A review of “Casecation,” this week’s Brooklyn Nine-Nine, coming up just as soon as I tell you my debate moderator license number…
“Casecation” is a high-concept episode with a low-fi premise. It takes place entirely at a hospital, with no subplots but appearances by the whole ensemble, as Jake tries to celebrate his first anniversary with Amy by turning a witness security detail into a romantic holiday. But it’s ultimately less about the marital milestone than it is about the familiar debate they should have had before tying the knot: Should they have kids?
That it was never seriously discussed pre-wedding is very true to character for the impulsive Jake. And “Casecation” more or less convincingly stretches to show how obsessive planner Amy was mistakenly convinced that they’d already resolved the issue. So once the episode convinces us to make that narrative leap, it gets to have fun revisiting all the ways that they are temperamental opposites who just happened to fall in love. The sequence where Captain Holt shows up to moderate their debate — with speaker-phone kibbitzing from Kevin and others — is particularly delightful. But the episode also makes good, counterintuitive use of superdad Terry(*), who warns Jake not to have kids unless he’s 100 percent in on the idea.
(*) Interestingly, Boyle isn’t involved in the parenting debate at all, even though he’s both a dad himself and disturbingly fixated on the idea of Jake and Amy reproducing. He’s arguably the best character to introduce the episode’s early romantic interlude in the hospital room, but it might have made more sense to shoehorn Rosa into that spot so that Charles could be the sympathetic ear for Amy later.
“Casecation” never gets as heavy as other single-issue Brooklyn episodes like “Moo Moo” or “He Said, She Said.” But there’s a fascinating tonal shift when Jake realizes that their would-be assassin is Pam (guest star Julia Sweeney, recently of Hulu’s Shrill), the nosy hospital patient with the twisted bowel. There are still jokes in the scene about Antonio Banderas and/or Outlander, but Jake himself is utterly, convincingly serious in a way he’s rarely been on the show before in a nonromantic context. In particular, the way Andy Samberg delivers the line about how Pam knows Jake can’t leave the room completely sells the gravity of the situation. And that, in turn, sells what should be a pretty abrupt pivot at the end in which Jake announces that he’s now ready to have kids after all. Like racial profiling and sexual harassment, this subject is arguably much too big and complex to be resolved in the space of 20-odd minutes of a sitcom, even an excellent one like this. If you think too deeply about the situation, it’s easy to picture things going south in the Peralta/Santiago marriage a few years down the line should Jake change his mind again after they have one or two crying, needy babies in their apartment. But by framing his concern as being about fear of failure rather than not wanting children to take over their lives, the episode leaves enough wiggle room to make his shift believable enough for now.
Around this point in Parks and Rec‘s run, several characters started having kids. That show, wisely, kept the offspring off-camera for the most part. Brooklyn is even more of a workplace show than Parks was, and while Terry’s daughters and Nikolaj have appeared occasionally (and are discussed semi-regularly, in the way that any co-worker with kids might do), it’s hard to imagine even the central couple’s baby suddenly taking over the show in its remaining seasons. As Amy argues to Jake, it’s about time they start taking this seriously if they want to do it, and “Casecation” deftly balanced the serious nature of the debate with the show’s usual goofiness.