Recap: Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Stakeout” (2×11)

Brooklyn Nine-Nine isn’t a situational comedy so much as it is an interpersonal one. While great humor can come the chasing-down-of-perps daily life at the Nine-Nine, the show rings most true when the characters get to play off of each other. So much of the humor rests on the characters’ interplay and it succeeds thanks to the fully realized people the writers and actors put up on screen each week. The ecosystem of the show isn’t what one would call peaceful, but it does have a very specific baseline. That ecosystem shifts gently as the characters are each evolving in slow, meaningful ways.

This week’s “Stakeout” does not much care for gentle evolution and takes one of the show’s core relationships, Jake and Charles’s slightly sycophantic, always fantastic friendship, and turns it on its head. A bad guy must be found and the Captain needs two teams to do 4-day recons on a location. Ever-confident in, well, everything, Jake volunteers himself and Charles to do the full eight day stakeout. Without access to the outside world and nothing but four walls to keep them company, Jake and Charles have only their pride in their relationship to keep them from going crazy.

Before leaving the guys to fend for themselves, Terry shares some fatherly wisdom about the importance of “alone zones” for his twins when they have a conflict. Fatherhood in modern media leaves much to be desired but I love everything about the depiction of Terry’s fatherhood (more on that below). Defiant to the point of self destruction, Jake implements a “No-No Wall” instead: a place for each of them to write down things the other isn’t allowed to do. Over the course of the next five days, it quickly spirals out of control (Jake can’t be glib, Charles can’t talk about his butt holes) and the two stop talking altogether before formally calling their friendship quits just in time to ruin the stakeout (there’s nothing subtle about a mini-basketball through a window).

Kudos to the show for making a list of 100 super annoying character traits completely believable and even slightly lovable for characters we’ve known for less than two seasons. The breakdown in the relationship is touching – with each guy believing that it’s his putting-up-with-the-other that is keeping them friends. Those of us with the best kind of friendships know that it is never one sided – that each friend holds up their share of the weight of putting-up-with-the-other. By the time that Captain Holt sends the two back out in the field to catch the bad guy they lost, Jake and Charles realize it to with the help of a healthy, bromace-required dose of violence.

Elsewhere, Amy and Gina come face-to-face with their fictional counterparts in Terry’s new picture book for his twins. They both see more than enough of themselves in the characters and don’t like what they see. They’re determined to prove the depictions wrong – with Amy refusing to be a pushover and Gina trying, painfully, to be sweet. It takes Terry-as-Dad to step in again and set things right. Terry Jeffords is one of my favorite on-screen dads right now. He is allowed to be both very manly and deeply attached to his children. He takes time from work to care for his children when needed and clearly has an active hand in parenting them. You can tell, even from this far outside, that his marriage is an equal partnership. For years, men have been doing this in the real world and had no reflection of it in the media. There were plenty of single dads and a handful of terrible ones but fathers like Terry Jeffords were few and far between. It seems we have turned a corner here, and it’s all the better – and funnier – as a result.

Lastly, Andre Baugher and Stephanie Beatriz offered a straight-man master class. Diaz has started a fledgling romance with Holt’s nephew Marcus (Nick Cannon, America’s Got Talent). Watching Holt as he puts together the pieces was hysterical, “Rosa. Detective Diaz. Detective Rosa Diaz is in my breakfast nook.” That she left her “brassiere” in Marcus’s room was even better. Holt and Diaz may present straight, stoic faces but the characters are still nuanced and deeply realized. You can see the pain in the interaction in Holt’s office when he’s trying to talk to her as a friend, and their promise to never speak of it – or of anything – again was brilliant.

Odds & Ends

– Is there a better word than “garfieldian” for Jake Peralta? If there is, I don’t think I want to know it.

– Similarly maximized Jake-ness: “You should turn the other cheek. Which I just learned is about faces and not butts.”

– “But how do they defecate?” “It’s a KIDS’ BOOK Santiago.”

– “I hope you like nose bush.”

– Holt, in response to Jake complaining about being partnered with Charles post-fallout: “I don’t care if you’re friends. This is not a play date.”