A review of this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Four Movements” — which said goodbye to Chelsea Peretti as a regular cast member — coming up just as soon as I say that the party is for malnourished malaria monkeys…
In a show that’s been so consistent for so long, Gina‘s always been an outlier character. It’s not just that she was the only civilian regular on a show about cops. It’s that she has a much higher variance than anybody else in the ensemble. You never know exactly what kind of Jake or Holt or Rosa story you’re going to get in a given week, but you go in with a pretty good idea that it will be funny, and funny in a familiar way. (Even stories where someone acts out of character, like the depressed Holt from “The Honeymoon,” work because we understand their default setting.) Gina, though, was much harder to pin down, in both personality and the quality of her storyline. Some weeks, she could be a vaguely benign sociopath; others, an inscrutable but ultimately well-meaning genie. She could win by far the biggest laughs in one episode and then seem like a drag in another. She was the proverbial box of chocolates: You never knew which Gina you might get. Nine-Nine has far less of The Office‘s DNA than Parks and Rec did, but Gina was very much a Michael Scott kind of character, in the sense that different episodes (and possibly different members of the writing staff) had extremely divergent views on who she was and what made her funny.
How appropriate, then, that the marvelous “Four Movements” was so reminiscent of The Office‘s “Goodbye Michael” — not in plot or tone, but in the sense that every different persona of this wildly unpredictable character managed to be on display in the same episode. In seeing her say goodbye to her coworkers, we got to see the many different iterations of Gina Linetti, as well as the many different modes even a show this fundamentally silly can handle.
After the teaser, which recalls Gina’s love of both dance and the attention of others, we get our first movement, with a final game of chess between her and Holt. There are plenty of jokes (Holt is learning to trash-talk, Gina has renamed the pieces after Rihanna, Beyoncé and Kevin), but the whole thing is much more subdued and sincere than Nine-Nine usually is, particularly where Gina is involved. Though Jake is her oldest friend, Gina tended to be closest to the captain — a byproduct of both the desk-bound nature of their jobs and the way their personalities were such a stark contrast. And Holt is also the show’s most mature and thoughtful character, so of course he would be the one to challenge her most on the wisdom of her quitting, even as he respected her decision to do so. Also, the choice to end the game with her winning on a wildly illegal move felt both funnier and more honest than if she’d somehow beaten him for real. Gina is better than other people at many things, but chess requires more patience than she’s ever demonstrated.
Similarly, the second movement provides a sweet but not too saccharine payoff to five-plus seasons of jokes about Gina ruthlessly mocking and trying to distance herself from Amy. Amy fulfills Gina’s request (from the Halloween episode from Season Three) to turn Gina’s tweets into a book, which Gina turns into a lesson to get Amy to stand up for herself rather than seeking the approval of someone who’s never been all that nice to her. It’s Gina being good without getting schmaltzy, though the presence of Hitchcock at the burn barrel helps with that.
The third movement unsurprisingly gets the most time, since it involves the guy who’s known her the longest and is our main character. The quest to get Mario Lopez to be the celebrity guest at Gina’s farewell party indulges both Jake’s and the series’ love of undercover role play, with the two of them dressing up as spoiled One-Percenters, and Jake hilariously saying “Daddy” over and over. Lopez does go to the party (and calls Jake “Preppy,” the derisive nickname Slater always used on Zack in Saved by the Bell), but once again Gina zigs when a zag is expected, and the real prize is getting to bar the former H8r host from the shindig.
Things get genuinely sweet for a bit when she gives Charles the Boyle mother dough starter — and a very Boyle-esque “I love you and I’m gonna miss you.” But the show wisely undercuts the sentiment, first with Terry‘s frustration over not getting his own moment, then with Gina lingering for days because the statue took longer to arrive than planned. It concludes on a simultaneously kind and goofy beat as Terry decides he got the best moment of all, because Gina signed him up for an International Yogurt of the Month Club. (You may have heard that Terry loves yogurt.)
Peretti has said she doesn’t want to be gone forever, and the manner of Gina’s exit makes it easy for the show to write her back in here and there if a story calls for it. But as we saw last season while Peretti was on maternity leave, the show breathes a bit better with one fewer cast regular. If Gina comes back again, I’m sure I’ll laugh. But if not, this was a splendid goodbye to a character who didn’t always quite fit into this warm and overcrowded sitcom.
What did everybody else think?