotected sex with a phone.”
– Amy: “What’s going on? Is this a dream? No, I’m not holding a label maker.”
– Jake, talking to Danger: “Your motto is ‘surprisingly, we exist.'” Danger: “Our motto is ‘nos custodimus quad lingus—we guard what you lick.'” (Writer’s note: This does not appear to be the actual motto of the USPIS.)
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