‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’ Recap: Memory Lane
A review of “Pimemento,” this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, coming up just as soon as I ask if you do the Face/Off surgery here…
Jason Mantzoukas is among the funniest human beings alive, thus it’s not surprising that he’s one of the select company of actors to appear on all three of Mike Schur and/or Dan Goor’s Brooklyn, The Good Place, and Parks and Rec. His intense, loopy energy was a perfect fit in The Good Place‘s afterlife, and he made a fine(stein) Pawnee villain. Brooklyn is the show that’s used him the most, but also the one where he’s been the most ungainly fit. It’s not necessarily that Adrian Pimento is too ridiculous a character on a show that features Hitchcock and Scully every week; it’s that Brooklyn has a weakness for going too loud and frantic, and Pimento exacerbates that.
Mantzoukas returns to the Nine-Nine for “Pimemento,” whose title doubles as an allusion to Memento, Christopher Nolan’s breakthrough film about a man suffering the same kind of short-term memory problems that Pimento has(*). A Pimento who freaks out every time his memory resets leads to an even more frenzied tone than most episodes featuring the character. But in a way, “Pimemento” leans into the skid. The story is so fundamentally ridiculous, it’s almost besides the point to question how it fits into the reality of the rest of the show. And the script smartly anchors the episode to the tension between Jake and Charles — over Jake’s decision to cut Charles out of his life to avoid blabbing about his attempt to get Amy pregnant. The story winds up being less about this absurd thing happening to Pimento — with the help of a nefarious doctor played by Oscar Winner Jim Rash — than about Jake keeping a secret from his best friend, and Charles in turn having to accept that sometimes (most times, really), he can be too much.
(*) In a running gag, both Pimento and Boyle insist on using Finding Dory as the comparison point, to Jake’s dismay. Finding Nemo is obviously the more famous/beloved film featuring that character and her short-term memory problems, but her name is in the sequel, so it’s easier shorthand than people constantly saying, “Like Dory! You know, from Finding Nemo?” And the joke has a great payoff — evocative of the famous “Diane Wiest infection” cold open — where Pimento tells Jake he’s finally seen Memento, and they have an awkward stare-down after Adrian describes it as “OK.”
Still, the B-story was the episode’s high point. Terry informs the squad(*) that their hated annual workplace-conflict seminar with HR is coming up — and, worst of all, “HR said they’re sending a funny guy.” (He is played by Crazy Ex-Girlfriend alum Paul Welsh, who co-wrote last season’s “The Bimbo.”) It’s a pretty basic and elastic concept that could be done in any kind of workplace show, but the universality of it fits nicely because of the chemistry among the cast and how well we understand their respective weirdness. A large part of the series’ appeal comes from how likable the characters are and how well they get along, but periodically, it works to have them all yelling at each other and using made-up insults, like Amy calling everyone a “flope” because a tween told her that’s what all the kids are saying now. In particular, Scully and Hitchcock being mad at each other is almost always comedy gold, and here was augmented by Terry’s confusion over whether Scully had an ex-wife named Kelly or a dog named Kelly. (Terry would understand that he had both, if only he’d listened to Scully’s almost certainly terrifying podcast.)
(*) I assume another interim captain is on the way, but for this week at least, Terry is treated as the de facto precinct leader. At times, it can get overly complicated for the show to have two authority figures in Terry and Holt. But it’s also useful to have a spare boss around when you need one.
Watching the show toggle between a Pimento story and one about the dynamics of the squad as a whole, it’s strange to think there was a brief period where Pimento was an active, ongoing member of this group. As a recurring guest character, he’s not quite as essential as the Pontiac Bandit or the Vulture, but “Pimemento” suggests there’s occasionally a place for that man here.