A review of “The Jimmy Jab Games II,” this week’s episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine, coming up just as soon as my brains are made of brains…
Brooklyn Nine-Nine has developed several annual traditions over time, including the Halloween heist (even if it doesn’t always take place on Halloween), Jake’s misadventures with the Pontiac Bandit, and the big season-ending cliffhanger that threatens to (temporarily) upend the status quo. And there are other characters like Pimento who, if not annual fixtures, come back often enough to feel like significant ongoing parts of the show. Recurring characters and plot devices can be among the most fun parts of a long-running series, but they can also create the feeling of boxes being dutifully checked. Now that the series is making shorter seasons, these sequel episodes take up a disproportionately larger part of a given year — which means they need to really be worth the bother.
Pimento’s return last week more or less worked. But the show follows it up with a very belated sequel, “The Jimmy Jab Games II,” that’s less effective. The original “Jimmy Jab Games” from Season Two is rightly remembered as one of the series’ strongest and silliest episodes from the early seasons. Essentially a Nine-Nine riff on The Office‘s classic “Office Olympics,” it saw Jake and the squad blowing off steam while Holt and Terry were away and they had nothing else to do during reserve parade duty. That episode took advantage of the many wonderful toys the cops get to play with, even as it advanced an ongoing character arc by having Jake’s burgeoning feelings for Amy affect the way he, Amy, and Rosa all competed.
Jake has grown up a bit from the reckless goofball he was in the first few seasons, which turns out to be the reason for “Jimmy Jab Games II.” The squad is again on reserve parade duty, and authority figures Terry (still treated as the acting squad commander) and Amy are meant to be at a voluntary administrative workshop. Trusted by Terry to run things in his absence, Jake freaks out about becoming more responsible — i.e., boring — and decides to throw another Jimmy Jab Games to prove his unpredictability hasn’t been extinguished. And when even that’s treated as business as usual by Terry, Jake doubles down on the immaturity by risking his sensible new car in a bet with Hitchcock.
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Hitchcock’s superhuman abilities — courtesy of strategic use of the many, many, many medications Scully uses to stay alive every day — provide much of the comedy this time out, along with Boyle’s attempts to play mentor to the utterly inept Debbie, which somehow inspires her to steal drugs from the evidence locker. (The running gag about Boyle’s P.T. Barnum obsession might have landed better with me if I’d seen The Greatest Showman.) But the games themselves felt less creative and ridiculous than last time. And Jake’s overreaction to being a grownup is a note the show has hit too often in the past for it to support a whole episode here. (This isn’t even the first time he’s been been temporarily in charge of the squad.) For that matter, it’s yet another example — like “Captain Kim” a couple of weeks ago — of the kind of story the show has mostly evolved beyond, where Jake is an inconsiderate ass for most of the half-hour, even as Amy and others tell him what he should really be doing, but all is fine and dandy at the end.
When there’s an unexpected twist in the latest heist, or when a Doug Judy story really clicks, it can feel even more delightful than a regular Nine-Nine episode, because the traditions have built up greater meaning. But when a revisited device mainly fails to live up to the original, it creates the impression that Brooklyn is just playing its greatest hits for lack of any new ideas at this advanced age.