In the land of Brooklyn, Christmas brings car thieves, Giggle Pig, and Lobster Thermidor.

By Jackson McHenry
Updated December 08, 2014 at 03:44 AM EST
Credit: John P. Fleenor/Fox
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Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s a show about detectives, which means it’s a show about people who are fundamentally unforgiving. Sure, the members of its police squad have a lot of fun, but they’re ultimately there to bag thieves and solve crimes—not let people off easy. So the funny thing about the Pontiac Bandit, a.k.a Doug Judy (a.k.a. actor Craig Robinson of The Office, who returns this week after his stellar episode last season), is that he’s the most relaxed character on Brooklyn Nine-Nine. He’s got chemistry with everyone (even, somehow, Rosa), and he’s genuinely fun to watch on screen. Sure, he’s a serial car thief and a liar, but he’s a charming liar and a kindly thief. He knocks everyone off their guard by being an all-around good guy, well, except for the whole stealing cars thing.

So when Doug rolled back into Brooklyn this week, he let Nine-Nine chill out just a bit. The show’s been swinging for the fences all season (for better and for worse), but everything in “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” seemed natural—of course Boyle and Gina are going to freak out over their parents’ relationship, of course Amy’s going to get worked up over making a present for Holt, of course Doug’s going to get away in the end. Maybe it’s the Christmas magic in the air, or maybe it’s the good vibe from Doug’s crooning tunes, but watching “The Pontiac Bandit Returns” was about as comfy as wearing robes while eating Lobster Thermidor in a 4-star hotel room.

The episode begins with Jake and Rosa catching Doug in a sting operation. Jake chases Doug into a Christmas tree lot and catches him, but manages to set off a small fire in the process. Later, away from the groups of terrified children, Jake, Rosa, and Holt confront the so-called Pontiac Bandit. Jake insists that nothing’s worth letting the criminal run free, but when Doug reveals he knows some details about a Giggle Pig dealer, Holt negotiates a deal.

Jake and Rosa then spend the night watching Doug in a 4-star hotel room, per his bargain with Holt (Doug also gets 15 years off of jail time, but the hotel room quality is the real sticking point). Jake tries not to let his guard down in Doug’s presence, but is eventually won over by his fun-loving charm and the cozy feeling of a nice bathrobe. The two bro out while Rosa watches from the sidelines. She even agrees to call Doug “big sugar.” She really, really wants a win for her task force.

The next day, Jake—alias Dante Thunderstone, whose mother died in a lightening strike while pregnant (it’s kind of like Zeus was his dad)—Doug, and Rosa show up to meet Tito Ruiz, the Giggle Pig dealer. Tito demands that Doug prove his carjacking credentials, but Jake gets worried that he’ll use the chance to escape. Instead, Jake pretends he’s the one with the skills, which means Doug has to whisper instructions on how to break into a car while Tito watches in the distance. The result is a scene that’s hilarious in its simplicity. Doug describes how to carjack as if he’s making talking about making moves on a dance floor and French kissing, while Jake’s (sorry, Dante’s) commentary reveals just how terrible he is at French kissing.

Finally, Jake, Diaz, and Doug arrive at Tito’s headquarters. Just when things seem as if they’re going well, and Jake gets Tito to admit that he’s the boss, a garbage truck rolls in and Doug hops in to escape. Jake tries to go after him, but he, rightly, points out that Tito’s the bigger target. Jake gives up and goes after the drug dealer, but his garbled version of the Miranda rights proves that the Pontiac Bandit’s still the criminal on his mind.

It’s a simple enough A-plot, with an ending that’s just as predictable as “Halloween II,” but there’s something electric in Andy Samberg and Craig Robinson’s chemistry. Jake Peralta might seem like an overgrown man-child, but he’s surrounded by people who have little patience for his schemes. Doug’s openness—about everything from his own schemes to Jake’s father issues—is therapeutic. He has the same magic effect on Rosa, who loosens up just enough to joke around with him. Doug: “Let’s make out.” Rosa: “Not yet.” The cops can say whatever they want around Doug, because whatever happens, he’s not in a position to judge.

The real moment of Christmas magic in “The Pontiac Bandit Returns,” however, comes between Jake and Rosa. Jake rags on Rosa for a lot of the episode—for good reason, it seems, she might be letting the Pontiac Bandit get away—and when Doug does get away, Jake could easily get back at her with an “I told you so.” At the bar, after their mission, things seem to tend in that direction. Jake shows Rosa Doug’s video, which reveals how he used Kyle the waiter in the hotel to stage a getaway. Rosa apologizes and promises that they’ll get the Pontiac Bandit next time. Jake could easily make this about him (as he often does), but instead, he puts his friend’s goals ahead of his own. And then Diaz’s heart grew three sizes that day.

Rosa:“I know how hard it was to make that choice and let him get away.”

Jake: “No, it was an easy call, I know how much this task force means to you.”

Rosa: “It means so much and it’s been so stressful and it went so well!”

*she smiles*

Rosa: “Seriously, look at me, I cannot stop smiling. How do people do this with their faces?”

Aside: Rosa’s smile was amazing!!! (*insert 100 Gina making her “sparkle surprise” present-opening face emoji here*) Also, this has been her second smile in two weeks—but since the first was the result of cold medication, this is the first that really counts. End of aside.

The B- and C-plots this week were decidedly slimmer than the grand Christmas epic of Jake, Rosa, and Doug Judy, but they were still pretty great. In Boyle-and-Gina news, Boyle discovers a present from his dad to Gina’s mom. The two freak out over the possibility that their parents are getting serious, until they break open the present and discover that it’s just an electric scale. Then, to hasten the apparent end of their parent’s relationship, Gina and Boyle decide to arrange a gift swap so they can see Gina’s mom’s disappointment when she opens the gift. Instead, she’s thrilled (the happy couple’s getting serious), which grosses Gina out (she steals a bottle of wine and leaves the restaurant) but also gives her a new sense of purpose. The next day, she tells Boyle that they need to break up their parents “for their sake, for our sake, and for the sake of this great nation.” For some reason, I was suddenly very sad that Chelsea Peretti never made a cameo in Lincoln.

Amy, Holt, and Terry ended up together in the third plot this week, as Amy struggled to make a Christmas gift—a scrapbook about Holt’s professional highlights “from RAY to Z”—without spending any money (“my time is worth nothing!”). Amy runs into a problem when she discovers that Holt may have charged an arsonist with one-too-many counts of murder back in the ’70s, but Holt actually treats her research as a present. He’s thankful that she pointed out one of his errors, and he assigns her the job of figuring out who really did commit those crimes. “Oh, more work!” Amy says, and then tries to explain herself “I know that sounded sarcastic…” Terry corrects her: “Nobody thought that.”

Other open investigations:

— Holt continues to appreciate bad puns. This week, he’s amused by Amy’s attempt to make entering a room more seasonal by saying “nog, nog.”

— Hitchcock has a terrible hand wound, but insists he only needs scotch tape to fix it. Also, he leaves the scene without seeming to get any tape.

— Scully’s a master detective. When Holt announces a holiday party at 9 o’clock, he asks “AM or PM?” Holt: “I’m going to let you figure that out.”

Audio Evidence:

Doug, crooning: “Rosa, Rosa, Rosa, I can’t think of your last name, baby.”

Jake: “Yeah, the guy without a daddy is the one with daddy issues. Explain that logic!”

Gina, on the gift of the electric scale: “Your dad might as well have circled all the parts of my mom’s body he didn’t like with a marker.”

Boyle: “You did that to me!”

Gina: “And it didn’t help. At all.”

Follow me on Twitter: @McHenryJD

Episode Recaps

Brooklyn Nine-Nine

A group of ragtag cops — led by Jake Peralta (Andy Samberg) — run the 99th precinct of the NYPD.

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