When Brooklyn Nine-Nine sent Jake Peralta off on an undercover op in its first season finale, it set itself up for a return that features both the predictable—of course Jake first appears with a pseudo-mafioso accent and a stylin’ leisure suit—to the unexpected: Jenny Slate! But the biggest cliffhanger was really whether Nine-Nine could match the offbeat charm of its first season and maintain a precarious balance between a flood of punchy one-liners and an almost too-sweet romantic arc.
One episode in, all the evidence points to another strong year, but since it’s near impossible to call a season from a premiere, maybe it’s best to go on a case by case basis (sorry).
The case of what Jake did last summer:
Highlights from Jake’s time undercover, according to him: “fixed a boxing match, smoked a whole cigar without vomiting, was once in a room with 12 guys named Sal, and missed you all so very much.”
After ingratiating himself to the mob through some key use of Billy Joel karaoke, Jake’s rocking the slicked hair and Fredo-kissing all the old men (though Vito’s the best kisser). He knocks off a police sweep at a wedding, nabbing a bunch of high-level perps, and returning to the loving arms of Captain Holt—someone please make a gif of Andre Braugher’s deadpan hug face—and the even more loving arms of Charles Boyle. Though, Charles is more than little jealous of Jake’s mafia buddy, Derrick.
So when Jake hears that Freddie, one of the mobsters, has gotten away, he jumps back into the operation, bringing Boyle along to play the part of the jilted ex-buddy cop. The easy Andy Samberg-Joe Lo Truglio chemistry is enough to make “Undercover” feel like a happy return to Nine-Nine‘s strengths, but the real selling point comes with Jenny Slate’s turn as Freddie’s jilted mistress Bianca.
“Are you Jakey lady hands, or Jakey the jew?” Bianca asks in a drawl that’s somewhere between Tina Tina Cheneuse and Mona Lisa Saperstein. Before long, she’s threatening Jake (confirmed: lady hands) with a gun, being taken down by Boyle—who rushes to the rescue—and then spilling the beans on Freddie, who’s also sleeping with her younger sister, Valerie.
Jake and Boyle rush off to the Teterboro airport, leaving Bianca in the land of underutilized minor characters. When they get there, Freddie’s already left for Barbados, which leaves Jake itching over the mobster who got away and Boyle wondering if he can use his dopey sun hat.
Verdict: Bianca needs to get booked (preferably for a half-season arc).
The case of the romantic and sexual cliffhangers:
As Nine-Nine‘s way too on the nose camera points out during Jake’s conversation with Captain Holt, he’s not really worried about Freddie. He’s doesn’t like being told that (ZOOM ON: Amy shuffling through files in the background), “some things are just out of control.” Season 1, after all, ended with Jake admitting to Amy that he had feelings for her.
“Undercover” continues to dodge the typical romantic arc, where we’d expect a few more sparks in the reunion. Season 2 begins with Amy telling Jake she’s still with Teddy. Jake covers his tracks and tries to play his confession off as pre-undercover jitters, but after chasing Freddie, he’s back to telling Amy he’s got some romantic feelings for her. “As long as we’re clear that I’m with someone,” Amy responds, and Melissa Fumero sells the rare TV rejection that feels like an honest attempt to be friends. “Nothing’s going to happen.”
In other news, Boyle and Gina are caught in a sexual Groundhog Day. Okay, we don’t realize that until the end of the episode, where the two wake up in bed, screaming, just as they did in the first season finale. Until then, it’s all about not letting anyone know about their tryst. Gina wants to maintain her standard of “bike messengers and above.” Boyle can’t be known as the office slut. But just as Boyle can’t tell a lie, the two can’t avoid jumping back in bed. Their sputtering sexual fireworks play great counterpoint to Jake and Amy’s slow-burn friendship. But mostly, can we see Chelsea Peretti wear more naked mole rat clothing?
Verdict: One will. The other will will-they-or-won’t-they.
The case of the too-good supporting cast:
Highlights from Jake’s time undercover, according to Diaz: Terry chipped a tooth, Amy and Boyle showed up in the same outfit (which weirdly does look better on Boyle), and Gina once zoned out on her headphones in the middle of a brawl.
Like Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine suffers from a supporting cast so strong, it’s hard for its B-plots not to pull attention. This week, Terry got to be a confused old woman, an unattended backpack, an angry prostitute, and a 7-year-old boy as scripted by Captain Holt (roles ranked in order of believability), while Diaz was relegated to playing with him in her generic deadpan. Amy built a stunning Lego castle and was nearly buried in a bounce house. Hitchcock and Scully briefly chatted with Gina, who’s now a perspective member of their massage chain.
The plot itself circles around Captain Holt’s new obsession with running drills, which stems from the news that the NYPD has appointed a new commissioner. He doesn’t know what’s going on at headquarters, he tells Terry, and the Nine-Nine are going to be under a lot more scrutiny. Terry convinces Holt to let everyone know about the changes, and the captain thanks him, “you helped me find my smile.” Andre Braugher, never stop.
Like all of life, “Undercover” could’ve used more Stephanie Beatriz, and it’s a pity that Amy was mostly defined by her (lack of) relationship to Jake. But Nine-Nine proved, once again, that it has more potential than it can manage to use each week.
Verdict: Victimless crime.
The case of Joe Uterus: Killed a bunch of stray dogs.
The case of how to spell the word “awesome”: Jake thinks it’s with an O.
The case of what Boyle’s been fermenting in his desk: “Beans?” “Beans.”
The case of Terry, the confused old lady: She confessed to a 40-year-old murder in Rhode Island.
The case of when Kyra Sedgwick will show up: She is Holt’s nemesis, so it better be soon.
“I am feeling trepidation at the prospect of a parentless existence? No kid talks like that.”
“Those lines were lifted verbatim from my boyhood diary.”
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